Back in Bangkok, medical snake farms and losing my way

Saturday 07 January

Bangkok wasn’t any less rainy that the rest of the country. Well maybe it was – it wasn’t the torrential downpour that had engulfed the south of Thailand, but it was enough to make things generally miserable. Alex was back and forth to the teaching job fair in the hotel across the road, leaving me to my own devices, and the devil makes work for idle thumbs. Basically, I was just idle.

After a couple of boozy nights out around the notorious Soy Cowboy district, I was beginning to hate this city. On one such occasion, we were having a few drinks in an (in)famous hostel bar – which for their sake is best to remain nameless, when a backward baseball cap wearing knucklehead decided to have a go at me for smoking a cigarette, in a drunken slur tirade. For this piece, vocalise a general American “bro” accent.

Soy Cowboy. Of "Hangover" fame. Fucking shite.

Soy Cowboy. Of “Hangover” fame. Fucking shite.

“You shouldn’t smoke maaaaan. It’s like baaaaad mannnnn.  I know….I know…because…because my mum and dad are cardiologists right! Yeah. Cardiologists. And I know. Because I’m FUCKING RICH. I’m so FUCKING rich man! Hhahaha. I’m rich man. You wouldn’t believe. HEY EVERYONE! EVERYONE WHO WANTS SHOT COME GET ONE! YEAAHHHH!”

Or words to that effect.

He lost his way with his initial argument because he remembered how rich he was. He wasn’t the only one behaving thusly either – the hostel was and is full of them. Loud, brash, obnoxious singlet wearing individuals whose sole purpose in life seems to be to drink as much Jagermeister as possible and then throw up in a bin. I was getting tired of it. I retired to the smoking room with a brandy.

Something more worthwhile - the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok. That's a medical snake farm to you and me.

Something more worthwhile – the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok. That’s a medical snake farm to you and me.

When Alex was finally free, we did manage to see something worthwhile and interesting. Atlas Obscura has a number of cool sights to see in Bangkok, but we opted to choose the medical snake farm – an institute that houses deadly snakes for study and to develop anti-venom. Now that sounded pretty awesome, so on another rainy afternoon, we take a taxi across town to see a different kind of snake to the one in The White House.

Loads of these guys just hanging out on branches.

Loads of these guys just hanging out on branches.

And for the price of admission (200 bhat ), It was well worth it. I remember doing a primary school “topic book” on camouflage when I was around 10 years old, and I specifically focused on snakes – and as a result, I kind of developed a big thing for the creatures. I think they’re magnificent beings. I always say I’m the polar opposite of Indiana Jones, as he’s terrified of snakes, and I’m terrified of spiders. But don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t fancy coming across a king cobra in the wild.

I'm perfectly alright up here thank you. You should have seen the way these guys were striking for their handlers legs...

I’m perfectly alright up here thank you. You should have seen the way these guys were striking for their handler’s legs…

Taking in the snake demonstration was memorable, particularly as you got to witness the cobra strike (which was awesome) and the opportunity to hold the massive Burmese python (even more awesome). The medical centre and snake skeleton exhibition were really interesting too, and the only disappointment was not being there on a day when they demonstrate venom extraction. If you’re in Bangkok and you want to do something other than getting fucked up, I highly recommend it.

Insert your "which one is the snake" jokes here.

Insert your “which one is the snake” jokes here.

The medi-centre of the USCSS Nostromo. Or dead snakes.

The medi-centre of the USCSS Nostromo. Or dead snakes.

Snake skulls. My sister would probably have wanted me to steal this.

Snake skulls. My sister would probably have wanted me to steal this.

Time was not on our side, and Alex had to finally return to Bishkek once the job fair was complete. We said our goodbyes at the airport once again – as we had done what seems like a lifetime ago back in early November. Who knows when we would cross paths again?

And so I ventured back into town to do what I always do. Like a dog off the leash, I ran riot and regressed into debaucherous ways. I did things that night that I’m not particularly proud of, but by god at the time it was magical. I’m saving this one for the book – just in case I’m ever offered a teaching position and someone reads this.

Breaking Bad was a good TV series, wasn’t it?

As a result of my deviation, I had put myself back some ways and had missed a full 24 hours because I was asleep. I booked another night at the over-priced hostel and wearily trudged the streets that evening in a fit of lonely despair, searching for a bit cardboard to make a hitch sign. Tomorrow I will rise early and attempt a difficult hitchhike to Siem Reap in Cambodia. Angkor Wat awaits – but I don’t really care.

Have a look at some random, crap photographs I took from my last ever visit to this shit hole. Bangkok is a dump.

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Hitchhike to India leg 63: Ranong to Bangkok

Thursday 05 January

Alright, so I’ve not written one of these in a while, which is what I seem to be doing of late – nothing at all. I shall remedy this in due course, as there are things to tell. Stories to regale you with. The usual utter filth and debauchery you have come to expect from this classy publication. But first, let me take you back to a time at the beginning of the year, on a cold, wet, rainy January day in Thailand. Cold – maybe not. Wet – you have NO idea.

