Leaving Nong Khai was easy ... take Highway 2 and keep heading south. After 6 or 7 hours you’re still moving south, but after 8 or 9 hours you should finally arrive at Mon Chit Bus Station in Bangkok. The timetable says that it’s an air-conditioned 6 hour journey but as this is Thailand, the reality is always somewhat different. Any sensible person would probably fly, but with a story yet to be sold and a bus ticket costing less than £5 .... ‘sensible’ wasn’t really an option.
Bangkok is a crazy kind of city that gets under your skin. It’s a strange place where East meets Chaos and every day is a whole new adventure. Coming over all ‘Fatherly’, I felt the unusual urge to do some Christmas shopping ..... but after 30 minutes on Khao San Road that slight urge had turned to a major aversion. I abandoned the chaos of the market, grabbed a beer and chuckled at the dreadlocked back-packers marching up and down the soi looking for cheap accommodation and an honest translation of their recently acquire ethnic tattoos. Why do they do it? ..... Ten drunken minutes in a back-street tattoo parlour and a lifetime of ‘I Kiss Sheep’ written bold on their arms .. mai pen rai
I sought sanctuary at Wat Po, the non-Disney version of Bangkok’s Grand Palace. The economic downturn is impacting on the entire world, and it seems that everybody blames somebody else. David Cameron blames Gordon Brown, Gordon Brown blames the USA and Fox News blames anybody who didn’t vote Republican. Here in Thailand I’ve no idea who they blame .. but I get the feeling that it might be ‘anybody else but us’ .... mai pen rai
After cleansing my soul and avoiding the nasty foreign pickpocket gangs at Wat Po, I took the overcrowded ferry down the Chao Phraya and a walk through the exclusive shopping district. The Red Shirt protestors have long since gone and the barricades removed. Life has returned to weird and wonderful normality. Siam Paragon is open for business, the Gucci shop is selling its £200 handbags and the little stall outside is selling passable copies for less than a fiver. The Thai authorities are clamping down on the sale of counterfeit goods, but everywhere you go you can hear the distinctive sound of blind eyes being turned and improvised cash registers ringing.
Four movies and an obscene quantity for free booze later, I arrived back at Heathrow. It was snowing .... and maybe that’s why it actually felt good to be back ...........