I’m not dead, but I have wanted to be for much of the last week. The jet-lag hasn’t been too bad and I managed to sleep each night, possibly thanks to the melatonin. But I have been really quite unwell since arriving in Australia – initially just a dry cough and sore throat which turned into swinging fevers and chills, severe musle aches, and finally some quite spectacular GI upset. So I’ve only really been back in action in the past day or two. But I will get the blog back on track from now!
But let’s go back to where I left off, arriving in Thailand…
I was staying in an eco-guesthouse right in the centre of the old town. Bangkok is a huge sprawl and much of it is difficult to walk. The older part of the city is more amenable, with only a 10% chance of being mown down at any given paedestrian crossing. The Old Bangkok Inn is a lovely oasis surrounded by the madness. I jumped out of my taxi some 500 metres from the hotel having been stationary in traffic for some 30 minutes. Stumbling in with my unwieldy case, all sweaty and bangy I was sat down by the hotel staff. I was instructed to sit and a glass of refreshing iced tea was set in front of me. An instant feeling of calm came over me, this is how guests should be greeted.
A little joke. Wat is Thai for temple?
Keen to beat the jet-lag and adjust quickly to local time I immediately showered and set out purposely down Mahachai Road. Walking past Wat Sakhet’s “Ghost Gate”. This is the most famous Pad Thai joint in the City. Although it looked busy enough the plates they were dishing out didn’t look great. Walking further South I stumbled across what I think was Ray Jay Fai’s drunken noodle stand. Virtually all the signs are in the Thai alphabet and so it was impossible to tell for sure. But it was heaving with locals. A huge bowl of bubbling, dark red broth gave off the right aromas so I rather trepidatiously pointed to indicate I wanted some.
The vendors don’t speak English so the knack is to point and make a stupid face. It’s tricky to know how stupid this face should be. My broth came minutes later. I am fairly sure it was mutton based and was served with chunks of marrow jelly, thin rice noodles and a tiny dish of very, very hot paste to stir in. The broth was clear and absolutely delicious. The chilli was astoundingly hot and made my lips swell up agreeably. I was sweating before – it was about 32 degrees C and be close to 100% humidity in the evening but after a few mouthfuls it was dripping off me and making my eyelids sting. The locals looked bemused.
Emboldened by this early success I became overconfident. I stopped by a barbecue stall which was doing a brisk take-away trade. A lady explained that the “pork and chicken” were good. It took me some time to convince the vendor to sell me some. He steered me away from the chicken wings and towards some unidentifiable chicken parts. They were dipped in chilli sauce and put into a plastic bag. Walking along I tried to get a nice picture for the blog. In doing so I up-ending the contents all down my new shirt. Westerners have a reputation for being unkempt and sloppily dressed – they call us ki nok farang (birdshit Westerener) and I had lived up to stereotypes. So I decided to go back and change my shirt whilst munching on the second stick of chicken parts. These had an appalling crunch to them followed by a period of entirely ungiving chewing which made me realise they were gizzards, threaded on the stick.
I’ve put some pictures of Bangkok on Flickr.