09.06.2011 25 °C
I'm now writing from Laos, where we arrived a few hours ago having travelled up to Bangkok from the Southern Thai islands, spending a few days there, and then caught a train last night. It’s a been a busy and tiring few days, mainly due to two lengthy journeys, but also because we tried to cram in a lot in a short space of time in Bangkok
It was my fifth time passing through the city so you’d think I’d seen everything here, but to be honest I have never really left the Ko San Road (‘backpacker ghetto’) area. We arrived very early on Monday morning as annoyingly our bus decided to arrive before its scheduled time of 5am (a first). I was half unconscious due to slipping a couple of valiums to help with my sleep on the bus journey, which really didn't help navigating a city at that time.
Having secured ourselves a box-room in a guesthouse and got a few more hours sleep, we had two real goals for our time in Bangkok, to actually see a few of the main sights, and to meet up with two Australians that I lived with in London for 5 months last year. After some problems with mobile phones we eventually met up in the evening for a good catch-up and a few Singhas and Changs (Thailand’s most famous beers). It's great seeing friends on the road, especially when they had been travelling across Europe and had stories to tell too- it’s such an important part of travel for me.
On our only real full day we set out to see the Royal Palace and a couple of famous Buddhist temples. After dodging scamming tuk-tuk drivers and touts we got to see the Palace, an impressive and extravagant complex of buildings and temples. Each is beautifully decorated by stone-work, images of the Buddha and bright glasswork. It’s similar to the Royal Palace in Cambodia that I saw at the start of last year, but still worthwhile for me seeing (and obviously more so for Letha who is enjoying her first time in Asia).
We saw two of Thailand’s most treasured items, the Emerald Buddha- a statue actually made of Jade which has a history of being captured and then reclaimed from Laos. Also a huge 40m reclining Buddha which takes up a whole temple building to itself and is just unnecessarily big!
Being in a city we’ve also been out eating at all the street stalls that are so common in Asia. Top of the menu is always the backpacker favourite dish of Phad Thai (chicken, vegetables, peanuts and noodles in tamarind sauce), but we’ve also been trying other dishes which mostly are based around rice and noodles. The dishes tend to be altered to fit the sweet tooths of Westerners when in very touristy areas but more authentic food can always be found in cities.
Food is one area of coming to a new country that I love experiencing, and is a real part of learning a new culture and country. Wherever I end up I’ll always attempt to try a few of the speciality dishes of the region and carefully study what the locals around me are eating (and sometimes more interestingly, how they eat it). Thai food, whilst it can be very hot, is now nearing Indian as my favourite world cuisine!
As I’ve previously mentioned, this part of Asia is in its quiet period (despite the school/university breaks in Europe and the States), this is due to the wet season arriving. We’ve dodged most rain so far with a typical day consisting of nice open patches of sunshine, gradually getting taken over by cloud/mugginess, resulting in some spectacular downpours in the evenings. The humidity is fine when just relaxing on a nice beach but in the cities and when moving around with a backpack it can definitely be uncomfortable (especially when little Letha needs help with her bag too!)
We decided on splashing out an extra 200baht (4 pounds) for an aircon carriage for the 13 hour train ride up to Laos last night, a worthwhile investment! Crossing the border at around 10am we then caught a mini-bus up to Vang Vieng, a backpacker haven where we'll celebrate Letha's birthday tomorrow.