Red-shirt riots, an albino deer and immigration!
Trip Start Dec 21, 2009
22Trip End Aug 07, 2010
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Where I stayed
Friday 26th March, 2010.
Hi everyone, this is my last blog in Thailand before I head to Hong Kong. I'm in a little coffee shop in the airport and am hugely emotional as I write this, with lots having gone on in the last few days and even more to come.
As you'll know by now, GVI ended just under a week ago (on Saturday) and my next stop was Bangkok. Luckily I had Ella for company on the 13 hour bus journey, though it really wasn't as bad as you might think - the seats are comfortable and can recline, they play movies on a flat screen television and the stop off for dinner is included (beware of animal lung in the soup, however!)
We arrived in Bangkok at 5.30 in the morning and headed to a lovely little hostel Mum and I had found back in December. It's called Suk 11 on the Sukhumvit (soi 11) and it's got great atmosphere and a lovely traditional vibe about it. Unfortunately I'd forgotten to book the room for the first night and we had to stay in a family room for 6, though that was funny more than anything. The next day we moved into a more appropriately sized room and pretty much threw everything onto the floor in record time. Soon there was practically no visible floor space as our junk was cluttered here there and everywhere.
I know a lot of you will have been worried about all the protests and crazy crowds of people shown on TV. Some of it was bad (really bad, in some cases!), but 95% of Bangkok seemed to be operating as though nothing was happening. We noted, actually, that the people of Bangkok didn't look stressed or worried in any way and all seemed to be carrying on with life as if nothing was happening at all. We saw a few riot police during the taxi on arrival but it was a few more days before we saw any sign of protest at all, it was that remote
Sunday was spent walking around Bangkok and enjoying the nice, air-conditioned spaces of the large (and multiple) shopping malls. We watched Tim Burton's new Alice in Wonderland in 3D at the Siam Paragon, which was cool. The film was good (over-hyped for what it was, in my opinion, but definitely worth watching for the animation behind it!) and the cinema itself has to be the best I've ever been to. That night we met up with a family friend of mine called Sam, who took me out to dinner last time I was here getting my replacement passport (see last Bangkok blog). The place he took us to was actually a real German brewery, located just on the outskirts of Bangkok. During the meal a show took place on the main stage, where a man picked up a table with his teeth and we saw a young girl bend her back so far backwards that her head was upside down actually by ankles, where she drank an entire glass of water upside down through a straw. Mental. We also saw people drinking yards of ale from the huge towers and sipping on large tankards of German beer - a world away from teaching in Ao Luk just 3 days previously! Dinner was, as to be expected from a meal with Sam, delicious and extremely cheap for what it was. Sam, we owe you a night out in England to return the favour, so thank you
We spent Monday at Dusit Zoo, again in Bangkok. It barely got a mention in my guidebook but we thought it was absolutely amazing for what we paid. Entrance was 100 Baht (£2) and even once you'd included water, food, going on the pedalo and a few other extras, we probably only spent about a fiver each over the course of the whole day. We saw everything from giraffes to
hippos, albino turtles to giant alligators, tiny frogs through to ferrets and a whole lot more. The only thing missing was the elephant! For some reason it had been temporarily relocated, which disappointed a certain someone. Actually, it wasn't the only thing missing. The 'masterpiece' of the zoo, shall we call it, is the only existing male albino deer of its kind. It was on the brochure twice and had it's own symbol on the map... although once we got there, we couldn't find it in its
pen! Either someone had hidden it under their coat and walked off with it or it had heard us coming and hid itself somewhere out of sight. The zoo is definitely worth going to if you have the time though.
Tuesday we went to the French Embassy so that I could collect my passport
got to be the worst passport photo I've ever seen." Good, glad we've got that sorted! Still, I'd rather be stuck with a photo that makes me look like a sex offender for the next ten years than to be flung into Thai jail with...well, sex offenders. We then took a river boat to the Grand Palace and saw a couple of temples. They're great to go visit because some are free and most only cost a pound to get in. The Temple of Dawn (as I believe it's called) was worth the visit and though the climb to the top was a little steep, it was definitely worth it.
I then got a call from a friend from back home called Georgia who said she had just arrived in Bangkok the night before. She and her freind Millsy were staying in a hotel called Lebua which was pretty near the temples we were at. They then headed our way and we met up for a drink to catch up. Strange to think that the four of us had somehow all ended up in the same place like that so many thousands of miles away, despite all coming from different places and doing different things on our travels
Wednesday was pretty chilled out and Ella and I headed to Khao San road to buy a few t-shirts and meet up with Sean, one of our fellow teachers with GVI. We took a taxi there and as we were on our way, I received a call from Mink, a friend of Marie-Louise's from school who lives in Bangkok. Just as I was telling her that Bangkok was fiiiine and that there was nothing to worry about, we reached a blockade. Yep, the red-shirts had decided to get involved and block the road just as I was saying that I was fine. A rally was in progress and we decided to get out and take a motorbike taxi to get to KS, which ended up taking us right through the protests! I thought it was awesome, while Ella refused to let me near any of the stands selling all the gear and propoganda (I really wanted one of their t-shirts). There was a dude standing on a stage with a microphone and lots of people cheering, so it wasn't really that bad. Still, wasn't hard to tell that we were the only white people around, that's for sure! KS road was uneventful and we met up with Sean before going to see 'When in Rome' together. Not as great a film as I would have hoped, but no one was expecting anything special so we weren't disappointed (there were some great moments in it, credit where credit's due)
Yesterday we headed to the Immigration Office to sort out my visa, now that I'd finally got hold of a new passport. The place was in the middle of nowhere but was in one of the biggest buildings I've ever seen. Like a mall, but full of government offices to do with every matter imaginable. I filled out a few forms and tried not to lose anything else while Ella made sure I didn't get myself into any more trouble. Eventually the turn came for me to present my forms (and my case) and it seemed to be going ok. Until they asked me which border I'd gone out of. I had no idea. I'd taken a bus in the form of a visa run to the malaysian border and back again, that's all I knew. "Malaysia border no good. 54 border. You find out." Uh-ohhhhh. Luckily my phone had a little battery left and I managed to phone Jill, national co-ordinator at GVI, who in turn called the guesthouse I'd booked the visa run with and helped sort that out. Kind of sort it out, anyway. No one seemed to know which border I'd gone to, including the guesthouse AND the minibus driver. Apparantly they go to different ones depending on the number of people and the season and the traffic etc etc etc. A few stressful phone calls (and several minutes later, many of which felt like hours), and we were good to go
Back to the hostel for a quick pack in the afternoon before meeting up with Mink for a quick coffee. We then had dinner and headed to John's house to drop off some stuff. John's another family friend and he offered to safehold some things for me while I go to Hong Kong and Australia. By the time we got back it was already 1am and I still had to pack and get up at 6am today to leave and get to the airport ok.
Leaving Ella (the last contact with anyone from ten amazing weeks with GVI), the hostel, Bangkok and Thailand is pretty tough but I look forward to the next few challenges ahead of me and know that I can look back on an amazing 3 months here
Next stop, Hong Kong, where I have absolutely nothing planned. No money, no room, no anything. Mum's a bit nervous but it'll be fine, I know it will.
Gate G2, here I come. Wish me luck! xxxx
(apologies for the lack of photos.. they'll come within 48 hours!)