After a long, long flight from Heathrow we made our way by an overpriced taxi to the Kao Sahn Road - the backpackers first traditional stop for accomodation. Hadn't banked on the heat or smell or noise or excitement to our senses that had been dulled from many hours of flying, so was all a bit overwhelming.
We checked into a long established guest house just off the Kao Sahn and almost immediately dumped our stuff and went out into the early evening just as the street markets start to really get into the swing of things.
Having stocked up on food from some the stalls along the way (the food is just too good to be true and so amazingly cheap!) we then experienced a sudden deluge of torrential rain - this being the tail end of the rainy season. So we dived into a bar and chatted to a couple of Irish guys over a Singha beer (deceptively strong, btw!) and listened to some live music and felt the temperature drop 10 degrees.
Caught up in the sheer vibrancy of the place we went on a wander and was accosted in the very nicest of ways by an eager Thai chap working for the World Bank, looking to use his English. This was the first of many times over the next 24 hours where we were implored to go to a government licenced industry (tailors, tourist office, etc) via a tuk tuk driver to secure the deal of the century. As it turned out this suited us because we wanted to get our Ko Chang tickets booked and accomodation sorted, but grew increasingly irritating, until it was explained by the nicest Thai tuk tuk driver the next day that Thais get coupons toward the cost of their childs uniform if they take a tourist to a government licenced place - presumably to stimulate some trade!
The next day we awoke with as much enthusiasm as the previous night and after braving the dodgy shower (which was to later give me a minor electrocution - thank god it was 110 volts and not the UK voltage!!!) we went for a wander and ended up on the no.47 bus toward the commercial centre. We went to Jim Thompsons house who was an American millionaire who constructed a house in the jungle outskirts of Bangkok in the 1950's. Now it is in the the heart of a concrete built up monster of skytrains and roads and high rise and low rise buildings, built without reference to town planning so all jumbled up together. From there we then went on the skytrain (sort of like the London underground, but erm, up in the sky?!) to the throbbing heart of capitalist consumer Bangkok at Siam Square where we were accosted by some policemen who, suprise suprise - recommended some tailors for us to go to...
That afternoon we met Dam, a tuk tuk driver who was a farmer until recently and driven to Bangkok to earn more money. He spoke excellent English and took us to the Standing and Sitting Buddhas (two of the three ancient holy buddhas that are part of the Buddhist pilgrimmage in Bangkok). He showed us how Thais pray and offer incence and candles and rub gold leaf of a new statue of Buddha and he was simply the sweetest and genuine Thai person you could hope to meet. We wish him and his family well.
In the evening we went to Patpong which is the red light district but is also incidentally the best night market in Bangkok with EVERY form of dodgy designer goods available. Just by the skytrain station stairs is a little Irish pub that Cheryl remembered from 4 years ago and we spent a very happy hour or three talking to an expat and his Thai partner about living in Thailand, whilst listening to "Johnny" who was Shri Lankan, singing James Blunt songs in an Irish pub in Bangkok. What a mix!
The next day we went to the Imperial Palace which was massively over the top and ornate and caught the river boat service to Wat Po which houses within the 20 acre site the third holy buddha of pilgrimmage - the lying Buddha which was HUGE!
The heat was intense so we flopped back to the guest house and slept for most of the afternoon, to awake with a determination to revisit the Irish pub in Patpong to see the Beatles tribute band that Cheryl had seen before and they were well worth the visit as the pictures will testify!!
The next day we boarded a big coach to Ko Chang which took 5 hours but was fascinating to see the change of scenery as we went through some pretty impoverished farming areas before catching the ferry to Ko Chang - Elephant Island, which is where I write from now.
Hope to update in the next few days. Missing you all.