Don’t have a Khao, San

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Hey look! People!

After nearly two months in off season India I was beginning to doubt if there were other travelers in the world. I think I can probably count the number of non Indian people I met on both hands. Didn’t actually meet any British people (not that I have a particular preference for my own countrymen, just thought it was weird).

If there is anywhere in the world that can cure a traveler of these doubts, it is Khao San road, Bangkok. This place is basically every backpacker cliché you can think of in one short street. If you have a hankering for street side massages, knock off goods (trust me, not worth it, I must have tested at least 20 pairs of earphones that didn’t work before I gave up), a brand new set of dreadlocks and a few buckets of beer then you should hang out here. If you have slightly more discerning tastes than that by all means come here for the cheapest accommodation in Bangkok, and then get the hell out during the day. Or night. Or any time you’re not asleep.

Having said ‘more discerning tastes’ I’m not sure I can really explain away my first night in Bangkok. I had mentioned vague plans to meet the group again when I left in Nepal, but since making some sneaky emails to the tour leader I hadn’t told many people that I was going to be staying in the same guest house as them on the same day they arrived, so after checking out of my airport hotel and finding Khao San road I was met with many excited squeals and hugs (aww, I feel loved). The squeals were quickly replaced by horror as I revealed quite how little alcohol I had consumed since I’d been away, and the group made no delay in getting me back on the booze as soon as I sat down for lunch.  That evening someone – I don’t really remember who gets the blame here – decided that as we were in Bangkok it would be a crime not to a) meet at least one ladyboy and b) go to a ping pong show. After several drinks on Phat Pong road (somehow even more seedy than Khao San) with a lovely young lady we decided to call Malcolm, we ended up in this classy establishment:

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Well. It was educational. I feel ashamed that I have never learned to perform such feats with the natural gifts I was born with. It turns out that ping pong shows involve more than just firing ping pong balls at the audience. These girls can also blow darts at balloons, open bottles (and we’re not talking screw caps here), smoke cigarettes and pull long flower banners out of… not thin air.

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And no, this delightful welcome message was not written by hand.

Although there was some disappointment from the group we decided to round off the night with a club instead of a ladyboy show. I think there’s only so much novelty genitalia I can take in one evening.

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The next day was a far more sober affair, partly because I had added a lovely sore throat to my cold by singing off key all night. We went on a morning trip to the snake farm (after getting horrendously ripped off by the Taxi Mafia – note: NEVER get a taxi from Khao San road, walk a few roads out and find someone willing to use the meter), and arrived just in time to see the snake handling show. This is the second largest snake farm in the world after one in Brazil, and is used by the Thai red cross to create all the anti venoms needed for the most venomous snakes in Asia. Yes, the most venomous snakes that these Thai guys were happily waving round a crowded amphitheatre. After the show they brought out a (thankfully non venomous but extremely heavy) Burmese python to pose for photos with us. First up was a tiny girl who just have been about 4 and about a quarter of the size of the snake. By the time the snake for draped around my shoulders I became convinced that this girl was actually the hulk in disguise.

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On the snake farm we learned that snakes are grown on trees. Very  educational stuff, but fairly obvious if they’re being farmed. What, did you think they were pulled out of the ground?

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This is my favourite snake. Want to know why?

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Because he had the most awesome Latin name. Oh yeah.

That evening I had a craving for good street food so we headed down to the night market in Chinatown for various nibbles costing about 40p each. Of course I’ve done my usual trick of having no idea what day it was and showed up on a Sunday when the market was tiny, but it was still great food and definitely a must visit when I come back here.  I’ve only had a day and a half here, but I’m coming back to Thailand at least once, probably twice if I carry on insisting on not flying, so I’m sure this won’t be my last time in Bangkok. (Which means I don’t have to feel bad about not seeing a single temple yet)

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The nice thing about not being an official member of the group any more is that even though I get to join then for a couple of great nights, I’m not tied to their plans. After some umming and ahhing I made some very last minute bookings on the third day and suddenly disappeared for an overnight bus and a ferry to Ko Tao. I’ll probably see people again soon, but for now I’m off to enjoy 6 days of trying to remember how to scuba dive on a beach resort in the tropical sunshine. Not half bad for a snap decision.

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