Wednesday, January 6, 2010

From the archive - Thailand & Nepal - I

[The diary that I compiled during our visit to Adele in Nepal in January & February 2008 came up in conversation the other day. As far as I know only Mum & I have ever read it - so here is part of it for posterity, the photos are complimentary - yeah, they are for free.]

24/1/8 Thursday Auckland - Bangkok

Tim took me up to Betsy’s (he is still talking to me after I almost burnt the kitchen down last night – too many pizza boxes in the warming drawer!). Managed to watch most of Bullit at McFadzeans' – must see the last two chapters sometime.

Betsy & Paul & I picked up Mum & Dad from the Domestic Terminal, then on to International. The others went to lunch while I checked in. Who should rock up but Charlotte & Alice Dean? Charlotte is on the same flight as us to Bangkok – thankfully she didn’t have much luggage, so my overweight bike bag was ignored.

Lunch for all seven of us, Alice tried to buy some duty free Baileys even though she wasn’t travelling – this proved unsuccessful! Departed AKL 1545 & after too many movies (Devil wears Prada, 3.10 to Yuma, Simpsons); TV programs (US Office, ‘70s Show & Rebus); a great R.E.M. Live album; the usual average fare at dinner time; some inventive sleeping positions (Charlotte in footwell of economy seat); Charlotte trying to get a first class upgrade & next to no sleep for me - we arrived in Bangkok twelve hours later.

A new airport since our last visit (eleven years ago) – very impressive, even if it did mean travelators for eternity. A pity no one from the hotel came to pick us up.

We rode in a big new Hilux on very good highways in to city centre & the usual skinny side streets to get us to the hotel. Checked & then managed to sneak Charlotte in to our room – she slept in the closet.
25/1/8 Bangkok

Awoke/got up 0800 (or is that 1900?) after a fitful sleep on a slab of granite – apparently the closet was much more comfortable.

Early (or not so) swim for Charlotte (not with the carp – good catching fish apparently) & a look out of the city from our room. Not nearly as many cranes on the skyline as eleven years ago – but some pretty decent towers (probably as a result of all those cranes previously seen).
Went for short stroll around hotel surrounds with Charlotte – managed to get sprayed with holy water by the travelling monk – he had set up shop, as it were, in the back of a Navara complete with a rather large statue.

Late breakfast, then walk for an hour or so past World Trade Centre (now Centre World), down Sukhumvit Rd to Dad’s tailor. Mum & Dad managed to spend an hour sorting out clothes while Charlotte & I harassed store attendants in a bookstore (with the aid of a Bangkok map); walked down to Soi 8 (where we stayed with David & Twon last time) & spied where we stayed last time (it’s now lime green); rode the glass elevator that Adele & I got stuck in last time! Finally got taxi back to hotel & saw Charlotte off in pink taxi (all her dreams come true) to Mochit bus station.

Spent the latter part of the afternoon dozing, reading & waiting for Mum to get back from her walk (all by herself).

Dinner & then another hour or so walk around a rather large block – found many more signs of construction – a new overhead expressway & multiple high rises going up. And no – I don’t want a ride in your taxi or tricked out tuk-tuk (resplendent with mags & a chrome exhaust pipe). (It is interesting to note the numerous shells of multi-storey buildings (~4-10 storeys) that are nothing more than the remaining concrete pillars & floors – some seem to be being rebuilt, most are not.)
26/1/8 Saturday Bangkok

A much better sleep, but still didn’t get to breakfast much earlier. Walked down to Jim Thompson’s house & museum – he came to Thailand in the ‘60s (from USA) & reinvigorated the silk industry in Thailand. His house, next to a canal, was a collection of traditional Thai architecture (he was a architect) – all living on second story as ground floor prone to flooding in rainy season.

Got our photo taken in a tuk-tuk by a driver who was friendly enough until we told him that we didn’t want to go & look at silk clothing at his friend’s shop. Mum got her wish to ride in a tuk-tuk when we found a normal one to take us back to the tailors – a great ride, but I’m not sure Mum enjoyed the U-turn across five lanes of traffic, the fumes, the noise, the bone shaking or anything about it. So after the tailor Mum & Dad opted for a taxi (one of the shocking pink variety) – a much slower trip, made slower by being pulled over by a traffic cop – nothing a quick bribe didn’t fix.

Another big walk (by myself for a change) – this time in search of the big “Mountain Bike” sign I saw from a distance last night. I wasn’t seeing things – the sign was there, but no sign of any bikes, just barstools now. Carried on walking out of the main foot traffic area. Wandered down many side streets, saw a lot of sewing in the downstairs rooms, also saw a group of the aforementioned pink taxis in various stages of repair – some mechanical, paint & panel work ongoing.

Quiet night at hotel resting, packing, eating – Kathmandu tomorrow!

27/1/8 Sunday Bangkok – Kathmandu

If this is anymore illegible than normal, it is in part due to the fact that I am in my room writing by torch light. It is near the end of the second of the twice-daily three hour compulsory load shedding (reminds me of a Melter SOP). I’m not quite sure what the problem is with the national grid – but there is obviously one of some sort & magnitude. [Found out later that don’t have enough dams to hold enough water.]

An earlier start today – up at 0600, but it only took twenty minutes to drive out to BKK – there with plenty of time. The new airport has only been going for about two years & it is massive & the roads going to it are pretty big too – although there was little traffic on a Sunday morning. However, it would seem the roads aren’t big enough – a whole other Skytrain route is going in from the central city to the airport. We followed the construction most of the way – the concrete snake in sky just keeps going & going.

Arrived in Kathmandu early afternoon & not too much has changed. Spent much too long queuing for a tourist visa, no one was too interested in our customs forms (they went in the bin), every second person who went through the metal detector beeped but no one cared enough to check it out & there was the usual assault by porters & taxi drivers looking for some rupees. Thankfully we were me by a van & driver from the Tibet Guesthouse.

Managed a stroll around Thamel with Mum, the signs in ‘English’, of some description, provide much amusement as always. Managed to book a six hour mountain bike tour tomorrow around villages outside of Kathmandu – can’t wait to get on the bike & explore.

But right now I am shagged – so time to sleep.

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