Train to Hue (Pronounced Who-Ayyyyy) – Ben

After the madness of Hanoi, we were looking forward to moving onwards and seeing the rest of Vietnam, we could only hope our next place would be far more relaxed than the mad house that is Hanoi. After our positive experiences of Thai train travel it seemed obvious we would get the night train.

RIMG0083

Me and my beautiful cabin!

We got a taxi to the train station which looked like a shabby piece of Soviet architecture (As far as architecture goes, it seems like the Vietnamese sent a spy into Russia to steal plans for there infrastructual buildings and in his covert madness he only found the plans for the Soviet rejects [In all seriousness, it seems that as they were communist friends the Soviet Union must have cast a few plans there way when they were trying to rebuild after the war, its the same with all the war graves too they have the same feeling.]) We headed inside the train station, it was not like Hua Lamphong in Bangkok, there was no information desk, no word of english anywhere. Why we expected to have our hands held through the process I don’t know but either way, buying a ticket of any sort was going to be an ordeal.

It was like a butchers in the supermarket when you get a number from some wheel and eventually your number gets called. We headed to the desk when eventually our number was called, there were some Vietnamese in front of us and an equally confused Italian couple behind us. When our turn came we babbled away untill the lady at the desk (who was very patient with us) understood what it was we were after (2 2nd class sleeper tickets to Hue [pronounced Who-Ayyyyy]). She signalled to us, that all we could get was 3rd class hard sleeper tickets.

This was fine, we jumped on the tickets and that was that. However, we were apprehensive about what we had booked, what exactly is a hard sleeper and why was it 3rd class, we could only think of the worst, it was definately situated amoungst the battery hens and horse boxes at the very back of the train located as far away from human contact as possible. We were Nervous.

Our train was booked for the next day so we carried out our Hanoi business untill we needed to get to the station.

Hanoi train station has 2 platfroms and they not as you would imagine, next to each other, our train was leaving from platform b, we arrived very early and hung about waiting to be called, we met and chatted to some Irish girls for a while and 2 of them went for a ciggerete. When they returned they looked flustered and told us our train was leaving from the other platform in a matter of minutes. so the 6 of us threw our bags on and ran across the track (which looked like something from Sodor Island [not often you can reference Thomas the Tank Engine in your diary now is it?]) and found the train sitting smugly on the other platform, our luck had not run out.

When climbing aboard the train we said goodbye to the irish girls who had bagged themselves 2nd class sleepers and feared the worst. I was ready to climb in with the chickens and I said to myself ‘at least I wont be cold tonight’ and climbed aboard anyway. Once again we were greeted with a train in great condition, we were in a cabin of 6 and yes for a tall guy like me it was a little cramped, but you get used to that. there were 2 stacks of 3 beds and you could only lie in your bed, which for 15 hours is not easy. However, it was great, not a single farm animal in sight again! Our cabin was full of students going home for Têt (Chinese New Year) and was a comfy place to catch up on my Pokemon game and get some sleep.RIMG0082

We woke in the morning, fairly well rested and in time for our stop, but as ever on south east Asian transport we were late. This was fine, we were in no rush, but we had no idea what stop we were at or when we should get off. Luckily we befrended a man in our cabin, he was from further south than we were headed and was on his way home from university. He spoke fairly good english and we wondered what he was studying and it was only when he began to speak about ‘marsupials and there habitats’ that we deducted it was nature and bioligy relataed, he was doing a PHD looking specifiacally at reptiles and amphibans and he had been on trains for 3 or 4 days from the north of China, he was looking pretty wide awake considering, that is a very long train journey. He told us when our stop was and aslo gave us some tips about Hue (pronounced Who-Ayyyyy) as he had spent time working there when he was younger, he was just another example of Vietnamese people and there great hospitality, conversational skills and just plain genuine kindness. Without his help we would have ended up in Saigon.

Thanks reptile man!

