My Last Days in Thailand Before Flying Home

I sat in my guest house, the Green Oasis, on my last day talking to Tony and Jlo the male and female owners. My train was at 17:30 so I had a while to wait. At some point his friends turned up, six or seven of them, and at 11:00 they cracked open the Jonny Walker Red Label, coke, ice and water.. (and they called me having beer at 4pm ‘breakfast’.. jokers!)

I’d met a few people in my last few days that were staying there, a couple of Korean girls, a Canadian and a guy from Seattle. More exchanges of life stories went by and the time soon got to 15:30. One of Tony’s friends was heading to the train station too, for the 4pm train, so we shared a tuk tuk and got to the train station in 15 minutes.

They sauntered off as their train was sooner, so I went to buy a ticket. There were 1st and 2nd class sleeping tickets, and 2nd and 3rd class seated. Partly due to reduced funds, and partly because I knew I wouldn’t sleep anyway I sadistically opted for the 3rd class seat – mirroring my first choice from Bangkok to Surat Thani – and sat outside in the glorious sun smoking what cigarettes I had left, alongside other 17:30 train waiters.

The train was called and I boarded. Grabbed my seat which was rickety, but luckily in my booth there were no other seats taken, this could prove useful in trying to get the ever elusive sleep during the dark hours. I knew I’d have around an hour of daylight to get some photos, but I chose to sit and take in the surroundings instead. Although empty in my booth, across and to the right from me an elderly Thai lady kept her eyes on me a lot of the time, and a group of 4 young Thai girls and a boy were also checking me out, it was kind of disconcerting but I got used to it.

As it got dark, and the two beers I’d bought had ran dry, knowing what previous journeys have been like I put on some warm clothes, bunched up some spare clothes for a pillow, swallowed a sleeping tablet and tried very hard to grab some sleep before sunrise… 11 hours to go.

The trains lie by the way… supposedly 17:30 depart 06:30 arrival.. liars, we arrived at 10:30! Anyway.. before we arrived, and after a short and troubled sleep, lots of very random dreams, dreams where I’d be half awake still in the dream and talking to someone who isn’t there! The sun rose and I managed to see a better sunrise than on my trip up to Chiang Mai a few days before. After the lack of sleep, seeing such a peaceful and beautiful sight made my day.

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

After the sun had risen, all you could see for miles was farm areas – usually rice paddies – nothing really descript but still eye candy for a foreigner in a strange land. Not far from Bangkok luckily with my camera still in hand, I randomly saw from the corner of my eye a couple of men in the distance, the idea of capturing people in a candid way, doing what they’re doing, going about their own business always appeals to me. So I fired off a shot, I didn’t know if the exposure or levels were right in any way, let alone the focus, yet I was so pleasantly surprised by the turnout of the photo.. I’d captured a moment that was seemingly unnoticed, unprepared and… well… I’m very pleased with the outcome, and it’s up there, if not the favourite photo of the journey.

Two rural fishermen on the outskirts of Bangkok

Two rural fishermen on the outskirts of Bangkok

And from there, really, not much to be honest… I headed over to the Saphai Pae hostel (who had put their prices up since last time I stayed 7 days ago!) grabbed a shower using someone else’s towel, and chilled in reception trying as hard as I could to avoid spending money. I actually went up to bed around 7pm, still quite tired from the sleepless train journey, and watched Game of Thrones before falling asleep.

I woke up around 8am thanks to the others in the dorm, but still I sat watching Game of Thrones again from the previous night, preciously using as much time as possible doing nothing because the alternative was to go and spend stupid money on a drink or a meal downstairs.. I somehow managed to while a few hours away.. just enough to get me to my usual ‘safe’ time to arrive at the airport without freaking out that I’d be late for a flight. Airport prices for everything were tripled so I grabbed a water and a Minute Maid orange, held out until I was called for boarding, got on the plane and we were off.

We landed in Hanoi for the flight transfer, 4 hours wait and I mostly spent it wandering around, in the smoking room or near the smoking room because the nearby business lounge WiFi was in range. Time pretty much flew by.. coffcoffbullshitcoffcoff.. but I was called for my flight and had to leave Hanoi

Heavy hearted for leaving beautiful Thailand behind, heading to a beautiful cold country, the in-flight entertainment wasn’t working throughout the flight so I slept as much as possible, enjoyed the refreshments as much as possible, and did anything I could to pass the time, before we landed ahead of time. The captain spieled his usual ‘welcome to London’ speech, followed by “it’s -6 out there, clear skies, and the local time is 06:30”.. -6!!!! a whole 40 degrees less than 15 hours ago when I left for the airport, drastically underclothed for the climate, I went straight for Costas upon getting my baggage and ordered the largest caramel soya latté they had whilst waiting and planning my next moves..

