Thursday, 22 July 2010

The end of an era...

I was looking through some old blog posts, and i realised i hadnt actually published this one 3 years ago! Anyway, here it is...memories...

So, my time in SE Asia has come to a sad close. Since we last spoke, Alex and I spent some time in Chiang Mai (doing a cooking course, among other things) and then went back to Bangkok for a day, and then moved on to Cambodia.

Chiang Mai was fantabulous, much more chilled than Bangkok, but then it is much smaller. We did a lot of sleeping and relaxing there, because we were pretty pooped from all of the travelling until then. Notable highlights included a craft market that is probably the best i have ever seen. A whole suburb was filled with crafty things (as opposed to the rest of the thai markets that were filled with red bull and "same same but different" t-shirts) and all the temples made food and the stray thai dogs didnt rub their smelly selves against you. We (well, I) also ate some of this incendiary chilli and eggplant dip which is a speciality of Chiang Mai, and it burned on the way in and the way out like no chilli i have ever tasted before has ever done. I want some more.

We also went to check out the Kings residence up in the hills above Chiang Mai which was predictably lavish and luxurious, but the gardens were astoundingly beautiful too, and were far more impressive than any other part of his home.

We then went back to Bangkok, where we went to check out the Royal Palace and Wat Pho (the enormous golden reclining Buddha) and got into ANOTHER argument with a tuk tuk scammer when i warned some people not to get into his tuk tuk because i could see that they were going to be scammed. Anyway, he ran down the street after me screaming "Fuck YOU fuck YOU!" which is pretty comical in retrospect. We also checked out chinatown which was amazing (14% of Thailands population are ethnic Chinese) not least because of the wacky food in the markets.

Then at 5am the following day, we started our descent into hell. We took a bus from Bangkok to Aranyuprathet on the Thai-Cambodian border which was fine until the guy at the back of the bus vomited (toilet was locked) and his vomit formed an aromatic river that flowed under our seats toward the front of the bus. Thankfully we got off soon after, and headed to the border, where we got through the thai side pretty much unscathed, except that we had touts for the travel companies that organise onward journeys into Cambodia following us. I made Al speak to me only in Afrikaans, and looked blankly at the touts hoping that they would leave us alone, and my little ruse was working until they invaded my magic circle one time too many (what the fuck is it with SEAsia and personal body space?) and i shouted "I DONT SPEAK ENGLISH!" at him, in perfect english with a western accent. He nodded, and continued to follow us. Fuck.

So on the Cambodian side, we were made to pay 100 baht extra for our visas or they would be relegated to the "three hour" pile. Its a common scam that we were expecting, but what do you do? We were in a rush to get to Siem Reap, because if your bus leaves too late, they make you stay overnight at their friends guest house, whch is invariably expensive and filthy. So we get through the border, and the touts are buzzing like flies, and we dont see the bus station. In fact, all we can see is that the Armageddon has begun at the Cambodian border and the end or the world may soon be nigh. Don't get me wrong, the thai side was pretty filthy too, but this was just a level of poverty and filth i've never seen before. Bit of an eye opener actually. So we finally find a shitty bus company that will take us to Siem Reap, and we buy tickets. We soon found however, that the ticket prices were flexible, and that other people on the bus had paid half as much (while some had paid three times as much), but thats par for the course i guess.

After watching the owners friend fix the rear axle of our bus, we finally board the HellBus to Siem Reap 3 hours late. I could whinge about this trip for a LONG time, but the end result was that the 150 km trip along what is known as the "Boulevard of Broken Backsides" took seven hours and culminated in some of the passengers almost coming to blows with the driver and his mate, and a whole load of arguments with tuk tuk drivers when they dropped us (despite fierce protests from the 3-toothed british prop forward on the bus) in the darkest, scariest corner of Siem Reap and disappeared (seriously, driver and mate jumped out of the window and were never seen again).

We finally made it to our guest house, 'the Golden Banana' with two couples who had also survived the bus trip in tow. Sadly, what the guide book desribed as 'gay friendly' was in fact hetero-phobic, and the incredibly camp lisping khmer man at the counter informed us that unforunately there was "no space". The name should have given the place away...

ANYWAY, we spent three incredible days exploring the temples of Angkor Wat, the photos for which i will post in a few days time when i get to CT. Its difficult to explain the mood of the place, and i hate using words like "magical" and "etherial", but those are probably the most appropriate.

OK, this blog post had dragged on way too long, to i will sum up the rest of my time in SEAsia in point form :

  • Went back to BKK

  • Ate best som tam of all time

  • Ate hottest som tam of all time (but got maaaad respect from the guy who made it for me for finishing the whole thing)

  • Did some more shopping in Chinatown

  • Flew home to the Muthaland...

So now i am in Jozi but will be in CT on Sunday night, where i will upload all photos. Hope everyone is well...