I was told Bangkok is mainly noise, dirt and bustle. And some temples, of course. So truth or cliche?
I arrived at Bangkok at 5 o'clock in the morning. Why you might ask? Good question! All thanks to you Joaquin, my friend... So arrving in the middle of the night is more or less not really funny, but I found a bus going into town and dropping me near the famous Khao San Road (known to everybody who has seen 'the beach' and every party-obesessed). German and all planned out like I am I booked a Hostel nearby in advance, so that I was under the shower and in a nice AC-Room by 6.30 am. So what now? Khao San Rd didn't looked very inviting at the morning, with all those still drunk people lurging around. So first of all I need coffe - ya, I'm still addicted! After that off to the grand palace.
Here I have to dress up a little into to longarmed shirt and trousers - luckily a have my fisherman pants with me. So sweating into I'm allowed now to enter the temple area. It's a huge districed with a lot of temples, buildings and people (everywhere Japanese). The buildings are glittering in the sun and the big golden Chedi is competing against. The pictures are showing that better than I can't describe in words...
The main temple contains the emerald buddha. A little buddha statue, famous and wanted in the whole world. But honestly not that impressive with old the golden statues around it and the golden cloth on. The rest of palace buildings are all not open for public, so I just wander around for a little and leave Mickey-Mouse-Temple-Town behind.
A lot more impressive is the liying Buddha at Wat Po, he tops everything I've ever seen in a temple!!
Day two contains a visit in China Town. It is, like everybody expects chinatown to be. Full of food stands, lots of people, hello kitty and Micky Mouse.But with Hongkong noddles for breakfast tothing can go wrong, right! And so I just wonder around, suck up all the life and enjoy the happy people and my good mood (everything is better with music).
For lunch I meet Anthea and here boyfriend (a girl from University who is in Bangkok as well) and enjoy the company from back home. But after they had to leave I don't stay a long for long, in Bangkok there are always people if you don't want to be alone. So I meet James (UK) and Markus (GER) and together we stay up the whole night, listening to live music on Khao San Rd.
So my conclusion about the Bangkok cliche: It is and at the same time it is not at the same time. The temple areas are beautiful but kind of over the top. Khao San is directly next to some nice quiet streets full of thai people, no tourists. Modern is meeting tradition. Busy, yes bustling, no. Dirty - Bombay was dirty man, but Bangkok not.
So I like the city a lot, evn though I'm sure, that there are nicer parts in Thailand to visit!
Five days I had to spend in Chiang Mai - easy days to fill here.
I arrived with the night train from Ayutthaya and again, trains are so different from those in India. It was more like an ICE in Germany but for the night, so no bed, just seats. But there was some kind of catering like in planes with snacks and juice, they had blankets against the AC-Coldness and the Fan-Wind. So the night was not exactly comfortable but all right.
So I arrived in Chiang Mai early in the morning and took a Tuk Tuk to my Hostel - the green tulip. It's a nice little guesthouse in one of the quieter areas in Chiang Mai, I have a dorm bed, very clean everything and everybody very nice! I booked a cooking class for Thai-cooking for the next day and a Two-day-Trekking-Tour and went out to see some of the city. Chiang Mai is mostly Temples, they are called Wats here, but really beautiful ones. It's nothing compared to the ruins I saw in Ayutthaya, they look more like chinese tee-houses with golden Buddhas in it.
And while I was wandering around through the city of course I got lost. To know were I was I went inside a Temple to see what it's name was to look it up on the map but instead I found a family dining inside the Temple. And sitting in the corner reading my map, trying to figure out my position a boy and his grandma came up to me and invited me to join them. First I refused, but no chance... So I sat down and had the most amazing lunch ever. The people so nice, the food so good. Simply amazing!
