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We've Thai-ed the knot!

THAILAND | Thursday, 7 August 2008 | Views [1478] | Comments [1]

Oh dear, has the honeymoon gone sour? Last night Bobby spent the night in a room with a French guy called Gerard and Kate was shacked up with some Dutch bird called Yorinda, and they barely spoke to each other all night. How come? What went wrong? All will be revealed!

After a great break in Singapore, we began our long journey up north to Bangkok and the loving arms of our friends Neil and Kala and Jack and Kai. This involved a short 6 hours to Kuala Lumpur with an eventful night reviving a paralytic Malaysian girl on the street - Kate especially coming into her own with offers of getting her in the recovery position and sipping coke to bring her back to consciousness! We then spent a day looking endlessly at the huge Petronas Towers (until recently the tallest building in the world) and a tourist-tastic scoot around the Kuala Lumpur aquarium, before boarding our sleeper to Thailand. Despite the icey cold air-conditioning and the mischevious kids in the bunks next to us we made it in one piece. On arrival in the border town of Hat Yai we bumped into a couple of friends we'd met in Singapore - Kian (Irish architect) and Katerina (Swiss accountant). We'd met them in the foyet of an incredible art deco-style office block that, despite looking like a 1930s Hercule Poirot hangout, was actually built only 9 years ago. It was memorable not only for the bonhomie as we all shared a drink at the bar but by the bizarre sight of our "wine angel" - a girl attached to a zip wire - who ascended a hundred feet above the bar to retrieve expensive bottles of wine for clientele who had considerably more money than us (picture featured in the Singapore pictures).

We spent the day bumbling around Hat Yai before climbing on board our next sleeper which was a 16 hour jaunt bound for Bangkok. This time we travelled in style with our own little cabin and entertained ourselves with chess and pretending we were extras in Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie is looming large in our thoughts as you can see!)

Our host's in Bangkok were Bobby's friend Neil "The Skull" Menzies and his lovely girlfriend Kala and on arrival at Hualumphong station we were met by Neil's driver - a pleasant non-communicative gentleman with tattoos on his neck called Somphong - and we soon plonked on Neil and Kala's brand new sofa. It was a fantastic place to settle for 3 days. Despite having only been in Bangkok a couple of months themselves, their city centre pad is beautiful, spacious and cool and as hosts they put up with us brilliantly. In the afternoon, we met up with Jack and Kai. Jack being central to our relationship as he was present when we first met in London is a scriptwriter who has re-located to Bangkok to be with his girlfriend Kai, their two foster kids and 3 dogs. He looked well and we managed to negotiate a stay with him on our return from "doing Asia". 

Our three days in Bangkok, mainly consisted of riding the sky train, wandering the rivers and parks, hijacking a International City conference to get our picture taken with some mystified Chinese dignataries, sampling the seediness of Soi Cowboy and having possibly the most spectacular meal of our lives at the top of the State Tower courtesy of Jack - Star Wars fans, the illuminated walkway is something you must do before you die, it takes all the will power not to fall to your knees and call out "Luke, I am you father, join me on the dark side"!

After recuperation and the collection of a cold for our Katie, we hit the buses and headed north to do temples, monks and elephants. First stop was Ayuthaya which was a good introduction to Wats, Prangs and other Buddhist temples before getting on another bus to the old town of Sukhothai. This is where the real temple-touring takes place. You basically can't move for sacred Buddha images and latice built temples. We spent the afternoon on bikes just tootling around the historical park in anticipation of the main event of the evening - a light and sound show! It began with a beautiful picnic by the lake before being led to the main Wat with a huge 12 metre statue of Buddha where the local kids acted out a history of the city of Sukhothai complete with nasty Burmese invaders and a kindly Thai king - not much of which we really understood - culminating in fireworks and the lighting of hundreds of lanterns into the still night sky. Whilst you may be excited to check out the exquisite pictures of this on our pictures page, unfortunately Bobby had spent so long snapping over a thousand pictures of piles of rocks that may or may not have once been temples that after one cheesy picture of the two smiling honeymooners at the picnic, the camera went kaput! Bobby managed to control his rage at fate long enough to not spoil things and it was a truly magical night!

From Sukhothai, we moved on to Chang Mai, the second biggest city in Thailand and something of a Mecca, for those adventurers keen on spiritualism, trekking and old world Thai charm. About 40% of this proved to be correct. Chang Mai is a tourist trap no doubt and like many of the cities and towns in Thailand, takes a few walks to reveal itself to be more than just a steaming mass of bikes, Tuk Tuks, tour operators and Dutchmen. We got lucky on our first night as we had a arrived for the Sunday night market where Bobby got a bit carried away with the tourist tat and at one point had to be pulled back from the edge by Kate as he was about to hand over the equivalent of 3 quid for a pair of Thai Boxing shorts that would inevitably end up at the back of a drawer never to be worn in anger.

The highlight of our stay was to follow the following evening as we decided to spend a long dark night of the soul at a Buddhist monastry outside of Chang Mai and indulged in a series of meditation sessions. We gathered along with about 40 other spiritual questers at lunchtime at Wat Suan Dok and after an introduction to the basic tenets of Buddhism were ferried an hour out of town to a secluded monastery where we were given three basic rules. No man should sleep in the same room as a woman, no smoking or drinking and no talking. The evening session would begin after a simple dinner of rice and vegatables and we would have sessions until 9pm where we would be sent to bed only to rise at 5am for further meditation. It was at this point that we shared a worried glance wondering if we were in too deep! 

However, it turned out to be a fascinating introduction to meditation and Buddhism in general and we have been practising our walking meditation ever since. The follwing afternoon, suitably enlightened, we enjoyed a further two days in Chiang Mai and indulged ourselves by taking a cooking course at a traditional teak style Thai home where we successfully cooked and sampled the delights of Thai Green Curry, vegetable spring rolls and Tom Yam Soup amongst other dishes. The calories were soon burned off the next day when we trekked into the mountains along with some French and German tourists to visit tribal villages as well as take part in white water rafting and elephant riding. Surprisingly, despite Kate's fear and terror to take part in activities such as crossing the muddy river trapped in a shark cage, white water rafting backwards through chocolate brown river rapids as well as a forest trek in torrential rain clambering over rocks and slipping on bamboo bridges, she embraced the experience, over came her fear and enjoyed it.

Whilst there were a thousand other towns and villages in northern Thailand worth visiting we knew time was pressing and so sfter 5 great days in Chiang Mai we began the trip north to our next adventure - a two-day journey down the Mekong River in Laos!          

 

Comments

1

Hey you two! Nice work with the writing! You have managed to make me get itchy feet for travelling again and I am excedingly jealous that you are out seeing the world whilst I am stuck in London working 12 hour days. What person in their right mind would not rather be where you are? Eagerly anticipating the next installment! Lots of love

  Kim Aug 23, 2008 8:18 PM

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