8 May, 2010
Bangkok, Thailand

I pictured Khao San Road, the famous backpacker hangout of Bangkok, to be Phuket minus the beach. I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it’s full of hawkers selling you cheap trinkets and suits and the ubiquitous MASSAAAAAAGE, but it doesn’t have anywhere near the same level of seediness. I’ve yet to see a single sports bar or overweight Western pensioner with his hand on the leg of a Thai hooker. Some of the side-streets, which are lined with leafy deciduous trees with lights strung through the branches, are downright pleasant.

We flew out of Phuket on some budget airline called One-Two-Go, or something. I was dreading another sardine experience, but we were lucky enough to be put in the emergency row, which gives you a lot of extra leg room. This plane also gave us free food and drinks, unlike Tiger. Chris spilt his Sprite all over his balls. I started reading Dune, which is so far reminding me of the Wheel of Time series. The plane smelt like vomit for some reason, but our noses got used to it. I considered what would happen if I yanked the emergency hatch levers five kilometres above the ground. On the whole it was a pleasant flight.

Although I like flying, planes and airports in general, probably because they represent doing something interesting with my time, I’d prefer to use them as little as possible while travelling. I’m not sure why, but I have an urge to travel by train and bus and avoid flying whenever possible, even if it’s cheaper and more convenient. There’s just something more adventurous about traversing an entire continent by land than shoving yourself behind a lunch tray with every other Joe Six-Pack on the 1.30 shuttle to Bangkok. Of course, our alternative methods of travel are usually the local equivalent of Greyhound, which is hardly more romantic, but there’s just some irrational thing inside me that says as soon as you’re up in the air, you’ve lost contact with the thread of travel and you may as well be flying straight in from your home country. Or something. I can’t quite articulate it.

I’d like to walk, or maybe cycle, all the way from Times Square to Santa Monica Pier one day. I’d like to travel overland from London to Singapore. Or Cape Town to Tokyo. Something about watching the landscape and the culture gradually change day by day really appeals to me.

Anyway, Bangkok is where we had to decide what we were doing – ditching South-East Asia entirely and going straight to China (or even North America), or giving Cambodia a shot and hoping that, unlike Thailand, it has some redeeming features to go along with its heat and squalor. We’ve opted to go to Cambodia. It would feel like a cop-out if we just wrote off a whole region after ten days on the heaviest tourist trail in Thailand.

Bangkok (or at least Khao San Road) is also slightly more appealing than we thought it would be, so we might kick around for a few days rather than head straight for the border. Chris is running a fever at the moment, so if he comes down with something we’ll be here a few days anyway. I’ll do some exploring tomorrow. And maybe take some photos – I haven’t been posting any, not just because it’s a bich, but because so far I’ve only taken about a dozen. If you’re not enjoying yourself you don’t really feel the need to document it.

Oh, and out the window of our taxi (and later tuk-tuk) I’ve seen virtually no sign of the protests, apart from a single barricaded street (with a big open hole in the barricade admitting traffic) and a few soldiers with assault rifles and coils of razor wire hanging out and smoking in front of a hotel. I haven’t really been keeping up with the news over the last week. I heard the Prime Minister came to an agreement with them or something, but then there were some attacks today where a couple of cops were killed, so who knows.

I’m not concerned about it in the slightest. The demonstrations have only shown the slightest inklings of occasionally turning violent, and even then it’s aimed at police and military, not civilians, and especially not tourists, who are the economic lifeblood of this country. The road outside is swarming with backpackers from all over the world. Everybody else is going about their daily lives just fine. Don’t worry, Mum.