At this time of day no-one was up, I’d arranged to go and see Rob and Karina, but of course by the time I would arrive at theirs they’d be away at work, so I resigned to heading to Kingston near them and spending the day until they arrived in coffee shops and wandering around K-Town.

I grabbed the shuttle to the South Terminal, by that time light, and blanketed with snow!

Snow at Gatwick's Shuttle TrainSnow at Gatwick's Shuttle Train

Snow at Gatwick’s Shuttle Train

I spent as much time in the airport as possible, before venturing into the known, but unknown wilderness that is London.

My First Visible Sunrise in Thailand

There’s not much wording to this blog, I’ll grant you, but then how do you describe a 20 hour door to door journey with no sleep? Well, here goes anyway:

Left the hostel at 18:30 aiming for a taxi to get us to Hua Lamphong train station.. we waited half an hour, getting refused once for some reason and refusing a tuk tuk driver.. The third attempt picked us up and for 100 baht took us to the train station in time for the 19:35.

Wrong!

No mention of the 19:35 once we got there and the ticket guy said 2nd class seated tickets only available, knowing we had to either choose that option or go back to Saphae Pai for another night, we all chose the former and waited until 10pm for the next train.

On the train, once again picked the wrong seat and was ousted on the next stop by the owner, so went to my original seat and there was a French girl sitting with her friend.. She told me I could have hers, which was a window seat so I wasn’t very pushy about it and accepted.

Some guy sat next to me, which proved to be a bind with cigarette breaks and climbing over him. After a million years I got to sleep for like 6 seconds, and after 8 hours of nothingness and a sore arse I moved into third class as the light started coming up, determined that ‘sod it, I’ll sleep when I get there’.

And here’s where the following photos happened, from 6:30 to around 13:00 – there’s not much explaining to them, but I sat wide-eyed for that long taking photos.

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

 

We arrived at around 3pm to Chiang Mai, and followed two guys that they’d met on the train to their guest house, hoping for a spare room for us three.. Luckily, for one night there was room, so we showered, went to find food, and I’m sat here blogging and image editing.. At least I’ve secured my plans for the next two days, hire a bike first thing, get my stuff over to the hostel, then drive up to Pai on Saturday. Until then, ciao!

Rooftop Bar View – Stunning

A really short minivan ride back to Bangkok, 2 and a half hours long, 120km speeds, this guy was more maniacal than the one down, but thankfully arrived back to Victory Monument in one piece!

A short BTS ride to Surasak and from there it was a short 5 minute walk to the really clean, centrally located, and modern Saphai Pae Hostel. After dumping my stuff and showering, I headed down for a shake in the outside bar.. The really great thing about backpacking/travelling, is that you say hello to someone, they say hello back, and that friendship could last for a day, a minute, or a lifetime. A couple of Aussies turned up – I happen to like Aussies that aren’t too up themselves – so we got to chatting. Nick and Chris had just come back from what sounds like a hedonistic and amazing Cambodia-by-Motorbike trip. There was also a girl who was chatting called Manon, from the Netherlands, and she was wearing short shorts – remember that because it’s important later on!

Manon, from The Netherlands

Manon, from The Netherlands

Chris from Australia

Chris from Australia

Nick from Australia

Nick from Australia

I’d already contacted STA travel to organise the trip back, aware that each day that passed my money was running out, and making it difficult to sustain myself. I took to Twitter at one point to complain about the level of service and within a short amount of time the customer service advisor got back to me, and had pointed out to the team who would sort this out to get back in touch with me sharpish.. I’d ranted and they reacted, in a professional way, so thanks STA travel, you’ve redeemed yourselves, and now I have a fixed date of the 21st to return and sort home life out.

