Three days in Bangkok. Exhaust fumes and engine noise. Restless traffic and trafficking. Travel agencies, temples, flower markets. Smells of waste, of poo and of goo, too. Street food stalls, simple frying stations with a bicycle/motorcycle attached to it. Pad thai, instant coffee, the notorious chang-leo-singha connection. Countless offers of massage, manicure, pedicure. And of course, the ubiquitous gold framed flower ornamented images of King Bhumipol and Queen Sirikit to round up the picture of this megacity, providing it with a sense of dignity.
… Being here after three months of travelling comes as a surprise. It was not planned at all. Given that this is Thailand, the no-plan mind-set probably counts as a valid reason for me to be here… exactly three months after I left Bangkok due south.
What I have in mind now is to fly to Myanmar. But as I am soon to find out, kamma kismet has something else in store for me.
1st day I go to the Myanmar embassy. It is in the south of the city (Pan Road) for a visa. Next day I go there again to get the passport back. I try to book a flight to Yangon but it’s not possible to go there without paying a lot of money and accepting an overstay in Thailand. So when I go to the Myanmar embassy I go there early in order to collect my passport. Once I get the passport, I reckon, I need to extend my Thai visa for 30 more days. This means going distances.
You already smell it’s not gonna be a piece of cake, right? When I go to pick up my passport they don’t want to give it to me because i am too early. They tell me to come back at 3.30p.m. cuz that’s the set ‘collection hour’. I insist and tell them I have to go to the Thai immigration office until 4 p.m. at the latest. Now you gotta know the Thai immigration office is located far north near the airport. It takes about 2 hours to go there from the centre. And I find myself south of the centre. Therefore, I insist. The clerk talks about embassy regulations. Still, I need my passport now. (You have to ask 3 times, right?!) Finally, he says OK and asks me to wait until he is finished with all the others. At 12.30 p.m. he gives me the stamped passport. Having left the Myanmar embassy, I take skytrain&bus&scooter taxi to get to the immigration office in the north. Three hours after I got my passport back I get that other stamp.
I take a local bus back to Chatuchak Park to relax, work out, and run.
Then I take the sky train and bus back to the guesthouse ‘Flapping duck’ near Phra Sumen Fort. Same place I stayed three months ago. I also meet a Viennese couple living in my neighbourhood. I meet Mark there, the Irish friend I had met in Khao Sok. A couple of new faces. Everyone with his/her own story.
We check Khao San Road, grab some food, dodge shady characters who want to play pingpong. Eventually we head back to the guesthouse. Playing pool and having phun on the roof top til staff member Eskimo kindly asks us to be quiet. His room is located right under the roof. It’s 3 or 4 a.m. when I finally find my way to bed.
The next day, a day of repose. Thai massage. Sightseeing. A lot of walking around. Cruising with the tourist boat. Indian food in the late evening.
Next day, get up early. Pack the bags. Checkout. Catch a bus to Chatuchak park. A spicy breakfast bowl. And a short walk to Buddhadāsa Indapañño Archives. Later I have lunch with some of the people working there. The simple food – rice with onions, guava and tamarind -, the metal bowl and metal spoon I am using remind me of Suan Mokh.
I walk to the nearby northern bus terminal (Mo Chit 2) and catch a bus north to Phitsanulok -a city southwest of Sukhothai. Diamond, a chef de cuisine staying in Bangkok recommended a guesthouse to me. She wrote down the name in Thai script and said she is going to announce my arrival. When I arrive at the bus station at 10 p.m. the taxi drivers are baffled by this guy holding a piece of paper with some Thai script in his hand. They don’t know that place. No reason not to overcharge me and bring me someplace else. Thai tourist service. I understand. In the end, I check in at Lithai guesthouse. But not before having searched the streets for that place that was recommended to me. Here I am, in the middle of a city I don’t know. It’s midnight. And I am sitting at a bar with a Chang in my hand and some pak kao on my plate near the dirty Nan River. Fat backpack next to the table. Could be worse. I could be in that river. I am offered to sleep in the river hut for 300 baht. I agree. But no, there’s no key. I have to wait for the ‘other guy’. He is drinking his way out of this world on the other shore. I smile, wait til 1 a.m. and then all too willingly accept the scooter ride back to the guesthouse I was brought to in the first place, three hours ago.
A long day.