After finishing my sightseeing tour I picked up a new guidebook for Cambodia and went to a very far away market to get my shoes repaired and went back to the hostel for a short nap. Cause for the evening I was planning to do some more Temple-Watching and strolling through the Saturday night market. The market sreads out over a whole street, no traffic, lots of stuff nobody really needs but everybody want to have, lots of musicians and lots and lots of food. You can have everything there, from squid and other things on sticks, soup to even bugs (really disgusting, especially when you see them being eaten). I have a great time just wandering around!
For the next day I signed up for a cooking class to learn some real Thai-Cooking. Pot, my teacher for the day picks me up at the hotel and together with three other people - one youngster from the UK, Jo and an older israeli couple - we are going to one of the local markets. Pot explains a lot about thai vegetables and the different ingrediences. We smell, feel and try all different kind of things, it's really interesting.
After the market we drive to the cooking school, where we start with trying some fried bananas and sweet potatoes and the selection of the dishes we want to learn.
All in all I learned how to make Pad Thai, creamy coconut soup and spicy Papaya salad in the first round and in the second fried cashewnut chicken, green currypaste and green curry and sweet sticky rice with mango. Of course we hat to eat all our dishes, so that my stomach is really aching afterward... But it was so good and hopefully I will be able to make some proper Thaifood back home!
After a really needed nap I go out on the famous sunday street market to buy some gifts for friends and family. And on my way I'm meeting two guys from the hostel who are "out to eat bugs". So of course I'm not going to miss that... It's disgusting, really! And the guys are so sick afterward, so that I'm really glad I chickend out on this!!
For the next day a Two-Day-Trekking-Trip is planed, so that I'm going to bed early. At my dorm I meet Sarika, a girl from Fiji who is coming with me on that trip. It's amazing how fast people sometimes klick...
So at nine the next morning Tony, our guide for the trip picks us and the rest of the group up. We are a group of seven people - a korean couple, a girl from Croatia and one from Germany and a guy from Wales. The koreans are very nice but quite, the german and the croatian girl quite annoying (after five minutes!!), but the welsh guy is great. Rhodri is not a really talkative kind of person, but funny and straight and exactly with Sarika and me...
So we're driving first to a market to buy some food, then we're off to an elephant camp, where we get to ride Elephants for 30 minutes. It's nice, not really my favourite kind of stuff and the guides are really rough with the animals. So once in a life time thing...
Afterward wie start our hiking tour, it's about two hours of hiking, not really difficult but terribly hot, even in the forest. And Rhodris near-snake-accident didn't help at all But after two hours we reach a waterfall where we can cool down a little and have a nice cold beer. From there it's only 30 minutes to our basestation in a hilltribe village. We stroll a little through the village until sunset and return two our house. Tonys cooking dinner for us and after getting rid of the annoying, always complaining girls we have a great funny evening with our guide! And I'm thinking about going to Laos with Rhodri...
Next day unfortunately the group has to split up, because the koreans and Rhodri are up for a three day trip, so Sarika, Tony and me are on our own with the annoying ones. But I'm going up front, so it doesn't bother me too much. And after another two wonderful hours through Thailand forests we reach a river, where we take a bath and heading to the base of a bamboo rafting station. Getting terribly wet on the raft, but great time!! Really funny!
After that it's back to the hostel, take a shower, have something to eat, pick up a Laos guidebook and leave for the famous Chiang Mai Night-market. Again I buy some presents and have a great time with Sarika.
The next day starts frustrating. Flipping through the Laos guidebook I have to realize, that I have to little time to do all I want to do, because I have to go to Phom Penh to catch my flight to Australia. So it's either Laos or Cambodia and because the flights from Laos to Phom Penh is far more expensive then the Trip from Bangkok to Cambodia and because I really want to see Angkor Wat I skip Laos again and start planing Cambodia. But first I allow myself a Thai-massage - astonishing what one can do with my body...
Cause the trip planing was so annoying I want to see a temple, but unfortunately it's very far outside. But luckily my to new spanish roommates have scooters and they're taking me and Sarika along with them to the temple.
