Size: 514,000 sqkm
Time Zone: GMT +7
Part of 2006 World Trip, arriving from Laos
and going on to Cambodia
Only a few days in Bangkok, but a country I will return to.
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I was rather pleased with my border crossing into Thailand. This required getting a crammed local bus (I was on tip toes and could only just breathe while my rucksack was a makeshift seat to 3 people in the front) for an hour, and then the usual queues and palaver as people try to persuade you to get various taxies. I was even ask by some Thai people where they should go so I must have looked like I knew what I was doing (the trick of course is looking like you know without really having the faintest idea, then people will readily help you). From the border town of Nong Khai I planned to catch a night train to Bangkok and so I dumped my stuff at the out-of-town train station and walked into town. The town had a nice market on the rivers edge and you see just how green Laos really was compared to the Thai side of the Mekong. Since I had lost my sun cream some days earlier and had not yet found a replacement (at a reasonable price) I spent the day trying to dodge the sun. This I failed to do miserable since the initial walk was a few miles and I accidentally walked a few more in the midday sun while investigating a small green patch on a town map I had found - this turned out to be someone's garden. But my first Thai meal was excellent, the main street had some small food stalls and partly due to budget (which was tight) and partly as I prefer this type of food, I usual ate at such places. I love spicy food and the Thai people are experts at such cuisine.
I had been told good things about the Thai train network but the stretch of track from Nong Khai to Bangkok seemed rather bumpy - mainly I think because the Thai trains (which are very nice) sleep you parallel to the direction of travel, accentuating the role of the track - in Chinese and Indian trains you sleep perpendicular to the direction of travel, leading to a better ride (this could just be the overanalysing physicist in me), but I even so I enjoyed the ride greatly.
After the relaxed pace of Laos I enjoyed getting back to a busy city. Bangkok is typical modern Asian metropolis, with temples and parks along with modern shopping centres and food stalls. I splashed out on a hotel with air-conditioning (about 5 pounds), as the temperature was close to the 40's and extremely humid. I spent a day searching for a new camera (after the untimely demise of my Nikon in Vang Vieng) in the many electronics shops and then in internet cafes surfing reviews. In the end I bought a small Sony from the official Sony shop, which I was very pleased with. I then spent another day in and around the main temple complex and Grand Place. I rather liked the basketball hoops and temporary football pitch hidden away at the back of one of the temples for the Monks to let off some steam after a hard days meditation.
One evening I caught the monorail (it seems all modern Asian cities have a monorail system, always air-conditioned and very clean) out to a large park on the outskirts of the city. Here open-air aerobics are performed every evening for anyone to join in, and the park was full of dance music and people jumping around - next time I go to Bangkok I will bring my trainers, this is exactly the sort of thing I like.
Since I was not planning on seeing any of Thailand this trip I kept my stay in Bangkok short, it is after all the hub of most South East Asian travel so I will inevitably return.
The following day I took a bus over the border into Cambodia