Hanoi…. the Land of Shoes – Caroline

Drinking Vietnamese coffee on the street, they drink it with condensed milk here, which is a little strange but you get used to it!

We decided to fly from Bangkok to Hanoi with Vietjet, it was cheap, quick and we could get a visa on arrival. We had already applied for our visa through an online company and had them all ready to present (this cost a little more I think but was pretty straight forward). The flight was fine, comparable to flying Ryan Air at home (rustic and gets you from a to b). The seats were the biggest problem for Ben as there really wasn’t any leg room. There was probably half the leg room you would have on a Ryan air flight (legs round neck), it was a short flight so we just bought a beer and suffered it. We did not realise that this was a very good indication of what was to come in Vietnam.

When we arrived we were ushered through to the visa on arrival desk and we paid our 50 dollars and 15minuets later we had our visas and made our way to collect our bags. With our hostel there was a free Airport pick up, (which was really useful as the airport is a fair distance from town) and the man was waiting with a wee bit of paper with our names on when we walked through the gate. He ran and got the car (which was a mini bus) and we jumped in an drove the 40 minutes to our hostel. This was to be our first impression of Vietnam roads…..we were speechless.

Arriving at our hostel (white and a little sick from our white knuckle ride) we were to find that it was the wrong one. The same company but the sister hostel we were staying at was a short 2 min walk. We were told to stay put and someone would be to collect us shortly. Through door bursts this young 18 year old boy very eager to take us, he picks up my bags and takes off down the road leaving me and Ben running behind. To help you understand the full comic value I will paint the picture for you. It is 8pm at night and dark outside, there are street lights though and lots of light coming from the shops and restaurants that spill out on to the pavements. In Hanoi there really is no pavement as the shops, restaurants and people eating take up all the room forcing you to walk on the road. This wouldn’t be a problem if you could see the road let alone fit on to it. It is filled, and I mean Filled with scooters, motor bikes, push bikes, hawkers (people selling food they carry) and the odd car. The traffic seams to move as one and just toots it horn…all the time. You have to just be as pushy as them if you want to walk or cross (this is scary as you don’t have an engine or horn and can lose my legs). Our man has ran off among all the traffic and we are struggling to keep up, I am holding on to Ben for dear life and almost closing my eyes. It seems like we will never make it there alive, I am having images of Vietnamese hospitals and wondering if they give morphine there and before I know it we are there….thank god! He shows us to our room and it is lovely, it has a balcony. We drop our stuff and lie back on the bed, our ears are filled with the hustle and bustle and  nonstop horns of Hanoi. It was the sound track to Vietnam, we weren’t complaining, that was what ear plugs are for.

One of many street side Pho stalls

We stayed 3 nights in Hanoi, which in hindsight was a little to long. We did literally do everything though. We went to the lake and the temple in the middle, the prison and the temple of literature which were all thoroughly enjoyable and very worthwhile (the use of our student cards came in very handy by dropping the price dramatically). The best bit for me was when it came to meal times (those of you who know will probably not be surprised to hear this) though not for the obvious reasons. The food was not the best I have tasted on the trip but it was certainly entertaining. Trying to find a restaurant that serves food in our price range was near impossible as they are all for westerners with much deeper pockets. We were forced (I say that lightly as we were very eager) to eat like the locals on small tables and chairs on the pavement. This was very funny as poor ben looked like a giant trying his best to not fall off the chair meant for a 5 year old. The locals laughed along with us and I think admired our enthusiastic spirit. Often we had no idea what we were getting, we would just sit down and smile as a lady spooned a soup with no descriptive meat into a bowl and placed it in front of us finishing with the biggest smile you have seen. We had no choice but to give it our best, it turned out to be called Pho and wasn’t bad once you got passed the weird meat. We ate this at least once a day and we were very satisfied.

