Monday, 29 February 2016

Hong Kong Day 1 - 28th February 2016

I was up as early as I wanted to be in the morning and after waking myself up probably with quick shower, I grabbed my bag and headed out for the day, stopping briefly at the reception area to say good morning and see if anyone at reception had any recommendations for things I should see. The young man from the previous night was still there, still full of beans and grabbing a pen marked out areas on the map which I might find to be of interest, as well as some good places to eat and easiest ways to get around. To give this man some credit he seemed to know the answers to everything I asked, although if I was to put another spin on it,  I could have just been asking him really easy questions. I then headed out to seize the day, warm in the sunshine yet cooler in the shade I immediately started to question the wisdom of my logic of putting both my jumpers and jeans into be  cleaned at the same time. As usual with my self doubt however, I told myself to shut up and dropped my bag full of clothes off at the laundrette as planned.

Quickly stopping off at the Metro station straight after, I decided to pick up Hong Kong's Octopus card to make a few things here a little less complicated. $150 includes a $50 deposit for the card and $100 useable credit which can be then used on trains, trams and buses as well on other things such as food in certain restaurants and shops. A great system if only for the fact that it cuts down on the need to be carrying loose change for things like the tram ($2.3). The coinage here has become a little bit confusing as there seems to be multiple versions of the same value coins, so a coin with 10 on it can  be either a 10 dollar coin or one valued at 10 cents, and to mix it up a bit more, there are also $10 notes in circulation. After one night in Bangkok I was already being weighed down with a bunch of coins that I was never going to be able to spend. For this reason, the Octopus card made perfect cents.

As I was going to be spending the day walking rather than riding, I immediately returned to the surface, stopping on the way up to help a young lady who was struggling to climb the steps with her heavy luggage box. "Thank you, you're my saviour, thank you" she beamed as we reached the pavement outside. It's a simple thing, just to help people out isn't it, and it makes you feel good about yourself when you know that what you've done, no matter how small is genuinely appreciated. "That's o.k" I replied, "you have a nice day", suddenly taking on a superman, Christopher Reeve like persona, calmly turning away to fly off to go and find more distressed luggage carriers, but with my cape unfortunately also in the laundry, I had to then walk off instead.

I heard her saying something in the background as I walked away, but the fact that I was in shorts and a polo shirt I can only assume she was shouting something like "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING YOU MADMAN? YOU'RE GOING TO BLOODY FREEZE IN THOSE THINGS". She wasn't to know that I had my rubber beaded stretch gloves in my bag incase things did get a little bit nip though. I'm not as foolish as I look, sometimes.

A further 15 minute walk away I crossed the road into the cities Victoria Park, a large public area full of people running, practicing martial arts, reading, spending time with family and friends or anything else they wanted to do. In the mid point I came across a queue of people waiting to get into a area with a few seats and a couple of relaxed police people keeping watch. This is where, on sundays starting at mid day, people are given an opportunity to raise any points or concerns that they would like to see addressed.

or as google translate likes to put it;
"Free Air Victoria Park Chung You have the right to comment"

With half hour to go before that started I decided to keep on walking, taking more photo's on the way, past a model boat pond with people racing / repairing their boats and then swathes of people just sat around enjoying the day. An stunning area in the heart of the city being used exactly how a public space should be used. Enjoyed by the people who live, work and visit.

The nest few hours I walked, took pictures and walked whilst taking in everything I could in the world around me. Building reached up for the sky all around, but with a strange sense of spaciousness due to the width of the roads between them. While the streets teemed with life and were full of people, there was none of the hustle and bustle I had become accustomed to over the last few months, no pushing or signs of impatience or lack of spacial awarenes. Despite all the people forced into relatively small areas, the feeling was still that of a relaxed Sunday. I said "hello" to a girl who made eye contact without thinking, to my surprise she said "hello" back.  It's the type of thing back home I wouldn't usually do, so it was nice that I at least got a friendly response, rather than the one I would have received back home, the second word of which would likely have been "off".

At the harbourside I slowly meandered along the bay watching the ferries and junks passing by, it was here that I began to notice that my foot was starting to feel more uncomfortable than it had been for while. I concluded then that it would probably be for the best if I went back to the hotel early to save causing it any more damage. Before that though I thought I would just walk a short distance to see the oldest existing post office in Hong Kong, on the way walking under the central plaza where groups of teens had culminated. The groups here displayed no menace or signs of anti social behaviour that you might come to expect in other parts of the world, gathered in their spare time to practice dance moves, catwalk walks or anything else which might be a positive in their lives. There just doesn't seem to be a destructive or antisocial element to any of these groups, and it just leaves you with the conclusion that something is deeply wrong in the UK. I wish it was something that was easily addressed.

