We’ve been in Thailand for almost two weeks now, but it feels like we’ve seen so many different sides of the country already.
Our amazing trip in Cambodia was ended by one of the worst travelling days we’ve had, but one that we can laugh at now. We had a car booked to drive from Kratie to Phnomh Penh, to fly to Bangkok the next day. We’d had a lovely tuk-tuk driver the day before, who’d given us a recommendation for a driver, so we were optimistic that all would be smooth sailing. (It turned out later that his friend couldn’t make the journey, and so a ‘friend of a friend’ did the job. He was no friend of ours..)
The guy who turned up was abrupt to say the least, but we put it down to language barriers. Had he spoken English, we might have advised him to go and check his prostate out, because after his sixth stop for him to go to the toilet (without even a bit of sign language, or an offer for us to do the same), each time us thinking Otis was going to wake from his convenient slumber, we were wondering what the hell was wrong.
Anyway, these are small complaints. The biggest issue happened as we neared our destination. Ben had booked an Air BNB near the airport because our flight was early. We’d told the guy that we were staying near the airport when we got in the car, which he was fine with. As we neared where we were staying, and traffic piled up, Ben tried to show him where it was on the map. He kicked off, clearly not familiar with a hotel name, or other landmark, and Ben tried to explain he could direct him via GPS. The guy called our mutual contact, shouting down the phone, and thrusted the phone at Ben, who received the translated news that he didn’t want to take us to our destination, that he would get lost, and this wasn’t what he’d signed up for.
We tried in vain to explain we were less than a mile away, but despite this, he stopped the car on the side of a motorway, hailed down a tuk tuk, and started unpacking our luggage, and motioning us to get out of the car. We obviously argued that we wanted to go to our end destination, as agreed, but when this failed, Ben gave the guy his money, minus $5, to signal that we didn’t feel the job had been completed. He went absolutely apeshit, blocking our path in the tuk-tuk. Needless to say, tensions ran high, everyone was upset that we were in this position, and eventually we had to give him his money anyway, as the main person who was getting upset was Otis, and we just wanted it all to end.
The poor tuk-tuk driver who’d entered the heart of the argument, then tried (in vain) to find our accommodation for another hour and a half. At this point it was getting ridiculous. He was speaking on the phone to the owner of our property, driving round in circles, and then calling again (on Bens phone, which was about to die). Eventually, the owner came out and guided us to the property on her moped. The house was nice, spacious and airy, so we relaxed.
Until we had to go out and search for food. She directed us up the road, but we quickly realised we were in the heart of the red-light district. The only restaurants we could find had hordes of rent boys at their entrance, looking at this young family quizzically as we asked if they did ‘take out’.
We walked past what looked like an entertainment bar with a large courtyard, and the guy shouted at Ben to come in, so we thought we’d struck lucky – and spent time motioning to coloured pictures of food on the wall to get our order sorted. As we settled in to wait, and the Otis started to explore, glances upstairs quickly showed that this was no ordinary Karaoke Bar, and there were clearly beds upstairs for those who wanted a quick bit of additional ‘entertainment’. We hastily stopped Otis touching a thing, and had to just grin and bear it, as 16-year old hookers arrived for work, cooing over Otis, and looking more than a little surprised that this Western family were there to greet them.
Ironically, it was some of the best food we’ve had. Silver linings and all of that…
Anyway, with that day over and done with, we had a good flight to Bangkok the next day, and found that we were staying in the cool neighbourhood of Silom, entering our flat via a lovely little back street filled with plants and local businesses, including a 24/7 printers that doubled as a bit of a gambling den. We liked Bangkok, mostly because of the amazing street food, and the fact that we were near the biggest green area in the city, Lumphini Park, so we could easily relax and play with Otis in the afternoons.
Relaxing was definitely the name of the game, as our mornings were scarily hectic. The city is pretty mental, both with the heat, and just the general pace of life. Our visit to the palace and temples, via a river boat, was SO busy, it was like being on the tube at rush hour. We loved china town, as it’s yet to really experience gentrification, and is filled with cool cafes, and a huge undercover market, with everything you’ll never need to buy and more. We really liked the Arts and Culture centre, a building with a similar architectural feel to the Guggenheim, with a huge exhibition dedicated to the King of Thailand, who had unexpectedly died in October 2016. It’s amazing how much creativity this resulted in, and he was clearly a bit of a rock star in his day.
From Bangkok, we fancied a total change of scene, and so visited Khao Yai National Park, in the hope of seeing Elephants and doing some walking. We were staying the most random place, as it was totally empty other than us, but the staff were super lovely. The national park is beautiful, filled with dense jungle, and one walk in particular to a look out, where you emerged into vast fields of grassland taller than me. On one walk we made a hasty retreat, because it was clear that there was no obvious marked route, and we had leaches trying to climb into our boots and trousers, which didn’t feel like the most Otis friendly activity, but the rest was amazing.
The town itself is pretty cool too. We visited a restaurant called Moosse several times. It could have been straight out of east London, with its design matching the quality of the food. But best of all, it was filled with wooden toys and vintage cars that the owners didn’t mind Otis playing with, which made for pretty relaxed evenings.
From the national park, we journeyed to Krabi, a town based on the banks of the river, and providing access to reach Railay, a location famed for its climbing. Krabi is quite a sweet town, with lots of café’s and well-designed hostels. The river banks fill with stalls each evening, selling some of the most amazing street food we have had. We hired a long boat to see the mangroves, with cliffs towering over us, and another day took a boat to Railay, where amazing beaches nestle amongst the same towering cliffs.
The scenery here is seriously stunning, although the place itself is more touristy than we’d become used to in Cambodia, and we were only there in rainy season. I can’t quite imagine it when it’s in the height of summer.
Our journeys to and from Railay were accompanied by young travellers, in awe of both our travelling journey to date, and Otis’s ability to sleep on a long boat. They were really sweet, although conversation focused on who could drink the most the night before, and the 20 activities they’d done that day made us feel our age a little.
Which brings me onto our final destination, Koh Lanta, staying in an amazing beach house for two weeks to celebrate my 40th birthday. Some surprise friends have arrived, the weather is good, and the fridge is stocked with sparkly. Plans for yoga and free diving have been announced, and the rest is still to come. You get asked a lot, when you’re turning 40, whether your life has panned out in the way you wanted it to. Travelling the world with my husband and young baby, and spending our days seeing amazing things is beyond my wildest dreams of what I’d be doing and I couldn’t be happier.
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