Onward to Siam (day 47)

Phew. I am tired. It has been a long week. I am in Bangkok airport, about to board a flight to Hong Kong. China, that is. How crazy is that?

Bangkok has just sucked one week of my life away. Sound familiar? I don’t think I can one day go as high as five. I am tired of the bustle, the noise, the smog, and the “hello merchants” – the people who try to sell you things and apparently speak only one word of English.

It is impossible to walk down the streets near Khao San Road (the backpackers’ main drag) and not be constantly assailed by tuk-tuk (three-wheeled taxi – worth doing once) drivers. Even with the best will in the world, if every ten steps you need to say “no thank you” five times to some persistent driver (who apparently interprets your silence and failure to stop as evidence you have not heard, and your “no” as an encouragement to ask again), it gets to you eventually. You either need to have plenty of time (since there are interesting conversations to be had with tuk-tuk drivers), or more patience than I have. Eventually even my “no thank yous” became a little terse, and turned into “no thank you” *mutter under breath*. And eventually to seeting upset and momentary anger. Perhaps I could have worn a sign in Thai that said “Don’t even ask”.

Getting to Bangkok was a bit of a mission. The overnight train from Singapore was painless enough. Once I found the train station (which is difficult to reach, downtrodded, dirty and disreputable – totally unlike the rest of Singapore). I met a woman on the train who was also going to Bangkok. So, keeping in mind my plan to get to Shanghai for early June, we decided to travel on to Bangkok together.

Of course, there were no trains or buses all the way. So we went to Butterworth by bus where, we were told, we would be able to catch another bus to Bangkok. When we arrive in Butterworth, we discover a scene of mayhem and upset. The Butterworth bus station burned down during the night (check out the picture). Well, not exactly down. But there was a big fire. Many bus passengers on the street. Much confusion about which buses go where. Many men telling us that there are no buses from here today, but that we can take a taxi to Had Yai (Thai border town) and then catch a bus from there to Bangkok.

Alright. Few alternatives. We grab a taxi to Had Yai. Cheap whichever way you look at it. We wanted to walk across the border. I am not sure why. I just like walking across borders. Maybe because I come from a place where you can only fly across them. Who can say? But we were not allowed out of the cab.

Then at night, in Had Yai we grab a bus to Bangkok. Very pleased to finally arrive on Monday morning, 21 May. Even if we get off at the wrong stop.

Then comes a week of late nights, cheap everything (in both senses – low price and low value), and nothing much very Thai. Although I guess this is all part of Thailand in a way.

Go to Patpong. See a sex show. Laugh or cringe or just try to figure out where to look as a girl shoots darts out of places from which darts are not normally shot. Hit a go-go bar. See girls wearing swimsuits and numbers. Smile at sex tourists. See the most attractive woman you have ever seen and realise it is/was a boy. Weird. But compelling all the sam.

The best thing to do, though, is take a bike tour. Probably best not to do it on a day when every other participant is Dutch. Because the tour guide is Dutch as well. Unless your Dutch is less rusty than mine. Rusty being a synonym for “completely non-existent”.

You see a totally new side to Bangkok. All the houses and businesses and markets and gardens and footpaths and people that you never expect to see, but that you know exist all the same. Here they are. In Dutch.

So yes, the airport. After many delays (mostly caused my total failure to plan ahead) I have a ticket to Hong Kong and a Chinese visa. Very impressive too. The visa anyway. The ticket is just an ordinary plane ticket.

It sounds like the woman on the intercom is saying “wassup”, but she is not, in all likelihood. Probably it means “your attention please”. My Thai, needless to say, is a little rusty.

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