Tuesday, January 15, 2008


On top of the Golden Mount.

Who needs celebrity cooks?

The big buddha and us at Wat Pho.

Hanging in the hammock, Bush style (George, that is).

Our beach. Need I say more?

Sitting on a tropical island, listening to the waves softly breaking and voices coming from the neighbouring bungalows, both Australian and German, I can’t help but reflect that there’s nothing quite as weird travel wise, as leaving the minus five, sleeting, Ordnung-filled world of Germany and arriving in the 30 degree heat, plus god knows how much humidity, chaos-filled streets of Bangkok. The list of contrasts is mind-boggling; the smells of German Christmas, marzipan and cinnamon plus the crisp smell of cold air versus a cacophony of food smells, rubbish smells, exhaust fumes, fruit, sweat. Not smiling versus smiling at everyone. Eating inside insulated, heated rooms versus eating on the street. Christmas markets versus Bangkok street markets. Potatoes versus rice. A well-organised transport system versus a constant traffic jam. Overpriced versus underpriced.
Jet lag is about more than just the time difference, it’s about the mid trying to work out what is going on, where am I, and more importantly, why is everyone smiling? Luckily, the reflex came back quickly. After all, I still used to smile at Kielers even though the response was often either cold disinterest or the striking up of conversation, assuming we must know each other.
The first three days in Bangkok, it was pretty clear that I didn’t know the people whose smiles I returned. We stayed in the backpacker nest, right near Kaoh San Road, a wonderfully mad area filled with stalls, tourists, massage parlours, travel agents, tuk tuks, restaurants and hostels. We bought fresh fruit from a vendor for breakfast, ate the best pad thai I´ve ever had from a street stall and shopped till we dropped. By far the best thing we did was a half day vegetarian Thai cooking course, where we made ten dishes including the world’s best green curry. Every curry we’ve eaten since then has come up a loser against ours.
After our Bangkok experience the thought of an island getaway was enticing, and we’d had enough long train journeys in Italy to last a lifetime, so we went for the luxury option and caught a plane to Koh Samui and from there a ferry to the Browne and Holmes island of choice, Koh Pangan. It’s amazing, there’s nothing to do but eat, lie in a hammock, read, swim, play frisbee and basically reflect on how excellent your life must be to have ended up here.