Getting to grips with a country takes time I understand. The smells, the tastes, the sights, the foreign habits, unfamiliar customs and the currency! I am doing my best. With an inquiring mind I have tried to decipher the Bangkok bus system (impossible), attempted to work out how much I should be paying for items such as bottled water, accommodation and taxis, getting better at bargaining despite getting ripped off just about every time and of course working out the why’s of the Thai national psyche – not an easy thing!

Bangkok: It’s a madhouse of over 8 million people but also an interesting one when you get past all the smells and noise. Khao Sarn Rd is of course the same-same – backpacker central and where we based ourselves. Scams galore (further post to come on this topic) and also police every few dozens metres unobtrusively on the upper floors of the buildings overlooking the road.

Mongoose: We took a day trip south west of Bangkok to the floating markets, kind of naff in the touristy bits but then we went by longtail boat out in the canals where we saw houses of people living by/in/above the river. Certainly an eye-opening experience. Then onto the Cobra Show where we saw guys cheating death by dodging jumping snakes, striking cobras and coiling pythons. Also a one-on-one match between a mongoose and a snake. The mongoose won! Ripped a fang out of the snakes mouth (which it does to then be able to bite it with no risk to itself) before the match was called off, the snake off to the snake hospital or something. Finally saw some cultural show which including some Muay Thai (Thai boxing).

Politics: Thailand is undergoing significant political unrest. If you are interested in it in more detail please research it before making a decision to come or not based on media headlines. Basically there are two movements opposed to one another (the red party representing former Prime Minster Thaksin and made up mostly of rural voters, and the yellow party which represents the Bangkok elite and middle class). We saw buses with bullet-holes and police stations with smashed windows from the protests 2 1/2 weeks ago. When we were in Bangkok every little shop was tuned to the all-day, two day political debate in parliament which was debating the lifting of the emergency laws currently in effect. Now the debate has finished it is possible the Reds will again start to protest. This is all of course means little to us in the touristy places because no-one wants tourists targeted which really would destroy the tourism industry which employs more Thais than any other and would devastate the economy at a time when it is already suffering from lower tourist numbers due to the economic downturn. That said we have already noticed heavy police and military presences with road checks on the way south out of Bangkok and many around Bangkok. There were even some on Koh Samui with younger guys wearing red kerchiefs around their necks to show their political affiliation. Many Thais we spoke to that worked in the tourism sector simply wish it to be resolved.

Koh Samui: At the moment I am on Koh Samui, a large island on the South-east coast of Thailand where the party is supposed to last all year! Took us about 12 hrs by bus with another 2-3 hours to get to the island from the mainland. Suffice it to say I was somewhat surprised to discover than in actual fact, the place is just about empty of tourists. The resorts are supposed to be pretty full because the Thai new year was last week but it seems people have left pretty soon and the only people left are honeymooning couples, older couples and single men from Russia, Israel and Britain (accompanied by nice Thai girls). Sadly no large groups of Swedish lasses…

So that’s it for now. Still alive and still drinking large Chang!