Massage in a bottle

Trip Start Oct 29, 2003
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, November 29, 2003

Wednesday November 26th

I was not looking forward to today. So far, all of my travels have been relatively easy and have gone more or less according to plan (with the exception of the psychlo driver in Vietnam and the interminable trip up the Mekong), but I knew that today would be a challenge. I had to get back to Bangkok and the only way to get there - other than selling a kidney to pay for a flight - is to take the boneshaker bus.

They said it would take 10 hours, which means at least 12. It took 14. For some reason, the Cambodian government do not think it necessary to pave the 'road' to the Thai border (maybe because they want more high-paying organ donors flying). I'm not saying the road was bumpy, but you can forget about sleeping, reading or listening to CDs (the reason I didn't fly is because I have already sold a kidney to buy a fancy MP3 player so at least I had tunes. If only I had 3 kidneys!). Apparently the road has been improved over recent years so god knows what it used to be like. It took 6 hours to drive the 150km to the Thai border and by the end of it I felt like I had gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson in a Turkish prison. And I won't even mention the dust...

After the immigration stuff at the Poipet border we waited 1.5 hours for the bus to Bangkok. At this point Callous Westerner was getting pissed off and decided that the next one-legged beggar that came up was going to get whacked over the head with his rusty crutch. Fortunately for him, the bus came. At least the roads in Thailand are paved, but it doesn't matter when the bus breaks down and you're sitting in a fly-infested petrol station for an hour with no currency to buy a Thai chili-cheese dog from the 7-11.
Bus fixed, we eventually arrived in the city at 10pm and managed to find a decent enough (air-conditioned!) room in a guesthouse run by an extremely gay Indian. I think the floor was softer than the mattress but after a few relaxing beers it didn't matter.

Thursday November 27th

I hope you Yanks had a good Thanksgiving and you Brits had a good day at work! Despite the wonders of Angkor Wat I have to say that it was nice to be out of Cambodia. I know I was only there for 5 days and went to the main tourist spots but there was just not the same atmosphere (optimism?) of Vietnam. I noticed it as soon as I crossed the border on the Mekong. In Vietnam the river bank was teaming with houses, boats and markets with kids waving and shouting as we went passed. In Cambodia there was nothing but muddy fields, and occasionally a kid would shout something like 'Why don't you teach me how to flip a coin, bitch?' I don't know if it's a legacy of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime or the corrupt government, but Cambodia has received over $2 billion of international aid since 1980. God knows where it has gone, but they certainly haven't spent it on road construction or artificial limbs for the countless landmine victims (an estimated 1 million landmines were planted in the country first by the French, then the US and Viet Cong, and then the Khmer Rouge). Whilst many (tourist) areas have been cleared, it is still not uncommon for farmers in the countryside to be killed or maimed. The constant begging wasn't much fun, either.

Now back in Bangkok I met up with Jon, Jo and Rich again, plus another couple from Eastwood (very close to my home town). We decided to watch some Thai boxing at the Ratchadamnoen stadium. Being 'ferangs,' (whiteys are called that as I suppose that's how Thais pronounce 'foreign') we were sent to a caged-in area across from the locals to watch 10 bouts of 5 3-minute rounds.

Boy is that a tough sport! After the pre-match ritual of stretching and symbolic prancing about - it was supposed to be acting out beating and burying your opponent, but it looked very poncy and wasn't at all intimidating - it was game on. It seems that almost anything goes in Thai boxing, apart from hitting your opponent in the nuts. Kicking, kneeing, elbowing and punching all score points. The locals were all betting furiously and 'ooohing' and 'aaahing' with every blow, but I had no idea who was winning. I had a bet with Jon and we were both sure that my boy had won only for the other's arm to be raised. Either it was a fix or Jon had inside knowledge.

Friday November 28th

There are lots of beaches and islands in southern Thailand so I had to choose where to go and relax on my way south to Malaysia. I had heard good things about Krabi and the islands off the west coast, although those off the east coast were more popular. The Bournemouth Three and Eastwood Two had planned for Ko Pha Ngan in the east so after lunch we bade our farewells, although I wouldn't be surprised if we meet up in Australia, New Zealand or maybe even Bournemouth.

I had a 4 hour wait for the 12 hour overnight bus so decided to spend 2 of those getting beaten up by a woman. Thai massages hurt. She pulled me, cracked me, twisted me, kneaded me, cracked me some more and stretched me. There were many painful positions she put me in, but for one I was lying on my stomach whilst she stood on my bum. She then grabbed my ankles and tried to lift them above her head, and then did the same with my arms. I didn't know my back could crack that much. Despite being full of Thais also getting tortured, the room was very quiet. I was the only ferang in the there at the time, and I really wanted to let out a painful groan, but I didn't. Then a fat German waddled in and he moaned and groaned with every stretch. What a girl.

The two hours flew by, and whilst I wasn't exactly floating on air, I really did feel good. Too bad I had to spend the next 12 hours on a bus.
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