Ben's Reheeled Shoe

Ben’s new Michelin heel

My final highlight of Hanoi brings me back to the title, Hanoi…the land of the shoes. When I say this I am not exaggerating, I have never seen so many shoes in all my life. By the river lining every street for miles is shoe shops selling every type of shoe you could ever want or need. We were taking a wander looking for camera shops so were not at all interested in this shoe bazar. Ben gets stopped by a man trying to take his shoe off saying “hello sir, you need heel”. Although Ben was saying no and trying to move away, the man was too quick for him and had his shoe off in no time. He brought out some glue and a some rubber (we later found out tyre rubber) and was gluing a heel on to Ben’s £6 sports direct espadrille. Ignoring Ben’s constant “no thank you” and “please I don’t need a sole” cry’s. He carries on and to add insult to injury brings out a tiny blue flip flop so he can rest his foot on the ground. Feeling like a right fool Ben turns to me and says “Well I’m not paying for this”. Meanwhile I am being attacked from every angle from hoards of street sellers selling everything from trainer socks to lighters that light using a match. Once the man had finished on his left shoe he started on his right explaining that it will be much more comfortable with the car tyre he was gluing on and would with no doubt improve the shoe no end (absolute rubbish). He finished by trying to charge £30 for his handiwork, luckily we were not so silly as to fall for this and after much argument Ben paid him £2.50 and walked away. It was a quarter of the price for the shoe but in my opinion priceless entertainment. Needless to say we will be keeping our shoes firmly on our feet from now on.

Hanoi was a mad place that we felt quite pleased to be leaving, maybe it was because we stayed to long or maybe we weren’t ready for the hard ruthlessness of the streets or sometimes the people. Either way it didn’t seem to capture our hearts but it is definitely a must see, but maybe only for a couple days.

Back To Bangkok

So we arrive in Bangkok after our 16 hour train journey get on the metro at Hua Lamphong station and start our journey to the hostel (a piece of advise to anyone in Bangkok that I can’t state enough use the sky train and underground network it will save you time, stress and hassle).
We had to change onto the sky train at Silom station, we came out onto the overpass to a roar of whistles… of course, we had stumbled upon the anti-government protests. The noise was unbelievable the protesters had set up on the main Silom crossroads and blocked traffic for miles each way.

Everyone was doused in Thai colours and flags it was a lot to take in, there were people dressed up as politicians performing physical theatre on a massive stage (one that would be at home at major U.K festival) with a furiously loud sound system that echoed for miles through Silom and the surrounding districts. This is a big anti-government operation and all one can ask is who is funding all this? Either way the locals are passionate but seeming to have fun, there is a great carnival atmosphere and not one of contempt or anger, this is the definition of a peaceful protest. We are lucky to see this although we don’t really fit in, we don’t understand what the revoloutionaries shouting on the stage and causing the crowd to go wild are saying, what it means or its ramifications. We also have our massive backpacks on and are not wearing Thai colours (which are red, white and blue [why do so many countries use red, white and blue… I can think of a lot, Great Britain, U.S.A, Thailand, Cambodia, France, Holland, Norway… the list goes on.]) All I know is that with such a great atmosphere the could be saying anything and I would have believed it hook, line and sinker.

Riot
After we managed to drag ourselves away from the noise and comotion we hopped back on the train and found our stop, down the stairway we came and we were instantly lost, for an hour we searched the streets untill we found our hostel hidden down the tiny side road of an already small Soi. We were exhausted, We ate, then slept in Bunkbeds (I always have the top bunk, me and my brother used to share bunkbeds and I always had the the top so I am well rehearsed in bunk bed etiquete).
Today we woke up positive, we had to be at the airport for 2 and it took about an hour on the skytrain to get there, so we had ages.. we thought. We needed to print our visas which we thought would be easy. Finding a printer in Bangkok is similar to trying to find onions in a sweet shop, we probed siam untill we had no options left, we asked person after person and as time drifted away we got increasingly worried, eventually Caroline forced us into a fancy restauraunt (which admittedly i thought was a ridiculous idea) and low and behold there was Bangkoks holy grail, a beautiful gold encrusted and diamond embelished Hewlett Packard Printer, it was low on ink,
but there were our vietnamese visas in all there glory, we could just make out our confirmation number amidst the ink lines so we were happy, we celebrated with McDonalds….

