Day 113 – Bangkok
It has been over three years since the idea for our trip was first conceived, and one of the people who heard all about it was a friend of mine, Kathryn Gibbs, who was staying in the same digs at the time. She has been teaching English in Korea for the last couple of years and is currently travelling around South East Asia with her family. When we realised that we would be in the same part of the world at the same time, I asked her if she would be at all interested in joining up with us for the last few weeks of our journey. She jumped at the chance, and so for the last month or two we have been trying to co-ordinate meeting up in Thailand. Once we had arrive in Bangkok, she began making her way here, and this morning she was due to arrive in Khao San. I had given her the name of the hotel, and so at around 7:00, I walked down the alley of our hotel to the point where it meets the main road and sat down to wait. I was expecting to find a completely deserted street, but to my amazement, there was still a number of tourists going strong in the bars. A full battalion of cleaners and sweepers were hard at work picking up the mess from the previous night, the occasional newbie backpacker would wander in looking for a place to stay, with a few enterprising tour operators ready to scoop them up.
Also in attendance were a few of the Thai Ladies Of Negotiable Affection, making their way from various hotels and guest houses. As I was sitting on the side of the road, one of these brazen minxes walked up to me and crouched down next to me.
“Where you from?”
“Mmm, Souf America”
“No, South Africa”
“You wan be my friend?”
“You want boom boom?”
Ah, the fabled Thai arts of seduction. When it became clear that I really wasn’t looking for “boom boom”, she wandered off to look for a more amenable gentlemen.
A few minutes later, while I was still waiting, I heard two guys talking behind me, one in an American accent, and the other British.
B: I don’t care you can’t do that
A: I don’t care
B: It doesn’t matter if it’s a man or a woman, you can’t hit them
A: But she stole Simon’s necklace
B: Are you sure it was the same chick
A: Yeah, it was definitely her, I swear
B: That b!#&h! Quick, we gotta get out of here, right now!
And with that they both ran off down the road. We’ve got to get out of this place soon!
At around 8:00, I saw dad wandering around, it seems that he is a really early riser, and when he went out for a walk earlier, hadn’t seen me sitting on the corner. We sat and talked for a bit, and then at 8:30, just I was about to go back inside, I spotted Kath walking down the road. I ran over to meet her and show her the way back to the hotel. It seems I may have spelled the name incorrectly, which meant that she might have struggled to actually find the place on her own.
The next couple of hours were spent catching up, and after everyone had a chance to shower, we decided to enjoy what will hopefully be our last full day in Bangkok. It sounds like the shocks should be here by tomorrow, so if we can get them onto the bikes in the morning, we might be driving out of here tomorrow afternoon. One of the highlights of the area is the Grand Palace, a colossal complex which houses the previous Royal Palace, and a temple area famous for being the home of the Jade Buddha (at least, famous in the circles of Jade Buddha enthusiasts). Getting there was just a quick river taxi ride away, although it did mean putting up with the whiniest usher in Bangkok (Come insiiiiiiiyyyyiiiiiid. Come insiyyiiyyiiid). At the entrance, we had to first rent some more appropriate clothes for visiting a temple, which included long pants for the guys and covered shoulders for the girls.
We were picked up by an elderly guide as we left the building, and he gave us a full tour of the place, earnestly pointing out the spots for the “good photo”. Thai temples, it seems, are decorated to the point of ostentation, with every surface panelled in mirrors, glass, gems or just straight out gilded. Sometimes the reflecting sun would make it just too bright to look at. And this is not just some ancient monument left to moulder quietly in the heat. The entire surface of every building in the complex is redone every fifty years, presumably at a staggering expense.
John and I had decided to sign up for a Thai cooking course, and so once we had finished our tour and taken our water taxi back to the hotel, we took the short walk down to the cooking school. We were met by an older Canadian gentleman. Older than me, anyway. His wife, Lee, was the resident chef of the school, and she showed us the program for the afternoon. We were supposed to be joined by a few other people who had booked online, but after waiting fifteen minutes for them and no show, we decided to just start. First on our order of business was a trip down to the local market, where we picked up fresh supplies. The real challenge back home will be finding some of these ingredients, or at least passable substitutes. I’d imagine finding “rats ear mushrooms”, which look exactly like their namesake, will be a particular problem. Once we were all stocked, we returned to the kitchen, where we spent the next three hours preparing course after course of the most delicious Thai food I’ve ever tasted, learning the secrets of combining tastes and balancing aromas. After each dish had been prepared, we would sit down to eat our creation, and when you’re cooking seven different courses, that’s a lot of food.
Thoroughly stuffed, we made our way home as evening brought the unwashed masses out into Khao San Road. Shan and Kath had gone out to do some exploring and were still gone, and John and Dad spent the rest of the evening at the hotel. I sat down to do some blogging, and ended up chatting on Facebook to the girl that had been on our flight from Nepal. She invited us to go out with her and some of her friends to a blues bar not far from where we were staying. I was keen, but wanted to wait until the others get back. After a couple of hours, and no sign of them, I finally decided to find the place myself. It turned out to be next door to the cooking school. I looked around, but couldn’t see anyone I knew, so sat down to enjoy the music. The band was all Thai, with the exception of the old Canadian vocalist, and together they played some of the best blues I have ever heard. These were some serious virtuoso’s, and when I started chatting to one of the other patrons, I was told that a few of the guys in the band had played in the big circuits in New York. One of the guitarists was only sixteen years old, but played like a master. One does not typically associate Thailand with awesome blues bands, so this place was a real find. After about an hour, Ruby, the girl from the flight arrived, and we sat down to enjoy the music and chat. About half an hour after that, I looked up to see Kath and Shan sitting in the corner. It turned out that they had got the note I had written telling them simply that I was going out, then had looked on the computer and seen a webpage for a bar still open, and had put two and two together. Thanks to Google maps and intuition, we were reunited and the rest of the evening was fantastic, with several of the other people in the bar getting up to do a few impromptu numbers. Finally, after 1:00 AM, we said goodbye and tottered back to our hotel.