Hello again, catch up time

Trip Start Oct 18, 2010
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Trip End Feb 20, 2011


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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Wednesday, February 2, 2011


The joys of long-range flying when combined with tropical cyclones

Oh and Bangkok again

Lovely Luang Pradang


This is a text only entry as catch-up, photos tomorrow, I’ve got free broadband here.

Wednesday 3rd February 2011 

I’m writing this sat in bed in a minimalist transit hotel in Bangkok 4km from the airport.  The first concentrated batch of take-offs are now underway so sleep is tricky.  Don’t get me wrong its very comfortable but jet-lag dictates that I’m wide awake at 0530, my body believing it’s coffee time in Christchurch NZ.

We had a very pleasant time relaxing with our friends in Christchurch NZ, including a “lads night out” at a micro-brewery that served real English beer. Our trip home from the brewery was enlivened by a taxi driver so spaced out he coolly informed us that he had saved aliens from a crashed space ship - many times.  He really should smoke less and check his tyres, the cab nearside front tyre was bald.  The empty NZ roads ensured we arrived home safely.

As we left Christchurch at 1500 yesterday (25deg’C) we were very sad to see the lovely NZ scenery fade beneath us and to say a fond farewell to the Tasman sea.  We had a 90 minute stop-over in the very comfortable Sydney international airport (39deg’C) and at 1800 we left there for Bangkok on a slightly ancient and creaking Boeing 747-400.

It was probably the roughest 8-hour flight I’ve ever had.  Even at 35000 feet the hot interior of Australia was producing turbulence, the star attraction however was still to come as we left Australia behind us and we hit a huge electrical storm which our pilot could not dodge around.  The effects within the cabin were spectacular as lightning played about the aircraft and the plane jolted and shuddered as the forces of nature did their best to shred our humble flying machine.  At one point we dropped vertically through the sky, 10 to 20 feet?; hard to judge but it made 400 people all go “WOW”! (or say other things).

I began to wonder if I was going to end up on a desert island with a batch of strange survivors and after 6 series of TV programmes walk out into the white light via a funny church.  But we were not Lost after all.

Later when the storm died away, as we approached Viet Nam, I went to the loo and listened with interest and appreciation to the creaking of the tail-plane structure.  Odd though it may sound I was comforted by this sound, because if a structure the size of a 747 can still bend, and therefore creak, it means its safe: odd but true.

So we arrived in Bangkok at 2300 with our body-clocks at 0500, it had been a very long day of 23 hours and we were knackered.  Bangkok airport is huge and having trekked over a mile to passport control, waited there for 30 minutes, we picked up our bags and struggled to find our hotel transport.  We fell into bed at 0030, 0630 body-clock time and have managed about five hours sleep, gosh I feel good.

Three points before I go and shower.

  • Avoid Bangkok airport at all costs, transit through Singapore or Kuala Lumpar if you are into long-range travel.
  • We are back in the Northern hemi-sphere and we are back in the tropics, so at least the weather is predictable.  NZ weather is incredibly variable with large swings in temperature and very high winds that can spring out of no-where.  I suspect this is a caused by living surrounded by the Southern Ocean and by a very rugged landscape that modifies weather patterns to a very marked degree. 
  • Last word on NZ - Everyone should tour that wonderful country AND you need at least six weeks to really appreciate its splendid variety.  (Also they drive on the correct side of the road and speak English, well almost).

Handy translations:

“I’m off home to seal me dick” (Very advanced Lovey) - “I’m going home to apply weather-proof coatings to my decking”

“I’m taking the riff off the mater”  (His mother is quite safe, (phew)) -  “I’m dropping the soft-top on my sports car.”

After breakfast  0900

We don’t leave until 1100 so we decided to take a walk and view the local surroundings.  This is the normal sort-out-the-surroundings walk we always take.  The better half informs me that “we might find a nice craft shop”.  Wrong again my dear.  Now I know people will tell me that if the hotel complex has uniformed security guards on its entrance, taking a morning stroll might not be clever, however we are English and therefore do as we like.

Fascinating 20 minutes.  This whole area is being rebuilt, so much bamboo scaffolding to be seen tied together with plastic bags.  Five stories high, see it to believe it!  Very nice container storage compound, just across the road and the usual mixture of the very wealthy and the appallingly poor as evidenced by two brand new Mercedes parked next to two cockerels in wicker cages.  The two cockerels bye the bye were on a short life expectancy as it is Chinese new year!   I very carefully did not take my camera as I suspected that the local inhabitants might be a little on the dodgy side.  I was quite right. 

This is convenient for the airport but it is most decidedly not part of the tourist area of Bangkok.  Lots of sleazy massage parlours in the main street with equally sleazy patrons entering and leaving looking quite relieved, presumably because getting out alive with no communicable diseases counts as a bonus feature of the treatment.

Its Chinese new year so lots of companies put free food and joss sticks etc outside their front doors.  Interesting to see that this tradition goes on even in the poorer part of town.  The hotel has just built a posh new wing here so we have to assume that in about 2 years this area will be rather smart.

My overriding impression of Bangkok, after two very short stays here, is that it is a corrupt nasty shambles best avoided by tourists unless you are interested in exotic entertainments of a personal and physical nature.  Also as I have already mentioned it has a very modern but very badly designed airport.

So on to Laos and Luang Prabang which is a World Heritage Site so we are hoping for an improvement in our surroundings.

Before we left home I googled Luang Prabang eating out.  One report caught my eye - “Although the views over the Mekong river are superb the food in this French restaurant is awful.”  Must try it.

2000


We arrived in Luang at 1600 and having been checked into our wooden-beamed hotel were taken to two sites by our very keen guide.  Which was fine except the second site required climbing 410 steps to watch the sun set.  Ouch my knees are killing me.  The town is very attractive set in a bowl of mountains, rather Swiss in nature.  It is a world heritage site and protected by UNESCO.  It is also been voted the world’s top tourist destination several times.  Very busy with lots of Americans and French and Italian folks milling about.  Not sure if I like it yet.  Early days, trip on the mighty Mekong, all day tomorrow.
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