Built in 1912 and active until the early 90's, the old post office building still stands but is now an environmental office. As I stood there taking pictures of this almost nondescript building trying to make something interesting from it, a local man in his mid forties stopped and told me about a 150 year old temple nearby that was definitely worth a visit. Following the directions he had given I quickly found what he described amongst all the high-rise towers that loomed all around, a small Chinese temple that I never would have stumbled across without his interjection. I suppose that was a little bit of good karma for helping the girl up the stairs earlier on that day and I spent a good half hour here in self imposed silence, gingerly trying to take some photo's inside whilst others made their offerings around me, careful not to disturb their moment while I captured mine. I think I might be in need a quieter camera.

Finally I headed back towards the hotel but, despite my best efforts to disguise it, I was obviously  limping quite heavily and it was painfully obvious that I had made an error of judgement in doing so much walking in one day whilst not fully fit. Luckily for me transport in Hong Kong is frequent and cheap and I did what I doubted would happen in my life time, I took a tram back to the hotel. Trams are so frequent that barely a minute goes by without at least one coming into view along the causeway that reaches right across the length of the island. When one does come along there is only one choice to make, whether you catch the one going East or the one going West. You make your payment when you get off at your exit, either in loose change, or as I now had the means to do so, a quick tap of the Octopus on the reader at the front. The tram dropped me about a minute walk back to the hotel, unfortunately it took me 3.

So what did I learn from Hong Kong on day one.

I found that quite apposed to what I was expecting, the air is fresh and breathable which I attribute to it's coastal position and abundance of parks and open spaces in the city, and of course the milder temperature must of helped. The people I have encountered so far seem friendly and approachable and the relaxed nature here is amazing when you consider the amount of people who live and congregate here. Where natural products can be used it seems they are with scaffold on many buildings all sturdily constructed of bamboo. Traffic moves freely enough most of the time with people being ferried about the island by buses, trams or subway trains which are all priced cheap enough to be used often and run regularly enough to not be over crowded when one does arrive. It sounds like a simple enough concept but it's one that I rarely see back home where transport is run primarily for the profit margins of a company rather than as a benefit for the people who live there. It really is amazing how smoothly everything seems to run in Hong Kong, especially when you realise that it is one of the most densely McCafe populated areas to be found on planet earth,

I also learnt that my foot is unfortunately far from healed and I need to now consider just cutting this trip short in order to return back to the UK sooner than planned. At the moment it means that I am unable to do some of the things that I wanted to do, or get to some of the places that I had wanted to see, but this also comes with the realisation that I doubt I will ever undertake this sort of trip again. It's taken a couple of years of hard saving to get the sort of money together to enable me to do this trip and I don't think I will be able to do that again with circumstances that have now come about back in the U.K.


hong kong flewy - 27/2/2016

The exuberant DJ on taiwanese radio gave over the figures in his punchy american accent. A 30% chance of rain was forecast for northern Taiwan as we sat in the taxi on the way to the airport with water droplets twerking all over the cars exterior, I kind of admired his mis placed optimism. It had been raining now almost constantly for the last couple of days. Maybe 30 is the new 100.

At the airport we had enough time to grab a quick bite to eat from the food court 3 floors below the terminal 1 departure hall, burnt coffee for Vicky and a hot latte for me with ice in it. Nothing leaves a bad taste in your mouth quite like having had a bad taste in your mouth, but at least the last couple of months had been interesting enough, just a shame the last drink together on these travels hadn't been a bit more, well less crap. Back up in departures, we said the briefest of goodbyes and then went our separate ways, me scoring the better deal at the time as my flight departed from the terminal we were at, Vicky had to get to t2 via the skytrain. Hasta la Vista baby (or so long....and thanks for all the fish)

My flight to Hong kong was delayed a little due to the late arrival of the plane on it's incoming journey, a little worrying as I kept doubting that I was in the right departure lounge where there were no signs present to re-affirm my location or departure information boards to tell you you hadn't missed your flight. On board and seated, the pilot gave he pre flight spiel about the reasons for lateness and the flight preparation and status (cargo doors should be shut in the next minute) he also mentioned that due to the current weather conditions over taipei, take off was likely going to be a little bit rough. He wasn't joking. Why do pilots never plan a joke? I guess they are just used to winging it.

We rattled and vibrated towards the promised clear skies above with all the subtlety and refinement associated with a craft that had been strapped onto a couple of saturn-5 rockets. The look of concern on the stewardesses face as she kept looking at me from just a few rows away indicated that I wasn't hiding my nerves very well and I suspected that I must have also taken on the complexion of someone who had left any colour behind on the runway, Houston do we have a problem? DO WE HAVE A PROBLEM? Rising, dropping, shaking thrusting, vibrating, rinse repeat, rinse repeat, rinse repeat. until finally we broke through the scuds and the cirus to reach the upper atmosphere and reassuring calmness. I took a few minutes to relax and compose myself again, scraped the non existent ice off the display module in front of me, plugged in my in flight, double headed earphones and watched an episode of Premiership Legends, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, in colour.

