Monday, 2 January 2012

Bangkok, Thailand

When we left Cambodia, on the 27th November it was an unbearably hot day without a cloud in the sky. With our backpacks on, we were on the road again. I was excited for the next leg of our trip; the ultimate experience I was told, the country that has been there and done that and has everything to offer and more. This is the place were the term superlatives was invented. Here one will find; the best beaches, the most secluded islands, the biggest parties, the best diving locations, the greatest tropical jungles, the hottest and spiciest food, the most beautiful scenery, the most preserved and impressive national parks....welcome to Thailand, perhaps the most diverse and rewarding roller coaster of a country in south east Asia.

What a ride I was in for!!!

At passport control we got our Visa stamped and we walked the short way to our transport feeling big old yellow face breathing down my back, it was hot but beautiful and I was dripping with sweat. Bags packed and then we were packed like sardines into the small mini bus, (in south east Asia this is a common skill they have acquired). The local guide popped his head into the bus before we set off, quick head count, followed by a look with a wry smile he said; 'Good luck'. I was thinking why is his parting words so foreboding? After 20 minutes I knew why. Our bus driver was in the wrong business, he thought he was Michael Schumacher. He drove at maximum speed all the way to Bangkok, weaving through traffic, speeding on the hard shoulder and to top it off he was driving onto coming traffic in an amazing short cut manoeuvre. Crazy, insane, terrifying; I am still thinking about passing his name on to the Mercedes team, believe me I think they would snap this guy up. I still get cold sweats thinking about him. As soon as I got on the mini bus I sat down and thanked God for saving my life and being there in my hour of need. Welcome to Bangkok I thought...oh and add this to your ever growing list of superlatives; the craziest F1 wanna-be bus drivers. 

We stayed on the famous Khaosan Road which is located in the heart of Bangkok and is where east and west meet in the ultimate cultural explosion. It has everything from McDonald's to Indian suit shops to dance clubs to local Pad Thai noodle stores. What more do you need? Its a big, brash, bold neon-lit decompression zone that attracts international backpackers in their droves. It's the first place that people go to, a stop in transit before they travel on to their chosen destination. It's perhaps because of this reason its  has so much energy. People who come here want to let their hair down and relax which means party and this place was made to accommodate a party, and its lots of fun. The first night I was there I was sitting on Khaosan road, watching the hundreds of travellers pass by when we bumped into  some old friends from Cambodia (this is  one of the best things about travelling, you continually meet  lots of friends that you have met previously in other countries on the backpacker routes and you form friendships for life). Well we had a good catch up and a very good night sitting on the many street stalls having a beer or two and enjoing a Pad Thai (noodles). However it also resulted in myself waking up with a broken toe. This was to be the burdon of my travels for the next two weeks, but consequently it led to a change in direction and a chance meeting with some amazing people.  Its funny how things happen, must be fate?

Khaosan Road

Laura on the famous road
Me Gillon and a Gypsy on our first night on Khaosan Road

About five minutes before the fateful broken toe incident

We had originally  planned to travel to Ko Tao next so I could complete my Open Water Scuba Diving Course before heading to Ko Phangan's famous Full Moon party. However, with a broken toe and slightly depressed we decided to travel to Ko Samui  first so I could rest up on a beach then travel to Ko Phangan and then finish in Ko Tao hopefully with a fully recovered toe. We spent the rest of the week in Bangkok, meeting some of our friends from Kirkby; Ronnie and Karlie, (its a small world really) chilling out, enjoying life and visiting one of oldest China towns in the world.

Guess which one mine is?-Notice the toe on the far right ha ha ha

Ronnie & Karlie immortalised outside the Royal Palace
We left Bangkok for Koh Samui by sleeper bus (to be politically correct it should have just been called a bus) and it turned out to be a very eventful journey. When you travel by sleeper bus you keep your main back pack in the baggage compartment underneath the bus and then you bring your personal belongings on with you.  We travelled using a private company (who  are supposed to look after you) however what we didn't know is that they are all involved in a big scam organised by the local Mafia and we were to be their next victims .
After a couple of hours on the road one of the crew turned off all the lights, including the individual reading lights and then shut all the curtains. We have been on many sleeper buses and this was the first time this had happened. It was pitch black but looking back  what they where in fact doing was creating the perfect atmosphere to rob you. We had our two bags between our legs and then tried to get some sleep. There was a gap of no more than half a foot. But some how they have managed to crawl under our seat take our bag, go through it and return it back as though nothing as ever happened. At 6am as you can imagine everyone is still weary, they came and got everyone off the bus as quickly as possible. I had woken early and was looking out the window and I was thinking, why had they threw all our bags off? As soon as the last person was off the bus they drove quickly.  It wasn't until I looked in our bag to read the lonely planet about 10 minutes later that I had realised we had been robbed. They had taken Laura's SLR camera worth a great deal of money and had went through Laura's travel purse and taken a substancial amount of cash. I was gutted, that hollow feeling in your stomach  you get that just takes over you at the realisation of what has happened. You feel helpless when your in a country like Thailand, you cant even depend on the police because they are often involved in the scam.

All the tourists got their backpacks rummaged through, me and Laura included. They never took anything but went through the whole bag. They are so cunning and sly. I had a tie wire around my bag and they undone it some how and still managed to seal it back up. They are so skilled at robbing. I went a bit crazy at the guy who I knew was in on this scam, and he was a bit aggressive, but I wasn't letting this go and neither was Laura. Thankfully Laura was more reserved and rational. She demaded to speak to the manager and the police. In the end she was on the phone to some random Thai woman and arranged for them to keep the money  in return for the camera or we would not leave. Then, after 2hours of waiting and as blatantly as the minibus arrived to pick us up, a motorbike driver arrived with our camera bag in his basket. The man then paid this guy and frantically ushered us onto the minibus. Well, in a way we were thankful we have our camera back but still gutted that the 15,000baht was robbed. 
But it's only money and the journey from here on in was to be some of the best times of our lives.

1 comment:

  1. amazing place plus nice shots indeed captures a great adventure.. hope i can go there someday..