They love a McDonalds in Bangkok, and Subway, except inside they sell Thai specials like fried noodles with egg on top and strange things like that, but all over the world the culture defining big mac remains unchanged, soggy, but beautiful!
We grabbed our bag and made it onto the sky train, an hour later we were at the Vietjet desk and through security (if you can call it that) in no time.
Next Stop Vietnam.

Day Train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok – Ben

Me and the GameboyAfter our time in Chiang Mai we decided not to travel to Laos as it just simply was not practical for our onward travel and would leave us at a dead end with a closed set of options for onward travel.
Because of this we decided we would get the train back down to Bangkok and fly to Hanoi in Vietnam from there.
We were dreading Bangkok, after our first trip there we had decided we did not like it, it felt like an angry lumbering giant in comparison to the small city standards of Chiang Mai (which we had quickly settled into!).
We arrived at Chiang Mai train station and tried to sort our night train (we loved the night train, it was so easy and by far the most practical way of making that journey), the man at the desk quickly and politely disappointed us, showing us with broken English and using the timetables to show us that there were no night train seats available for the next few days.
Nightmare, we were stuck in Chiang Mai, after a few moments thought however, we realised we could get a day train, we approached the man once again, not quite as confident this time, he checked his computer and TaDa! Two second class seat tickets were being printed for the next day (a 12 hour train journey leaving at 7.45 am). It wasn’t the journey we were looking for but nonetheless it was a journey that would get us from A to B or in this case C(haing mai) to B(angkok).
The morning of the train came and went, seamlessly we appeared to be approaching the carriages we climbed the steps stowed our bags and sat in our seats, there was plenty of legroom which seems to be unusual in Asia, they don’t seem to have people as tall as me here or at least the people that design seating usually seem to be of smaller descent and think “who actually uses that extra legroom anyway”. Caroline sat in her chair and the recline button was loose stopping her from being in any form of comfort, I stepped up to the plate and offered to take the seat, I managed to fashion a medieval style wedge (Ray Mears style [although I’m not sure how often Ray Mears has fixed a train seat {maybe a different simile would work better}])….(James Bond style [but far dirtier and less savvy]) and moderate comfort resulted.
However, after all this it turns out we were in the wrong seat, in the wrong carriage, we had sat in third class, which honestly we though was fine, there were none of the promised wild animals clambering all over my person or people swarming my belongings trying to steal everything I possessed, It was just full of people wanting to go to Bangkok, just like myself. Anyhow, we moved up the train to second class which was much the same except a little cleaner, a different colour and came with a free red bean bun (whatever that is.. in the words of Ern ‘Don’t ask just eat’).
The train was excellent, delayed by 4 hours, but we are in South East Asia, being late is the only thing you can count on.

Caroline and her trashy novel

CHIANG MAI AND THE TREK….. – Caroline

I have grouped these two things together as I feel that the trek that we did really was the highlight of our time in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is a lovely place, it is very different from Bangkok in that it is much quieter. There is nowhere near as much traffic, noise or people. There is however many more tourists and about the same number of western fast food joints. There is a Burger king, McDonalds and KFC all within walking distance of each other. I shouldn’t complain too much as Burger King saved our hangover bacon when nothing else was open to soak up our alcohol after a few to many bottles of Chang. It wasn’t chips and cheese but it did the job.

