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.

Escaping From Reality, Because That’s What It Boils Down To..

It wasn’t the vast cost, the quitting everything, the giving away of all my earthly possessions save from what’s on my back and my camera gear – it was a single palm tree en-route from airport to hotel that made me realise I’m escaping from reality…

Backtrack to 3 years ago, still living in Surbiton with Rob and Karina I noticed that I was using various means to stop facing up to the real world.. computer games, fantasy books, alcohol, cigarettes, work, you name it – I’d use it to escape..

Around that time I stopped fully committing to work, not doing 9-9 with PETA that I used to before. It was a real turning point because work was my absolute life! So to lose that out of the equation knocked me sideways.

I struggled on – unaware of what the issue was and blaming PETA for their (and sometimes rightly so) abuse of their staff – I just shut off after 5pm and went home to live my life each day.

I’m typing this and thinking “So what? Most people shut off after 5pm” but it’s a thing that only certain employees would be able to look at and agree with on my level.. Charity workers perraps, hmm??

Anyway, this ‘divide’ happened at the time of a revamp to PETA UK’s website and I noticed I got heavily into fantasising away, and not really living in this world and the work suffered as a result. It got worse.. I didn’t meet with my friends as often, I burrowed deeper and deeper into my own hellish psyche, but at least it was one that loved its own company.

Finally setting off

14 hours on a flight to Hanoi from Gatwick, 3 hours stopover in Hanoi which gave me a chance to prove that no matter where you are in the world, beer prices will still hit you in the face.

Vietnam Airlines Flight VN 611

This beauty kept me in the air for 14 hours, vive la technologie

16 degrees and cloudy, looking out from the restaurant already didn’t have the impact it should have, given that I was on a different continent.. it’s still an airport like any other.. (aside from the ridiculous £1 = 34,000 Vietnamese Dongs)

Heinz Ketchup - The Universal Currency

Heinz Ketchup – The Universal Currency

MERRY CHRISTMAS bunting emblazoned over the arches to the doors of the first bar/restaurant I went into, sad Vietnamese muzak renditions of Christmas classics including Slade (though didn’t stick around until the ‘iiiiiitt’s chrriiiiiiiiiiisssttmmaaaaaaas’ line, to see if they could pull it off with such verbosity!)

Couple that with $4.90 a half beer and a maximum stay of 30 minutes and I was already put off by SE Asia’s charms.. until a German walked in, mid-40’s maybe, wife in tow, had seen the world.. he was in the Seychelles when the tsunami hit back in ’05 and had some tales to tell of near misses, tidal freakiness and some other things his poor English didn’t catch my drift with.

I went for another drink somewhere else in the airport, and came back to the same place only to be turned away with a smile.. “You no come in”.. which took a couple of follow up conversations for me to realise I wasn’t allowed back in – I’m stuck in a culture where I don’t know the etiquette, was I rude? Was I English? Was I someone who just wanted a drink and no food? I’ll never know so I smiled and apologised for something I wasn’t aware of..

Then I went camera in hand around the airport

I guess most airports are similar, but Hanoi airport captured my imgination and got me when my camera was out

I guess most airports are similar, but Hanoi airport captured my
imgination and got me when my camera was out

I had a bit of an ashamed moment.. some Welsh guys, 4, or 5 of them had gotten the same flight as me and were in the airport at the same time waiting for presumably the same flight. I don’t have a thing against the Welsh, one of my best friends is one, but these guys were on a booze cruise, ladyboy lookout, drugfest, party-athon.. and at the airport at 06:15, drunk, effing and blinding. The shame came from the years of abuse other nations have had at our hands, through our overdrinking, shouting, swearing, being nasty – and because I’m not doing that I have the right to rant off on it..

I had a change of heart towards the girl who turned me away at the restaurant door – perhaps she thought I was one of them?!? I wouldn’t have let them in on general principle.

Off to Stage 1 of the magical mystery tour

As usual, all internal flights are on rickety, sellotaped aeroplanes. This was no different. At least throughout both stages I didn’t have to pay for anything at all.. food and drink were both available if asked for, or otherwise by grabbing the attention of the attendants as they rushed past.

Once again I was sandwiched between two monosyllabic people, no-one wanted to speak (well, of course, that includes me) so it was a three hour silent flight over to Thailand for stage 1, the plan with no plan, the marvellous adventures of Matt..

Arrived at Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi airport

Taxis!! “Taxi?”, “Taxi?”, “Taxi?” offers everywhere you go.. likely to rip you off too, I hear – so I asked an information guy at a random counter and he told me to head off to the taxi rank downstairs. These guys are metered and they’ll tell you in advance of your journey how much it’s going to be, and stick to it.. 400 Baht for a 45 minute taxi ride, (that’s around £8) on meter through busier streets than a black cab could handle and I’m at my luxury hotel for the next two days!

This baby cost 1698 Baht for two nights, so around £37 all-in.. I booked it with cash at home so it didn’t eat into my fund whilst away, but I definitely needed a touch of comfort for getting over jetlag and planning the adventure stage 2.

Got to my room and at first was a little unimpressed, but it soon seemed to grow on me.

Imm Fusion Sukhumvit Hotel Room 1

Imm Fusion Sukhumvit Hotel Room

The hallway is pretty tasty, sorry for random hallway shots!

Imm Fusion Sukhumvit Hotel Hallway

Imm Fusion Sukhumvit Hotel Hallway

But most of all it’s awesome for getting places on public transport.. I found this out having arrived, shed my load and sat for a cigarette in the smoking room.. A couple, the girl from South Shields (ey Mum et al!) have been travelling for 8 months now.. they went Buenos Ares > Rio > Argentina > Rio > Argentina > Peru > Chile > New Zealand > Australia > Bali > Laos > Thailand! They’re now going to spend 2 months here and bugger off to India! It’s possible to get just about anywhere courtesy of the SkyTrain being moments away..

Chang Beer - The Staple

This is the sudden staple of my first few days!

We had a great chat for an hour or so over beer and cigarettes, gave some great advice and I was left very impressed how they manoeuvred through each country and each time without solid plans.. exactly what I want to do..

Back to back to reality..

The palm tree I saw today didn’t fit in with my usual view on the world, it was hot, there was a palm tree, it was foreshadowed with standing water, there were others around. It hit me!! Right then and there! I was on foreign soil escaping with a purpose!! I didn’t realise it until today and I don’t expect you to understand fully, but that one vista made me realise that I wanted to escape a lot, I have done since childhood.. the aim with this trip is to get that full-on dose of ‘out of reality’ which should be able to kick start me when I get back, I’m hoping!

The next step is the islands

I’ve gotta chill out and I have to see Bangkok, then plan the next stages, so tomorrow will be that day – see what Bangkok has to offer and then back in time to somehow plan the 12 hour bus journey to the islands. To be very definitely continued….