Bangkok: An assault on the senses

I nearly missed my flight to Bangkok because I spent as long as possible with Jess in Melbourne and then the airport security staff made me unpack my bag because they were convinced there was something metal in it. The offending article turned out to be my hairbrush (which has no metal parts and has never caused an issue before) and I think I was the last person to board the plane. I hadn’t flown with Jetstar before, and I didn’t like the fact you had to pay $5 if you wanted to watch a film and $2 if you wanted to listen to an album. There were no complimentary alcoholic drinks either. I tried to sleep for most of the nine-and-a-half-hour journey.

I got a taxi from the airport to Viengtai Hotel, and although the journey took about 40 minutes, it only cost about £10. We drove past a number of elaborately decorated buildings, and culture shock kicked in. Even though it was about 10pm when I arrived at the hotel, the streets were buzzing and the temperature was about 29 degrees. Feeling shattered, I decided to leave exploring until the morning. I fell asleep to the sound of live English/American music coming from a bar nearby.

After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, I found that the streets were just as busy the next morning. They were lined with stalls, most of which had either unidentifiable foods or cheap clothes for sale. The cooking added to the temperature, which was in the mid 30s, and at times it smelled and looked delicious and at other times it smelled and looked nauseating. It was easier to walk in the road, but it was a risk given all the motorbikes, scooters, cars and tuk-tuks roaring around the corners. I quickly became very lost because none of the names on the street signs seemed to be on my map, and the best solution was to get a cheap and fun ride in a tuk-tuk. I was frequently pestered by stallholders and tuk-tuk drivers, but I was surprised that so few locals seemed able to speak more than a few words of very basic English, given all the tourists around. At times this presented a challenge. As I wandered around, I noticed that I was quite tall compared to most Thai women, and it was nice to see things from a different perspective. That evening, I went out for a type of curry I hadn’t had before, and a beer, and it came to about £4.50. It would have cost a lot more than that in Australia.

On Thursday, May 31, I got the hotel’s free shuttle bus to the spectacular Grand Palace. I’d never seen anything like it. Although it was a bit too gold and sparkly for my taste, I could appreciate that it must have taken a long time to get all the mosaic pieces into place. After wandering around the complex of buildings, I went for a walk to see the river and a couple of notable temples (from the outside only), Wat Arun and Wat Pho. I went past a lot more stalls selling everything from bottled water for 10p to huge framed portraits of Thailand’s king (no One Direction posters here!), Buddha statues, birds in little cages, large knives, pirate DVDs and CDs, and the odd laptop, phone and camera which I suspected had been obtained illegally. I also wandered up the famous Khao San Road, and impulsively spent about £11 on five tops. Of course, I also had a soft serve cone or three in McDonald’s, but it tasted a little bit different. My day in the Thai sun resulted in a better tan than I got in Australia.

I spent my last few hours in Thailand sitting in the bar across the road from the hotel so I could still use the hotel’s internet service. The tourists on the table next to mine were working their way through a bag of large grasshoppers, and when they noticed me watching them in horror, they offered me one. At first, I politely declined, but then I thought “When in Rome…” and I’m known as someone who’ll try anything once, so I couldn’t refuse. I thought if the people on I’m A Celebrity can do it, I can do it. I shoved the insect into my mouth and attempted to chew and swallow it as quickly as possible, but it took a lot of crunching to break it down and it felt like the legs got caught in my throat. It was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever eaten and I was retching for a few minutes afterwards. I’m never going near one of those again! I tried to wash it down with beer but it didn’t really work. Bottled beers were only about £1.20 and I was a bit tipsy by the time I had to get a taxi to the airport. I was just a 12-hour flight away from getting back to reality.

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