Life rafts 

Chiang Mai is great but I’m craving a change.

As domestic flights in Thailand are relatively cheap, I’ve decided to head south – it’s more of a timeliness thing and goes against my “by ground” travel plans , but 12 hours in an overnight bus was just to risky, despite the price. So for the princely sum of $50 Australian, I was on the way to Bangkok for a few days via Air Asia ( God bless em). 


Well hello Bangkok. It’s been a while.

I used to spend quite a bit of time here a while back, in a previous life . Working for the Australian government had its perks and I always got sent to Asia. Not that I’m complaining mind you. Love business class travel. I’d only been here once on holiday under my own steam –  for my honeymoon actually (that only occurred to me yesterday and man did some crap memories came flooding back – more on that another time) 

Moving right along…travelling on a budget really changes your perspective was going to be my point. Sorry . My mind is still a bit all over the place. 

Bangkok is a crazy beast that comes at you without warning . I wasn’t ready for it. Had forgotten. The energy got the better of me I have to admit.

Flying in to Don Meuang airport, catching the bus (40 baht) then the train (70 baht) was a super easy way to get to my Smiles Hostel ($19 AUD a night) in Silom. I’d picked this place as it was close to my old stomping grounds near the Australian Embassy. 

At first I thought it’d be fun, but I quickly realised that Bangkok had changed a bit,  nah a LOT,  since 2001.

There’s a bleedin’ Skytrain now that’s almost out to the airport, there’s Freeways and Tollways galore . The traffic is manageable (still crazy) and a run to the airport from Silom took 20 minutes!!! Unheard of.

But it’s definitely a different beast now. The streets where my favourite chilli eatery was located are now apartment blocks,  the roads where child mahouts rode elephants through the traffic selling bananas to the tourists to feed to the aforementioned elephants ( whom were trained to not eat them but to give them back to their handlers to resell) are now cluttered with Starbucks, fancy Japanese restaurants, 7/11s and Western style shopping malls. Where’s the old Silom alleyways and backstreets? At least Molly Malones and the Convent Road food carts were still there ! 

It freaked me out! I got lost many times trying to find my way without Google maps. Why was this all so alien? I navigate visually, using landmarks, but so much had changed. My brain hurt . But finally after an hour of wandering around in a grid pattern, I looked up to a familiar sight – the slim tower of the Westin Banyan Tree hotel. Finally the wildly spinning outdated map in my head locked on, updated, and voila – I was back. Knew every backstreet again … They were mostly still there, just hidden behind a fancy facade of Western excess.


Anyway I settled in, walked the street food alley of Convent Road, ate every interesting thing I could find : bag of pork and chilli? Sure! Brown soupy stuff with veges and a chunk of nameless protein boiling in it? No worries! All fresh, delicious and cheap!  (except the chicken feet – no way in Hell).

I was uneasy though, and wandered the infamous Patpong Nightmarkets, bought a cheap backpack, looked at all the tourists and market crap and knives and stun guns. Looked at old European bald guys with waify Thai ‘wives’ (yeah right) , groups of young guys (and girls) rolling into the girly bars and sex shows pulsing with neon, bludgeoned by clubnames like “Kiss Kiss Kiss” and “Pussy”.  Was deafened by the  80’s music that filled the air:  Def Leppard and techno and country ( wtf?) pounded out into the steamy Bangkok evening. And then it poured down – well at least that was the same.

I lasted an hour at the markets after watching them setup through a grey afternoon. It was my Vegas all over again. To much. Sensory overload. The crowds, the noise, the thumping of Duran Duran (I kid you not)

So I went back to the hostel, cancelled my second night, booked a flight to Surit Thani for 9am the next day, and watched Jurassic park on tv. Also had a hot chocolate and a biscuit. It was nice to chill in a hostels quiet almost-lounge room .

So as the hostel denizens wandered in and out, I collected Lucy; a Londoner only in Asia for a month after interning in Laos, and Marius; a guy from Amsterdam that’s doing the same thing as I: running away from life. We all shared our stories and our plans, chatted about Brexit, how to buy Pounds sterling, where not to go in South America, and alternatives to the Inca Trail. We got on famously and chatted for hours and then that was it!  I was leaving , Marius was on a budget and Lucy had 3 days to do everything she could in Bangkok before going home. So we parted ways only knowing each others first name, and that was enough.

I mention this as its one of the things I love about travelling that I’ve missed: to be able to meet a group of complete strangers, share your stories, gain insight and inspiration, and get a fresh perspective on your life and the lives and dreams of others. I really miss connecting to people and yet I seem to force myself away from them. 

It was nice to start feeling like a human being again, even for an hour: to make connections and to feel alive and just be acknowledged again with no agenda.

I forgot to keep punishing myself for Jen, and to feel sad. I forgot about my Bangkok fever and my negative voice shut the fuck up for a while.  I slept well right up til the 5am alarm for my airport taxi. I don’t do 5am easily. 

Bye Bangkok – we’re done.

Right now, I’m on a ferry heading to Koh Phangnan, just passing Koh Samui on my right. It’s blowing an absolute gale, the sky’s are stormy and the seas are choppy and I’m getting tossed around like a person on a boat on a choppy sea – and loving it. 

Oh the liferafts…I’m not going to say anything pithy or poignant about this trip being a life raft or some shit like that. In this weather I’m just thankful this rusty tub of a ferry has 15 life rafts and I know exactly where they’re stowed.

Right outside my window.

Beach time for me. 

One thought on “Life rafts 

  1. Well written Jamie…Roger and I Loved Bangkok in the early seventies…dont really want to go again because I feel it would have changed so much ….happy to live with the memories . It must help a lot to know your way around because of you having worked over there. Safe travel and hope the holiday gives you the healing you seem to be looking for. X Sandra


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