Day 109 – Kathmandu to Bangkok
Nepal to Thailand
We wanted to be at the airport by 7:00 AM to catch our flight at 9:00, and so by 6:00, we up and packing. By 6:45, we were all downstairs with our bags and piling into the car. We pulled in just before 7:00, and said our final good-byes to Suraj, who, in the short time that we’d been here, had become a really good friend, not just our shipping agent. Check-in went through without a hitch, although we were informed that the plane was delayed by a couple of hours. No real problem for us, as we didn’t have any particular deadline in Bangkok later today.
We made our way through the various check-points, and sat down to wait in the lounge. While we were sitting there, Shan and I noticed that the girl in the row in front of us was reading a book, but would frequently burst out laughing. It is so rare that you see someone enjoying a book that much, so after a few minutes, I couldn’t contain my curiosity, and leaned over to ask her what she was reading. It turned out to be “A Suitable Boy” by Vikram Seth, a book that I had also read a few years earlier, we got chatting and spent the rest of the time flitting from topic to topic: politics, literature, travel, physics, pop culture, etc. She was from Nepal, but was studying in Bangkok. It is always so great to meet a genuinely interesting person, but while we were talking, the number of people in the waiting lounge was slowly decreasing as the various flights were called. We listened out, but we heard nothing for our flight. Eventually, at about 10:45, with hardly anyone else left in the lounge, we went up to the front to ask if they had any information about our flights departure time. They took one look at Shan’s ticket, and frantically started ushering her through, flashing her a list with the names of the five of us on it. We were hurried onto a small cart and driven straight to the plane, where we discovered with mortification that everyone else was already aboard. When we asked, it seemed that for some reason, the flight was never announced, yet somehow everyone else had wandered aboard. It is a mystery. But at least we were on, and within a couple of minutes, we were jetting down the runway and were soon up in the air, and after a few minutes, we watched as Everest slid past us on the left.
We continued to chat for the rest of the flight, and amazingly, almost an hour ahead of schedule, the pilot was announcing our imminent arrival in Bangkok. Stepping off the plane, we got our first taste of the Bangkok heat. It felt like walking through warm, damp toilet paper, sticking to you and being carried along as you walk. Inside the airport (mercifully air conditioned), we cleared immigration with no problems, and then needed to decide where to stay. Moving so quickly through so many countries, there is often very little time for much forward planning, and after talking to a few officials at the tourism desk, we decided to head for a placed called Khao San Road, apparently quite a tourist hangout.
We had been told in Nepal that one can often get cheaper taxi’s by heading to the Departures entrance, rather than just heading out through Arrivals. This turned out to be sound advice, and we managed to get a pretty cheap taxi into town. As we drove, we began to realize just how big the city is. It probably took us just under an hour to reach the street, and with many people still visiting family in the country after the Thai New Year, the streets were pretty empty.
We arrived at the top of Khao San Road as the afternoon was starting to drift into evening, which still did nothing to reduce the cloying heat. Almost immediately, we were aware that we may have wandered into a less than savoury area of town. There were tourists EVERYWHERE, and not the cute “little-old-Japanese-ladies” type of tourists, but the greasy scantily clad, be-dreadlocked, tattooed types. This had the potential to be a very noisy next couple of days. We walked down the street, squeezing between huge racks of cheap t-shirts, skirting the constant stream of people trying to show us catalogues of suits and the very dubious looking gents asking us to come and view the “ping-pong” show. (Don’t ask. Really. Just…. don’t). We managed to make our way through this and find a place to stay down a side street that was a bit quieter.
Once we’d settled into a couple of rooms, both with AC, we decided to brave the fray outside and get some food. We took a slow walk down to the far end of the road, passing bars, clubs, restaurants, Thai massage parlours, food vendors, clothes shops, and everywhere tourists. I have actually come up with a new travel rule for myself.
“If the ratio of tourists to locals is greater than 1:2, get the hell out of there”
And this place was the worst. It seems like the ratio here was about 2:1, and the type of tourist is the one I generally loathe: not at all interested in the culture of the place, just out to get drunk, high and laid. And the t-shirt, if possible, for less than $4. Still, everything is an experience, and it was quite an education watching this crowd in action. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that there were a good number of people like us just passing through, looking for a place to stay. But these folks don’t constitute the essential flavour of the area, and once we’d done a quick circuit, we were more than happy to get back to the hotel and sit under the AC for an hour or two, before getting some sleep.