Anyway, back to Nick and Chris, cause this is quite funny, their only horror story of 3 weeks of motorbike travel was running out of petrol in the middle of nowhere, having to get a pick up to… well… pick them up, and drop them off for a small fee and refuel. Anyway, they were both leaving the next day around 5pm flight, and this was getting late, they’d ad a few already and some others had turned up.. They were waiting for their friend who they met in Cambodia to turn up and head out to some club. Already tired I declined the opportunity to join them.

So this guy turns up, clearly drunk already at midnight, but we sat until 1 chatting and laughing. This guy’s flight was at 10am – now you have to factor in getting up, checking out (fair enough it’s 24 hours) and getting to the airport for rush hour. But, they all went out and I was left to my own devices.. i.e. sleeping.

Crazy Brummie Guy, already drunk at 11pm

Crazy Brummie Guy, already drunk at 11pm

Woke up quite early (for me) and had a shake and some breakfast, did my laundry and sat on the internet to work out what I was going to do. This guy turns up, already late for his flight by one hour.. He looks red eyed, slurry, and explains his story:

They went out to a club, around 3pm changed to another.. ANYWAY.. turns out this guy wanded off around 5pm, woke up in a park, no passport, wallet, or phone.. he’d come back to the hostel where Nick and Chris had his bag at 9:55 – 5 minutes to his flight. Harrassed reception to wake them up, and he completely missed his flight. So, word of warning there folks – I’ve seen this happen twice now. I saw him wandering around the hostel and visiting the cop shop which is pretty close by, to report and arrange a replacement passport at the embassy. And this is me saying this now, so remember it.. Don’t get stupid the night before a big event, because chances are you’ll cock up.

I was still in the midst of the STA travel debacle so I spent the whole day online trying to sort it out. Meanwhile Manon had come down and had – at first count – 53 bites on one leg alone.. not including any other – equally bitten – parts of her body.. Imagine falling into stinging nettles naked, then rolling around!

Manon's bitten leg

Manon’s bitten leg

Nick and Chris came down bleary eyed too, but with a more sensibly timed flight to catch – exchanged goodbyes and they left to go home. Me and Manon sat chatting and a friend she’s met, Joe, came and joined – he’s teaching TEFL at a Bangkok school and having a great time, he’s also coincidentally from Mum’s side of town, Newcastle, and – rarely – a thoroughly nice English chap! Coincidentally Joe (Burton) if you’re reading this he had an accent like yours! Trés strange..

They both wandered off and I took to browsing ThaiVisa.com this is a forum for ex-pats and travellers alike, sharing advice, asking questions, and offering up tales of woe from the guys thinking they’d scored a beautiful, often younger Thai girl, and they fleece them for all their worth before – sometimes – offing them via a hired hit man and claiming insurance.

I shared a few drinks with some guys, Nina from Germany, Julia from Spain, Ugo from Rio and David from Hong Kong, we played Jenga until the early hours. STA travel eventually confirmed the return flight FoC on the 21st, so I could finally relax, and carry on the Jenga.

David playing Jenga in the Saphae Pai Hostel

David playing Jenga in the Saphae Pai Hostel

I’d planned to leave that day, but because of the STA travel stuff and the train to Chiang Mai taking me overnight and at prime UK internet hours, I decided I’d go up the next day.. This coincided with Julia and Nina also heading up there so we said we’d go together. They’re a pretty nice bunch of folks, each with their own story of course.

Nina, Ugo, Julia and Anja at Saphai Pae Hostel

Nina, Ugo, Julia and Anja at Saphai Pae Hostel

We decided to head up to the Roof Bar at Lebua at State Tower – wow, what a view, 360 panoramic of the whole of Bangkok, but very busy.. very busy, I heard the best time to go up was sunset, but we were leaving the next day before having the chance to see it twice.

View from the rooftop bar at Lebua at State Tower

View from the rooftop bar at Lebua at State Tower

View from the rooftop bar at Lebua at State Tower

View from the rooftop bar at Lebua at State Tower

View from the rooftop bar at Lebua at State Tower

View from the rooftop bar at Lebua at State Tower

Once was enough.. Even though Ugo didn’t get let in on dress code, me, Anja, Julia and Nina went up to take in Bangkok.. Julia went off with three rather tall German guys to go clubbing, so after a huge amount of photos I went down with Anja and Nina back to the hostel.. halfway back Ugo shouted our names and he was outside an Irish pub.. so cutting our losses we joined him and took a massive 500ml of Hooegarden before nearly staggering home!