We got picked up the morning after arriving in Chiang Mai by a pick-up truck with a roof. We were the last to be picked up and there were already 8 people aboard (2 in the back seat and 6 in the open pick up) so there was just enough room for me and Ben to squeeze on. We were introduced to our guide who was called Sam and seemed like a funny fellow. He told us the plan for the day and that first we would drive for 40 mins to a market outside town and buy some things and we could use the toilet (another score for toilets of the world probably).Before we knew it we were off, all the people on the truck seemed really nice. There was a father and a daughter from Belgium, two German girls, two French girls and a French man and his Portuguese wife. We got chatting to the French man and Portuguese woman and they told me they lived in Scotland, Perth to be precise! I couldn’t believe it! They owned a restaurant that I had been to and knew some of the same people that I did, It really is a small world. True to Sam’s word after 40 mins we arrived at a local market, it was a quick stop for Sam to buy some things for our dinner and we were back on the truck again. It was an hour’s drive up windy roads into the mountains until we reached the elephants.

We arrived at the first part of our trip, elephant riding. I had been excited to do this even before I got to Thailand. Not realising that in practise it wasn’t exciting, just pretty cruel and damn right scary. We waited for about 45 mins watching lots of  excited people get on the elephants and trundle away with big smiles, cameras and bags of Banana and sugar canes (you could buy these for 40TB {80p} from a lady before you get on). The elephants looked tired and dusty but in not bad condition considering the circumstances. We both decided that it could be a lot worse, it wasn’t until we saw an elephant playing with barbed wire that we had great cause for concern. There was no time to ponder as in a flash we were ushered to the front and guided on to our elephant. Once on Ben say’s in a loud voice “ooooh it feels a bit like a testicle” before I had time to shush him the elephant was going mad! He was trumpeting and stomping around (I think we was expecting to have a break and instead was lumbered with Ben and me). The elephant handler started shouting at him but with no avail the elephant was pretty adamant. Meanwhile we are holding on for dear life and wishing we had paid the lady 80TB for some Bananas. We look down and the man is hacking at the elephants legs with a pick axe, and the poor elephant was making the most awful noise. We were not enjoying it at all and we had barely left the starting point. We spent the next half an hour clinging on and feeding the elephant bananas (we bought some from the lady as soon as we could) while the man hacked and used stones in a sling shot to keep the elephant moving. It was not enjoyable and I wouldn’t recommend it. Once our feet were firmly on the ground we fed our elephant all the bananas and sugar cane he could eat. He did have a break after us and went to the water and sprayed himself, he looked as happy as he could be when we left him. Still, what a life eh!Our very unhappy elephant eating some tasty snacks

After lunch we started the hard bit, the trek. Our guide was at the front, handed us all a long stick and said we would probably need it as the first bit is steep. Boy was he right, it was very steep and in 30 degree heat was a total killer. We were all put through our paces, it was very hard. Poor Ben had been complaining of stomach pains since we left the elephants and the steep climb wasn’t helping. Back in the Uk Ben suffers from a bad tummy from time to time. This can be brought on by spicy food, rich food, oily food, battered food, nerves, a change of diet…basically there is no rhyme nor reason for it but when it happens he really shouldn’t be far from a toilet. So being half way up a mountain in Thailand is absolutely not where he wants to be when having his stomach problems. He holds out for a long way and I become increasing worried about him as the colour drains from his face and he looks like he might pass out. He signals to me to wait and we let everyone else pass ,making excuses that I need to get something out of my bag. I do need to get something out of my bag, toilet roll. Ben has disappeared behind a tree and I only have face wipes to give him. He uses them ad tells me he is being bitted alive by ants as he has disturbed an ant hill. This really couldn’t get any worse. Ben eventually appears looking shaken. He has the bites the size of Britain but he is feeling much better. Phew, time to catch up with the others and make our excuses.

