My next visit was by airplane and I stayed for a while in Bangkok exploring the lesser known parts away from the more sordid side. Bangkok has more canals than Venice and on the major ones run a fast ferry/bus service but on the smaller canals run smaller long tailed boats with a car engine mounted on the transom and a three meter drive shaft with a propeller at the end for propulsion. I tried one of these out with no idea of destination or direction and what followed was one of the best white knuckle rides I’d had in years. The driver tried to scare me and I couldn’t stop laughing and this spurred him on. The canals are about 40 foot wide and the boat 4 so plenty of room but travelling at 30 mph with your rear end below the water level made it all a bit fast, we were taking bends like a formula 1 car with the added bonus of the bilge water making the nether regions quite wet.
I was staying with a friend who lived in Thailand at one of the more popular resorts and had enough of the “Ye olde English pub” so I rented a small motorcycle and headed out of town. I carefully took a straight route out to ensure I could find my way back and soon found myself in a tranquil countryside with rice paddies and coconut groves which is what I had come to see. Then the return home, later after crisscrossing streets for ages and passing increasing familiar places going in different direction I knew I was lost. Solution? Gave a taxi driver the address I wanted to go to and followed him on the motorbike.
I got bolder and hired a car or rather a pickup as the roads demand some sturdy suspension sometimes. Fortunately they drive on the same side of the road as the UK so more effort could be spent avoiding the locals’ lack of road sense. You can turn left at red traffic lights providing the road is clear but the “road is clear” bit somehow hasn’t reached the masses. The car part that never wears out in Thailand is the indicator bulb although they do have a strange habit of putting on the hazards to indicate they are going straight on at road junctions. I soon got over my initial fright and realised how much there was to see on the open road. I tried a run out from Bangkok to the “Bridge on the river Kwai” first and soon engaged the services of a taxi driver to lead me out of Bangkok (note to self DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DRIVE IN BANGKOK AGAIN ) as driving in Bangkok is not for the faint hearted.
• Read Chapter 1: The first visit
• Read Chapter 3: Kanchanaburi and getting around by train
• Read Chapter 4: Travelling around Thailand
• Read Chapter 5: The road from Nan to Chiang Rai
• Read Chapter 6: Mai Hong Son and higher mountains
• Read Chapter 7: Encounter with a monocled cobra