500ml of Hooegarden in the Irish pub

500ml of Hooegarden in the Irish pub – iPhone used as frame of reference

Woke up with a cold thanks to the air-con.. con alright! Keeps you cool in hot temperatures and gives you sniffles, a cough and a cold! Fans from now on! Spent nigh on all day editing the photos from the rooftop bar and drank my own bodyweight in shakes, before we three set off for the 7:35 to Chiang Mai!

Farang or not, I’m still kick ass at pinball!

Finally arrived back in Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong train station, then got the Metro, changing at Mo Chit, to get on the Sukhumvit line train to Punnawithi station. This was where the room I’d booked the day before was supposed to be.

I got off and walked up the road, heavy bags in tow, got around half a kilometre before giving in and realising it wasn’t that way at all – stopped and asked in one of the ever-present 7/11‘s for ‘Merlin’s Lodge‘, they were none the wiser. So I walked back to the BTS station and found the nearest café with WiFi to hole up in and take stock.

It was then – when my emails started working – that I got an email from Merlin’s Lodge saying HostelBookers.com had cocked up the booking and the price I was quoted online was based on two people sharing, so twice the price, and would I like to cancel the reservation. I agreed and started looking for the next place instead via TripAdvisor.co.uk.

A highly rated, inexpensive guest house called Soi 1 Guest House was recommended as a place without tourists and for those seeking the true nature of backpacking – result! I finished my coffee and hopped onto the BTS for 8 or so stops to Phloen Chit.

When I arrived, still not very clear where in relation to the station my guest house was, I asked the nearest security guard. He pointed me in the wrong direction, I realised when I crossed the road. So I crossed back over and avoided asking him again and took the road my map appeared to show as the right one.

Wrong!

Half way down it closed off to a private residence, so I asked the lady peeling fruit outside her house where to find the right Soi (side street), she motioned over the road and one more road up. So I walked, and walked, and walked and walked and walked – about 1 kilometre in total. Realising once again I had the wrong road I holed up in a quaint little restaurant for a shake and to gather my bearings. The lady was right, it was one street up, but not the other side of the road.

TAXI!!

I was buggered if I was going to walk down that long ass road again, so I hailed the nearest taxi and tried to show him on the map. He didn’t speak a word of English so he passed his mobile to me to speak to the controller who gathered where I was going and told the driver.

After 20 minutes or so I was outside the rather unassuming Soi 1 Guest House. The fare was 55 Baht but I had 53 in coins, or a 1000 Baht note.. he balked at the note so he caved to the 53 Baht.

I walked in and up to the 2nd floor reception, met a beautiful Thai girl behind the counter called Jenny and asked pleadingly if there was a room. Result! 8 man dorm and one bed left, so I took it for 400 Baht per night, stuff trying to find cheaper, I was knackered and needed a shower.

She showed me to my room and I met the residents, all Aussies and Americans, so guaranteed good chat and a laugh. One Aussie, Sebastian, was looking for a local arcade to play some games, I asked if they had pinball and it turns out they did. So after showering, chatting and introducing, and then hearing an almighty bang outside that turned out to be the power transforming giving out to the heat and needing repait.. 5 of us headed to the MBK mall in National Stadium, a ride to Siam, change, and one more stop.

The power company in Thailand that came to fix the broken transformer

With an almighty bomb-like explosion, the transformer gave out in the heat

On arrival, it’s huge! 7 floors, 1 clothes, 2 iPhones/tablets/gadgets, 2 food, 1 camera porn level and 1 entertainment. After checking out the food floor and grabbing a photobooth moment with the crew, we headed up to the top floor to play arcade games and most importantly – pinball!

The gang from Soi 1 Guest House in Bangkok

The December 30th Soi 1 Guest House Crew

30 Baht, and 5 games later I secured my nickname in potentially Bangkok’s only Pirates of the Carribbean pinball machine, scoring the Davy Jones high score! Farang or not I’m still kick-ass at pinball!

Pirates of the Carribbean pinball machine in MBK mall, with my high score and TUT initials

Famous in Thailand! Davy Jones high score for TUT!

Some of the crew had headed down to eat, and when I’d finished, me and Sebastian also headed down for some Thai food before heading back to the guest house around 5 to chill out before a night out on the town.