We walked for 3 and a half hours (uphill) before we reached our next place. We stopped outside some houses on stilts and our guide Sam told us it was his village and he grew up here. The tribe was called the Karen tribe and was made up of about 40 families of Buddhist, Christian and animist. Everyone here was Burmese and illegal immigrants of Thailand, their land was borrowed from the Thai government. We were greeted by the people with waves and smiles, Sam lead us to his house and told us we were to stay with him tonight. He introduced us to his wife and family and showed us pictures of his eldest son who had gone off to train as a monk (a very proud moment thing for his family). We were all very tired and were happy of the chilled out vibes and ice box of beer we were to enjoy as his wife and him cooked us dinner. It was children’s day in Thailand, and we had seen children celebrating this in the city. Like mothers and father’s day at home, children’s day is a day that kids get gifts and celebrated. Here in the Karen tribe was no different, after our dinner we were to join the children at a fire and they would be singing songs and dancing. Sam had bought a few balloons for the children in the market so we blew them up so they were ready to handed out. Dinner was amazing and we ate with the group by candlelight. It was very humbling to see how the tribe lived, no electricity only fire, no real toilet or shower only a hole in the ground no bed as such and only a mosquito net to sleep under. For tonight we would be the same, we were all more than happy for these small luxuries. RIMG0203

After dinner the children all came down and built the fire, soon the whole village was there was we were listening to the children’s songs and entertainment, It was pretty amazing. when we gave the balloons their faces lit up. They were so happy and thanked us with a handshake and some a high five. It seemed like such a small offering but it was very much appreciated. We all went to bed feeling very tired after our long walk and slept like babies till the cockerel woke us at 5am.

Once we were all up and ate our breakfast of egg and fruit it was time to go back down the mountain and say goodbye to the friendly Karen tribe. The walk today was much easier and more beautiful, we seemed to be half way down in no time. We stopped at a waterfall to swim which was lovely as we had not had a shower and in the heat was very refreshing. Once we were at the bottom we were to do the last part of our trip, bamboo rafting. We got on the rafts in groups of 4 (we were with the German Girls which was nice as we had made good friends with them). I was at the front and ben was at the back and there was a 14 year old boy driving it. As soon as we got on we were soaked and were steered through small rapids down the river, It was a lot of fun. We were very wet by the end so we were glad to be getting in the truck to be going home (back to Chiang Mai). We arrived back to our hostel about 5pm and had a beer, we were exhausted but very happy. We had an amazing time and felt we really became part of Sam’s life, if even for a short time.

Night Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai – Caroline

RIMG0126We decided to head to Chiang Mai next, we had heard that it was very popular amongst backpackers (Ben had heard that you could hire a scooter), I had heard there was a giant night market, and we were both desperate to get out of Bangkok. We went to the train station to get tickets for the night train, surprise surprise they were all sold out. We were quickly ushered upstairs to a travel agent who told us they had tickets, if we bought our 2 night accommodation and a trek into the mountains. They were offering us the world, 4 star accommodation with a pool and a 3 night trek to see the Karen tribe with all food included, we couldn’t believe our ears. When we asked for the price we nearly fell off our seats, there was no way we could pay that, it cost more than a quarter of our budget….for the whole of Asia. Seeing our shocked faces and realising that we were not as flash as she had first realised (we must have been dressed smartly that day) she quickly brought out a much cheaper deal. This deal included a guest house accommodation, a 2 day trek with elephant riding and bamboo rafting and all for a fraction of the price, phew! All we wanted was a train ticket. When she went through what we were getting it seemed pretty reasonable and we were pretty ready to move on so we accepted and paid the money.

The next night it was time for the night train, this was our first one of this trip and we were very excited. We got to the station nice and early so we were nice and prepared. We were also a little worried that our tickets would not be legit as we had just bought them from some woman at the station. But we pushed away all doubt and let the excitement take over (which is quite a lot in Ben’s case as he LOVES trains and is from Jersey so spent many years without them and I think feels he need to catch up the missing years).

