I ended the great journey as I began it, on a National Express coach. This time I was travelling back from Heathrow, but the driver was the same one who had taken me there six weeks ago. He remembered me from that early morning journey, and politely told me that he thought the Big Pink Gay Hat From Thailand – which I was carrying with me under one arm – looked silly. But I think it looks cool.
I’ve been back for four days now and the mixed feelings I had initially about being back are slowly giving way to a determination to find a job and somewhere to live as quickly as possible. So today I got up at 7am (which actually turned out to be 6am thanks to the sad demise of British Summer Time last night) and finished off my CV ready to send to somebody. Anybody, actually.
Apologies to anyone I haven’t seen or been in touch with since getting back, it’s all been a bit hectic.
Cath – you were so right when you described Bangkok as “a little bit crazy”. Today is day 7 in Thailand and the day I fly back to the UK – I’ll be hitting the tarmac at Heathrow tomorrow (Thursday) morning and heading up to Northampton pretty soon after that. Can’t wait for a good long shower!
I’ve seen a gazillion different temples and shrines and been all around this mad city by taxi, by river boat and in the legendary tuk-tuks that seem to appear on the front covers of all the guide books, but whose drivers aren’t quite as innocent as you might like them to be. My attempt to get the bus back from the Skyrail station last night failed – leading to a 45 minute walk back along lots of long, dark and wet streets – but the Skyrail itself and the subway are a simply marvelous way of getting around, although slightly limited by their routes.
I took a break from the heat, humity and pollution of the city with a rather unplanned but truly memorable trip up to Kanchanburi provice, which is a two-to-three hour drive out of the city to the east and not far at all from the Burmese border. Aside from the compulsory trip to the World War II sights around the River Kwai or ‘Death Railway’ bridge and the Australian-sponsored museum at ‘Hellfire Pass’ a little bit further up the track towards Burma – both of which were rather poignant places to visit – much fun was had over the course of the generally well-organised three-day tour.
Highlights included eating snake meat, dancing to songs about elephants, riding on an elephant and stroking live tigers at the Buddist monastery that we visited. Photos to follow!
Today is a day of relaxing and seeing a couple more sights that are within walking distance of the hostel I’ve been staying at for the last two nights. I’m determined that there will be no more bus disasters for now, at least not until I get back into the UK 🙂
So I made it to Bangkok safely last night, despite it being a little bit late to make it into the city by the time I’d cleared immigration and the rest of it, necessitating a stop-over in one the hotels near the airport, some 25km north of Bangkok centre. This proved slightly expensive in comparison with the guest houses further into the city where I’m staying tonight, but nonetheless it was somewhere to stay and the bed was HUGE.
I’m still acclimatizing to the heat, the humidity, the smell and the sheer busyness of this place, but it’s just mad. In the nicest way possible, of course :-).
The sight-seeing starts tomorrow!
OK, so I finally gave in and created myself a Flickr account. Signing up was relatively easy and seeing as I already had an old Yahoo! ID that I occasionally use I didn’t even have to go through the registration process for that.
Now all I have to do is work out how to get the photos I blog about looking good on the blog itself…
More photo-age in Melbourne today!
Whenever you’re stuck for somewhere to eat in a random place around the world, you can always trust the Rough Guide to locate a suitably unique establishment for you.
So today the mental preparations for Bangkok began with the eating of vegetable and tofu Thai noodles down a small side street in Byron Bay. I wish I could stay here for longer, and I also wish that I’d remembered to take the photo before I started eating the darned food.
Yippee for cybercafes that let you access the contents of your memory cards while you surf though! This place is on the ball.
My feet ache quite a lot at the moment after almost two solid days of wandering around Quensland’s sub-tropical capital, but I’m just about getting to know the place and getting back into the swing of city life.
Armed with my camera, today I visited the Botanical Gardens on the eastern slopes of Mount Coot-tha, which are only some thirty years old (the gardens having been moved from their former site just south of the city centre, following several devastating floods), but home to a pretty amazing selection of plants nonetheless. I met an elderly couple strolling around the maze of paths that criss-cross the site, who I accompanied on the short bus ride up to the summit of the mountain. Stunning views indeed.
Lunch was had in back in the centre one of the many food courts which seem to be scattered around all of the big Aussie cities, followed by a trip to a couple of museums, where I stayed until closing time. I walked back from the Queensland Museum via South Brisbane and the West End – both rather student-y looking areas with the usual selection of take-aways, restaurants and convenience stores – and crossed the river over the William Jolly Bridge as dusk set in.
Now I need to recharge both my camera’s batteries and my own metaphorical batteries in readiness for my day-trip to Byron Bay across the state border in New South Wales tomorrow. The stay there on the way down to Sydney was cancelled in favour of spending my last weekend in the cafe society surrounds of Melbourne, so a day-trip will have to do instead. Yay 6AM buses!
Today is Coffee and Smoothies day here in the Sunshine coast’s glamour capital of Noosa Heads, or at least it is for me. Today is a chillout and admin day, which kicked off with breakfast in a friendly little cafe around the corner from the hostel where I stayed last night and will end with me wandering around the streets of “Brissie” taking lots of photos, if the plans work out OK.
After a few days in Brisbane I’m planning on spending the weekend in Melbourne before heading back to Sydney for my flight to Bangkok a week on Wednesday. This however does involve me booking some cheap-ish plane tickets before I get on my Greyhound in a couple of hours, so we’ll see what happens. Yesterday I was planning on getting the bus down all the way to Sydney, but I’m bored of buses now so it’s time to put Plan Melbourne into action instead. It’s all a bit last minute, which perhaps isn’t ideal but at least it makes it more of an adventure!
So I’m back on land briefly overnight, in between the boat trip and tomorrow’s all-day kayaking adventure. The hostel accommodation is as basic as ever, but it feels so good to be on dry land again and be able to take a shower! The boat was amazing – and fast – but living with another seventeen people in a small space with only two rather damp and claustrophobic bathrooms the size of an average wardrobe gets to you after a while! Rather reminiscent of my stretch in the lovely Cryfield residences last summer, now I think about it.
This morning I was awake at 6AM, ready to go into the water before eight. No diving today, but I did one yesterday and another the day before so that takes the total so far (both for this trip and for me generally) to four. Tonight I’m meeting a bunch of other people from the boat for a few drinks that the crew have organised, which I hope won’t impede my ability to get down to the pickup point for my kayaking tomorrow morning for 8.30.
On the organisation front I’ve managed to book some accommodation for the next stop at Hervey Bay, only some fourteen hours away from here on the coach! The Rough Guide describes it as “[an] unusual place, with dorms done up in corrugated iron and timber, and hung with Outback iconography”, so I’m hoping for somewhere with slightly more character than the YHA I’m staying in at the moment or the Greyhound bus I’ll be attempting to get some sleep on tomorrow night.