Thailand welcomes us with a very modern hotel directly on their side of the river Mekong at the so-called Friendship bridge, being a present from Australia to Thailand and Laos. And a bunch of TukTuk drivers - those Thai style taxis – who are trying to get you onboard in any way. Sometimes they are just crooks, be warned! We have a really hot lunch dish at the local market before departing with an air-conditioned VIP bus to Bangkok. Inside the bus we freeze, outside we sweat. Obviously we are not used to these modern conditions anymore. =) Pretty even sealed roads in a fairly even landscape. We make good progress towards Bangkok. Along the road there are lots of shops and gas stations and dusty white stone houses, barely any wooden cottages or farms to see anymore. But neon lights everywhere at night. The street lives here. Always. Much traffic - anytime.
After midnight we reach Bangkok, catch a taxi to Khaosan Road, the Backpacker area of Bangkok. We are welcomed by massive throng, noise and smell of a busy nightlife area. It is rather hard to find a suitable room for us, either they are occupied or just to expensive for those holes. After a while we find a place, the Green House just a few steps off Khaosan. Beer despite the limitations of local laws. =)
Kron Thip – City of Angels as Bangkok is called in Thai. We start to have a closer look at the city. A walk to the Royal Palace, then going on to the Banglamphu piers where we go for a canal cruise trip in those long tail boats. Long tail boats are lean long boats (as the name says) with huge diesel engines mounted in the back. Maybe they are a little bit noisy, but I should get more used to their noises…
It is very romantic to cruise through the canals of Bangkok, past the small cottages directly by the water, where kids bath and their mothers wash clothes. Behind there are the skyscrapers of modern Bangkok. We approach silent, remote appearing areas with better houses and very nice gardens. In those moments you can feel what they meant with “Venice of Asia”!
We miss the Floating market but instead visit Wat Arun, that huge stunningly with ceramic shard decorated Temple of Dawn. Ceramic shard mosaics showing flowers, men and gods. Fantastic! For diner we sit in a restaurant just on the other side of the river to watch the sun setting down behind Wat Arun and afterwards watch the same shining temple being nicely illuminated.
On the following day we visit the Royal Palace, a huge complex of temples, houses for living as well as administration. We walk along a sheer endless wall, thoroughly covered with a paining of all the blue and green and red Buddhist gods and men in armour fighting. Strange, but very impressive. We watch the Jade Buddha in his temple, wearing his heavy winter clothes. He has clothes for every season, made of gold and uncounted gems. I keep wondering what this has to do with enlightment. Perhaps as much as the Cologne Cathedral with Jesus Christ. =) Decent clothes are expected when you enter the Royal Palace. Thousands of tourists daily. Glowing heat and numberless picture taking hobbyists…
I am looking forward to Koh Phangan, the last planned destination for this trip. Just to relax from all those miles – to swim and get sunburned again after all the time in Ireland (where sun doesn’t shine that much =)
The cheapest way, even compared to the local transportation is the so called Joint ticket, bus plus boat in one ticket. Separated from the real Thailand. The bus just stops once, at a particular expensive place for tourists. Thanks guys!
We reach Surathani the next morning and eventually get on the boat. We are happy now that the long journey is over for while. Now it is time for nothing but reading, swimming and sunbathing… What a joy to be away from the concerns of civilization, from those things I won’t change like SARS, war in Irak and all that stuff that just makes me sad. I have fun, get a lot of people from all over the world to know, hike & swim and do not write a book. Tai Chi - chinese meditation in the rising sun. Weeks pass by on the fly. I don’t get a job in Singapore as initially expected. Nor anywhere else in Southeast Asia.