(We’re home again. Now I’ve a faster internet connection and am using my MBP updating the blog is Easy again. I’ll be going back and editing previous pages which were created in less than optimum conditions and adding more images and links. On with the story…)
Our last morning in Tha Khaek the power went down. Not a major issue except that we were waiting for an email to confirm our hotel booking in Bangkok. While we waited to catch the bus that would take us across the border we sat in the dining area and drank coffee, fruit shakes and, as the afternoon progressed, our last Beer Lao.
We boarded a tuk-tuk to take us and our luggage to the bus terminal. What you don’t see in this photo is the woman behind me and her three big new garbage cans. We protested there was no room for us but the driver rearranged the cans and we all squeezed in.
Getting our tickets for the bus we encountered the pushiest group of young people we’d met yet on our trip. We were puzzled until Sue saw their passports: Vietnamese. It’s a cultural thing; the Vietnamese are not rude, they just want to get there faster. Boarding the bus I felt a hand in my back urging me forward, even though I was in a line of people and couldn’t go any faster. It reminded me of line-ups in Hanoi when we lived there. Everyone was very friendly on the bus but we found it easier to board last and stand rather than negotiate for seats.
We arrived in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand with a few hours to kill before our overnight bus to Bangkok. There was a big restaurant next to the terminal so we went over for some cool ones. We perused the menu and noticed it featured mainly beef.
Although the waitress spoke little English, and the menu was in Thai with pictures of the selections, we decided to go for the beef. First time I’ve eaten beef, knowingly, in years. We ordered salad and very thinly sliced beef. We cooked the beef on the little stove pictured below. In the centre of the unit veggies slowly simmered.
It was a delicious meal. Although later, on the bus, I was regretting having chosen to drink beer and eat beef before a bus ride. But my stomach soon settled down and I managed to sleep most of the way to Bangkok where we arrived at dawn.
We’d chosen to return to Bangkok on a Sunday so that we could visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market, a huge sprawling market. We went to our hotel first; only to find we didn’t have a reservation (remember that email we were waiting for?). Luckily they found us a room, even though they were turning away other travellers. So by 7am we had dumped our luggage, headed off for breakfast and by 10 were at the market as it opened.
The market was as big as promised. But we were disappointed that the prices weren’t much different than the Khao San area, even though we did find a couple of good stalls. As the morning wore on and the day grew hotter and more and more people crowded the market we got tired and decided to leave. On the way out I spotted one of Bangkok’s famous ‘lady-boys’ performing for people seated in a cafe.
Back at the hotel we spent hours relaxing, and staying cool, in the pool. This was a bit of a step up for us but we’d decided that we needed a pool in Bangkok, reputedly the hottest city in SEAsia.
We stayed a few days, spending time with friends who had just arrived and were on their way to Myanmar.
I also got my hair and beard trimmed in an old-style, three chair barbershop. I haven’t visited a barbershop for longer than I haven’t eaten beef. But this was a truly memorable experience. Time seemed to slow right down. My barber was probably in his 60s, very focussed and very meticulous. He not only buzzed off my hair and beard he got in there with a straight razor and carefully trimmed the edges including some finessed features. He finished by massaging my neck and shoulders and rubbing a lotion into my scalp. I was just about floating when I walked out of there.
Our plans included beach time in Thailand before heading home. We decided on Kho Chang, an island only a five hour bus ride from Bangkok. Early one morning we waited on the sidewalk for the bus. While there a Coke truck off-loaded onto a motorbike which could navigate down the narrow streets and alleys to make deliveries.
The drive out of Bangkok provided some nice views of the skyline from the expressway.
The bus eventually arrived at the ferry terminal and we were on our way to the island. It all seemed somewhat familiar, even home-like.
Here’s a photo of a ferry, similar to one we were on, heading back from Kho Chang to the mainland. That big dark bump on the car deck is a truck loaded high with goods.
And here we are: Kho Chang, which translates as ‘Island of Elephants’. Beach time!