14/01/13 – 15/01/03
I needed to change to a cheaper hotel today, but I had problems finding anywhere with room. After a fruitless two hours of walking around in the sweltering Bangkok heat I gave up and went to Tuptim, a little joint I’ve stayed at before on noisy (but fun) Rambuttri Street parallel to Khao San road. I spent the rest of the day working on the blog and researching Burma, I planned to go to the visa office tomorrow to get my Burmese visa.
In the evening I got the usual free entertainment of the local breakdancers who come to Rambuttri to show off their moves to the music pumping out of the bars. They are really good, spinning, flipping and even doing sychronised moves, occasionally making way for the odd tuk tuk – very entertaining! The next day I completely failed to get up in time to go to the visa office, my sleep pattern was really out of whack and the loud live music next door didn’t stop till 1am. I spent another day bumming around. In the evening I was sat in a restaurant and a tipsy man from Laos started talking to me, practicing his English. He is an English teacher and told me it was a relaxed place with nice people and said if I was ever near his city I was welcome to meet him. Love the Asian hospitality!
I again failed to get up in time to go to the visa office, I had suffered from insomnia the night before. I was pretty annoyed, another day wasted! I went to the post office to send some memory sticks to my parents with all my photographs on them. The stick I’d bought on Khao san road turned out to be a copy and corrupted all the files on it – annoying as it was 20 quid down the drain and no refunds! Welcome to Thailand! The Thai post office was easy to use, the staff spoke English and it only cost about 50p to send them to the UK, bargain! This way my photos from the last 6 months would be doubly safe.
I heard from my friend in Bangkok, Marc, the tour guide who works in South East Asia. We for a catch-up drink. He’d just come from a tour in Burma but advised me against going. He said there were so many tourists that all the sites were jam packed, and there is so little accommodation that some travelers were turning up to find every room in town taken! They then had no option but to go to the local monasterys and give a donation to spend the night on a hard floor or mattress there! In addition, the accommodation prices had risen to over $30 a night in most hotels, some as high as $50 a night!
It sounded crazy and I agreed if I was to go to Burma I would come back and do it in the low season instead when it would be quieter and cheaper. Marc offered to show me the view of one of the famous Bangkok temples, Wat Arun, down by the river. We walked for about half an hour to the dockside across from the big old temple. We walked through a maze of busy tourist markets to a floating jetty on the river. The sun was setting and the cunning jetty owners try to charge you for taking photos from there. Marc quickly whisked us away before they caught us!
We walked through a seedy area where prostitutes were sitting on plastic chairs on the corners, waiting for customers later at night. The place was full of ugly little motels for dubious purposes. However it was also host to a nice restaurant that Marc goes to with his clients sometimes. The rooftop there was a nice reprieve from the noise and offered a good view of the Golden Mount lit up in the twilight. We had some good food, a duck curry, star bean salad and beef liver which considering I don’t like liver was actually pretty nice.
With Burma off the agenda, I spent the day researching where to go next. Marc had suggested Ranong on the South West coast, close to the Burma border, and its nearby islands of Koh Chang and Koh Payam. I decided to head there and check it out. I had a week to burn before I’d return to meet my friend Paul from Manchester and his wife Amy who were due in Bangkok on their honeymoon. The rest of the day was spent in a valiant attempt to buy a waterproof case for my little underwater camera (!). It had broken in Nepal and the repair guy said it should have come with a rubber case, (it didn’t) which protects it from the water pressure. I took a local bus to the commercial area of Pathum Wan, very busy and full of giant malls and shoppers of all nationalities. I tried in a big electronics mall with no joy, they directed me to another one – a mighty modern posh plaza mall. In there all of the camera shops, even the Panasonic affiliated ones had nothing. Damn it, a wasted journey. I did get to see the most modern part of Bangkok though and also a little look at the famous but small Erawan shrine, overshadowed by skyscrapers and on a busy crossroads. I didn’t have any wish to come back to this part of Bangkok though.
In the evening I attempted to get a bus to the Southern Bus Station to get to Ranong, but the only correct bus whizzed past us, looking full to the brim. With my time running out I got an expensive taxi to the station which turned out to be right on the edge of the city, about 45 minutes drive through heavy traffic. At the bus station I bought a ticket on a local VIP night bus and settled back in the massage seat (!) to enjoy a really cheap western action film dubbed into Thai. As normal on the local buses they turned off the lights really early so I used my camera light to read until late. There was only one other westerner on the bus. We stopped at 1am for a meal at a bus terminal, just as I was falling asleep. The meal is included in the ticket price so the passengers, ever-eager to get their money’s worth, staggered out like zombies and we ate a bog standard buffet in the VIP room of the station. We continued onwards, but I only caught a few hours sleep, it was pretty uncomfortable.
At around 4am we arrived at Ranong bus station. I got out with the western girl who was in her early 30s. We got into a Songtaow (truck taxi) which took us to the pier for the island ferries, 15 minutes away. The price was double but as we were a captive market we didn’t have much choice despite arguing with the driver. The pier was deserted but the lights were on and a TV was showing western programs. The girl, Anna, was Italian. She ran her own little bar in a town on the Italian coast close to Croatia and was heading to Koh Chang to meet a friend of hers. We chatted for the next few hours as a few more tourists arrived by taxi, and zombied out to the boring transport history programs on TV.