Friday, 7 February 2014

4 Days in Bangkok

There is a land border crossing between Cambodia and Thailand at the town of Poipet. Or rather, the town of Poipet lies between Cambodia and Thailand.

Poipet itself belongs to that same confusingly stateless condition as the 500 yards between the sign advising you that you are now leaving England, and that which welcomes you to Scotland.

Poipet is the Southeast Asian Severn Tunnel; the Khmer Corridor of Confused Coo.

On leaving Cambodia, you walk for half a kilometre through a town of hotels and food stalls. There is no sign of the Thai border until you reach the Friendship Bridge - a rickety wooden structure over a shallow ditch of slow-running water (at least in the dry season). Then, ahead, a triumphal arch proclaims the Kingdom of Thailand - not for you, though, as you are shunted from such grandeur into a utilitarian customs office, and emerge on the other side in a car park of buses and food stalls, hoping that the coloured sticker you've been given in place of a bus ticket means that there is actually a Bangkok, and you won't have to pay for another ticket in order to get there.

My blue sticker got me a minibus for the remaining 4 or so hours to Bangkok. The driver advised us that we would normally have been deposited at the airport, but the road blocks prevented this, so we'd be dropped off at a different Skytrain station at the southeastern edge of the city. I was intensely glad the hostel I'd booked was near a Skytrain station - and not a little bit excited at the prospect of my first Skytrain ride! Being something of a country person, elevated trains that weave between the skyscrapers of far metropolii are still akin to visiting Gotham City.

My fellow Bluestickers, waiting for the Skytrain
L-R: Sebastien, I-am-bad-at-names, I-am-very-bad-at-names, and Tina

Aside from contracting Plague from the incredibly crowded skytrain carriage (I am *still ill* - this was a week ago), I loved Bangkok from the first. I didn't expect to. Again in defiance of the expectations I'm trying not to have, it got under my skin. Between plague and the astronomical levels of air pollution, I could barely breathe for the 4 days of my stay, and yet. And yet...

Bangkok is beautiful,

 How much do I love this statue? THIS MUCH!




and fantastic.

It was also, while I was there, having itself a party.

A fellow traveller (we shall call him Tim - that may even be his name) I've spoken to since told me that, while he was in Bangkok, a Thai said to him it was a shame he was there now. That he didn't get to see the 'real' Bangkok. Certainly the protests are making a difference. You can see it. Every area important to governance or tourism has barricades, tent cities, street stalls, and subtle but armed patrols of police or army representatives. If you want to see the city, you can't avoid them.

Honestly, though, I am very grateful to have been there to see this Bangkok. 
In future, I may visit there again - to see if it does feel different without such obvious activism and engagement. To see if there is ever a time when Bangkok is not being taken by the scruff of the neck by its populace. 

I suspect it just looks different. That it would feel the same.
I hope so. Because to me, Bangkok felt wonderful.

 This is Zoe.

Oh yeah. It was Chinese New Year while I was there, too.
All the parties!

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