We needed to cross a border to get a new Cambodian visa and our friend Claire was working in Bangkok so we thought it would be an excellent opportunity to visit her and have a Thai mini break.
We got the bus from Siem Reap which was a complete bargain at $8. The bus to the border was great, an excellent lunch stop and we made good time. Then came the ordeal of the border, which was probably the worst arrival we’ve had in any country (yes mum, worse than New York). Stamping out of Cambodia was fine, but the queue for Thailand was insane. The passport control hall was filled with sweaty backpackers, old white men and their young Asian brides, and shameless Cambodians trying to cut the queue. We sat on our backpacks, moving two metres every ten minutes in a room where the air conditioning couldn’t penetrate the mass of bodies. After two hours in this sweaty mess and an altercation between Sian and a middle aged sex tourist we finally got our passports stamped for Thailand.
After entering the country we then had to sit for another hour, waiting for enough of our group to make it through immigration to fill a couple of mini buses. After ten minutes on the bus we stopped at a restaurant and were told there wouldn’t be a stop until we got to Bangkok in four hours (not true!). So we sat and had an ice cream and a pop and waited for the rest of our group to fill up on Pad Thai before hitting the road.
The mini buses in Thailand run on compressed natural gas so we had to stop after two hours to fill up. All passengers had to leave the bus and we were far too excited to see a SEVEN ELEVEN ahead of us when we got out. After spending two months in Vietnam and Cambodia, buying water and snacks from vendors on the side of the road, it was pure bliss to enter the air conditioned sanctuary of the seven eleven. We stocked up on sandwiches, crisps, pop and halls soothers, then went on our way.
Upon arriving in the outskirts of Bangkok we were in awe of the sheer size of the city, all lit up against the night sky, it took another hour to get to our destination. After a 12 hour journey we were dropped off at Khao San road, and marched off to find our hotel and to meet Claire who was waiting for us in an Irish pub.
Our first night in Bangkok was a visual feast. We went for drinks on the next street, Soi Rambuttri, which was a little calmer than the complete chaotic partying on Khao San road. We watched as break dancers competed on the street, vendors tried to hawk scorpion kebabs, street kids came by selling roses and lots of old white men paraded by, showing off their bored Thai girlfriends. We drank far too much beer (trying to keep up with all the students) and made it back to the hotel by 3am.
We found Bangkok, whilst not expensive compared to back home, was far more expensive that what we had been paying in Cambodia and Vietnam. We splurged $35 a night on our hotel rooms so we could have somewhere clean and quiet. The amount of cockroaches led Sian to rename it Bangkokroach, we couldn’t face sharing a dorm room with them and a load of pissed up teenagers.
Soi Rambuttri is a cool street that runs alongside Khao San road and has lots of different places to eat and drink with a much more chilled out atmosphere, so we found ourselves eating and drinking there most nights.
We spent the five days mainly hanging around the city with Claire, managing a trip to the palace and a ladyboy show. The palace was the most spectacular display of Asian architecture that we have seen yet. The walls glitter with glass mosaics and most things are painted gold. Unfortunately the camera ran out of battery so we don’t have many photos but it was certainly worth the visit. After the palace we got a tuktuk back and found ourselves blocked by a protest (this was shortly before the military coup). The tuktuk driver tried several ways to get around the protest but all avenues were blocked. We were only a five minute walk from our destination so he said we should walk the rest. Sian mimed to him that she didn’t want to get stabbed or shot, which made him smile, I’m sure he thought we were being ridiculous. Then he got out the tuktuk and led us through the procession to the street that we wanted, acting as our tiny Thai body guard.
To get to the Calypso ladyboy show we got a boat along the river at sunset and had a spectacular view. We were surprised to see that along the river there were simple stilt houses, little more than shacks built alongside the skyscrapers, showing the vast crevasse between rich and poor, even in a city as prosperous as Bangkok.
We arrived at the Asiatique waterfront for dinner before the show, and found it was a chilled out place to drink and eat in the city, much like the waterfront in Liverpool or Bristol. We had a beautiful meal and cocktails before the show, as well as stopping for a drink afterwards.
The ladyboy show was brilliantly camp and crap in that “so bad it’s good” way. They tried to appeal to a wide audience with a mixture of English and Japanese numbers spanning the decades. Whilst watching the show we were completely amazed by the dancing and equally amused by the terrible miming. We thought they looked more like women than we do. That was until we met them for a photo opportunity after the show and Sian came face to crotch with an unruly bush and the spell was broken.
On our last night we went for cocktails and a fantastic Indian with Claire and our new friend Ebony, both who have been working hard opening a new travel agency.
We had a fab holiday in Thailand but were happy to return home to Cambodia. My country my beer!