Monday, 24 March 2008

The next ten weeks: Part I

Time to drag this blog into the present...

13th -- 30th January: Two weeks (and a bit) in Thailand. We flew back to Bangkok from Phuket in the early morning of the 13th. Ant and I were met at the airport by Pie, even though we had expressly told him that he was to take some time off from his taxi-man role and not pick us up under any circumstances. A couple of hours before our arrival Pie had been at the airport to pick up his cousin Sandy and her mother, who live in America and had come over for his wedding. Sandy was to be one of our companions for the next week of adventures. In the afternoon Ant and I went to visit Luangpor and Tahn Manapo, who had just arrived from the UK. In the evening we met Sandy and Pie drove us all to the airport (for the 3rd time that day!) to pick up our old Warwick friend Peng, who had just arrived from Beijing. I remember Ant and I were in a bit of a strange mood -- possibly excited about seeing Peng -- and I'm not sure what Sandy could have made of us. She seemed nice enough about it later though. Another thing I remember about that trip was finding a rather amusing English phrase book for sale at the airport, with useful conversations such as (at the department store) "Sales Clerk, do you have any modern pajamas" and (at the beach) "Aren't you afraid of tsunamis John?". There was also a conversation about a petrol station attendant's skilled use of the pump which verged on the pornographic...

The next day a large group of us went for a trip up to Ayutthya, kindly arranged for us by Lyn. That is well documented on my photo-album so I won't say any more about it now. In the evening Ant, Peng, Sandy and I went out to Siam square for dinner. Somebody foolishly suggested som-tam (spicy Thai salad -- I think it was Peng), a decision which I regretted later that night and the next few days. It seemed my stomach didn't like the som-tam as much as my taste-buds had and around midnight it had started to feel as though my insides where burning. As I layed down and tried to get comfortable I felt the fire inside my belly slowly realign itself with the new direction of gravity, but with no diminuation of the pain. Needless to say there followed much vomiting and other forms of evacuation as my body tried to restore some order. The fact that the next morning was Pie's wedding and the festivities started at 3am did not help matters. My most vivid memory of the wedding day aside from those in the bathroom is of trying to escape from a downstairs room of Pie's house (to where Ant and I had been evicted following Sandy and Peng's arrival), through the central hall where celebrations were in full steam, and up to the safety of the bedroom -- all in my pajamas -- without being seen by the guests. If you actually want to know what happened in the wedding I suggest you read Ant's blog, unfortunately I don't have much of an idea...

However, by around 5pm my stomach pains were getting less severe, and the next morning I was well enough to make the flight up to Ubon Ratchathani in north east Thailand, for Ajahn Chah's memorial day. I went together with Ant, Peng and Sandy; Luangpor and Tahn Manapo had taken a flight the night before. We met Luangpor at his base at Wat Pah Nanachat before going to Wat Nong Pah Pong in the afternoon to join in the festival. There were an incredible number of people there -- thousands and thousands crammed into the temple grounds. It was a stunning sight, although I must admit I found the quieter tour of the temple I had a few days later more inspiring. I was still recovering from my illness the day before and was very easily tired, which might have had something to do with it.

In the next few days in Ubon we were given a guided tour of the area by Luangpor. On the 17th we went to Kao Phra Wihan on the border with Cambodia and Loas (actually just inside Cambodia, although separated from the rest of that country by a 200m cliff). On the 18th we visited Wat Keun, and on 19th Ant and I met up with Peter - one of Luangpor's supporters who lives in the area - and together we went to visit Ajahn Dang, one of Luangpor's old friends. Again, there are lots of photos of all this on Picasa. On the evening of the 18th the girls had flown back to Bangkok. Peng was heading to China on 20th so we were not to see here again :-(, Sandy was going for a few days in ChangMai. Ant and I went back to Bangkok on 20th.

Once back in Bangkok Ant embarked on the difficult task of seeing all the friends he has there before going back to England. Thus those few days were dominated by lunches, dinners and hectic rides through the centre of Bangkok between them. Ant flew back to the UK in the early morning of the 24th, less than 48 hours before his PhD viva (which he passed without correction, despite having not looked at his thesis for a second while in Thailand (what a scumbag)).

After Ant had left I had a few more relaxed days of not doing very much. The certification number I needed for my Korean visa had finally come through on 23rd, so I had a couple of visits to the Korean Embassy to apply for and pick up the visa. It turned out to be a very easy process -- I applied on Friday afternoon and received the visa on Monday morning. I did have a bit of a nasty scare when the official told me first of all that I had to return to England before I could apply for the visa... but I asked her to double-check and thankfully it turned out to be a mistake (based on new regulations brought in during December but which turned out only to apply to E2 type visas not the E3 type I was applying for, to give you an idea of how complicated the system is). In between embassy trips, at the weekend I went shopping for souvenirs, gifts and delicious dried mango in and around Jatujak market. On Sunday evening Luangpor and Tahn Manapo were heading back to England, and so I went with Pie to the airport to see them off.

Thus armed with visa, gifts and dried mango I was properly prepared for my return journey to South Korea. On my last day in Thailand I had the chance to meet up with Lyn and Noon one last time, and at 3am the next morning I said goodbye to Pie and Nun as they saw me off to the airport. By 6pm on 30th of January I was being greeted by Jin and her mother at Incheon Airport in Korea, and in a flash my five-weeks of travel around south-east Asia were over. Looking back on it now I'm very happy with how it all went. I was very lucky to see so many old Warwick friends (and some new ones) in such a short time, and with the help of Ant's fascism I certainly crammed a lot into those five weeks. A big thanks to all of my friends who helped give me somewhere to stay, guided tours, local information and above all good company. By the last week in Thailand I was looking forward to returning to Korea, reuniting with Jin, and starting my new work -- so I think five weeks was just the right length of time too. I hope I will have the chance to do it all again sometime, this time taking Jin with me!

1 comment:

Penguina said...


I miss Thailand, Marky!!