Thailand has been for me a beautiful country. Our planned route never worked out and we ended up experiencing a completely unexpected journey to almost deserted islands and the amazing Khao Sok National Park. Our few days spent in the jungle and on the rafthouses were absolutely awesome and definitely one of the highlights of our trip so far.
Bangkok remains my favourite city in the world, with fantastic shopping centres, spirit houses, wondrous temples, street vendors, cheap taxis, rip off designer gear, excellent transport system and millions of people it is a great place and I would recommend a visit to anyone.
After just over a month here, in some ways I feel like I know and understand the Thai people and their culture even less now than before we arrived here. The majority of people we have met have been friendly but despite our best attempts some of the people we have met have been really unfriendly and rude. As we have learnt our manners in Thai and used them on every occasion I can only assume that the famous Thai smiles have maybe become a bit jaded due to the numbers of “farang” that visit every year.
The majority of Thais are deeply religious and fervent royalists and we have seen evidence of this in every single town we have visited. We have been pleased to see less of the sex tourism side to Thailand but definitely think this is because we didn’t visit places like Pattaya. (We only had one night out in Patpong!) I read some books documenting stories of young women involved in prostitution in Bangkok and their stories make you realise that even a fairly innocent voyeuristic night out to gawp at the girlie bars actually just adds to the exploitation of these women and sometimes men and children.
Unfortunately or maybe fortunately we never made it to the north of Thailand. I’m sorry about this but on the other hand we now have a great excuse to return here in a few years time.
After a 5 hour bus ride today, we have finally arrived at the Thai/Cambodian border town of Aranya prathet. We have read reports that Poipet the border town on the other side is like the wild, wild east, so have decided to stay here for the night and cross the border in the morning when hopefully the numbers of people crossing into Cambodia will be less. We will be issued with a visa at the border; if everything goes smoothly it will cost us 80 US dollars. The US dollar is the most commonly used currency in Cambodia although the riel and Thai baht are also accepted in some places. The border guards are renowned for being corrupt and apparently the taxi service on the other side is run by the local mafia.
As Cambodia is still littered with landmines, poverty stricken and a somewhat lawless society where disputes are usually sorted out by gunshot, Maisie did ask in all seriousness why are we going there? Well I think she has a point, but despite all the scare stories violent crimes against foreigners are very rare and the lure of Angkor Wat is proving too great! We researched all our trip destinations very carefully and as always when moving to a new country checked the UK foreign office website for the latest travel information last night. We’re not scared just a bit apprehensive!
We stay in our room and Simon gets some food, a basic meal of rice, vegetables and green curry. After a very short hour of literacy, we watch the new Rocky Balboa film and as we have to be up at 6am its lights off by 10.