Monday, January 23, 2012

One night in Bangkok

Now I’m not too sure why this blog has taken me so long to get around to. Maybe it was the shock of being back in London to be met with a Spring that got colder the closer to summer it was. Followed by back at work and day to day life, and before I knew it Christmas was around the corner.

No, I think it’s more the fact that the idea of compounding two months of travelling around Asia in to a readable, entertaining and mainly short entry was far too daunting. Remembering that what I write is rarely readable, never entertaining and brevity – like my awesome modesty – is never my strong suit, I conceded that I should begin. But for those that feel that even this is too arduous to read, I'll be breaking the trip down to a few manageable blogs over the next few weeks.

And for you even lazier ones, here's a quick video of the first leg.
video

South East Asia

Let’s start from the beginning.

One day in mid-2010, Adam Governi and I were sitting on a beach in Spain and he produced a Lonely Planet on Mexico.

“When are you going there?” I asked.
“Not sure, end of the year when I go home,” he said.
“You’re going home??” I asked.

And that was the moment that Gov revealed no more man dates, ruining our perfectly good man holiday. This was big news for me. What was I going to do now? Who was I going to hang out with? Who was going to cuddle me when the thunder got too loud?  Thank God Anna came along when she did otherwise I would probably having been sitting in a corner staring at a wall for all of 2011!

But what this did mean was that there was time for one last man epic (think Ken and Ken with no Barbie, but less gay and no pink Cadillac or Malibu beach house).

So heading back to work the next week I had travel on my mind and decided to throw it all in for the bustling markets of Thailand, the beaches of Vietnam, the jungles of Cambodia, the trees and rivers of Laos and the general shit chat of Governi.

Thailand
อยากให้ผมได้นำความได้เปรียบของลูกเจี๊ยบในวันหยุดมากขึ้น

What a place Bangkok is. You can’t really just wander around and have a look. You’re either knee deep in tourists, eating Pad Thai from the side of the road or you’re being hassled by every second hawker asking you if you want a pineapple, coconut, ‘company’, etc. I was glad that it was my first port of call as I slept off any jet lag by day and was able to happily bounce along the Koa San by night without having to deal with the daily mash of locals ‘helping’ to call you a tuk tuk and give you directions to a very special monastery (before you end up at a gem store).

Shaking off my London ‘friendliness’ - basically being rude and not wanting to talk to anyone - it took a few days to get in to the swing of things, get a base coat tan - basically like a medium rare steak: burn both sides and rest – and revert to a travelling state of mind.

Bangkok donw I went back to the airport, walked through security and just happened to bump in to Guv who had been in  Mexico for a month. When I say bumped in to, I mean stalked like a cat stalks a bird…creeping up behind him for a good 5 minutes before scaring the shit out of him – I was having a whale of a time! It was down to Koh Samui before Koh Panyang and our holiday begun.

Arriving at the world’s most beautiful airport, it wasn’t a good omen when I broke my finger tying to pull my bag off the conveyor belt. I can still remember the lady’s face behind Gov turn white when I held up my hand and the top of my finger was at right angles to the rest of it – ha – every cloud I guess. Stopping by a local McDonalds (we of course were in such a remote Asian paradise…) for a cup of ice and some tape to wrap up the first injury of many, the excitement of the next couple of months was intoxicating.

And Koh Panyang was just how I wanted a Thai island to be. Parties on the beach and jungle at night, lounging around the pool by day, drinking games, shakes on the mountain and just general revelry. However, I was surprised how much I just sat and read, managing to get through a combined 815 pages of book (that was 2.1 books) in two days, while Gov slept off his jet lag. I told you I didn’t know what to do when he wasn’t about!

Lost in thought while waiting for the Princess and the Pea to wake from his slumber, I realised I was a travel snob. Not that I’ve tried to be, but I’ve now been travelling for six years (albeit an anchor in the UK) and before that was fairly worldly anyway. My frustrations peak when people can’t navigate an airport; those who spew on about how 'they are travelling to find themselves'; people whose accent change after 30 seconds in a transit lounge; or ‘I love X ’ t-shirts - these all drive me bonkers.

The best t-shirt I saw in my travels was hand made by a guy doing a season in Laos. It read:
  • Brian
  • English
  • 28
  • Working here
  • …now stop asking me the same f*&king question.
Why was I thinking about this? Because I’d been in Thailand for a week and nearly every conversation I heard was pretty much the same.

The night before a young guy, about 19, came up to me and asked where I was from. The young fella was so excited as he was from Melbourne too. My response was: ‘and?’. Dented him a little, but his enthusiasm was so great that he ran and grabbed his other Melbournian friends to quiz me about where, etc, etc, etc. Quickly, but politely telling him I lived in  London and hadn’t actually spent more than three weeks in Mebourne for five years was a way to escape. But at least he was an excitable little chap.

With a week of the beach under our belt, a few nights in Koh Samui (and bugger me there are some Aussie bogans there) and it was off to Laos to put our party practice up to the test. 2010 had been a fair practice run for Gov and I, so we were pretty sure we could do this with ease.

And we were now joined by Dwayno.

Laos
นี่คือจุดที่ผมคิดว่าแอนนาเริ่มที่จะตั้งขึ้นอีกคน

First stop on the way is the Laotian capital of Vientiane. Now, when Lonely Planet references ten pin bowling as a number one tourist attraction in the city, you know there isn’t much to do there. And we were right.

Doing the obligatory walking around the town, trying some local cuisine, popping on for a beer and trying to talk to the locals, we were flush out of ideas.

So we went ten pin bowling.


One night there and it was off to the main reason for heading to Laos – tubing.

Even the four hour bus ride that was cut prematurely short when the bus broke down couldn’t dent our spirits (which we lifted when we could successfully hitchhike for the last 30 mins).
Hitting Van Vieng just past lunchtime, bags down, hotel doors locked, tubes armed, buckets at the ready, it was time for the experience known as tubing!!

Now the basic premise of tubing is you start at the top of a river, get in an inner tube and float down it, stopping in the numerous bars along the way via little Laotian fellas throwing you ropes with inner tubes, bottles, etc. At these bars there are water slides, swings, and massive 50p vodka red bull bucket fuelled partiers. Following these parties, which end about 6pm, it’s back to the relatively small town until it kicks off at 10pm all through the night, followed by doing it all over again the very next day. Most people do this for two or three days.

We were there for six.

I’m not going in to too much detail – primarily because I can’t remember much of it – and it ended up blurring in to one, what seemed endless, week. In between bouts of jumping up and down like I was a 5 year old with ADHD, Laos whiskey shots, playing football with the local kids, floating down the river…there were swings.

I F*&KING LOVE SWINGS!

Always my favourite playground equipment…actually, who am I kidding by putting that in past tense: my favourite playground equipment.  I spent the majority of my time seeing how much higher, further, closer to the edge of bar I could get before being in serious danger….and then back flipping in – I was having the time of my life!

A week after entering the Laos jungle, we finally excited as shells of our former selves. It was then off to Vietnam on a propeller Laos Air – no crashes since 2002 apparently – we checked.

After countless days of drinking, sleeping pills became the only way to combat the heartburn or get to sleep after numerous litres of red bull. Unfortunately, for some reason they didn’t actual affect me. So while Guv and Dwayne took 1, maybe even a half, I popped 2, 3, 4 to seemingly no effect.

That’s not until we got to Vientienne airport and sat down. Displaying all the flexibility of a highly spoiled cat, I flopped and purred all across uncomfortable seats, and one point snoozing across three departure lounge seats with a steel rod in my back, and had to be led to the plane Weekend at Bernie's style.

I slept all the way to Hanoi.