Bangkok is Thailand's steaming-hot capital, and it's one of the largest and the most sophisticated metropolises in all of Asia. Bangkok boasts a modern urban train system, a world-class airport, a selection of accommodation from grungy to ritzy, and a plethora of services dedicated to the needs of its many Western tourists. And all this, despite it being in many ways the third-world centre of a third-world country. Bangkok was my first stop in Thailand — as well as the first place I've ever visited in Asia (airports aside) — and like thousands of backpackers before me (and no doubt thousands more after me), I was thrown head-first into the "experience" that is the backpacker mecca of Khao San Road.
Straight to the pool room
When asked why you'd want to go to Thailand (instead of to Bonnie Doon), Con replied: "it's the culture, Mr. Kerrigan." And he's right: Thailand does have an amazing culture. And that's exactly why I had to purchase a few souvenirs of that culture, to bring back to my loudly and proudly uncultured homeland. An absolutely essential purchase was the elephant — so essential was it, in fact, that I decided to take two — because as we all know: "When an elephant's trunk is up it means good luck(?). And this one's trunk was up(?)." Also scored a little mantlepiece plate, and a Kung Fu dude picking his ear. These are all such precious, adorable souvenirs, that there can be only one possible home for them: "these are going straight to the pool room."
Cute little fella, innee? He's got little velcro dots sewn into his hands, so that you can wrap his arms around your neck, and let him "hold on" and dangle there for a while. He also makes a horrible screeching monkey noise, if you squeeze him hard enough — this will be sure to induce plenty of headaches upon all who hear it. Picked the monkey up in Khao San Road today, although there is (naturally) nothing Thai about him — but a quick snip of the 'ol label, and nobody ever need know his humble "made in China" origins. As well as being a cuddly teddy, I believe this monkey would also serve well as a long-hanging wall decoration.
Khao San t-shirts
Khao San Road is absolutely chock-full of little stalls selling cheesy t-shirts. And since this is my last full day in Thailand, I couldn't resist picking up a few of them as souvenirs. As their brand name suggests, they are all pretty much "same same... but different". I especially like the "iPood" one, which is a not-at-all-subtle satire on that overpriced fashion accessory which I've avoided owning for so many years. Also good is the one with the picture of cave man evolving into upright man, and then ultimately devolving into man hunched over a computer screen, with the inscription: "something somewhere went terrible wrong." Geek power! The tuk-tuk one is cute, too. It was tough to pick out a mere three, since they're all so funny and so wearable — but sadly, I can't take the entire contents of Khao San Road back home with me.
The Bangkok Scenic Route
It was about 4pm this afternoon, and I was trying to get back to Khao San Road, after my shopping spree in Pantip Plaza and nearby Pratunam Market. I managed to get a metered cab in the morning — and this was good, since as far as taxis in Bangkok go, meter is cheaper. For getting back, however, it seemed that competition was a bit more fierce: the majority of taxis around Pantip were full; and of those that were empty and that I did manage to hail, they all refused to use their meter, and instead quoted me their outrageous farang special flat fees, which I rejected. In the end, I was forced (reluctantly) to take a tuk-tuk. And when the driver said: "velly cheap, but make some stops on the way", I knew that what I'd managed to heretofore avoid in Bangkok was now inevitable — I was going to take the famous "Bangkok Scenic Route".
Apart from the classic entertainment stock-up, Bangkok is also a great place to expand the ol' wardrobe for a bargain. This afternoon, I wandered over to Pratunam Market, where I came across the wholesale outlet of "Nobody Jeans". Their stock is a bit pricey (by Thai standards), and their policy of "no trying on" is absurd (even after you've bought it — I tried changing clothes in the shop after I'd paid them, and they threatened to hand my money back!); but they do sell very nice jeans. Since my traveller jeans are threatening to vaporise into thin air, if worn for too much longer, I figured it was time to invest in a new pair. Luckily, the new jeans do fit (despite the complications in trying them on).