I’d had enough though, worn out from my journey up, and knowing if I went out I’d come back at 9am, I grabbed an insanely expensive beer from the guest house reception (80 Baht, double and more than I’ve been paying before) and sat in the common room catching up on Facebook and chilling out. By the time the others had woken up I’d moved onto Black Label and coke for 100 Baht, reasoning it was less expensive in the long run (wrong!) and we all sat and gathered talking about stereotypical Brits, Aussies and Americans.

Sebastian the Australian from the Soi 1 Guest House crew

Sebastian the Australian from the Soi 1 Guest House crew

Jenny (left) the Soi 1 Guest House receptionist

Jenny (left) the Soi 1 Guest House receptionist, and dude, sorry, you said your name but I’ve forgotten, get in touch!

Amy from Australia from the Soi 1 Guest House crew

Amy from Australia from the Soi 1 Guest House crew

David, the Soi 1 Guest House owner

David, the Soi 1 Guest House owner, full of awesome advice and tips

Most went out around 10/11, leaving a few of usleft to chat more in depth about the respective cultures. David, the guest house owner, and officially Thailand’s first guest house ex-pat owner, had turned up to chat and give advice. This guy – apart from trying to push us all on his pub crawl for NYE the next day – was stuffed full of amazing advice, not just for Thailand, he’s been everywhere. He also strangely has a Dutch twang to his accent!

After whiling away the hours, and drinking David out of Jonny Walker, I crashed for the night around 2-ish. Woke up around 10am to pack up, grab the minivan to Hua Hin from Victory Monument roundabout and join Peter and his family for a few days.

In the minibus en-route from Bangkok to Hua Hin

In the minibus en-route from Bangkok to Hua Hin

Despite the driver’s 120km/h driving, he was actually quite good and managed to get me to Hua Hin central around 2:30pm. I holed up in ‘The Shed’ guest house for a long deserved pineapple shake and texted Peter’s phone to tell him I had arrived.

Thought I’d Be Crabby In Krabi

The last night in the hotel proved to be…… interesting to say the least, and for fear of offending some I won’t go into full detail.

Evening started with a 3 hour long chat with Mike, from Scotland.. he’s 44, has MS down one side of his body, and – together with his wife – is 3/4 of the way on his round the world trip.

This guy has seen a lot, and he gave some amazing and inspiring advice, we talked about my budget and he said it’s gonna be tough and I’ll have to slum it, but it’s absolutely do-able. I always knew budget would be a problem, but after speaking to Mike he allayed my fears so long as I know to reign it in.

It was after speaking to him that I decided on my next step and the place I was going to stay for the next stage. The Pak-Up hostel in Krabi Town.

Why Krabi? Well…

Krabi picture courtesty of travelourplanet | cc

Not my photo, Photo courtesy of ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/travelourplanet/##Travelourplanet## | ##http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/##cc by
2.0##

All the reviews on TripAdvisor showed this to be the best possible place for a budget and not willing to put up with any troubles. So, booked, looked at how to get there from Bangkok and settled in for the last night at Imm Fusion Sukhumvit.

At some point a girl turned up, Lita, from Denmark but half South African.. she’d arrived with a local, Pong, both wasted. Turns out he’s a taxi driver, bottle of vodka in hand. She was pushing for him to leave and me and Mike both wouldn’t allow it so she handed over the keys to her room and let him sleep it off.

Then we all got chatting and she’s in Bangkok for cosmetic surgery, after having two kids she has stretch marks and she’s not happy with various other parts of her body, so she shelled out 200,000 baht (£4,000) and she was checking in tomorrow. After various remarks from the staff for her to keep it down, and me and Mike both trying to calm her down the evening turned out to be pretty easy going and I like to think I’ve made a couple of friends from this chance meeting.

To cut a long story short, it was 6am before we turned in, and by then a Moroccan guy and a French girl had joined in the fun. By the end of the night it was just me, Lita and the French girl left and.. well.. the first sentence of this blog says enough.

I woke up at 1pm to the telephone ringing “Hello, would you like to check out, or would you like to stay another day?” The receptionist politely asked.. I realised it was well past checkout at 12 noon and apologised profusely. She let me have an hour to get ready to check out and I showered, made ready, checked out and stayed in the cool of the hotel, recovering.

Lita joined me around 3pm, looking as red eyed as I was, we shared a hair of the dog and chatted. Turns out she missed her op appointment, the doctor wasn’t happy, but managed to get her an appointment the next day. Then the French girl turned up and we chatted some more, but I had to go and get the train down south to Krabi.

