Posts Tagged ‘Bangkok’

Thai much massage

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Almost a week has passed since I arrived in Bangkok.

It was a long, tiring, hurry-up-and-wait day and a half getting from Kathmandu to Bangkok via Delhi.

Amusements along the way:

  • His’n’hers security and boarding queues at Kathmandu

Irritations on the way:

  • the foreign exchange desk at Delhi International terminal doesn’t serve foreigners
  • the shops at Delhi International terminal accept only GBP, USD or euros but give change in Rupees which are no use to me
  • Airbus 330 seats don’t recline; the cushion slides up and down instead making it almost impossible to get any sleep

I met Hannah outside baggage reclaim and customs on Monday afternoon and we took a taxi to our hotel. The ride was about 45 minutes and cost us 405 Baht including airport pickup surcharge and tolls. It was hot and humid but both less so than I was expecting. Result :-)

Our hotel is only a mile or so from Wat Pho (one of Bangkok’s largest and most famous temples) and is definitely not in a tourist area. We’re also about a mile from the infamous Khao San Road. Less than 100 yards from our hotel the area decays into slum with locals living under canvas at the side of the road and wooden or tin shacks propped up against the well-past-their-heyday buildings. We’re not quite the only foreigners in the area but there aren’t many others.

We’ve been eating from the local roadside food stalls. Dinner for two most nights runs to less than 100 Baht – about £2. We had our most expensive meal yet at lunchtime today. It looked like a Chinese dish from home and including a fizzy drink cost us 150Baht each.

Our first two days didn’t go quite to plan. We were both wiped out after getting here and too tired to try to start our Thai massage course on Tuesday. We wandered round the temples at Wat Pho instead and then tried to go to the Grand Palace in the afternoon but arrived too late and it was shut. We did manage to find out where to go for our course and that it would be better to start on Thursday rather than Wednesday. A Thai boxing match sounded like a good way to spend the evening but not at £40 each. On Wednesday I couldn’t post my trekking stuff (which I won’t need for the next three months) to New Zealand because the Post Offices were shut due to a holiday. We couldn’t go in the Grand Palace for the same reason. And we couldn’t find the river ferry points for the ride up river and weren’t prepared to pay £40 for a two hour scenic tourist ride. We rode the 3 Baht river crossing service instead (nice cool breeze on the river) and failed to find Wat Arun temple. We settled for another instead. Let’s face it, one temple full of Buddha statues and monks is much like any other. And my camera has been misbehaving (Canon EOS 20D Err 99) since Tuesday morning so no pictures for most of the week.

We started the Thai Massage course at Wat Pho traditional Thai massage school on Thursday and four days later are feeling pretty battered. They recommend having a Thai massage no more than once or twice a month and we’ve been getting up to three a day. There are only three of us in our group. There was a group of about eight Thai women who started on the same day but they’ve had a separate teacher and our two groups only worked together today. It’s the final day of the course tomorrow, with a practical exam in the afternoon. I hope we’ll be able to remember enough of the 160 step routine to pass the exam. Some of the transitions from one body area to the next are not intuitive or really obvious. One of the other groups graduated this afternoon, there was lots of clapping and cheering and big smiles all round. The number of groups running has been tailing off as the week progresses because the school will be closed over Songkran – the Thai New Year holiday which starts next Wednesday. On Friday and Saturday there were up to about 50 students working in the training room we’re using, all at different stages in the course.

I managed to get my camera to a Canon service centre after the course on Friday and was able to collect it yesterday. They seem to have fixed it so that was £50 well spent. Also I managed to get my trekking gear posted to New Zealand on Friday too so that’s five kilos less stuff to carry around for the next three months. The Canon service centre is in the MBK shopping centre, five floors and eight acres of retail therapy about an hour’s taxi ride away. The fourth floor was geek heaven – almost more mobile phone shops than there are grains of sand on the beach. Hannah was remarkably unimpressed by the thought of all that retail therapy but came with me on Saturday to collect the camera. When we came out of the centre there was some kind of free music gig in progress – “Wishing for Japan”. The band playing thought they were so rock’n’roll. Funny really given all the band members only looked about 15 years old.

Transport has been a bit hit and miss. The tuk-tuk drivers routinely have a laugh on the price they want for a journey. Having taken at least one metered taxi for most of the journeys we want to make we have a reasonable idea what the fare should be. If they won’t bargain down lower than that then we walk away. Many of the tuk-tuk and taxi drivers seem to have skipped doing “the knowledge”. Others don’t want to accept a fare because it’s rush hour, or going somewhere they don’t want to go, or simply not worth their bother. It averages about three or four flag downs for each journey before finding a driver who knows where we want to go and is happy to go there. Taxis are generally less hassle than the tuk-tuks, are more comfortable, safer and much less fun.

There are some new photos in my RTW2011 set at Flickr.

We’re off to Koh Chang on Tuesday for four days of rest, relaxation and recuperation after the massage course.

Here’s the plan

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Lots of people are asking me what the itinerary for my imminent round-the-world trip is. I launch into an enthusiastic spiel and one of two things happens:

  • their eyes glaze over and they stop listening about half way through.
  • they get excited and ask more questions and after a while I reach the point of shrugging my shoulders and saying “… and then I’ll see.”