Getting a haircut in Bangkok may be cheap, but you really do get what you pay for. I figured I should get some hair chopped off before I head home — it's a bargain here, plus I never get round to it when I'm in Sydney. I asked the lady: "number one on the sides, and nice and short on top — but don't shave the top." And what does she do? She says: "OK, no ploblem" — and then proceeds to brandish her shaver, and... vrooomp! There goes my hair. All but completely shaved off. "You say number one on side and short on top", she explained (this was just before I strangled her to death with a hair-dryer cord, you understand). "So I do number two on top." Arrgghhh! Hence, when you see me back in Sydney and I look like a gawdaym US Marine, you'll appreciate why and how this came to be. Next time, I think I'll get my hair cut by someone who speaks just a little more English.
Arrr... these be π-rated
Upon the advice of my cousins — who are seasoned veterans in the field — today I headed over to Bangkok's Pantip Plaza shopping centre, and perused the extensive movie, music and computer-related wares on offer there. Three hours and several thousand Baht later, I was satiated. I've been waiting a looong time for this opportunity, and there's no way I was going to let it pass by un-seized. Should be enough DVDs to fill up every sleepy Sydney night and boring long weekend for the next year or so. Plus, enough music to make a year's worth of never-ending bus commutes and long queues fly right by. Attention all friends back in Sydney: you know I owe you, so please grab and burn at will when I return. Amazing how they keep the prices so low here in Thailand, and yet manage to sell nothing but 100% genuine, legitimate MPAA-endorsed goods :P.
Fuckfuckfuck FUCK FUCK. Fuckity fucked-up fuuuck.
All year, I've made a big effort at keeping this blog clean, and at beeping out rude words that might offend people. Well, I'm fucking sick of it — I'm nearly home, and it's time to say FUCK THAT SHIT!!! Censorship is FUCKED. Fuck you, Google: rank me the fuck down for this if you want, I couldn't give a ladyboy's willy about it. Fuck you, Office of Film and Literature Classification: rate me MA15+, warn against strong coarse language and adult themes — do whatever the fuck you want, you cocksuckers — everyone knows you're fucked anyway (and guess what, Bittorrent doesn't ask for ID, so go fuck yourselves). And fuck you, profanity filtering software: you're discriminating against people with [cuntlicker shagfag pimpdiddy asshole titties motherfucker pieceofshit sonofabitch wankmeister turdface dirtyassho sissypoofta stingyjew stupidnigga hijodeputa] Tourette's!.
I'm saying it loudly, and proudly: FUCK YOU!!!
On Aussie identity and travelling
During my far-and-wide travels the past year, I've been (like my ancestors long before me) "a stranger in a strange land", and I've been dwelling amongst all manner of strange and foreign people (many of whom were also far from home). It's no secret that I'm an Aussie; and naturally, "where you from?" is one of the first questions that gets asked and answered, when meeting new people while on the road. But until this trip, I never before realised just how strong and widely-known the stereotypical Aussie image is, or how much of a preconceived view this could implant in people, before they've even spoken two words to me. I've never really considered myself to be anything remotely close to the "quintessential Aussie bloke"; and having now been an ambassador of my country in the big wide world, I feel that I've done a dismal job of representing patriotically. Unfortunately, I've discovered a sad but undeniable truth about introductions: it's not who you are, it's what you are.
Don't run in Bangkok
Bangkok would have to be the absolute least suitable place in the world to go running. Unfortunately, however, that's exactly what I was compelled to do this evening — when I was being led on foot to my next tourist bus, and I suddenly realised that I'd left my small bag on the side of the street near Khao San Road, I had no choice but to sprint back for it. The city's searing heat — and, far more pertinent, its horrendous air pollution — left my lungs feeling somewhere in between a wheezing petrol pump and a burning car tyre. And that was after a mere five minutes.