Tuesday, 4 March 2003

THE JOY OF TRAVEL - 23. BANGKOK THE FOURTH







27/02/03: Bus to Bangkok and book into Chart on the Kao San Road; tea at Gullivers; Dong Dea Moon for a few drinks.

28/02/03: Bump into L on the way to Wally’s! Write up final Cambodia missive; develop more photographs; dinner at Chart; drinks at Banana Leaf, Dong Dea Moon, and then back to the Banana Leaf.

01/03/03: Wally’s for breakfast; taxi to weekend market; Namaste for an Indian; Chart to Watch Catch Me if You Can; Banana Leaf.

02/03/03: Walk to Palace – colleague enters palace; check emails; Gullivers for dinner; Hole in the Wall for drinks.

03/03/03: Go to Siam Square and MBK Center (sic); Wally’s for dinner; play cards at Chart – early night.

04/03/03: Wally’s for breakfast; minibus to airport – leave for New Zealand.


My colleague and I have decided to break with tradition on our fourth visit to Thailand’s capital and book into Chart, a hostel that S stayed in during his brief sojourn on the Khao San Road, and one he speaks of highly. In truth, it’s not too dissimilar to the Khao San Palace, which you can throw stones at from the outside of Chart, although Chart does have its own dining area, which the Palace never did.
            We have four whole days to spend in Bangkok, which is more than is strictly necessary. The notion of taking the opportunity to venture someplace else is faintly entertained, but the requisite enthusiasm is lacking. I’m feeling slightly jaded and the familiarity of Bangkok is just what I need, but I cannot say for sure whether my colleague shares in this sentiment.
            The situation is compounded by the weather. Missing now, those squalls that were so regular during my first two months here in South East Asia; it’s too hot and the sky too uniform.  The only compensation for this is the paucity of mosquitoes.
            I’d been looking forward to New Zealand, and still am, but not quite so much as I was four months ago. Despite the heat and the intensity of Bangkok, I feel almost settled here now, and I fear New Zealand might impinge on this glad state of mind.  But first thing’s first: let’s go to Gullivers and follow that up with a few drinks at Dong De Moon.
            Actually, I take a dimmer view of Gullivers now than I did last time I was here, and especially over the time before that. It doesn’t attract a particularly convivial crowd and the importance of watching sport is overstated. But the air conditioning is most welcome, and the food remains consistent in what’s otherwise an entirely inconsistent state of affairs. This is not merely a reflection on my own circumstance but on Bangkok as a whole. Every visit here has revealed a slight change, the destruction of Hendrix being the most pronounced. Even Dong Dea Moon appears vulnerable: it’s quieter tonight and the lively tender, capable of removing bottle tops with violent efficiency, is conspicuous by his absence. This might be no bad thing because my body is pleading with me for a quitter life, although my mind is more reticent.
            The next day we bump into L, who is in good spirits. She went south after we parted company and will be returning home shortly. We don’t make any arrangements to meet up for a drink; I think companionship for her is dependent on movement and the making of plans. We do exchange email addresses, however, and she tells us to look us up should we ever find ourselves in New York. (It will be another five years before we are, by which time we’ll have adjudged the invitation to have expired.)
            After a day spent tending to business, my colleague and I take a taxi to the weekend market. The definitive article describes a particular market that F recommended we visit. He’d worn a pleasing red polo shirt, with the bathing ape insignia stitched upon it. Certainly a fake – albeit a convincing one – it was acquired at the weekend market, and I’d like one too.
My wardrobe is showing signs of fatigue, in fact, and I’ve already decided that I’d be wise to jettison my desert boots before we leave for the southern hemisphere.  Further, I’ve decided to buy a pair of Thai Policeman style Chelsea boots – they cost less than the equivalent of a tenner from a shoe shop I’ve identified down the road, and there’s not enough room in my rucksack to accommodate more than one pair of shoes at a time.
            I buy two polo shirts, both adorned with the playboy insignia. I will never be entirely convinced of them and that T-shirt I picked up in Nong Kai will see more wear.
            We will revisit Siam Square and the Royal Palace, continue to eat at Wally’s, try out a new Indian restaurant tucked away up some stairs on one of the streets that brackets the Khao San Road, and will find a new place to drink in the form of the Banana Leaf.

The flight to New Zealand is disturbed by a pause in Sydney, Australia, but isn’t the time or opportunity to leave the airport. It is a regret, now, not to have incorporated a visit to Australia into our itinerary, but there didn’t seem to be the time or money available to do so. Whilst this was true to a degree, we could certainly have afforded a week in Sydney, and could have had fun there.


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