Country number: 26
Territory number: 28
When? Prehistoric times
Who? With Don
‘Catch a fish with two hands.’
When? June 2001, Bangkok and Phuket, coming from Myanmar, going on to Cambodia
How? Bus, car
When? January 2005, first leg, going on to Laos and Hanoi and then back to Krabi,via Bangkok
How? Train, bus, cycles
Who? Group Tour
When? April 2005, detox spa
My visit to Manila has made me nostalgic for South East Asia and I’m feeling really excited about returning to vibrant Bangkok. I’m rapidly brought back down to earth by the queues at airport immigration. It make sMiami airport look like a stroll in the park. It’s a new airport building and the wooden booths have been replaced by metal desks but the systems don’t seem to have improved at all. Neither does the attitude of the airport officials until I ask the luggage belt supervisor what his name is and then he suddenly becomes highly solicitous.
There are so many placard waving meet and greeters that it takes me another 30 minutes to find my lady. My name is thoughtfully obscured by a stack of suitcases on a trolley. Waiting gives me time to observe the great, the good and the decidedly different. One long haired bearded guy has just sashayed past in a tigerskin top, a red velvet skirt and pirate boots. Another 50 minutes in the taxi- that’s not bad for Bangkok and I’m in my hotel. The skyline has changed too, since 2005. There are many more tower blocks and very little Thai script. Nearly all the signs are in English now. The Banyan Tree is in an upmarket hotel area adjacent to an upmarket shopping area.
And things are definitely looking up. I’ve been upgraded to a suite. So I have a little palace on one of the top floors. There’s three separate rooms and a huge tub. It’s a shame I don’t have time to indulge. I’m off shopping, trying to match the bamboo design steel cutlery I bought in Kho Samui in 2003- some items have gone AWOL over the years. I have researched on the internet and found a shop in a plaza that stocks Thai cutlery and they have almost identical items to mine. The shopkeeper tells me that my exact design isn’t made any more. ‘Same, same’. I’m pleased to find a decent match and tired so I don’t bargain and he’s pleased too. There’s massage shop in the plaza so I head there next. When in Rome.
I’ve taken a taxi to the plaza as the concierge has ensured a fixed price for me. It’s double the meter rate, but still cheaper than the price he will try and extort from me if I’m left on my own. Or it will be ‘Cheap price only if you visit the tailor shop too’. So I decide to walk back to the hotel and plot a scenic route on Google, across Lumpini Park. It seems, additionally, to cut off a corner. The park is chock full of joggers and after navigating them I find myself back in the road where the hotel is located. I can see it on the other side. Except that there is no way of crossing the dual carriageway, which is barricaded in the middle, not to mention packed with vehicles. I ask directions from a kindly Thai jogger who sends me to a zebra crossing up at the next junction. It adds half a mile to the journey. So much for Google.
Dinner in the hotel. Amazing red duck curry and chilly vodka cocktails in the rooftop bar. I shall definitely have to come back.
And here I am at the airport yet again. There’s another horrendous queue at security. Then you go down an escalator to queue all over again at passport control. Grrrr.
To see more of my photos of Thailand, visit this page.