Our Long Drive Home. An eyeopener. UK to Australia

Mike and Jess may their way to Bangkok on their Long Drive Home to sample authentic pad tai, experience old world Thailand, and take in a ping pong show. And it’s not what you think. 

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We immediately noticed something odd about the roads in Thailand: the traffic here drives on the left hand side of the road. It actually felt quite alien. Wrong even. Having left the shores of Blighty behind three months ago, we are now so used to driving on the right hand side that we actually jumped when our driver turned left at a roundabout en-route to Bangkok.

Once we got settled into our hostel we headed out to take a look at this bustling metropolis. With over 12 million residents, Bangkok is much bigger and more modern than anything we were prepared for. Not since China had we seen such a big city, and even Beijing didn’t seem able to compete with the number of skyscrapers in Bangkok. However, a short trip to the nearby floating markets at Damnoen Saduak gave us an insight into what Bangkok of old must have been like. Local traders merge together in small boats on the vast network of narrow canals selling fruit and vegetables, clothing and trinkets. Enthusiastically too. All it takes is the smallest glance in their direction and traders will soon be chasing you down with the determination of an Oxbridge oarsman.

Eating authentic pad thai on a traditional Thai canal boat can really make one’s day. The food – bought from a canal boat food vendor – is exquisite, as you can imagine. Even with Australia’s close proximity to South East Asia and its growing Thai population, Sydney has nothing that even comes close. With a few trinkets purchased (sometimes its hard to say no), we were ready to head back into the big city.

However, we had made the mistake of joining a tour group, which meant we also had to stop at an elephant park. The elephants were tied to the ground by one foot and a pretty small piece of thick chain. It was a sorry sight for anyone with a bit of compassion for these majestic creatures. The money brought in by 10-minute elephant rides was a contentious issue too, and it’s truly a sad state of affairs for Thailand’s national animal.

Once back in the capital, we decided to take in Bangkok’s night life. There are an endless number of bars and restaurants for backpackers, locals and expats alike to enjoy, and we decided to grab a quick drink in ‘Cheap Charlies’ in Sukhumvit Soi 11 with Jess’ family friend Elizabeth, who was also in town.

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Cheap Charlies is really just an outdoor cubbie hole covered in wood carvings and license plates, souvenirs and fake boob statues. Even a human skull (supposedly the original Charlie) watches punters over the bar. Said decorations are all brought to the bar from all over the world by its loyal expat clientele, giving the place a unique and bizarre homely feel. Even its toilet has gained notoriety as being one of the worst in Bangkok: a sign over the door proudly states ‘only pee, no shit’ since the pipe work isn’t in the best condition.

After no small amount of fraternizing, we made our way to a famous street in Bangkok called Patpong, where you can go – if you are so inclined – to view one particular form of live erotica: ping pong.

No. You’re way off.

We headed down a dark alleyway maybe 300 metres away from Patpong and through a small dimly lit doorway with no sign above it. The doorway housed a single bouncer and what we guessed was a 70-year old maitre d’ who took our 600 baht and led us into a dark smoke filled room. In the centre of the room was a small stage – roughly the size of a desk – surrounded by more than 100 audience members on foldaway plastic chairs. Said stage had four spotlights in each corner making sure all focus was on the naked woman in its centre. Her ‘goal’ was to pop a number of balloons in the air using… unorthodox methods. I’ll leave it at that and suggest you Google it. But make sure it’s not over breakfast.

It made for an eye opening evening. You really don’t know whether or not to be disgusted, sad or oddly impressed, but it’s a night we will not forget in a hurry. No matter how hard we try.

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Categories: Fast Fleet


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