Lost In Bangkok

Leech species count:
1 species:
Haemadipsa interrupta

Language lesson:
Terrestrial Leech
Malay - Pachat
Freshwater Leech
Malay - Linta

Sawat dii kha (=Hello)

After about a day and a half of chilling out in Ampang, it was time to
move on to Thailand and begin my journey there.
And what a journey it has been…

I arrived in Bangkok at around 11:30am. So I had to figure out how to get myself and my stuff to my guest house in Khao San in Banglampou (also known as the backpacker’s ghetto). Getting transport into town normally shouldn't be a difficult task, but for me, I quickly became overwhelmed by the number of people offering me a taxi that I went to the first taxi window I saw. There I was overcharged to take a ride in a luxury car to my ghetto, instead using metered taxi, which would have cost a third of the price. Oh well. Don't worry, I learn fast. So, my driver didn’t
speak a lick of English and I realized right away he had no idea where my hotel or my street was. How did I know? Well, while he was driving he kept on picking up the paper that had the address on it and would just stared at it. I’m not sure what he was looking for. Enlightenment, maybe. I told him to go to Khao San because everyone knows where that is. The street I needed was just one block away. Thankfully, once we got into the area my street became obvious. So I made it! I decided to take a walk around and explore my street and, yes, it was very lively with food stalls and other street vendors, plus your stereotypical backpacker. From now on I will call foreigners, farang. I bought a skirt for 2 bucks and then had my first Thai dinner. It was a small restaurant with the kitchen, if you can call it that, on the sidewalk. In fact, most of the kitchens or cooking areas around here were on the sidewalk. I was cool with that. I’ve never had green curry quite like this. I was in heaven. In the touristy areas, spiciness is usually diluted for farangs since many westerners can’t take the heat. I asked for spicy and boy did they deliver.

Afterwards, out of curiousity I visited the local 7-11 (?) to buy some
water and found that a Thai 7-11 was pretty much the same as in the States, except everything was in Thai (and they had a Thai Ice Tea fountain! - YUM!!). I know…not a big revelation. That was enough exploring for me for one day, so I went back to my hotel to plan the next day and my next adventure in leech hunting.

First thing, I made arrangements for a place to stay near Khao Yai
National Park. I called a lodge (Khao Yai Garden Lodge) that was
recommended by my travel book to make my reservation. This place had
packages with guided tours of the park. This was going to be easier than
trying to find my way to and from the park on my own since it is about 40
minutes away from the nearest town, Pak Chong. The second task was to
figure out how to get to Pak Chong. I consulted my book and decided to
just wing it and go the bus station the next day (1 Oct) as early as
possible to get a bus that would get me into Pak Chong before noon. Done.
For today I decided that I would attempt to explore using the riverboats
on the Chao Praya river to get to 2 places of interest: Wat Pho and

Wat Pho
The oldest Buddhist temple in Bangkok (17th century) and is considered one
of Thailand’s first universities. One of its major attractions is the
Reclining Buddha, which chills in its own temple and has a length of 45 m.
Also, the Wat Pho is still a center for traditional medicine and here you
have the opportunity to get a traditional Thai massage. There were
several smaller temples found throughout the complex and many small
gardens or cloisters with stone guard dogs and stone giants guarding the
many gates. Each guard had their own unique, and quite amusing, facial
expressions. These stood about 10 feet tall. After exploring the grounds
for about an hour I built up some courage to endure the torture of a Thai
massage. I asked for the herbal massage not really knowing what I was
getting myself into. When you walk into the place there is a row of
chairs on your left to get a foot massage and to your right a
room full of beds with people being pulled, kneaded, twisted and stretched
in all directions. I almost ran out of there but I stayed. They gave me
pair of loose fitting pants and a top to change into and I laid myself on
the bed. The man began kneading, then pulling, then twisting and
stretching. All this using, not only his hands, but also his feet and
legs to put me in all sorts of positions. Don’t ask. When he was done
with a body section, he would get a cloth bag filled with several aromatic
herbs, including camphor and other smelly things, from a steam pot and
proceeded to rub this bag on the section he’d just finished. It was
really hot. Imagine a tea bag the size of a grapefruit that’s
been seeping in hot water and having it rubbed on your body. So the word
is that the heat and the combination of herbs are supposed to increase
your blood circulation which promotes good health. I definitely recommend
this type of massage. I left there very relaxed but this did not last for
very long…

Finding Pahurat in Chinatown
I made my way back to the river to catch a boat further south so I could
find Pahurat for some Indian food. I know, I’m in Thailand but I’m going
to be here a month, so there’s plenty of time for more Thai food. So one
thing I haven’t really mentioned is that crossing the street here is an adventure in itself. There are few to no traffic lights, so it could take 15 minutes to cross the street for an inexperienced farang like myself. Also here, and in Malaysia, they drive on the opposite side of the road, which takes some time getting used to.
So I found myself standing on a curve and I couldn’t see what was coming
at me. So the method is that you just cross and hope for the best. So I found my first point of reference, Thanon Pahurat (Thanon = street), which would lead me to the street with the Indian restaurants, Thanon Chakraphet, or so I thought. According to my stupid book this street wasn’t very far, but the street I was on eventually turned into a covered market, which threw me off. I walked and walked and walk. There was no end. The market was full of people everywhere. I passed various food stalls selling dim sum, various sweets in different shapes, colors, sizes (couldn’t tell you what they were), skewered meats, curries and rice in a bag, there were many fabric stores (this is the area to buy silk and other
fabrics) and other stores selling clothing and things for the homes. One thing that I did notice is that many of the stores sell the same thing, which makes me wonder how they make money. After about 45 minutes of wandering around aimlessly, I felt that there was just so much going on and so many people I just wanted to get out of this street/market because it looked like it was never going to end. Then when I finally got out of the market area I was battling with the traffic and the air pollution. It was so bad. It was a hot day and with diesel exhaust everywhere you just couldn’t breath. So when I tried to figure out where the hell I was, I couldn’t find any street signs. I eventually gave up and found a Chinese restaurant and sat down for some dim sum. I pointed to three items that looked good on the menu and I think I got 1 out of the 3 things that I ordered. One order of dumplings was wrapped in clear gelatinous ghoo, so I pick out the filling, which was edible and left the rest behind. I was done with Chinatown and gave up looking for the Indian area. So I tried to get out of Chinatown as fast as I could so I could get back to the safety of Khao San. I probably would have enjoyed this more if I knew where I was going. Oh well I tried.

Sorry I have been so slow with my reports from the field. I haven’t had
much time to write and I also write slow.

What's next…..

1 – 3 October
Khao Yai National Park

6 - 12 October

Until then...