Sarah’s last few days in Bangkok were active and jam-packed. Luckily, a lot of the major sights are close to Khao San Road, where we were staying (Star Dome Inn, soi Rambuttri). As a result, we could easily walk to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. Both structures were incredibly beautiful – but especially impressive was the reclining Buddha in Wat Pho – it’s absolutely massive!! We ate lunch across the river from Wat Amon and were treated to some great views of the city.
The heat in Bangkok is oppressive and we decided to head to mega-mall MBK for a break. It was like going from one form of oppression to another – the mall was packed to the brim with bag laden Thai teenagers and dazed looking tourists. Sarah and I joined the confused masses as we tried (in vain) to navigate the hundreds of stalls (rather than proper shops) inside the shopping centre. Eventually we gave in to fatigue and overwhelmed senses; Sarah went home and I sat in a hair salon for a while taking advantage of a very cheap priced haircut/colour. My stylist at home will be disappointed with me (sorry Chris!) but they did a really good job.
Our day tour to Kanchanaburi turned out to be one of the best days of my entire trip. We left Bangkok early in the morning for the floating markets. This wasn’t a traditional floating market – it was clearly designed for tourists – but it certainly gave a glimpse into life in the “Venice of the East.” The sun blazed down on our little long-tail boat as we floated past stalls filled with all kinds of exotic fruit, tourist souvenirs and funny woven hats. At one point we got stuck in a traffic jam and were at a standstill for a good five minutes… I can only imagine what it must be like during “busy” periods in the early morning! Our boat was poled along by a woman who looked almost 80… but navigated those narrow canals like only a pro could.
Our next stop was the bridge over the river Kwae. Now that was something else. There was a small museum dedicated to the Death Railway and we walked across the fated bridge… it was quite emotional and a learning opportunity for all of us. It’s always humbling to find yourself standing in the midst of history – one that I should know more about, but I don’t, at least not from the point of view of this side of the world.
The most anticipated stop on our tour came next…. the Tiger Temple! The abbot of Tiger Temple found himself caring for tigers quite by accident. But through word of mouth, it gradually spread that this abbot had a gift for taking care of injured or orphaned tigers and now he has become a major tourist attraction! It really is a unique experience to get so close to these massive and dangerous animals. They hardly seem dangerous though, while they are sleeping in the heat of the afternoon and tourists are approaching them left, right and centre for photographs. The process is all very carefully organized, however. You are led around by a guide who takes you forcefully by the arm to make sure you don’t accidentally walk into a tiger’s gaping jaws. But they then sit you down and drop a tiger’s head in your lap, so they obviously aren’t too concerned about them waking up! I could go on and on about how much this experience meant to me – tigers are by far and away my favourite creature on the planet and my Chinese horoscope animal. But the pictures truly say it all.
Sarah’s Last Day
Sarah’s final day out was dampened by the fact that she fell into a category along with about 30-50% of other travellers… she got the Bangkok belly. That’s no fun for anyone. It meant that she couldn’t come out to the famous Chatuchak market with me – but trust me, that is one place you do not want to be with a dodgy tummy. The moment I arrived I was… even overwhelmed doesn’t describe it properly. I was consumed. There was so much pure stuff everywhere. Beautiful, trendy designer clothes fit for tiny Thai people and sold for dirt cheap prices hung off the stalls. Jewelry, jeans, leather belts, knives, guns, dogs, cats, fish, orchids, kitchen applicances… there was absolutely everything for sale. And it was hot. Oh boy, was it hot and I quickly got discouraged by all the haggling and the clothes that definitely did not fit, no matter how cheap they were, it was not worth the hassle! I remember trying on jeans and the sweat literally pouring off my face as I was trying to pull the heavy denim on. I don’t think I’ve ever sweated that much in my life! Nice image, I know, but it was nuts. I made the decision to quit and get out of there as soon as I could. When I finally found the exit I looked at my watch and discovered I had been walking up and down the aisles for over four hours. And I still had only seen a very small part of it!
Saying goodbye to Sarah was so tough… but it’s hard to dwell on it now, I just gotta keep on moving for one more week. It’s so strange to think that the next time I see her is in the UK!