When we boarded the train there was a German couple in our carriage, they seemed really nice and we started chatting straight away. We learned that they were on a month holiday in Asia and they too had been scammed at every turn in Bangkok (at least we weren’t the only ones). They were a little miffed about the standard of the second class train as they had tried to book first class and been taken to a similar travel agent and sold a package. When they told us the price they paid we realised how lucky we were with our package and price and stopped complaining quite so much. The second class air conditioned train was bliss to us after the night we spent on the hardest bed ever at the Siam Classic hostel (I would not recommend this place if you want to sleep at all). A little man comes round about 9pm and pulls down the upper bunk on both sides of the carriage and makes up the beds (Which are really comfy). We chatted some more then went to bed, the motion of the train sent me straight off to sleep and I slept till an hour before we reached Chang Mai. Looking out the window when I woke up was amazing, the train went through lots of little villages that were just waking up and the people were starting there day. Collecting food and carrying it on their heads, washing children and lightning fires. I woke Ben up straight away and we sleepily watched the people go about their business as we approached Chiang Mai. All is all a wonderful experience and coupled with the fact it gets you from A to B I really would recommend it.

Bangkok summed up – Caroline

RIMG0110Bangkok is a crazy place (as I kept finding myself saying). From the first moment we stepped of the plane it was hard work, desperately trying to not get ripped off or scammed at every turn. Then succumbing to it and realising that it is kinda inevitable and choosing how and when you get ripped off makes life easier. We were staying in the backpacker district of the Kho San road, which I naïvely imagined would ease us into Bangkok life, I couldn’t be more wrong. We stayed on a road parallel to the notorious Kho san and our street was pretty chilled ( for Bangkok), it had a nice bar with live music and reasonably cheap beer across from our hotel. We sampled it on our first night and had a good few bottles of chang (a 6% strong thai beer, very nice) and listened to the chilli peppers and queen classics played on acoustic guitar by a Thai man with a very strong accent. Was really good fun and he was an amazing musician. fuelled with chang and feeling braver we ventured on the Kho San road….. it was mad!! It was like we had walked onto Newcastle big market, with drink fuelled westerns everywhere. The first bar on the street was called ‘very strong cocktails, we don’t check IDs ‘. Ok so there were Thai men an woman selling scorpions on sticks and an hour with a young lady of your choice which is not very Geordie authentic, but you get the idea. We did have an amazing night on this same street a few nights later, when we met Ben’s friend Ernie. He is a Thai guy from Bangkok so he took us to this club called brick bar, which we would have never found alone. It was an amazing experience, there was a ska punk band playing Thai classics and the crowd were loving it and singing along. It was much more our scene, we seemed to be the only non Thai people in there it was great fun! A far cry from the strong cocktails and scorpion sellers only a few metres outside. Bangkok wasn’t seeming all that bad anymore.

Trying to get a taxi the following morning (as we had been informed by Ernie that they were much cheaper than tuck tucks) was a nightmare! No one would use there metre and wanted a fixed price (which is a rip off). We settled for a tuck tuck and paid more than we should but we had no choice. At least he took us straight to the station and not to the dreaded gem shop (Ben’s on going Bangkok fear). It seemed that if you want to get a taxi or tuck tuck before midday prepare to pay more than you should or take a de tour to a local gem shop or tailor (we narrowly missed both of these joys). Getting around Bangkok from Kho san road is a struggle but once you get out of this area you can use the public transport like the metro or sky train and it couldn’t be easier. [get this from the airport, not a taxi] We stayed in 2 other parts of Bangkok, opposite the main train station and near the airport and both were much more enjoyable. The food was better, more variety and much cheaper too (there is only so much pad Thai you can eat).

China town is pretty amazing and has some lovely, less crowded temples. We saw the most expensive Buda in the world and he was very impressive. The temple was a very chilled place, amongst the hustle and bustle, hard to believe, but well worth it to take a moment.

Bangkok is certainly not for everyone but the longer I was there I started to understand it more. It is not somewhere i would rush back to in an instant but it does have a cool side to it. Impossible to fully chill there but great to see.

Watch out for the incredibly hard bed’s in some hostels and take a deep breath and walk steadily and confidently when crossing the road.You have to just go, waiting for a lull in traffic will mean waiting a long time. Alternatively wait for a monk or local person and cross with them, Or do as I did and grab on to your boyfriend and have him drag you across.