For the evening we meet up with Rhodri and Tony - both back from the trip - for some Thai-Whiskey. Jose and Joaquin are joining us and we have some amazing food and a great funny evening!
Actually I wanted to leave for Bangkok tonight, but you I'm having to much fun with the group here, so I extend my stay one night longer. Alexis, another guy from Spain who is living in Chiang Mai for some time takes us to a beautiful lake nearby and we spend a nice lazy day just swimming and relaxing.
In the evening the spanish guys take me to a Muay Thai - a Thai-boxing evening. Alexis is normally one of the boxers, but tonight he's off the hook, so he can explain some thing s to us. So, how is Thai-boxing? Good question! I think it's ok, when adults are paid for being beaten up, even though it's really brutal, but children fighting? Nine year old boys, one of them unconscious after just three minutes, I don't know...
But after all, it was worth doing it, it's part of the thai culture, right?!
So, today I'm leaving finally to Bangkok, spent some days there before going to Cambodia! Alone again, but sure not for long!
Again I have to take first steps. First steps totally on my own. If I'm afraid? Worried? Honestly, not really! It's exciting to check in on my flight to Bangkok, knowing, that nobody is waiting there to pick my up. OK, a little frightening...
The plane is really crowded with noisy indian people, but I don't care. Earplugs and a good night sleep later I get off at Bangkok International ariport. 27 degree outside at 6.30 a.m. Visa on arrival, Bus to the main trainstation and onto the train to Ayutthaya. Even though I haven't seen lot of Bangkok yet I have the strong feeling, that it is much easier as Bombay or Delhi. Perhaps I'm feeling more self confident...
The train is so different from the trains in India. There ere kind of compartments with two-people seats and three-people seets. When there is a seat for two, there are just two people sitting there. So there is just half the amount of people like in indian trains... And so cheap!
After a really hot and sweaty journey I arrive at Ayutthaya, crab a Tuk-Tuk to my Hostel and don't mind the mess in my room, just want to have a shower - not that the heat is any better after that and I just want to stay in ther forever!
The Baan Lotus is an old Thai-Family-Home rebuilt to a guesthouse. I have a small room with a very comfortable bed (I had not such a cushy bed in 8 weeks) and a fan. After cleaning it is fine enough for me to stay two nights. In the hotel there is a german couple, Wibke and Philipp, and together we are off for my first Pad Thai. In the afternoon we are going together on a tour, organised by the hotel, to see the some of the temples illuminated at night.Nice, but I'd rather go inside the temple than just take some pictures from the outside...
But we're having a nice meal at a little Jazz bar. Then Wibke and Philipp are off, really nice and interesting people, hope to see them again! (Ad Uli and Bogi: They knew the What What Guy)
And I - once again I worship the Lord Shiva - this crap really has to stop now!
Next day I'm better, so I rent a bike for the day and despite the fact that in Thailand there is left-hand traffic I manage to drive to the train station and back to the hotel and again to the train station - yes I know thet I was there two times, it's all for the beauty - and buy my ticket for tomorrow for going to Chiang Mai.
On the way back I meet the next german guy on the little ferry - Wolfgang. Just arrived here he's joining me on my Biking-Temple-Tour throug the scorching heat (yes, not the brightest idea, but so what). Again, I'm having a great time with a total stranger, so after sunset and a desperatly needed shower we're having a beer and some good talk till late late night. Unfortunatly Wolfgang allready desided to go south afterwards, but perhaps we meet up again in Australia...
My last day in Ayutthaya starts earlier than planed because of the cock, but it's all right. At least I have a long day *grrrr* After breackfast I book my hostel for Chiang Mai via Internet and spend the whole day doing nothing but reading, eating, sweating.... The train's of course late, but I find my seat - wich is more difficult when everything is written in Thai - and settle in a more ore less uncomfortable sleepingseat, preparing to have a cold night under the AC. But at least I'm moving, right?!
Looking forward to Ching Mai, until then...*