Saturday, January 07, 2006

6th Jan - Mahachai - Random City

I'm in a really crazy place tonight. I decided to leave Bangkok today despite not actually having enough time. I was really nervous about starting - especially cycling through Bangkok. I had to get to a rather random train station. I gritted my teeth and coated myself in luminous clothing adn set off. Actually it was fine! Mental, polluted, some scary moments, but fun! There's almost always one lane which i smostly just the tu-tuks (3 wheel motorbike taxi) and mopeds. People are actually much more aware and considerate than in Edinburgh, and the roads are definately more bike-friendly than a lot of US cities. I made it to the station without incident. The worst decision was probably right at the end when I needed to cross a road and I decided to carry my bike over a footbridge = exhausting in the heat. Otherwise the heat was OK.

The station was funny - it's just a single track that runs for an hour to where I am now. Very informal. It cost 20 Baht for me and 20 for the bike. The train was mostly being used by school kids in their matching white and yellow polo shirts. There was so much to see. Going through the outskirsts of Bangkok was interesting - so many clusters of food vendors with people eating. Thai folk seem to have such a great sociable attitude to eating. It was interesting to see teh houses in the countryside. Perhaps it's because they were next to the railway tracks, but there were lots of really ramshackle shacks.

I was the only westerner on the whole train. THere were times like that yesterday with Ashna, but it was even more intense today knowing that I wasn't going back to Khao San Road. It really hit me sitting on the train that this was it!

People were friendly enough, but didn't interact except one wee girl - she was doing funny frog impressions and silly dances.

At the end of the trainline was Mahachai. I walked through the market selling all sorts of fish and welly boots to the ferry across the river. I was pretty sure I'd missed the next train, but I thought I'd check it out. The ferry ride was cool - very beautiful wider river surrounded by ramshackle houses, old fishing boats, and a few big new fishing boats and factories. The river was quite choked with weeds, with lots of small white crane-like birds perched on them.

The boat was full of mopeds and people in white and pink outfits and wellies going to work in the fish factories. I followed the lonely planet's instructions along some very unlikely back alleys past a school and temple and navigated round a flood which seemed to merge with peoples houses with kids paddling, and found the station. It was another end-of-the-line single track place with a few families hanging around who seemed to live there. As far as I could tell by sign language the last train had left.

I cycled around that side of the river for a while. People were quite amused by me. Lots said hi.

I stopped at a lovely little food vendor place and had pat thai (noodles and veg and egg). I asked one of the other customers about a guest house and she said to cross back over the river. So I got back on the ferry (only 3 Baht - 4 pence). I asked lots of people and eventually found a rather smart hotel, which would have been 900 Baht (about 13 pounds). But the girls there were really nice and directed me to a rather hidden appartment complex on the other side of the road, and I've got a rather plush double room with ensuite, air con and cable TV for 450B.

I went straight back out and cycled back to the centre of town and wandered around looking at the stalls. Bought a really nice strange starchy kind of pancake covered with condensed milk and sugar. Continued to have lots of people laughing and commenting about me, but in a nice way. Didn't see a single westerner, but it is a very industrial fishing place.

It was lovely seeing so many people out eating on the streets. I cycled back towards my appartment, but stopped to get some more food at a quiet roadside cafe. Couldn't really communicate, so just took soup. They put a few chunks of meat in, but I just left them to the side. Despite this it was really delicious soup.

I was writing my diary a bit, but then I got chatting to the people who owned the cafe - two sisters and their husbands and kids. They gave me advice about getting the train. Then a girl about my age came along. She spoke really good English, so we chatted lots and she interpreted for the others. She'd been studying interior design in Chicago. One of the other sisters did purchasing for packaging for frozen shrimp for export to the EU & US. They were so friendly and smiley and chatty. I made on faux pas which was to 'sa wat dee' (put my hands together and bow slightly) to one of the children - but the mother advised me in a nice way that that wasn't the right thing to do.

The girl who spoke good English gave me a really nie book she'd just bought - a cartoon book about the Tsunami.

An elephant was brought bye to be fed by the kids, so I took a photo.

Back at the apartment there was a knock at the door and the attendant ame in to bring me another towel and clean the phone. He took ages cleaning the phone, then turned on the TV to show porn and proceeded to ask me by sign language if I wanted a girl. He then asked if I wanted a hand job or blow job, or massage, or to have my legs pinched (I think I may have misinterpreted that one). I showed him out. Very bizarre. And pretty grim. Obviously enough westerners come for that sort of stuff that it's worth them trying to offer it to guests.

Other than that I've really enjoyed being in this town - unlike Bangkok no one's tried to sell me anything or rip me off.

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