In search of the giants

Mo, a small yet resilient woman, lead us through the thick jungle. Wielding her long and sharp machete, she sliced away the lower hanging branches and the bushes taking over the path. Swiftly and without sound she paced on whilst her head moved in all directions. She was using all the senses she was gifted with flew over the paths carrying the eager of a kid on exploration. Then in sudden freeze, she’d bring us to a halt and hold her hand up to say both “quiet” and “listen”. The ground shook at sporadic beats. I held my breath out of intensity awaiting the stomp to come. BoomBoom… With every shake I felt the presence of something huge. Something of immense size. Moments afore, we had stood inside the footprints left by this creature causing the vibrations. A quiet shiver glided over my back as my eyes gazed through the jungle. Going off of the sounds, we knew surely that it was close. They were close. A whole bundle of it. Excitement grew, placing my mind in those of the explorers of Skull Island, awaiting the appearance of King Kong. But nonetheless, despite size and proximity, the thickness of the jungle had them well hid.

Read more

A bash in Bangkok

A capital over-flooding with traffic that peak hours cause overwhelming traffic jams bringing the whole city to a hold with taxi rates inflating. Smog is now the air you breathe. Popular streets are crawling with people. Stands and stalls and drivers and vendors everywhere, actively selling you stuff that you most likely do not need. Food at the ready wherever you go. With the slightest downfall, streets are filled with a lingering river of rainwater. Music bounces through the thick, humid air amassing the tourists as a single dancing crowd. Bangkok, A city where sex sells and alcohol flows.

Whether this sounds like your worst nightmare or a paradise of debauchery, if you have been to Bangkok and thought it to be dull, you haven’t truly experienced it. Often, I am the advocate of quiet towns, breaking free of the crowd and being away from the noise. But these nights, we jumped right into it. We found ourselves wandering around in the AM with a glass too tall and too many munching away on what seemed to be a fried cricket and maggot before hopping onto separate reckless Grab motorbikes. We flew over the near empty roads as our chauffeurs did all but obey the laws, flying over bumps and shooting through the lights illuminating the road in red. We cackled in the wind and blessed the drivers for their speedy drop-off before ambling back to our hidden hostel. The day before, we danced in the rain, flopping our slippers through the stream of rainwater and shuffled with the crowd. Laughed at the wristbands and shirts with lewd words on them and sipped the cheap cocktails – seemingly more sweet than alcoholic. These streets were filled with smiles and joy and it was a blessing to for a day be part of it.

On days of sobriety, we scuttled to the many temples and did all the tourists are meant to do in Thailand (apart from anything elephant related). We even got a Thai massage from a parlor hidden away, thus we knew, with the lacking of an active salesperson, to be getting the real deal – no surprises. We cruised wet markets and food markets and the exclaimed largest market there was. Admittedly and without loss of face the Baht flew as fast out of our wallets as it came sliding from the ATM. A cutesie souvenir here, a new accessory there and double the lunches.

Then we changed residency and moved to a cosier accommodation shockingly bargained. Heck, our surroundings were of fancy restaurants and apartments with hefty price tags filled with businessmen. And in between we sat, at an incredibly comfortable room bearing a price budget-traveller-friendly. We loved it, though it meant long walks to get in range of the affordable diners. When the evening came, we ambled the pink streets with bare women tipping about and signs luring you in with a witty, slight offensive joke. The ordeal was a bewitching, short alley for the businessmen as they came in packs feasting like ants on a syrupy picnic. We, however, knew to leave with a pace as the flirty ladies were touchy and the men in the back had stares of dollar signs.

In short; Bangkok had it all and within the downward of a week we had, we attempted to experience as much of it as we could would want to. Bangkok was fun. Not simply for the visit and a picture or the sights, but the full package. Bangkok brings the true experience.

A (dreadful) journey into Thailand

At the airport near Amsterdam, the haul of hell to come had shaped its form through the airline Lufthansa declining my attempt at checking in due to a lack of proof of exit. Naive me had been cocksure that, similar to the precedent visit, no one were to bother controlling and thus clueless I marched the queue-less counter as I waved my passport. Soon after, my lady on the other side of the world armed with a laptop and I on my handy, scavenged the web for the cheapest exits possible. After all, it was unsure were I to actually depart on the particular date. Thank heavens then, when we found a bus hauling tourists over the border for a bargain of a price.

Fast forward through the weeks of apartment-sitting, meeting up with old and new local friends, a trip to KL and catching up with a mate under the comfort of drinks in a familiar town and then a final gloom gaze into the apartment. A period that had flown by followed by the final footsteps ticking on the floor of a place we called home as I exit one last time. Out of the premises and into the Grab taking me to the pick-up point where the journey away from home and into travels will commence. Fully aware of it being an excruciating long one, I had been more than slightly discontent with the humid heat striking onto backpack-wearing me causing an already drizzle of sweat to soak my shirt. But the heat is a fight fought on the daily in these harsh countries.

A minivan spurted passed and stunted into a halt before letting me board. A handful of foreigners greeted me and within the hours I learned that I was the only one with a drive into the double digits. What did I get myself into, I wondered, as the distance between Bangkok and I crawled shorter.

As a weary and lost bundle of people we made our way through customs and a hint of anxiety hung on our shoulders. Fortunately, the procedure had gone swift and smoothly and moments after the van was burning rubber on the potholed road of Thailand. A country massively distinct from the country of take-off and it filled my belly with an enticing excitement. The hour we drove to my stop I therefore spent glaring out of the window and at all that we passed by. After manoeuvring myself out of the van, the driver seated me into a wobbly, plastic garden chair for the hour to come. From this point on I would be the sole foreigner and from here I could join the locals within a double-decker carrying a blessed a/c. Now was the start of a dreadful ride passing the fifteen hour mark of head-bobbing, neck-breaking positions and constant switching of positions.

Then, at last, finally, the driver announces the arrival in Bangkok and my miserable joints get their longed for stretch as I stumble out of the vehicle. A crowd of vendors and taxi’s swarmed like seagulls hunting for food on a sunny day and I pushed myself away from the inflated rates and into the lobby. Although the ride had ended and the soil underneath me belonged to Bangkok, I was far from a shower and warm bed. What awaited me was a cruise to the airport followed by some hours of loitering and a tiresome embrace with Kath, who’d land some hours after my arrival. What was perhaps the least enthusiastic reunion followed by yet another hours-long drive into the city for the search of our hidden hostel located in one of the alleys minutes walk from Khao San Road. There, though asked to wait before entering our room, my body screamed relief as they allowed me into the showers. We were back, back into travels and it felt exhausting and exhilarating. Up next, we were to explore touristy Bangkok.