6th October 2012 14:25
I had no ladyboy encounters. I know that's the first thing many of you will be dying to know, so let me just disappoint you right out the gate. Or maybe I've already repressed it? Perhaps one day horrific memories of activities like in The Hangover 2 movie will come flooding back to haunt me. Well, until then I can remain blissfully unaware.
Bangkok is big. I know that sounds completely ridiculous to say about a city like that, but I think I've just become so accustomed to places where I can wander along for a couple of kilometres and find pretty much all I need. They have an excellent MRT underground, linked to a Skytrain system riding above the congested roads below, which is a quick, reliable way to get around, and used by many. Expect London rush hour scenes on the trains though, they're that popular. I was always able to get on the first train that arrived however, despite long queues. Yes, queues! I know that's an alien concept for anyone who's travelled on public transport in London at rush hour, but they do actually exist - and in Hong Kong too. People form neat, orderly lines at designated points along the platform, and enter the train in that manner when it arrives. No pushing here folks. Judging by previous status updates from my Facebook friends about London transport that would definitely go down well!
I met up with Ella as planned, and it was really nice to see her again. She'd been to Bangkok before, so I toured the usual sights before she arrived. The Grand Palace was my first stop. Whilst it is undeniably grand, the sheer number of people visiting meant it was extremely crowded, and virtually impossible to get a photo without someone walking in front of you! I am sure I was guilty of this myself though, it's so busy it's something you can't avoid. I know I'm also one of the many people who decided to visit, so I'm really not in a position to complain... it's just a shame when something becomes so popular that it detracts from the experience of going there.
I took a walk to the infamous Khao San road while I was in the area. This is backpacker central, and the number of guesthouses, food stalls, souvenir shops, bars and conmen that accompany that is mind blowing. I walked along, ignoring the many people trying to tailor me a suit (been to Hoi An already, sorry!), the Indian "psychics" informing me I was a "lucky man" and the restaurant promotors, before stopping at a Pad Thai stall to sample the street food. It was ok, but I've definitely had better elsewhere. It gave me time to soak up the atmosphere though. I was amused at the signs advertising fake id's, diplomas etc for sale, similarly the bar actually named "We do not check ID card", but I didn't really like it very much. Far too crowded and chaotic for my liking.
Also in the vicinity of the palace are Wat Pho and Wat Arun. By the time I'd returned to that area from Khao San road, storm clouds were gathering and thunder could be heard in the distance. Before the rain arrived I grabbed some quick snaps before working out how to get back to the Skytrain. Unfortunately the river taxi I'd taken to get to the palace initially was no longer running due to some unknown event on the river. I had no idea which bus to get, so was left with little option but to jump in a taxi. This was a complete pain, as seemingly none of the taxi drivers in Bangkok actually want to use the meter. They insist on agreeing a set (vastly inflated) price at the start of the journey, in order to extort more money from unsuspecting tourists. I went through about six different taxis before finally hailing one who was happy to turn on the meter for me. The fare at the end was only about a third of the price of one of the highest amounts I'd been offered previously... demand the meter!
In one of the many shopping malls in the Sukhumvit area, I had the best toilet experience of my life. And no, it wasn't spending some quality time with one of the many stunning, sexy girls walking around in heels and tight dresses... I needed a poo. Bear with me here... it's worth it.
I'm glad I needed a poo at that particular moment, otherwise I never would have experienced the wonder of the Terminal 21 shopping mall's best toilet in the world. I entered the stall, and this is what lay before me:
I knew immediately this was going to be special. I sat down, and my first treat was instantly warm buttocks. The seat was heated... and not the kind of warmth you might experience after a big, hairy guy has just visited the commode before you... this was hot. It felt right on so many levels. The next delight was a hot water bidet. For those that don't know, a bidet is a jet of water that is used to wash your arse after you've laid some pipe. I'd already sampled this unique experience by using the "bum guns" found in a lot of Asian toilets. Same deal, but it's a gun attached to a hose that you have to pick up and aim at your arse. And it's cold water. This was at the touch of the button, and hot. I didn't think it could get any better... until I saw the button marked "Dry". Guess what that did... Told you it was worth it.
I also took a trip to the aquarium in the basement of the Paragon shopping mall, which I had a refreshed interest in after having just completed my scuba course:
After experiencing Bangkok, I was ready to cross borders once again, and Malaysia was next on the agenda.