My first taste of the metaphorical open road was to be Oriental in origin, with a long planned sejour in South East Asia the perfect segway into Europe. Of course, it wasn’t to be anything intrepid, with a greater emphasis on hedonism over hardship. Still the trip promised much, and with the brothers I planned to meet there already three weeks hardened I was anxious to arrive.
My final night in New Zealand coincided with the last day of the corporate year and it was with little surprise that I found myself still in town at the witching hour, wobbling back to the familiar Freemans Bay villa I had called home for the last two years. An early alarm, some last minute checking and I was off, my hangover momentarily placated by the remaining buds of nature’s panadol.
Then the first of what would be many queues, impatient proles shifting restlessly behind me while the line slowly snakes forward. A greasy dose of chicken to ward off looming nausea and some painkillers, then customs, safety announcements and settling into my budget sized seat –finally I was in the air, but it wasn’t without some sorrow that I bid my beautiful nation good-bye.
My self-induced fatigue was compounded by a night in Singapore sleeping on the floor of the airport, skin sticky and grey from my earlier venture into town.
So it was the usual bleary-eyed arrival that characterises long haul travel. A previous expedition to Thailand fortified my confidence though, and I spent a foolish half an hour wandering Bangkok airport searching for the bus to Khao San road before finally clicking that it no longer existed. Significantly humbled I lugged my pack down to the newly completed Sky Train connection and headed into the urban sprawl.
There is something comforting about the Asian heat – it envelopes you like the embrace of an old friend, and the air sweats with you, piquant with the sharp smell of Oriental life. Photos of King Rama IV survey the people from every building and the air buzzes with the sound of idling engines, their hums and whirrings a symphony of mechanical Doppler effects. The streets are crowded with life as my taxi works its way through Bangkok’s gridlocked traffic and it is every bit as vibrant as I had remembered.
I arrive in Khao San, and am instantly greeted by a Tuk tuk driver’s toothless grin: “Hello my friend!” His lips pucker and he sucks them apart to make a sharp popping sound. “Ping pong show pussy you like?”
I had arrived.