A beautiful sunset to send me off from Bangkok, turns out Thailand has air pollution too!

A beautiful sunset to send me off from Bangkok, turns out Thailand has air pollution too!

Didn’t even think of pre-booking, so I turned up at the train station at Hua Luamphong expecting a lovely choice of seats.. mistake #1, the only thing left before the 27th was 3rd class non-sleeping.. I’d already booked the hostel, and taking Mike’s advice from yesterday thought that no matter what, I’ll get to my destination through hell or high water, and even if it’s non-sleeping, I’m sure I’ll grab some hours kip.

It cost 507 Baht for the train to Surat Thani, plus a bus (I thought) to Krabi. I had half an hour to wait so I stocked provisions for the trip, grabbed a hot meal then sat and waited.

The train was called – platform 4 – I headed down to the train and must have walked past 15 carriages, 1 first (first class) 2 second (second class) and muggins at the very end in 3rd.. Jesus.. no frills indeed, and won’t be taking advantage fo the free water

3rd class sleeper train to Surat Thani

Yum, fresh as a daisy water!

After choosing the wrong seat and being ousted by the right ticket holders, I looked at my ticket and put myself down on the right seat opposite a young girl, what a wonder though to have open windows as you’re riding half way down the country – shame it was going to be dark for all but 2 hours of it.

As we set off, hawkers stormed up selling everything you’d need, so long as it was foreigner priced food and drinks – though I was determined before the end of the journey to haggle my first purchase, I’m not paying double just because I’m travelling!

Through central Bangkok, along the river, passing by shanty town living and destitution, yet everyone’s chugging along. Material possessions don’t have such a hold on these folk. Lodging, food and – well, heat! – seem to be the primary concern.. I’m envious in a certain regard for them to have such moral fortitude despite facing hardship while I’m stressing about my next iPhone contract, or that I can’t go out every other night..

On the sleeper train just outside bangkok

Beautiful tree lights just outside Bangkok

After leaving Bangkok it was pretty dark all around, such a shame because I could make out palm trees, hear us going over rivers and bridges, but it was dark and I’d have to wait until sunrise, we’d come across the occasional station, or level crossing, or some habited place, but all in all it was pretty bland.

Everyone else seemed to fall asleep, me and the girl opposite had picked up another in our booth of 2×2 seats and he sat her side so I had two to myself, then why couldn’t I bloody well sleep?? Everyone else in the coach was snoring! It seemed every conceivable position had something sticking in my back/neck/leg dead/dead arse.. No.. sleep… till Krabi!

After 7 hours attempting, and around 2 hours of broken sleep, I thought sod it there’s no chance, and pulled out the pad and paper to draw and while away the hours.. The hawkers had stopped out of respect of people sleeping so there was only one or two people awake. I was in and out of the vestibule because you could smoke in there. Amazing – open doored train, one jolt and I could have been out into the fetid parallel ditches!

As it got closer to Surat Thani, the dawn broke.. excited as I was on the right side to see the sunrise, I hit a storm, pissing it down and clouding over the first chance I’ve had at seeing a far East sunrise. Ah well, plenty more to come I suspect.

Storm brewing in Southern Thailand

Storm brewing

The daylight did give me an opportunity to take some photos of the scenery I’ve been missing out on all sleepless night, varied from relatively opulent houses, to beautiful temples, to jungle and to destitute.

Southern Thailand destitute houses

Destitute houses en-route to Krabi

Southern Thailand more opulent houses

One of the more opulent houses en-route to Krabi

Finally arrived at Surat Thani at 7:15am 45 minute wait for the bus to Krabi. The usual cries of “tuk tuk?” or “taxi” as I left the station for a cigarette and towards the bus station. Queue was pretty big, so there wasn’t enough room for me on the first – luxury air conditioned – bus, instead I was bustled onto some rusty, suspension issued, cramped, leaking, ugly ass bus from the 1940’s.. I was surprised the suspension could handle the 40 bags loaded into the back seats.

