04 October 2010

Illness in Bangkok

As soon as we got into Bangkok, Audrey headed to bed, and Scott and I headed out.  We got nailed immediately by a restaurant/tuk-tuk scam.  It didn't really cost us anything, as we didn’t bother eating at the restaurant we were brought to, and it got us to an area where there were a few bars for a 60p journey, so it wasn’t bad.

The next day started in similar fashion, as we jumped in a tuk-tuk, who took us to a temple, which was distinctly average.  The driver disappeared for a ‘toilet break’, and the owner of a Toyota Landcruiser, which was parked beside us appeared, and started chatting with us.  He talk a lot about much good value blue sapphires were, and how much money he had made out of them recently, and the fact that the government had a tax holiday on them currently etc.  After recommending a good company, he drove off, and handily the tuk-tuk driver appeared again, and took us straight there without prompting.

We demanded to be taken to the centre of town, where the Royal Palace and a few temples were, but he insisted (in his limited English) they were closed.  By this point we were getting pissed off, so we paid him his fee, and set off on foot.  I felt a bit sorry for him, as he does these ‘trips’ to make a few quid, as the shops give him commission if we stay there for more than 10 minutes.  At least we paid him what he asked for, even though we were still hadn’t been taken anywhere useful yet.

Thailand is famous for a few things, most notably Ladyboys (known as Kathoey to the locals).  While we were in Ko Chang Island, an elderly German lady confided in us that she was most fascinated by them (which we didn’t expect to hear).

It’s a peculiar situation.  Thailand (and most of SE-Asia) is in many ways quite a traditional society, based mainly on the principles of Buddhism.  Yet Ladyboys are everywhere (I was served regularly at the 7-11 near our hotel by one), and not only tolerated, but actively accepted by the people.  And it’s not just a big-liberal-city thing in Bangkok, even in rural village, when there is a beauty contest, often they hold two, one for the ladies and one for the effeminate men.  Men in general in Thailand seemed much more in touch with their feminine side than elsewhere in SE-Asia.  None of the other Se Asian countries, although very much similar to the Thais in culture, have a similar tradition.  Most of those countries have had a harder time than the Thais though (Cambodian and the Khmer Rouge, Laos and communism and Vietnam and, well, the Vietnam war, as well as French colonialism for all three of them), and perhaps have not yet had the possibility to express themselves just yet.  Or else Thailand is just a unique place in this matter.

A couple of days sightseeing plus visiting a few of the markets ensued, before Scott headed off to the airport and back to the hard-grind.  Audrey and I were to spend another two days in the city, before departing for Cambodia, but our best plans were interrupted by possibly the worst fever I’ve experienced in my life.

The main concern was it being either malaria or dengue fever.  We headed to the hospital (like a hotel combined with a posh bank, see above photo) the day after it first struck.  One blood test later, the doctor told us it was too early to tell what it was, but indications were pointing towards a virus.  We went back after three days of convalescing, and the doctor took one look at my hands (which were somewhat red, but I didn’t think it was a rash), and happily exclaimed that it was Dengue fever, which was one of the worst outcomes we could have expected, as it meant our trip may need to be cut short.

On our journey from Laos to Bangkok, an English bloke had explained that the Thais had no idea of how to deliver bad news:

‘They try to make up for it with delivering it with a happy demeanour.  You could arrive in work on Monday morning, and be greeting by a colleague smiling profusely while telling you, “John, the guy who sits opposite us, died in a car crash at the weekend”.  They feel that they can help mitigate the circumstances of the problem by being happy.’

Cheers doc!  After another blood test, it was confirmed to be a virus, so we did the dengue fever test next.  After another three days, we were back to get the results.  The doctor again cheerily explained that it was not dengue fever, and that I would just have to ride it out.  It had been a week now, and most of the symptoms were receding.

The hotel we were in was possibly the best (cheap option) place I could have been for the week of illness.  Wifi was everywhere, so I could get online when I wasn’t suffering too much.  They had a theatre room, with huge beanbags, which were perfectly suited to lounging around in my dilapidated state, with all the sports channels, so I got to enjoy a weekend of premier league football, grand prix and some tennis without having to move much.  And for lunch one day, Audrey got me the following:

They tasted better than they looked, although I didn't try the beetles, after seeing Audrey's face while eating one.

They also had a channel dedicated to watching Lin Bing, a panda in a zoo in north Thailand.  Seriously, 24/7, you can tune in at anytime to see what one instance of the laziest animals in the world is doing, Big Brother style.  While having a quick read about giant pandas on the internet, I found out that Theodore Roosevelt Jr., son of the 26th president of the US, and his brother Kermit (this gets better all the time) were the first known westerners to shoot a giant panda!

I loved the place, and everything worked perfectly.  Lub*d was a great hostel.  Weird as it is to say for a bloke, the soap smelt great, and reminded me of something like Maine Cloudy Limeade.  And in Thailand, green Fanta tasted just like it.

We got back on the road, leaving on the 5.55am train out of Bangkok (6 hour trip for about a pound, best value trip so far) to the Cambodian border.


Aido said...

Do u need a visa to enter Thailand? Im gonna go there in December on me way back from Australia. Was checkin out d hotel prices and it was about 20 euro for a 4 star hotel so not too bad.

Sokratees9 said...

No visa needed in advance, horse, but you get one as you enter the country. At the land borders it was only 14 days, but you get a 30 day one when you arrive by plane. You'll have no problems.