Thursday, 27 October 2011


In which things go all ‘Hotel California’ and we’re grateful for lax safety legislation  

Starring my parents who exhaust me in a sightseeing frenzy and puppets that require three people to manoeuvre them.

If you can’t bear another boring bus moan skip ahead because the trip from Siem Reap to Bangkok was once again horrible but not in any way entertaining.  The whole 6hrs were in a cramped mini bus with a completely evil maniac behind the wheel.  He drove as if the devil himself were sitting on his shoulder and so death, ours or his, was of little consequence to him.  We spent 2 hours locked in the bus sitting at a petrol station just over the border in a long queue of cars waiting for a tanker to bring more fuel but when we stopped an hour later to let everyone go to the bathroom, he and I got into an argument about whether or not I was ‘allowed’ to go and buy water from a shop 5 meters away.  He practically threw someone out of the vehicle at the Victory Monument shouting ‘Taxi, taxi’ at them which I means he didn’t want to take them wherever it was he was supposed to. 

Bangkok was very much gearing up for the floods by the time I got there and the hotel welcomed me by saying that I could check in but I "might not be able to leave".  The flood waters were expected any moment and they’d taken a lot of precautions – building a little retaining wall you had to climb over to get in and by the time we left had even bought to boats which were stacked ominously beside the breakfast tables.  All the shops around had taken similar precautions and various street stalls were doing a hot trade in wellington boots, life jackets and inflatable swimming aids. 

My parents, despite having travelled for nearly 28hrs to get there showed no signs of jet lag or exhaustion and so the nice relaxed itinerary I’d planned to see us through the four days (we were meant to be going to Aytutthaya for a few days but that was very much under water) was blitzed in one, leaving me rather stressed about how we were going to fill the rest of the time.  My Dad had been extremely clear that if he was going to go all that way, he wanted to see things.  A lot of things. 

After the first day we’d marched round the Grand Place and it exquisite temple complex – Wat Phra Kaeo -  marvelled at the enormous reclining Buddha of Wat Pho, meandered  up the Khoa San Road (both parents mysteriously declining the excellent prices on tattoos), squeezed through the narrow lanes of China Town, bought fake goods at the Pat Pong night market and had a beer on our rooftop bar looking out at an enormous golden Buddah.  I was bloody exhausted.   

Thanks to the purchase of another guide book (we had pretty much got through all 5 pages of the Bangkok section of SE Asia on a Shoestring) we managed to fill the rest of the days with visits to wet markets, traditional Thai houses and more temples. My favourite was Wat Arun which is covered in donated pottery that has been smashed up and rearranged to make flowers and geometric patterns. 

Several people had passed on recommendations for evening entertainment in Bangkok none of which were in anyway suitable and so instead we went to a puppet show with a quite incredible free for all buffet thrown in that was an elbowing contest between bus loads of Chinese tourists to get at the food. The puppets are really life like - each is manoeuvred by three people who dress in black and dance in unison following the movements of the puppet.  

We also, admittedly in the manner of Nero, sipped cocktails on 64th floor of the Banyan Tree hotel,  looking out at the engorged river.    

Aside from the wadding through a few flooded streets and boat stations and not being able to go on the rivers or canals (which were mainly shut to boat traffic) we had no real experience of the flood at all until our overnight train out.  We set off from Bangkok at about 8pm and around 10:30 the whole train was filled with a horrible stench that prompted us to look outside.  We were literally driving through the floods. We could see houses submerged up to the first floor all along the tracks and the train was making ripples through the water as it crawled along.  The few platforms we passed that weren’t submerged were filled with people and dogs trying to stay dry.  Rather terrifying at first (had hideous visions of having to wade out through it if we got stuck) but once we were clear of it and the train picked up speed again we were stupendously grateful for the lack of safety regulations (this so would not happen in Europe) and glad to be getting the hell out!

More photos:


  1. This was such fun to read Sal! I've been catching up with your facebook posts and read so many positive comments about your blog....and I see there are others who, like us, think you should try and get all of this published. What have you got to lose by trying! Mom xxx
    P.S. What am I supposed to choose where it says 'Comment as:'? I'm anonymous for now!

  2. I am a friend of your Mum and Dad's and have just had a chuckle at your blog. Did you really think your Mum would have been a sedate sightseer?Hope you have recovered after their visit, it sounds as though they had a great time. Look forward to reading all your blogs and following you on your exciting journey