29th January – Day 3
Song of the Day – I’m So Tired by The Beatles
“I’m So Tired, I haven’t slept a wink/ I’m So Tired, my mind is on the blink!”
What city is it that’s called “The City That Never Sleeps”? If it isn’t Bangkok then it should certainly be in the running to pinch that title. We finally went to bed at about 2am. I set my alarm for 11am assuming that in the jet-lagged state we were in we’d sleep right through. Bangkok had other ideas. The revelry of Khao San road continued until around 3am, with various Thai ska bands competing with karaoke singers and beatboxers to decide who can make the most musically incompetent racket. Then someone outside started clanking metal around – we assume that he was taking down the scaffolding poles that hold up the covered street stalls that line every pavement. After this cacophany had stopped I finally managed to get some shut-eye, until around half six when I awoke to the same metallic din as earlier – somebody putting out the market stalls again. I was tempted to go down there and say “Just leave them up mate!” I mean, take them down for three hours – what’s the point!? They’re there all day every day anyway! As soon as the clanking had stopped the rush hour traffic began and it was clear that we were going to have to wait to catch up on sleep. A complimentary breakfast of toast and coffee with condensed milk in it went down very nicely, but it wasn’t enough for my ridiculous appetite. Hollie sat and watched me wolf down a bowl of granola with fresh mango and banana on top before we went upstairs to pack and check out.
It was about eleven when we left the hostel, leaving our bags in the front room for the owner to keep his eye on until we were ready to come back and get a taxi to tonight’s hostel. As soon as we started walking towards the Grand Palace it became apparent that someone had turned the thermostat up on yesterday. The heat was intense and the clouds of the previous day had lifted to expose us to the direct sunlight. I’m no weatherman but if it was below 30 degrees I’d be surprised. We soldiered on along a long green strip of park before reaching the Grand Palace. The huge complex belonging to the royal family of Thailand is a sight to behold even from a distance – which was lucky, because that was the best view we got of it. After fighting our way past the usual tuk-tuk conmen we joined a pulsating group of tourists who were filtering in through a gate in the main wall.
It was like being a penguin waddling along with the rest of the flock, squashed in against each other, only in sweltering heat. The inevitable German with a lack of personal space awareness was out in force, helping the queue along by shoving everyone in the back. We queued for about half an hour, finally entering a building in which we thought we were going to pay to get in the Palace itself. It turned out that the function of the place was to provide clothes to tourists who are to scantily clad to be allowed into the Royal Palace. Hollie, the wild one that she is, was exposing her bare shoulders to the world so she was given a very fetching shirt to wear to cover up her flesh.
At this point we both acknowledged that fainting was a real possibility because we were so tired and hot – this jetlag is going to take a few days to wear off and although it pains me to say it I think we need to get out of Bangkok and chill somewhere for a while before we can really get into our travelling swagger. Having queued for half an hour and having the prospect of having to do this again for at least the same amount of time, we decided to clear off and pick our bags up to move on to the next hostel. I took some photos of the palace from the best angle I could get then we collected our bags and took a taxi to the new digs. What had been noticable about the Royal Palace was the abundance of soldiers everywhere – a reminder that the country is currently under military rule. As we zoomed to the new hostel in the taxi we passed a huge statue known as the “Democracy Monument”.
The new hostel is very swanky for the price. For about 22 quid we’ve got air con, a private en suite and should we require it, a minibar. We got in and crashed out for about five hours before going for dinner. We were both feeling a bit dodgy so we opted not to have Thai. But being the culinary adventurers that we are we couldn’t just settle for a sarnie. Hollie’s impeccable research skills located us a tapas cafe across the road where we had a variety of dishes, wine and dessert for about twenty-five quid between us – comparatively expensive for round these parts but so worth it for the quality of the food, and besides we’d saved ourselves a tenner each by not going into the sweaty squeezebox that would have been the Grand Palace.
After eating we’ve come straight back to the hostel for more sleep. Tomorrow we head out for Kanchanaburi, a town west of Bangkok which is famed for it’s Death Railway and Bridge on the River Kwai, which was built in the second world war in dreadful conditions by prisoners of war and slave labourers for the Japanese army. We’re both looking forward to getting out of Bangkok. As exciting and different as it is, it’s also a frustrating place where getting from A to B is fraught with difficulty. I don’t yet feel like a “traveller” – more like one of many wide-eyed tourists who are fair game to the thousands of Bangkokians who make a living out of exploiting our lack of knowledge about the place. We’ve barely scratched the surface of the landmarks that Bangkok has to offer but currently getting some rest is the main priority, which is just not possible here. We will be returning here to fly to India in a few month’s time so hopefully we’ll be in better shape to do some sightseeing.
Right. Bedtime. Goodnight!