Bus 1 lasted around an hour, then we hit an intermediate bus station to pick up people coming from the south, and headed to Krabi on a different bus (the same bus, we had to get off and unload our bags only to be told this was the right bus) – then to the stunning XX pier for another interchange onto a minibus to Krabi – 2 hours and a final interchange to Krabi town.. the 1 luxurious bus I was hoping for, and advised would be the case thanks to an online source I won’t mention – turned into 2 buses, 1 minibus and a taxi to Krabi.. still only 557 baht all-in, but sheesh. This journey took longer than my flight from the UK to Thailand, including Vietnam
stopover!

BUT! The icing on the cake, Krabi town is a lot more sedate than Bangkok, with promise of short journeys to the most beautiful beaches and islands – I’ll check them out tomorrow, for now I’m relaxing again, doing my washing and not thinking what is going to come next.

How To Lose 500 Baht In A Bangkok Hotel

Here I was, cursing the drunken Welsh tourists yesterday and I have to eat my own hat today..

Last night I was jet-lagged, body-tired, but also excited about being in Thailand. I’d had a few beers – nothing to make me drunk, not by a long shot – couple that with the above and taking some sleeping tablets to knock me out and I was set for a great nights sleep.

Woke up at 5:45 am, the air con was making noise like a windy Lincolnshire night and blissfully cold, but something wasn’t quite right.. I turned over and saw something out of the corner of my eye, felt for it and felt wet – God I hadn’t wet the bed had I?!?! Gingerly sniffed my hand and found it to be beer (phew..) I’d done the old ‘falling asleep with a bottle of half-full (always the optimist) beer in my hand’ trick and paid the price.

White linen, when confronted with Chang beer, goes dark grey!! I was slightly freaking out that it had stained the mattress, so I stripped the bed and sighed at least some relief when I found it hadn’t. I put all the linen on the floor with the towels so it looked like I was being helpful, rather than hiding the evidence.

My sheets at the hotel, after being washed in beer

The linen had to go!

That’s not the worst of it.. Overnight it seems the weight of my laptop on the rather fragile bedside glass-topped table was too much, the 500 degrees heat it puts out the fan probably didn’t help either, it had cracked in two pieces..

Shit!

I tried everything, putting the two pieces together so that you could only notice it side-on, cunningly placing the bedside lamp over it and running the power cable right over the crack. I resigned that I’d probably have to tell someone, but that it didn’t need to be right then, at 6 am..

It was like that when I found it, honest guv

Look, you can’t see it at all!

This also came after a night where I asked for the usual 2-for-1 Chang beers, put one behind the bar, and came back 2 hours later to an innocent look from the person who I thought had served me, calling me out for being a liar! I know I have a bad memory, but these were beers 3 and 4, way before forgetting time.. She gave me the freebie, but when I went back later to get beers 5 and 6, she – via a handy local translator – thought I was asking for 2 free beers, I said that I was prepared to pay for both, of course, but this re-ignited the earlier conversation and I was left with bowing out and saying I’d only have the one, for the 2-for-1 price.. sigh..

I intentionally came on this trip to be respectful.. and In the first two days I’ve vandalised my room and nigh on insulted the staff!

Oh but still, lesson learned and check out the pool, nice!

View from my room to the pool, it's just the right temperature after a hot day out.

View from my room to the pool, it’s just the right temperature after a hot day out.

After watching Nacho Libre badly dubbed in Thai, I went down for breakfast because I couldn’t sleep after all the stress, and – if anything – the air-con was too cold! Breakfast looked decidedly dodgy, all fried egg and salad and some weird meats with noodles.. croissant it was! Did something quite stupid and had the juice and a coffee – not sure if juice is okay to drink if you don’t know the source, so I won’t be doing that again.. 120 Baht (£2.40) for two mini croissants, some juice and a coffee – not that cheap, won’t be doing that again either..

Showered after breakfast and wandered out, the road looked way too suicidally busy to risk crossing

If you're contemplating suicide, try Bangkok's road crossings

If you’re contemplating suicide, try Bangkok’s road crossings

I went further down the road to find a crossing and came across a 7-11, they’re all over the place in Bangkok and I know where I’ll get my shopping from in future.. 8 Baht (16p) for water and 10 Baht (20p) for a bottle of juice (of unknown flavour, it was orange coloured) didn’t check the beer prices but I imagine they’re a lot cheaper than 100 Baht.

Sadly on the way back I witnessed one of Thailand’s big problems, stray dogs.. they’re everywhere, seriously, they don’t seem to bother anyone and no-one seems to bother with them, each one that goes unspayed/neutered though, leads to an exponential increase year after year.

