DAY 59 - BANGKOK
After arriving at the airport, we caught the airport express bus service to Khao San, the backpacker district. Once there, we ambled down the main road, quickly realising that Bangkok really was the backpacker haven people say it is, with hundreds of cafes, bars, clubs, guest houses, market stalls and restaurants marketed towards the backpacker crowds. Tired and in need of rest (the heat and humidity were pretty intense), we eventually settled in a guest house just off the main road, a few seconds away from the action. After relaxing under the air conditioning system and getting an hour or two of sleep, we spent a few hours walking the area, passing colourful stalls and numerous little hangouts we could easily see ourselves frequenting had we the time to spare. After a while, we bumped into Will, our friend from Manali, and chatted for a while, sharing stories of what we had been up to since our last meeting. Although pretty random, it isn't too unusual to bump into people like this, especially in the tourist areas, but it was a nice surprise. After getting a snack and beer at a local bar and visiting a nearby park (the grass had pretty much all died), James realised that he had left his bag somewhere. A brief panic followed (it contained his passport), but luckily the bar staff had found it and held it for him, so all was well. Eventually, we left Will for a while, resolving to meet him later and spend the evening with him and Sara (the girl he is travelling with), and went back to our room to wash and prepare for the night. We met them later at a nice little chill-out bar, where we chatted and had a few rum sodas before grabbing a couple of buckets of cocktails on the street. The night led us to a live music bar and then a club on the main road, where we danced for a while before deciding to filter back onto the street, get a bite to eat, and watch people pass down the main road - a very interesting experience, it turns out. As well as middle-aged westerners walking along with young Thai girls, we also noticed the number of ladyboys that prowled the street, lingering outside clubs and bars. We played a little game of 'girl or boy?' from the pavement for a while, a local Thai guy judging our accuracy, before calling it a night at about 3am after a hectic first night on the town.
DAY 60 - BANGKOK
We arose at around 11 and, sticking to a decision we'd made the day before about moving to Will and Sara's cheaper hostel, signed out of our guest house. Upon arriving at the 'My House Guest House', we set ourselves up and got some breakfast after bumping into Will outside our room (he was in the room next to us, we found out). We spent most of the day browsing the shops, typing in Internet cafes, chilling in bars, and generally enjoying the easy and laid-back atmosphere of the city. Strolling the streets, I couldn't help but feel worlds away from the chaos of India - I felt that I was in a city that fused the western influence neatly with its own culture, a place where partying backpackers and cultured travellers could stand shoulder to shoulder and both have a good time - it really has something for everyone. If somebody wanted a some culture but also the constant comforts and ease of life that somes with many elements of western living, I'd recommend Bangkok as a good place to start. The culture shock, if there is any, is nicely padded with conveniences at every turn. After bading Will and Sara farewell in the evening (they were off early the next morning on a short tour), we made our way to a bar-cum-petrol station nearby, where we shared a bucket of strawberry daiquiri and played a couple of games of pro evo on a playstation that was perched neatly on a petrol pump on the premises - a pretty surreal but cool experience. Afterwards, we retired back to our guest house, where we layed down on a couple of the many cusions arranged nicely in a little chill area near the entrance, and half watched 'Wanted' on a big screen over a beer - a pretty terrible film, it turns out, but we weren't expecting much. After while, we decided to get some sleep, leaving the crowds to do as they will and party the night away.