It started with Bangkok

Caroline:
(Scroll down for David’s bits)

Bangkok has got us off to an incredible start to our six-month journey.

We are, of course, having to pace ourselves. Not only is it over 30 degrees every day*, but also we have to remember this is not like a two-week fit-it-all-in holiday.

That said, I think we have done pretty well.

The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (absolutely stunning – it is up there with the Taj Mahal in terms of sheer splendour and beauty), Wat Pho and the Reclining Buddha, tuk-tuks at night, backpacker street Khao San Road (grilled spiders, millipedes and locusts to take away, or maybe a scorpion on a stick), the Golden Mount, and the experience of a Thai massage (can’t quite believe I had to talk David into it).

It’s not just sightseeing, of course. We are as happy to wander down streets to see how people live and work here every day.

Chinatown was an incredible maze of streets and alleyways – a map would be pointless here – we just wandered around in to streets where not even the tuk-tuks would go. Alleyways got smaller and smaller and there was no end in sight to the number of traders in the streets and their tiny shops, stacked to the gunwales with dusty goods. How on earth do they all make a living?

The 24-hour flower market, which never closes, not any day of the year, not even for a religious festival (particularly not then, I suppose).

And inevitably you see things that distress you – including a couple of cats in a cage, a tethered dog, three dogs in one cage.

One thing I have had to check is why street cats here have no or deformed stumpy tails. I was pleased to read that it is not because they have been harmed. Rather, it is genetic and just the way they are.

Ah the joy of Google – David has managed to find out all sorts of details about the monitor lizards, which we saw from a long-tailed boat on the canals. An adult can weigh up to 55 lbs (about the same as David’s suitcase?), the second largest lizard after the Komodo dragon.

For David, the monitor lizards have been the highlight so far, I suppose because they were so unexpected. And, of course, everything is so photogenic he thinks he has died and gone to heaven.

We are enjoying it all, but it is the magical moments, ones which really move you, which are memorable and special, and rarely captured even on a video on your phone. The first of the trip happened when we were at Wat Pho at night. Thanks to travelling in the rainy season, there were only about half a dozen people in the area. Gazing up at the temples, the lightest of rain drops were catching the light in the still air, and it was a scene of peace and beauty which will stay with me for ever… a far cry from the cats and dogs in cages (we have only seen each of these once but once was distressing enough) and the cauldron of brown slop being served in a market – it really did look like the first day of diarrhoea.

TRAVEL LESSON(S) FOR THE WEEK:

*I am more rubbish at navigation than I think. It never ceases to amaze me how I can lose my bearings. I now accept that David is usually right and demure to him (only in terms of navigation, of course).

*However prepared you think you are, you’re not. David has forgotten a cable for his hard drive and his complex system of uploading and saving photos is not working. And Apple decided to ban me from email access because it detected I was not in Jersey.

*Everyone comments on the World Cup. ‘We’ have got through to the semi-finals, apparently. I have never heard David talk so much about football to anyone, ever. It is amazing how much he can blag it from Sky headlines in the morning, as he has decided it would be offensive to say to a stranger: ‘We are not interested.’

*I am not going to mention the weather. After all, we haven’t gone travelling for six months for the weather… I said to David I would try not to mention the heat and it just came out, about 30 seconds after the blast of hot sticky air hit us as we came out of the airport’s arrivals hall and we were standing in the shade of a car park. It’s hot – and the monsoon rain, when it comes, is heavy and then it has gone as quickly as it came. It is too hot even for the lightest throwaway poncho so the easiest thing is to pop in to the nearest bar and have a cool drink under a fan and watch the world go by.

Next stop, Chiang Mai.

Edited* highlights from David’s journal
(*by Caroline!)

1 July 2018

This journey will, I hope, be a physical, mental and spiritual cleansing. A mid-life re-boot. A time for reflection, taking stock and contemplation of what remains of our all too short time on earth. I hope one day to be an old man in relative good health, poring over thousands of holiday photos but tomorrow is promised to no one and so each day is precious. Hug your dog every day. Tell him he is the best and that you love him totally. Ditto your wife.

Leaving the house was easy but as we left, Zippy ran to the car, got in and jumped on my lap…. I hope to god he knows we have not abandoned him but have left him with the family who will love him until our return.

Security at Jersey Airport was too easy… not one bag searched and departure on schedule.

Great lunch at Carlucci’s at Heathrow.  Still cannot see the value of “saving time by checking in online”. You still have to queue for ages to drop your hold bag.. they seem to have dropped the “Fast” part of fast drop. And finally they give you a paper boarding card anyway.

Security at Heathrow remains totally arbitrary. Shoes and belt can stay on today but an iPad causes delays as it has to be re-scanned!

2 July

Bangkok has already caught Mrs Moo flashing her Monzo at the barman. He says he has never seen one that colour but was happy to accept it and I suspect the old Monzo will be getting a lot of use in the coming months.

3 July

The Grand Palace is indeed very grand and very beautiful. Many photos taken. It is striking how the very beautiful young tourists in their designer gear, pouting incessantly for selfies, look so much more superficial than the equally beautiful but more natural locals.

6 July

We took a conscious decision to avoid a voyeuristic visit to a Ladyboy and Ping Pong show for whilst we are both very open-minded and game for a laugh, we took the view that the sex industry is just another form of exploitation.

There are some parallels with other areas where the natural dignity of elephants is abused by using them to amuse tourists.

We in the West are very fortunate and should not stand in judgement of what people do to survive but if we are to build a world where people and animals are not subjugated to provide essential income, the world will be a better place. To do that we need to eradicate poverty and the only way to do that is through education.

This year we will spend some time in an elephant sanctuary to learn more about these amazing, mystical animals.

Tourism is evolving and as we become for eco-aware we can bring change; already, many tourists are avoiding riding elephants though presumably many who do see no contradiction in riding and racing horses. Just a thought.

Carrie insisted we “enjoy” a Traditional Thai massage… despite what I had read this massage did not have “a happy ending” and the start and middle were just painful, so not “happy”. My masseuse found knots in my muscles and lymph glands I had forgotten about.

And one point I was straddled face down…. which brought back memories of Tuesday night.

(Photos to follow… or for those who know us, see more on Facebook)

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