Saturday, 20 April 2013

... Indochina: One Night In Bangkok

"Bangkok, oriental setting and the city don't know what the city is getting...."

I had one final night in Bangkok. That is excluding the 150am 4hr flight to Shanghai later tonight. After the erm, fun? of the border crossing I arrived in Bangkok feeling rather wiped. The heat coupled with queuing for an age certainly has an uncanny knack of draining the energy from you. I think I laid on my bed for about 90 minutes before I moved. I didn't even nap, that would've required far too much effort.

When I finally got my skates on I headed out into the hot & humid Bangkok night under the protection of some air con courtesy of the MRT.

With a name like Cabbages & Condoms, you could be forgiven for wondering what kind of establishment I was visiting. This popular Bangkok restaurant actually promotes sex education to Thai's and anyone else interested. It is educating people on a wide range of subjects and issues but also population control and how, in today's medical age, families don't need to have 7 children just so one can survive.

There are lots of condoms: condom lantern anyone? I also received cabbage with my meal. However, this is an incredibly good restaurant despite poking a little bit of fun at sex education to make people sit up & take notice. It has a wonderful outdoor seating area. And as they promise, you won't get pregnant from their food!

"I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine."

Checking out of my hotel today left me with almost 13hrs to kill before my flight. I didn't really have anything particularly touristy that I wanted to see, at least not in the heat with two backpacks and the knowledge that my next shower was 24hrs away. So instead I bought myself a one day BTS skytrain pass and decided to ride around on that.

Terminal 21 is a shopping mall done up like an airport with each floor representing destinations. There was London, which looked like the opening scene from Austin Powers - have we really given the world that impression about us?; San Francisco; Istanbul - cue singing up the escalator to They Might Be Giants and the Caribbean to name but a few. It was kitsch, garish and rather cringe-worthy in places but kind of fun to whittle away some time, grab dim sum dinner and laugh at the hi-tech toilets.

" a show with everything but Yul Brynner"

From 0600hrs until midnight Bangkok has the incredibly efficient and easy to use Airport Rapid Transit Line. There are actually two trains. An express, which stops at a handful of stations, and a slightly slower commuter train which stops at every station between where you board and the airport. As a result there's a price difference. Seeing as how I was heading to the airport unbelievably early, to the point where my flight wasn't even showing up online, I chose the latter and saved some money in the process. Turns out I would've waited at least 15 minutes for the express anyway. So by the time I reached the airport around 1010pm I was still almost 4hrs early for my flight and I had beaten the express train. This is probably not the case during the day when I suspect trains are far more frequent to deal with heavy passenger traffic.

I saw the airport in the distance quite some time before I arrived thanks to that bright blue neon sign. Checking in was an experience. The airport was incredibly busy given the time and it was a case of fighting your way through the sea of people to locate where your actual check in desk was. Mine wasn't yet posted but I knew the general area for China Eastern flights, of course right at the far end of the terminal from where I was stood. So like someone in a mission I set off. Whilst others sat and played on their various electronic gadgets I briefly sat on a bench in section U and scanned my surroundings. I watched as staff dragged a China Eastern notice board to the desks at the end of the section. I'd nothing better to do so I followed. Shrewd move on my part. Aside from a few minutes of trying to find out if a bunch of us were stood in the right area, seeing as how nothing yet was posted, I was able to sit on my larger pack for almost an hour near the front of the queue and wait for the Shanghai check in. I was the 4th person in that Cattle class line to check in window seat and all!

It was amusing to watch people try pulling all kinds of stunts to get to the front of the queue. Now if, like me, you've got the British queuing gene then watching someone try to hustle a spot in front of you because they are basically too lazy to do what everyone else before them has done will piss you off no end. All credit to the airport staff, they were putting up with none of that crap. One woman tried to claim that because there were two of them checking in they should be allowed to check in at the group check in counter. Nice try lady... Now get your arse to the back of the queue! I have to admit I did kind of chuckle to myself as I watched all this go down.

Clearing security was entertaining. One lady looked mightily impressed at how efficient I was, or I rather believed complacently it seems, with having everything prepped for X-Ray. iPad in a tray.... Bag of "liquids" under 100mls in a Ziploc.. Jacket off, pockets empty. Done like dinner! I'd even taken the lid off my Sigg bottle to show it was empty. On the other side of the metal detector is where it got interesting. The lady on that side seemed transfixed on my 85ml half empty bottle of $12 sunblock. As she was scanning that and telling me I couldn't keep it another pair of hands began patting me down. Heeeeeey hang on a minute, aren't I supposed to get some warning about this? Of course I had forgotten to remove my money belt, which had admittedly become like an extra body part to me over the past 4.5 weeks. Up went my tshirt. And not by my own doing. Now can someone explain to me why I was stood in public with my tshirt around my chest, thankfully wearing a sports bra, when I wear my money belt on my waist? I had to laugh at how all this was done without batting an eyelid, all part of the service.

Yet it was all rather speedy and efficient if not a tad non-PC. And so here I now sit in Starbucks drinking my "fresh milk" non-fat UHT milk latte with still just under 2hrs until my flight to China.

"One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster."

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