I kicked around Bangkok during the next morning, walking in the sweltering humidity. I tried hard to replenish insensible losses whilst the weird swimming feeling messed with my mind and body and spirit. I was deep into tourist Bangkok. Brightly coloured temples, rammed full of buddhas small and huge are everywhere. After you’ve walked around a few you can’t really take it in anymore. Scams are a constant presence. A typical one is to pretend that the monument (clearly open and surrounded by thousands of tourists) is in fact closed. Can I take you to another monument instead, it is only a few minutes on my tuk-tuk? You’d have to be constitutionally stupid to fall for thism surely. But the scamming is lightweight and not aggressive, and easy to route around. I found pointing and shouting “LOOK BEHIND YOU ITS A HUGE BUDDHA” and then running off worked quite well.
The tourist throngs were omnipresent around Wat Pho, home of the famous reclining buddha. Pictures can’t really do this sight justice. Simply getting the whole thing in shot is a challenge. Each toe was pretty much buddha sized on its own. I don’t know the story behind this temple, I presume he was just very lazy and wouldn’t get up so they built a temple around him. Seeing this probably is reason enough to come to Thailand.
After the temple I took a boat up-river. The waterways are chaotic and the boats are ram-jammed. The navigational skills of some of the craft leave a lot to be desired. Bangkok also has an extensive canal system but the similarities to the Black Country end about there.
I had read of more street food vendors in Banglamphu. Lunch was at Roti Mataba where I had the restaurant’s eponymous dish which is roti bread stuffed with a sweet vegetable filling. I had a chicken curry with yellow rice on the side, washed down with more iced tea. This came in around 90 baht, or £1.68. Not a bad lunch by any standards.
Mindful of my slow journey from the airport I did not want to leave it too late to catch my evening flight to Adelaide via Sydney. I was debating whether to check out more street food vendors when the heavens opened and it absolutely chucked it down. Simply running to a taxi soaked me right through to the skin. Arriving back at Old Bangkok Inn I was greated with a fresh towel. But then taking my luggage back to the taxi soaked me through again.
It was disappointing to leave Thailand with so many sights unseen. I had particularly wanted to check out JJ Market and Or Tor Kor food market which sounded absurdly brilliant. And I hadn’t even scratched the surface of street food vendors.
Arriving at the lovely Suvarnabhumi airport, I checked my baggage and the dread started. My second overnight flight in 24 hours, this time 9 hours long, with another time-shift – +3 from Bangkok to Adelaide, followed by a connecting flight to Adelaide. I had my nice seat again and I could stretch out (the left side of my body got the pleasure this time). The plan this time was to watch a film (State of Play, actually quite shit second time round despite having memories of this being good), eat the fetid/tepid dinner (beef stew and mashed potatoes) and get the hell to sleep. The Qantas stewards were in no hurry and hours ticked past until the trays were collected and they decided it was night-time.
Bizarrely my neighbouring passenger turned out to be the partner of one of Steeleye Span and she was going out to join their ongoing world tour. I told her that Hannah hated that sort of music because she used to live in a commune. She then said she was quite fidgety, and proceeded to fidget.
I got out my sleeping kit and again managed to not sleep the entire night. This time not sleeping was more of a battle with a constant dialogue batting around my mind.
“Go to sleep.”
“You can’t go to sleep.”
“Stop thinking about going to sleep, and just go to sleep.”
“I bet I won’t be able to go to sleep.”
“If I don’t think about going to sleep, I might go to sleep.”
This irritating internal monologue where I learnt to hate myself from two separate perspectives continued for hours and hours, driving me to a low insanity. I knew I was going insane because I started putting on tracks from the “Health & Wellbeing” part of the aircraft’s music selection. “Sleep: 20 beautiful melodies which will send you to sleep”. “Mindrubbers – 14 tracks which will make you wish you were being waterboarded by the CIA”. Etc. Clearly that music never helps anyone go to sleep but it certainly makes you reappraise how bad dying might be. Perhaps an inappropriate pilot response to wake turbulence isn’t the worst thing that can happen.
Resigned to not sleeping I woke up and stared at the moving map, realising I was now, as Rupert pointed out on Twitter “the Loman who has travelled furthest in the whole World”. A sobering thought to realise within 48 hours you can be over 10,000km away from home. If I could have felt anything other than pins and needles at this point, I’m sure it would have been a very real and profound thing.
Flying over the Blue Mountains, named because of the blue oil released by the eucalyptus trees which cover the peaks Australian geography is markedly different from anywhere else you’ve ever been. The approach to Sydney Airport is quite spectacular, hugging the coastline you see the beach-front properties on the golden sand of Bondi Beach. You fly across Botany Bay and realise you are now discovering this continent for the first time. Even subdued with tiredness, a flicker of recognition that travelling to Australia still represents some kind of first – a genuine discovery – despite being made with regular banality by millions of people.
My pictures from Thailand are uploaded on Flickr.
Coming up next: Nick gets sick, Nick gets a bit sicker, Nick gets terrible diarrhoea, and then Nick goes to Sydney.