We’d been holed up in a cheap but comfortable guest house in Rangong while my back heals. If you’ll remember in the last installment of “how much can Stu fuck things up?” I had slipped a disk trying surfing for the first time. Honestly, a new-found respect for surfers. So I was bedridden for a couple of days, going through heat patches like they were going out of fashion, occasionally lumbering to the toilet. Round about this time, the heavens decided to open.

And what a deluge it was to be. Keeping one eye on the news, we discovered that it was one of the worst rainy seasons on record in Thailand, causing a number of deaths in the country – particularly in the south. We were lucky to be on the cusp of coming out of it – or so we thought.

Trying to wait for a gap in the wall of water was proving something of an impossibility. At one point, it must have been raining solidly for 48 hours. And I mean solidly. Not just a light shower – it sounded like gods fists were smashing down on rooftops. And time wasn’t on our side (as it usually is when I’m hitchhiking solo) as Alex needed to get back to Bangkok for a potentially life-changing job fair. It wasn’t looking good.

So with some reluctance and we decided to take a mini-bus to Chumpon, a city I had passed through a month or so ago on my way to island shenanigans. I had come full circle, but unfortunately, I’d fallen at the final hurdle, forced to take paid transport. It’s not the first time dear readers, and it won’t be the last – but more of that anon.

We had a reasonable plan. If we just get over the pass and a little further north, we’d surely leave the weather behind. Yeah right. A couple of short hours later and we’re still in the downpour, trudging through Chumpon’s soaking streets trying to locate a bus all the way back to Bangkok. By this time we’d totally given up hope of any kind of hitch, which would be a fool’s errand. Walking anywhere in this and you’re soaked to the bone within a minute. But we’re not in the UK now, and finding transport back to the capital city proves harder than it should really be. The next bus isn’t until 8.30 pm. It was 2 in the afternoon.

Wet through and knocking heads, arguing all the way through crowded markets and people huddling from the rain, we stagger into a hotel and find a receptionist that doesn’t speak much English but does manage to get us a taxi to a bus which is leaving at ten past. It’s ten minutes away so there’s no margin for error, and we yell at the poor guy to step on it. Kudos to him as he gets us there on time – but the bus is full. I’m starting to lose my cool. No, that’s a lie – I’d lost it when I woke up. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever had it.

In a huge stroke of luck, our taxi driver speaks decent English and can take us to the ACTUAL bus station. Which – thank Jesus and the saints and all the angels – is a proper bus station. They got busses there. Actual busses. They’re supposed to be going to Bangkok every hour – which is what you would expect from a traffic link between two of the countries biggest cities. However, we learn that the reason for all the madness is because of the horrific conditions down south. Transports have been stranded, mudslides and flooding have caused impassable roadblocks, and as mentioned earlier – people have lost their lives. In the grand scheme of things, we were doing alright.

20170105_150810

The downpour continues. Looking out from the bus station.

We manage to get a place on a bus in a couple of hours, and settle in the open concourse to read books, shelter from the weather and try to calm down. I stuff my mouth with pork scratchings to cheer myself up. The rain is still coming down hard as we bundle on a coach some time later and finally get underway. At least we were going to make Bangkok at a decent time.

Holed up. Shelter from the storm.

Holed up. Shelter from the storm.

Which of course we don’t. We make several stops which are far too long while trying to get sustenance from packets of microwaved sausages from a 7/11. Around 2 am we’re dejectedly still trying to find the hostel because Alex forgot to add the location on her phone when she booked it. Wearily wandering through deserted, dark streets by a railway station in Bangkok is not my idea of fun. There’s a cardboard city set up too, with hundreds of homeless huddled together and I’m feeling more than a little uncomfortable. Still – at least we have a home to go to.

The rain wasn't coming down - it was coming up.

The rain wasn’t coming down – it was coming up.

Which we eventually find, no thanks to a hotel receptionist who refuses to allow us to use his wi-fi to find the place. Shocking hospitality. Two shattered travelers trying to find their beds for the night and he didn’t even let us use his reception computer. Arsehole. Down another shady dark street, we locate home base, and another arsehole greets us. The night-shift worker is sleeping in the corner, and – would you believe it?! he’s got to do his job and put through two late check-ins! But he doesn’t like it one bit, and it was to be the first in a long line of abuse we would receive from the staff at this appalling excuse for a hostel. Still – it was right around the corner from the job fair. Gotta take the rough with the smooth.

Days don’t come much more trying than this, and we go to bed in all but silence. Traveling with someone has always been difficult for me – especially someone close to me – and this was proving to be no exception. But I generally think that’s because I’m the one being the arsehole. Tomorrow is another day.

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