20-24 September 2011
After my tour in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, I had a few days left in Bangkok to explore and enjoy myself. I moved from the Bangkok Centre Hotel to a hotel on road parallel to Khao San Road. I know when you’re backpacking in Asia, you should be spending your nights in a hostel bed for a couple of pounds, but when I found a very reasonably priced hotel room, with an en-suite, a double bed and breakfast, I decided to indulge.
I pretty much where I spent the rest of my time on Khao San Road, wandering along the strip, gazing at the stalls and stopping off at restaurants and bars, for plenty of Chang beer. I took the opportunity to stock up on jewellery, bags, gifts and beer t-shirts at the market and back at the MBK mall.
Near MBK was a couple of cinemas and I decided to make the most of my time in Thailand by spending an entire afternoon in them for a double headed: Friends with Benefits and Johnny English 2. Thankfully, they were both in English with Thai subtitles. It wasn’t a choice I regretted. It was also interesting to see cultural differences in the audiences reactions to the film. Whilst I do have a good chuckle to Johnny English, I was surprised to hear my fellow cinema-goers in absolute fits of laughter. I felt myself enjoying the film more for it, as I got caught up in the atmosphere.
I finally reached the stage where I was keen to get out of the city and make the most of the little time I had left in Asia. I booked a day with a travel agent I found during my explorations to visit the Floating Market, the Bridge on the River Kwai and Tiger Temple.
Although I had already done my shopping, I enjoyed boating around the Floating Market, dodging other boats and peeking at the shops on either side of the water, after all, however often do you see a market you have to sail around?
Afterwards, we had a stop off at a place which housed a few animals, in slightly small cages. I also found a snake show, where a charmer got up close with a cobra, which he later brought into the audience before setting it up to fight a ferret. I have to say, I felt pretty uncomfortable. When I first saw the box with the ferret in, I thought it must just be there in case the snake got out of hand. Then the performers put them in the box together and tried to encourage them to fight. They obviously did not want to. Thankfully I soon had to leave.
A minibus took our group to the Bridge on the River Kwai, where the Death Railway crossed the river. The original bridge was destroyed but later rebuilt and is now frequented by visitors, who can come and see it and learn about the prisoners of war who died constructing the 258-mile railway under the orders of the Japanese army.
On route from the bus to the bridge, we found an advertisement for a local safari park. The advert involved handlers and a couple of baby leopards, which passers-by could feed for a small fee. It was probably one of my happiest moments, cradling a cub as it sucked on a bottle of milk.
Our final stop was at Tiger Temple, where we could have our pictures taken with a group of tigers and even play with a baby one. Most of the tigers were sleeping in the sun, although one was starting to get a little rowdy and we were told to stay away so it could settle down.
At the time, I was completely overwhelmed with delight but, in hindsight, I don’t know whether it was a good idea or not. There is controversy over whether tigers are drugged in such places and I just couldn’t tell if that was the case here. At the temple itself, refuged tigers lived alongside monks, so I’d hope they are well looked after.
There were other animals as well, including bears, cows and water buffalo. At one point, one start running across the ground, as we all dodged out of its way. At another, I’d turned back to go and see the tigers again and staff started shouting at me- one tiger was being brought through for a walk and I needed get out of its way.
At the end of the day, we had the option of getting in a cage and watching the tigers play. I didn’t take up this offer, which turned out to be a good thing as it overran and one of our group got left behind!
All too soon, I was left with one day left in the city before it was time to fly to England and head back to university. In the morning, I decided to get an infamous Thai massage. I’d never had a massage before of any kind and I thought this would be jumping in at the deep end. I’d heard they could be painful but, y’know, when in Thailand. I wouldn’t say mine was relaxing but it actually wasn’t too bad. I then met up with some people from my tour group who had also stayed in Bangkok for a little while. We spent yet more time shopping on Khao San Road, drinking Chang and feasting on the pancake stands. They also wanted Thai massages themselves, so I joined them for my second of the day. This was one was tougher but, strangely, actually more relaxing and I left feeling like all my muscles had been worked out. It was the perfect way to spend my last day in Asia.