The steps up to Doi Sethup temple

Around the World Trip: Thailand (part 3)

So after the trip to Chiang Rai etc. the day before (I forgot to mention, the guide’s name was Ping Pong!), I had one thing left to do in Chiang Mai – visit the Doi Suthep temple, halfway up a mountain 10km outside of town. So despite having a dodgy stomach (I’m surprised it took this long!) I haggled a reasonable price with a taxi driver and began the journey along the winding roads. I’d heard good things about this place, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered in the heat and with my ‘condition’.

Upon arrival I was met with the sight of 300+ steps to the top and wondered if I could make it. But being told that the toilet was at the top was like a carrot to a donkey and I made it up in no time, to be confronted with something that tuktuk my breath away. No, the toilets weren’t that bad. The temple was the best I’d seen and the views of Chiang Mai were superb so this was a fitting end to a great time in the north.

Next was the overnight train to big bad Bangkok. Pretty uneventful journey as my carriage was full of older french couples, so I had no-one to talk to. There was one annoying woman who kept saying “Ooh la la!” and laughed like Basil Brush (non-English/youngsters: he was a manic kids’ TV puppet). Thankfully the Prozac wore off eventually and she went to sleep.

Back in Bangkok I was staying at the same naff hotel as before (built by the 7 dwarfs) and this time I noticed there were no sockets to charge my camera battery. How tight is that?! Fine, I thought, I’ll just use the cleaners’ sockets outside. I was only there for one night, so I had enough time to visit the Grand Palace (stunning) and the Golden Mount (lots of gold and high up).

I also went down to Khaosan Road, where I should have been based (cheap rooms), and found it to be a complete tourist trap and have the highest percentage of dreadlocks outside of Jamaica. Some of the backpackers were original hippies from the 1960s, others just getting into the spirit of things. I actually managed to find what must surely be the only dreadlocked tuktuk driver in Thailand – he was a little odd to be honest! It was down this road that I decided to take advantage of a 2 for 1 beer offer and people watch for a while. After my first beer (Singha, if you’re buying), I was told that the offer didn’t apply to what I was drinking. Annoyed at being ripped off once again, I walked off in strop, only to be apprehended 30 seconds later by the bar manager and another bloke from his kitchen. I’d forgotten to pay and had to go back to the bar as I didn’t have the exact money! Slightly embarrassing.

The next day saw a day trip to Kanchanaburi, where the bridge over the River Kwai is. The driver who picked me up was a tad aggressive and I witnessed my first Bangkok road rage incident as he cut up and stared out an oblivious tuktuk driver. I swapped mini-buses soon after luckily!

Took some good photos at the bridge and I was on my way to the mini-bus when 3 Thai students asked to interview me (obviously some kind of English assignment). They didn’t really understand me so to save time I became Steve from London, favourite food is chicken, likes football, no further questions please. Next thing was a train ride along the famous line that winds alongside the river. At the station 3 girls asked to have their photos taken with me. When I put my arm around the first one, they all let out a shriek, not in shock or disgust, but actually in excitement! Easily pleased. After a further two changes of mini-bus, I had lunch, deciding against the fried rice with chicken, garlic and paper (I had nothing to write with). At the next stop a bloke asked to take a photo of me with his mate, set against the backdrop of the waterfall that we were visiting. Beautiful…

By this point I was wondering if I would make it back for my overnight bus. On the way back we stopped off at a service station and I was told to change mini-bus for a fourth time. After waiting around I was feeling resigned to missing the bus and spending another night in the smog. However, my hopes were raised when out of a dust cloud came the tasmanian devil of the road – the first driver that I started with! If anyone would get me back in time it was him I thought. This man really is wasted (and dangerous) in a mini-bus. I say give the man a chance, give him the tuktuk he so richly deserves. The man’s a legend and should be on three wheels. We made it back to Bangkok faster than you could imagine, much of the journey on the wrong side of the road or a few centimetres from the vehicle in front. But when we reached the edge of the city we stopped dead in traffic that didn’t move for 20 minutes.

So where am I typing this? In Ko Samui in the south. I made it with minutes to spare and then had to endure a journey of 17 hours (count ’em), 3 hours of which was spent waiting at various times. The boat over would have been pleasant under different conditions and I managed to get a little burnt, not realising how hot it was due to the breeze. After checking in I wandered down to the beach to be confronted by the sight of a man in a thong, swinging from a tyre swing. Never acceptable. I then walked along the white sand, trying to avoid looking at the Germans in Speedos (put it away man!) and went for a swim in the turquoise warm water. At this time I was thinking: “I wish I was still at my advertising sales job”. Yeah right! In the evening I went for a wonder in town (Lamai), laughing at the strange Germans and watched a Thai boxing match. For all you fight fans, here’s a brief summary of the matches:

Match 1 – A ladies’ match. Not good. In the second round I half expected them to start using their handbags. The blue corner won after the girl in red had enough and threw herself on the floor in a tantrum.

Match 2 – Mens’ match. Experience won over youthful over-confidence.

Match 3 – Ladies’ contest that was better than the first and went to a points decision.

Match 4 – A mens’ match that was very impressive and evenly matched.

Match 5 – Ladies’ match. Too many Singha beers by this point. Looked good to me, I wouldn’t want to spill their pints.

The whole thing was very surreal as it was set against the sound of Thai music in the bouts (pumping dance music in between) and broken English introductions followed by Thai commentary.

So that’s it for now. Don’t intend to do too much for the last week as I’ve crammed a lot in and need some relaxation!

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