Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Come Back Oslo, All is Forgiven!

My first day in Bangkok was something of a disaster. I wanted to get my Chinese visa sorted very soon (so I could leave Bangkok) and looking up the Lonely Planet I believed I'd found the place. I determined to catch the Skytrain (elevated train) and headed out.

It was then I knew I was travelling around the world. Moreso than any other, Bangkok just overwhelms you. Santiago seems like Bray (a Dublin suburb) compared to this. Stalls everywhere, cooking food, selling scarves, mopeds lined up at traffic lights like execution squads, constant noise, unwholesome smells; my initial impressions were not good. I had asked at reception for directions to the Skytrain station, but there was no following them in this chaos. I asked many people before finally getting there. The train itself was fine, but once off my troubles began anew. Following the directions from the Lonely Planet, I still couldn't find the Chinese Embassy. Again I walked one way, then another, up and down the road it was meant to be on. I asked one person, then another, but no matter who it got no closer. Eventually someone wrote down the address in Thai. I caught a taxi and showed him the address, but soon he was shooting up far away from the Lonely Planet location. I stopped him and pointed at the English address. He nodded, slapped his skeletal forehead and drove in the other direction. We seemed to be going too far again, so I stopped him and tried to explain, but there was no way we could communicate. He pulled up at a cafe and waved the paper at a guy on his phone. he waved him away, so the driver tackled a woman at the same table. She explained to both the driver and me (in excellent English) and off we headed in the original direction. I was beyond caring anyhow, but we eventually arrived, albeit in a completely different part of the city to the Lonely Planet suggestion. Naturally four hours after my setting off, the embassy was closed. Come back on Monday.

Nearby was a huge computer shopping mall, so I browsed a little. You could get a good laptop for 600 euros, even a very basic one for 200, but I resisted and headed home, after stopping in Tesco's for half their soft drinks cabinet. The subway got my close enough to Silom Street. Again I got a little lost before someone put me in the right direction. I nearly cried when I saw a Guinness sign; O'Reilly's Bar. Too familiar or not, I was grateful to sit there for half an hour sipping a beer. Unlike Irish bars the world over, this bar was full of Irish, mostly old guys. And while I am about it, yes, everywhere old Caucasian men can be seen arm in arm with young Thai women.

I decided I needed to stay in the backpacker area, Banglamphu, and tried an Internet cafe to book a room. However, the guesthouse I wanted wasn't taking bookings inside of three days, so I resolved to call them the next morning.

Getting out my Rough Guide (I bought one at the airport), I decided on a nearby restaurant. For a little over 2 euros, I ate a pleasant prawn dish and soft drink while staring out at the large rat running around the trash at a nearby tree. I then went to another Rough Guide recommendation, another Irish bar called the Irish Xchange. A Thai band were singing "Wake Up Maggie" when I arrived, and the clientele were a mixed bunch. I left without a drink. The streets are wild here with stalls and hawkers, blind singers and scratching dogs; all I wanted to do was get back to my room, so I did.

In case you can't tell, I did not enjoy my first day in Bangkok.


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