Stray dogs are a huge problem in Bangkok

Just one of many, many stray dogs on the streets of Bangkok

Dogs aren’t the only ones either, stray cats everywhere, though I’ve seen more dogs.

Stray cats are also a big problem in Bangkok

Kitty taking respite from the beating sun

I loaded up the day’s trappings, camera, meds, cash monies etc.. and because of the Skytrain’s 30 second walk from the hotel I thought I’d take a random trip into the centre.. 40 Baht (80p) for a 9 stop ticket, not too bad, not amazingly cheap though either – clocked the Tesco Lotus nearby, will check that out later, looks massive – hopefully I can get some flip-flops there, cause I sure in hell can’t find any anywhere in central Bangkok..

Got on the air-conned Skytrain and found it to be as rammed as the tube, but at least it was cool and I guess rush hour at 8:30 am, then took the 9 stops to Siam. Siam is pretty touristy, you can tell where the tourists go because it’s slightly cleaner and you see more English language everywhere, I’d always thought Siam to be a magical sounding place (turns out Thailand was called Siam before ’39 and after ’45 to ’49.. learn your history Matt!)

Street art in Bangkok

Street art exists in SE Asia too

Street art in Bangkok

More street art in Siam

Seeing only modern looking, English speaking outlets dismayed me a little, but when in Rome – I had a coffee at a rather plush looking coffee shop with free wifi and noticed the cup summed up my journey.

My inspiring coffee cup with an awesome quote

“Welcome to your place, escape from all your worries, sit, relax, sip and surf”

It put me in high spirits to see this obvious portent, I checked the map and planned a route due West towards the river, this was the route I actually took:

My route map in Bangkok, Thailand for the 2nd day

Route that I took, a bit haphazard I’ll grant you

The route I took, kind of on purpose, led me down the real Bangkok streets – you can tell because there’s no English language on anything.. As cities go, it’s not at all like London, it’s dirty, it’s not clean lines and straight angles, there’s loads of vendors on the streets – mostly selling food – and there’s extremely few chains of shops. The power lines are overhead, not underground too:

Overground power lines in Bangkok

Wouldn’t like to accidentally dry my clothes on one of these lines

And there’s an insane amount of shops that put a smile on my face every time:

Goldsmiths are famous worldwide

Halfway round the world, I’m famous!

All-in-all, apart from the odd looks at this ‘farang‘ in their midst, the people were pretty nice – I got stopped a few times by people not trying to sell me anything, just for a chat. This is exactly what I wanted to see, not the polished temple floors, the sanitised hotels or the McDonald’s’s – I wanted to see gritty urban life.

Then you look at the type of shops there, after wandering a while you see so many moped/scooter repairs, parts and sales shops, hundreds of furniture outlets, countless manufacturing places that you get a sense of how they’ve built their economy.

Bangkok petrol prices are cheap

UK drivers beware, the 29.79 baht (60p) per litre is under half what you’re paying in the UK, jealous much?

It’s hectic, it’s noisy, the smells range from tantalisingly tasty, to obnoxious chemical/petrol/industrial smells – there’s something so enthralling about it all. It leaves you wondering just how it all works there. After doubling back on myself, having insane crotch rub from the badly chosen jeans for the day and 4 hours walking in the 33 degrees, I had to go back to the hotel. The closer I got, the more worried I was about the broken glass table..

Imm Fusion Sukhumvit Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand

Back at the Hotel Imm Fusion Sukhumvit

Made it back to the hotel, past reception without an “Excuse me” straight up to my room and noticed the cleaners were on the same floor as my room.. went in and the bed had been made but the table was moved! Resigned myself to going down after a shower to explain. Didn’t even get in the shower before I got a call from reception saying the cleaners had busted me, so I said I’d go down after the shower, cash in hand to say sorry and pay for the damage.

So there you go, that’s how you lose 500 Baht in a Bangkok hotel – just leave your laptop on and fall asleep.

It’s around 5:30 pm here (10:30 am UK time) and I doubt I’ll be heading out again today, I really need to get my act in gear and work out whether I’m staying in Bangkok another day (at a cheaper hotel/hostel/guest house) or heading down to the islands, maybe I’ll eat out later, check back in a couple days for the next instalment if my laptop doesn’t melt.