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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

19 December 2010

Lucky charm

18th December 2010

We left Bangkok on the 5:55AM train and headed for the Cambodian border. Research on the internet and in guidebooks suggested we were in for an irksome day – tales of a thousand touts and a hundred scams at what was described as a “nightmare” border crossing.

We got off the train. A tuk-tuk tuk us the 6kms to the border. We walked through Thai immigration, were directed to Cambodia immigration, got our visa stamped and walked out. A free shuttle bus took us to the bus terminal, where we opted for a taxi rather than a bus to Battambang. We arrived at the right hotel nice and early; 3PM. What’s all the fuss? The tuk-tuk did take us first to a tout offering visas, but we said we had them already and he waved us on.

It was the same with Bangkok. Again, internet forums and guidebooks provide rueful stories of scams and touts. A couple we met in Chiang Mai described being swamped by a veritable cloud of tuk-tuk drivers, standing in their faces on the kerbside so that they had trouble seeing their way to cross the road. Watch out for touts at Hualamphong station, the book says. Beware of touts at the Grand Palace the forumites agree. We’ve been to the station three times and not been hassled once.

It’s my lucky charm, you see. Maureen. She may be feeling like a parrot from constant repetition of “sorry, I only speak English” but it seems that unlike waiters in restaurants who are serving us anyway, touts take one look at a farang with a probably-Thai-girl in tow, and ignore us both!

Bangkok is still a city that I find low on charm. The food is good and cheap, but there seems to be no structure to the place, it’s a warren of endless, faceless, grimey modern concrete – both low rise and high rise – and the districts we’ve seen look pretty much interchangeable.

Give me Kathmandu any day… okay, maybe that’s going too far. But Nepal’s stinky capital will probably brush up better with the rose-tinting of years, whereas Bangkok just leaves me with a very ambivalent “meh”.

And yes, Maureen has already been addressed twice in Khmer by friendly Cambodians. “Sorry, I only speak English!”

I walk around in an icebreaker t-shirt, hippie jeans, teva sandals and no make-up – might as well have “backpacker” tattooed on my forehead. So it is distressing to be mistaken for “one of those girls” anyway. When I explained “sorry, I only speak English” to a taxi driver, his colleague said “blahblah Filipino” to him, which has exactly the same connotation! Ironically, the one place where I wasn’t mistaken for a local was when we wandered through Patpong, Bangkok’s notorious red-light district. Here, girls with thighs the size of my arm in very short black dresses and inch-deep makeup perch on barstools or flock outside neon-spangled sex show joints. Every farang man seem to be paired up with a Thai girl and even Matt was offered a Pussy Menu when I strayed a few feet from his side.


2 Responses to “Lucky charm”

  1. Dave says:

    A pussy menu and a bag of deep fried grasshoppers, can life get much more seedy?

  2. Jane says:

    LOL! You guys are loosening up a lot! I love this blog more every day! And you 2 ROCK.

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