Hopefully you’re in the second group.

I have an itinerary because I booked a OneWorld Explorer ticket and I had to name airports and dates. I have an itinerary because I had a rough idea of the places I wanted to go and approximately how long I might want to spend in each place. The itinerary is flexible and likely to change once the travelling starts. The ticket is good for upto one year. There are very few details filled in yet between the flights. There are some highlights and must-see/must-do things and lots of vague arm-waving inbetween.

Date changes are freebies, changing my mind on the routing will cost me money – about £100 per change. Sadly there is no reciprocity between the airlines and me in this respect. They have changed two of my flights already and did not pay me £200.

So the plan at the moment is:

  • London-Delhi, Delhi-Kathmandu for a two week Everest base camp trek. This is organised by Above the Himalayas Trekking and I booked directly with them, cutting out a UK agent and saving some money in the process.
  • Kathmandu-Delhi, Delhi-Bangkok for a ten week tour around SE Asia with my friend, Hannah, who will be blogging about the trip from her perspective at travelpod. We have an approximate route worked out for this, based on information we found at travelfish. Briefly it’s a week in Bangkok including a Thai massage course at Wat Po, a few days in Koh Chang for Thai New Year, north through Thailand, south through Laos and Cambodia, north through Vietnam, topped off with 2 weeks lazing on a beach somewhere in Southern Thailand.
  • Two more weeks in Thailand by myself. I have various ideas for how to fill this time. We’ll see…
  • Bangkok-Beijing for three weeks in China. I have a very rough idea of how to get from Beijing to Shanghai involving Qi’An, Chengdu and half a dozen other cities. Probably this will be a challenge. A friend who knows much more about China than me says this will be hard outside of Beijing and Shanghai because of the language. It will probably involve lots of train journeys. We’ll see…
  • Shanghai-Melbourne for a couple of nights in Australia. Why only a couple of nights? Because I’ve been before and didn’t plan to stop in Oz at all on this trip. However, I couldn’t get from China to New Zealand in one day and will have to spend at least one night in Australia. So I’ve routed via Melbourne and will have a couple of nights there. Hopefully this will give me a chance to catch up with a tanguera friend I met last year in Buenos Aires, and maybe get to a milonga or two.
  • Melbourne-Queenstown for three weeks in New Zealand. How I get from Queenstown to Auckland is completely unknown right now. I’ll work it out much nearer the time. I have another tanguera friend to visit in Auckland and again, hopefully get to at least one milonga.
  • Auckland-Santiago de Chile. Not looking forward to this one; it is a LONG flight. I’ve got a few nights in Santiago and then double back westwards to Easter Island for a five night stay. Then it’s back to Santiago for another night. This extra night is courtesy of one of those airline imposed changes; they changed one of the flight times making it impossible to get from Easter Island to Lima in a single day.  Well, it would have still been possible but only by reducing my stay on Easter Island to two days, or by extending it to nine days.
  • Santiago de Chile-Lima for 3 weeks in Peru. I’ll go to Cusco and then Machu Picchu of course, but whether by train/bus or by trekking the Inca Trail is still to be determined. Yes, I’ll have to decide very soon – if it’s not already too late – because I’ll have to book the Inca Trail. That would pin me down to specific dates. I’m already tied down pretty tight with Easter Island so it could be argued that fixing another date for the Inca Trail would be no extra hardship. But that is approximately five months into the future and I don’t really want to be that constrained.
  • Then there’s a bit more uncertainty; I may go to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands or I may not. Money will be a big factor in that decision. All the flights up to this point except Delhi-Kathmandu-Delhi are on the round-the-world ticket. Getting from Lima to the Galapagos would be a separate trip. I had thought I’d book a LAN airpass for the intra-South America flights, but found I couldn’t because I didn’t book it at the same time as the RTW ticket. Opinion on the web is divided about whether or not this should be possible. Anyway, if I’m under budget by enough when I’ve done what I want in Peru then I might manage a trip to the Galapagos Islands.
  • Finally sometime around the middle to end of September I’ll return to Buenos Aires. Ah, proper tango, at last! A couple of months of milogas and much more learning/improving my Spanish than last time. After that travel all around Argentina until about the middle of February and then return to Buenos Aires for another month. The travelling will include Ushuaia and if I’m really really lucky an Antarctic cruise. I’ll decide in that “final” month whether to use the final Buenos Aires-London sector of my RTW ticket to come home. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Perhaps I’ll stay in Buenos Aires or perhaps by then I’ll have decided there’s somewhere else that would suit me better. We’ll see…

Great, you were in the second group!

That’s the plan so far. I have just a few more days in the UK and then the tenants move into my house and I hop on a plane to Delhi. My transit visa for India arrived today, the Nepal visa is already stuck in my passport, I’ve had jabs against just about everything and I’ve sold or otherwise gotten rid of most of my stuff. Just another dozen or so boxes to go :-)

I’ve got three more nights of tango to look forward to, one of jive and maybe one of West Coast Swing. And then several months of probably no dancing of any sort that I’m used to. Withdrawal symptoms here I come.

Have you done a trip like this or been to any of these countries? Are there any must-see places or must-do things you would recommend in the countries I’m visiting?