Landing in Bangkok, Thailand, we immediately boarded the bus to take us to the Khao Shan Road area really not sure what to expect. We were heading back to civilisation as we all know it, right in the heart of tourist Ville. With a sense of dread, we arrived seeing TukTuk after TukTuk, tacky stalls and thousands of tourists. I think I was suffering from culture shock, and hated the place almost immediately. It was just so commercialised, and I was so unhappy. After spending a month in laid back rural Myanmar with virtually no tourists, we both needed a day or two to adjust. We were both just so underwhelmed with the place. However, what helped make Bangkok eventually enjoyable, basically, were all the people we met at our lodgings.
We stayed at Mamma’s Homestead, a place that is not in the Lonely Planet, but found only through recommendation by fellow seasoned travellers. The place was down a wee lane, close to all the action, but far enough away to be a little oasis of tranquillity. Mamma is over 70 years old, and the place is a family run venture, and as we discovered, a travellers secret gem for over 40 years. There is a 70 year old German lady who has stayed there for over 12 years. We paid about 5 quid for our room, and you could help yourself to beer and soft drinks from a large glass fronted fridge in the foyer. Mamma would mark down everything in a little book recording your bill – she never missed a single item, even when not around, which always amazed me with over 40 or so guests staying there. Whenever you queried the weekly bill, she would tell you exactly what happened at 2am in the morning on whatever day, and reminded you had bought 2 beers for some friends. As soon as you heard this, the vague memories of that night would suddenly flood back, and she was always right. It’s a great place to hang out and chill after the past month with all the trekking and overnight bus journeys, and you can regroup, rethink, and work out your next move based on discussions with fellow travellers. I think we were responsible for at least 5 people deciding to go to Myanmar after describing how great a time we had there. I can’t wait to hear from them all to find out how their trip went. Equally, we were given some great advice on our next move to Cambodia. Mamma – is just like your Mamma, she is very friendly, watches out for you, keeps you right, really cares, and treats you like a son or daughter – a fantastic woman. It feels like you are part of the family – I hope Lonely Planet never discovers this place. Keep it to yourself.
Bangkok is massive, and you really need to use transport to get to places around town. We used the river boat Taxi’s a few times, you get really great views of the city sailing down the Chao Phraya River, and seeing the Royal Palace, Wat Arun and the city skyscrapers of the downtown commercial district. All the action though is around Khao San Road and Rambrutti, full of colour and bright lights, with bars and restaurants running the length of both streets. Most bars have live music, and we found one that seemed to play nothing but Johnny Cash standards. That was good fun, and really quite funny hearing the Asians singing “Bunning Ling of Fye” and “Thlee Feet High and Lising”. They were good though and we must have spent a few nights at that bar. I actually got up to sing “The Highwayman” as a duet with the singer one night. We were beginning to slowly enjoy Bangkok, so much so, we decided to stay for Christmas and New Year. Well, we were having fun, and it kind of took your mind off back home. It just did not feel like Christmas at all though for us, which was good, as you start thinking of everyone back home, and what they are all up to. The heat in Bangkok seemed to be rising day by day. I was craving a bit of this snow that everyone from back home was telling us about. But as I type this, who the fuck is kidding who here, Right? Ha Ha !! 😉 and of course, We have Mr Johnny Cash !
We spent Christmas Day with our Dutch girls, Sofie and Carina and went to a posh restaurant for a budget blow out. We had a great day and night together – as always, but the girl’s would head off next day to Kho Chang for the Full Moon Beach Parties. I think we stopped being “Ravers” a good few years ago, so we decided to swerve the action and take things at our own pace.
That morning, Alan from Preston, with a brilliant NW accent which I have always been fond of, pulled me away from the crowd to little stand around the corner and bought me a Whiskey (Asian Firewater). I like beer, but really can’t do spirits, but I couldn’t refuse such a nice gesture especially at this time of year, and did as Alan had done, and downed the lot in one go. If anyone from Alcoholics Anonymous is reading this, you would be best to find another travel blog, this is not the blog for you! I really took to Alan, we are about the same age, had much in common, and we just seemed to click – always trying to wind each other up for fun and telling little stories and jokes. I hope to meet up with him sometime in the next few months. I speak “Jockanese” according to Alan. I seem to think out of a lot of people I’ve met, that Alan could end up one of my best mates, a truly special bloke – and I know everyone I know would love him as well.
