Friday, March 11, 2005

Breathe in that air...

After the very frustrating dicovery that my very first entry on this site had not saved ... I am now forced to do exactly what I had hoped this site would save me from ... having to rewrite the same stories over and over again. Well, enough of a whinge, after all, I am on the beginning of a fanstastic journey and am very relaxed and loving every minute of it thus far.

So ... going back a few days ... I took a the flight from Sydney to Bangkok, a great occasion to reacquaint myself with fatty airline food and a fantastically friendly middle aged woman named from Brisbane named Beryl who studied numerology and did my numbers for me. I am a number nine, a very giving person and am currently living in a peak year ... looking forward to that. We arrived in the hot and humid capital on time and I collected my luggage a few minutes later. I stepped out into the night and joined the sweating throng of Westerners wanting a taxi (too tired to negotiate with the tuk tuk maniacs) and got dropped off in Khao San Rd after an hour on the ultra-sleek city expressways, this equally loved and loathed centre for budget travellers.

Found myself a characterless prison cell with irritatingly noisy fan, showered, shaved and went out into the early morning in search of spicy food and a cheap beer. Both of which I located within a hundred metres of leaving the guesthouse.

Slumbered until late the next morning, and armed my new digital camera I headed out to rediscover one of the craziest cities of the planet, and at least one of the most vibrant and colourful ones. I made my way on foot, neither the searing heat nor humidity was going to shake my spirits; although I have to admit that after an hour and a half among the incessant traffic breathing in every manner of combustible fuel particle, I decided it was time for food and possibly a tuk tuk ride on the way home. Grabbed the first of many Pad Thai noodles and saw that I was approaching Yaowarat Rd, the centre of Chinatown and one the best food markets in Asia.

Don't know why, but I have a minor fascination with the million varieties of inedible products that are up for sale and human comsumption in this part of the world. And almost all without the aid of refrigeration. A special favourite for me is walking among recently and not-so-recently slaughtered animals and harvested seafood, all the while trying my hardest to recognise the living creature from its hacked version on display, and wondering how much of this stuff actually ends up in my own stomach.

Sea cucumbers are great for pointing and laughing at, as are many other things on sale whose origins are from the sea. These people sell and eat anything, and have little time for polystyrene and clingwrap packaging. Buckets and other plastic recipients line the stalls and are chock full of every imaginable living and dead thing. In turn, I am sometimes pointed and stared at, and for a moment I feel suddenly at one and sympathetic with the sea cucumber. I move on through the claustrophobic laneways and back out into the main street to breathe in the best a thousand two-stroke engines can give. Nice.

I decide to head towards the fetid stench of stagnant water and head home along one of the many canals which probably gave a certain charm to this city a hundred years ago, but today provide little other than fertile breeding grounds for mosquitoes and a continuous moving display of untreated effluent. It was then I discovered the pig. High up on its pedestal, as I approached the Ministry of Defence I came across the guilded swine wrapped in pearls and tulle ... Apparently dedicated to the current queen, the fat sow was surrounded by offerings and burning insense. My best laugh for the day.

I headed home for more Pad Thai and a change of clothes, and, since it was Friday evening, out for a few beers. A hundred metres from the guesthouse I discovered Gilligans, no doubt a den of thoroughly pissed Westerners, but more enticing than the tuk tuk driver who was offering me a vision of young Thai women doing things to each other that my writing skills would be hard pushed to describe. I thanked the tuk tuk driver for his invitation, and instead opted for the bar. Once inside ... it felt like being in one of those bars you see in movies set in the mid-west of the United States. Pointless neon lights strewn about the place with wooden panels and advertisements for Jack Daniels and various local drops, I took my rightful place as a single male traveller at a stool at the bar.

Was soon chatting with a couple of Aussies and a Frenchie who would quite possibly later increase the total daily sales of the tuk tuk driver, and decided that for better or worse I was going to have a filthy hangover the following morning ... perfect when you have a sixteen hour ride ahead of you into Cambodia. I drank my own body weight in water before falling into a mosquito-ravaged sleep, and awoke feeling 87 years old a few hours later, with enough time for a quick breakfast before boarding the minibus, destination Siem Reap.

I am goddamn lovin' it here.

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