Day 14: Planes, rustbucket trains, and rickety automobiles

I departed from my beloved Singapore with a heavy heart this morning. I could get used to walking about freely at night, enjoying the efficient public transport, and spending lots of time in cute little cat cafes!

Bangkok, however, feels like a different world. The flight here wasn’t bad, as such, but that flight from Penang to Langkawi has got me petrified of even the slightest bit of turbulence. It was only two hours, but it felt like a lifetime as I sat feeling incredibly anxious the whole way. I think I’m better on longer flights – it’s higher up, so less turbulence, the plane’s bigger, so you feel shudders less, and also there does come a point when you’re so tired you don’t care anymore.

We arrived into Don Mueang on time, and I was a little surprised at what I saw. Bangkok has two international airports – this one, and the newer one. There’s no Gatwick-Heathrow style rivalry, though, because Don Mueang has since been neglected, a relic from the 70s. There’s hardly any public transport linking it to the city’s infrastructure, so Tarryne and I ended up going 3rd class in a Thai train, which was an experience, to say the least. I thought, “I’ve done Italian rustbucket trains with no air conditioning, I’ll be fine”. Hmmmm. Let’s just say they are very similar to what Indian trains are supposed to be like, minus the people sitting on the roof.

I was pleased to change to the nice, shiny new metro. We were only on it for one stop, but still that’s better than nothing. Our apartment is located near to the city centre, close to a big wat (temple) and Chulalongkorn University. I’m no expert at judging the socio-economic level of an area, but I think we must be in a reasonably prosperous one, because there were young women walking about by themselves at night. That, and this is our view:

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I tried to take a panorama, but my phone was overwhelmed by the beauty of it all, I guess.

As has become tradition, our first outing was to the mall, mainly to pick up food but also to stock up on 50% DEET. We have had real trouble trying to find it elsewhere in SE Asia – in Malaysia, there was hardly any, and in Singapore, not much better. If you can, always bring enough jungle formula with you! 1 full can will last a person between 5-7 days if used sparingly. We now have a couple of small spray bottles in our possession, so I’m really hoping I don’t get Japanese E or some horrible tropical disease I couldn’t afford the vaccination for.

Our day got even stranger when we went to the supermarket, and this was the sign that greeted us.

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I knew Tesco was in Malaysia, but I had no idea they’d wormed their way in to Thailand as well. We found a few staples, like the Everyday Value Hawaiian Pizza, a haunt of student kitchens the UK over. Also found some strange new stuff, like pizza-flavoured Mikado and purple ice cream. Hopefully we will try some interesting local delicacies whilst we’re here, but I’ll probably pass on all the seaweed.

We have a good 6 days here, which will give us a little bit of respite from all the travelling, and for me a break from my flight anxiety! On occasion, I fancy myself as a stewardess wearing red and travelling the world, but then I remember my uneasiness and constant self-questioning “why do I put myself through this?”. Perhaps I am better off as a writer after all, because I will never actually have the cash to travel much…


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