Tippany from Finland described himself as a social outcast. A lovely middle aged man, who was obsessed with playing Chess. After getting to know him over a few days playing Chess, we found out he was a convicted bank robber earlier in his life, and had spent a good few years in prison. We were both stunned when he told us his story. He had gone on the straight and narrow, receiving a pension from the Finnish government, and therefore spending all his time travelling throughout Asia. There was a great bloke, Denis (Denny) from Germany, a dreadlocked and heavily tattooed 30 year old with what seemed to us a Jamaican accent, and who became a good drinking companion – he would sit for hours just telling funny stories and having the odd beer or two with us. Denis was a Chef who worked 6 months of the year, saving up his money so that he could spend 6 months travelling again. It really makes you stop and think. We stayed for almost 3 weeks and saw travellers come and go, and sometimes back again! The Spanish Fraction, as we had come to call them, a group of about 6, would sit together back at Mamma’s place, getting drunk and playing guitar. One lad in particular, Victor, was exceptional on the guitar and sang and played some brilliant tunes – all in Spanish of course! He was absolutely fantastic. We met a lovely middle aged woman, Gabriella from Turin, a lone traveller, who told us amazing stories of her life and time travelling in India and Nepal. Michelle found this all really interesting as she is really keen to do India. I just liked Gabriella because she always spoke with such warmth and affection towards us. She would sometimes just ask us questions to simply listen to our voices as we spoke – she really loved the Scot’s accent.
For New Year’s Eve, Hogmanay, about 10 or so of us went out to see in the New Year. The Spanish Fraction told us that they have a tradition of eating 12 grapes as the bells strike midnight to bring in the New Year. “Las doce uvas de la suerte” or “The twelve grapes of luck”. Unfortunately, they could not find any grapes, but we were delighted to hear that they had bought a good selection of fried bugs for everyone – Locusts, bamboo-worms, moth chrysalis, crickets, diving beetles and giant water beetles. They were all deep fried. They were not going in my mouth but Michelle gave them a try – well, she was hungry and she had consumed quite a bit of beer by this time. I always admire Michelle for giving things a go – the bugs were salty and crunchy supposedly – I didn’t think it was worth it. I’d rather just stick to peanuts to be honest.
Around 2am, we headed back to Mamma’s. We thought all the young kids would be going clubbing, but almost one by one, they all appeared walking up the lane to Mamma’s. Each would grab a beer from the big fridge and we ended up staying up until 5am just chatting and having a laugh. Gavin from America however was the last to appear. Gavin seemed a bit anxious, he didn’t seem to be that drunk, but he told us he must have had a black out and could not remember where he had been for the past hour or so. He also assured everyone he would not have been with a prostitute. Everyone went quiet. For some reason, Denis and I made eye contact without making any facial expression, but we both knew what each other was thinking. This happened again the next day when Gavin told us he had heard about Mamma’s from a male prostitute he had met in Malaysia. Denis and I made eye contact again. Then someone mentioned to Gavin that he had the most amazing electric blue eyes, and things got even stranger when Gavin told us had met a Prostitute in Chicago that had told him “He had the most beautiful eyeballs!” Gavin was stressing the fact that she had said “Eyeballs” and not “Eyes” which he found really funny. This time I looked over to Denis, who happened to be looking at me, we made eye contact and gave each other a knowing look. There seemed to be a theme going on here for Gavin – How many blackout’s can a man have?
We said our “Goodbyes” to everyone over the next few days, as each person left to move on in succession. Gabriella was 2nd last to leave from our wee family. The last was young Herve, a really nice young lad from England who seems to be loving every minute of his adventure, and is heading to Malaysia next. It’s a bit weird being the traveller’s that have already been somewhere and can give some advice. In the beginning, all we could do was listen to everyone else’s fabulous experience’s and only imagine what the places are really like. It’s all going so fast now.
Before we knew it, a “New” bunch of travellers had arrived. They were all making new friendships and getting to know each other. For some reason, it felt like we had met enough people and having had such a great time – it was time for us to move on. Mamma must see thousands of travellers, but seemingly, she never forgets you. She gave me a hug on the final day, and said she loved to watch Michelle and I having so much fun. She had not really spoken to Michelle that much, but she was ever watchful and seemed to really like us as a couple. No wonder people keep going back there – We will be back in April when we tour Thailand properly for sure.
We took the bus from Bangkok to the border and entered Cambodia, grabbing a taxi to Phnom Penh where we would hook up with Alex, Tina & Carina for a couple of nights together. Sofie was in Vietnam. Dad was arriving in 2 days. The plan was to head to Siem Reap, and the 8th wonder of the world – The Temple’s of Angkor. If you don’t know anything about Angkor, just look at the header on the top of this blogsite – it’s been a longtime coming, but we will soon be there. I just can’t wait !!!