The rest of the flight was perfect. The inflight chicken and mushroom pie tasted just like it should and just before landing I could see the brief, hazed view of some of the buildings of hong kong, all while the theme from "Enter the dragon" reverberated inside my head.
The immigration queue was quickly negated, with my child like writing scrawled on my immigration card seemingly legible enough for the official at the counter. Baggage collected successfully I then used the small amount of Hong Kong Dollars that I had on me to buy a ticket for the Airport Express train to Hong Kong for 100 hkd, grabbed a sim card for 10 days at 80 hkd and then hit the HSBC ATM to get enough funds to pay for my hotel and few days spending money. It's always a relief when that machine works as expected.

The train to Kong from the Airport took the scheduled 24 minutes,  but didn't take me to where googlemaps had showed me. instead I still had several miles to get to where I needed to be but before long I had found out the subway system ran from close by to right by my hotel, and it wasn't long before I arrived at my final destination, Homy Inn, Northpoint.

The young man on reception duty that evening has to be one of the happiest, lively people I have ever encountered, joyfully taking my money and explaining the rules, conditions, utilities swell as answering my questions with the sort of welcoming energy that would be an asset at any hotel worldwide. My room, up on the tenth floor had a window with a view of the main street, a shower cubical, toilet and sink, a bed. air-conditioning, lcd tv and was clean and comfortable, although not suitable for anyone with a fear of enclosed spaces. I walk tall at 6ft1, or short at 184cms, I would estimate that the room is maybe 7ft by 7 foot at the absolute most. Storage is located under the bed or on 5 coat hangers near it. This is maybe as much room as you need, just maybe not as much as you'd want but it;s hard to grumble with all the pluses this place has to offer, and hong kong itself is almost the epitome of tower living. For the short time I'm here this space will be adequate.

A short walk in the evening took me 2 streets back for the briefest of views of the famous harbour before where I stopped for a few minutes in order to shake off the days travel before heading back and to find something to eat. KFC? no.  Starbucks? No. McDonalds with their mild mannered janitor.

Could be........

Back at the hotel I did  little research on what was within striking distance over my coming stay using the internet, my very rough looking rough guide book and the map I had grabbed from the reception area on arrival.  With 6 days, or 7 nights depending on how you count these things to see as much as I can I needed to rest up before the days of exploring to come, and the early start that I wanted to get.

Besides, the room had windows that actually let light in which is better than any alarm clock in my book for getting me up in the morning. Thinking about it though, that alarm might be more effective if it wasn't bound away like that in the first place.

T'was a silly idea.

A week in Taipei (a winter summery): 20-27/12/2015

It took me a week to draw the conclusion that Taipei is kinda cool. A week of walking, eating, not being and being understood, building fleeting relationships with shop keepers, drinking different teas and an instance of sliding in dog poo. The latter or which wasn't exactly a plus point but shows that sometimes wet weather has it's benefits,  on this occasion allowing for puddles to form thus giving me chance to splash wash the soles of my shoes.

I may have started this blog entry off on the wrong foot.

The hotel reception was located on the 7th floor of what initially seemed like a narrow segment of building, but it was clear as soon as we checked in that the layout wasn't quite as you would imagine from outside, with the hotel itself stretching over what must have been several ground storefronts units across it's upper floors. Our room on the 8th had ample room for 2 double beds, a bathroom and space in between and a window to let in some of the light. However the wall that lay less than a foot outside this window wasn't really a morning wall, and without his first, strong coffee of the day, wasn't going to let any light in unless he was absolutely forced to. This resulted in the mornings getting later and the days getting shorter as my body clock refused to get up at it's usual time and meant a week in Taipei, didn't really feel like a week, more like 7 or so 3/4 days.

The layout of the hotel was kind of in keeping with the rest of the shops in Teipei however, especially noticeable in the area we were staying. The streets had a kind of a small New York feel with brightly lit high buildings over wider streets, flat panel electronic boards hoisted on prominent corners displaying illuminated moving adverts to catch the eye and an abundance of yellow cabs. Businesses were stacked upon businesses in the same buildings,  cafe's above clothes shops, ukuleles above electronics interspersed with bigger buildings that contained multiple units for more local businesses to sell alongside recognised international brands such as Superdry levis or Adidas. And everywhere lot's of people speaking chinese. English is not the first language here, and signs more often than not do not carry a translation of the chinese equivalent but through  a mixture of pigeon english, google translate and not being afraid to look a bit of a fool you can usually muster through. You can't always get what you wan't, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, that you get what you need.

The people were hard to fathom at first. some will barge into you without so much of a cursory glance after, others will spin and say sorry even at a  simple coming together where no one is at fault. Few people smile in the same way that you'll find in other Asia,  but when they do it's enough to leave an impression. I found that people were more inclined to smile at me when I was on my own rather than when I was with Vicky and I'm still not sure why that was. Maybe it was because being of Asian descent they thought I was being looked after competently enough, or maybe I just looked funny, who knows? But still as the week end on I found more warmth in the people than I thought was initially there, asking for Ibuprofen in the chemist, buying clothes and the regular interactions with the people at the hot tea stall local to the hotel were all good experiences, even in the instances where communication wasn't as easy for both parties due to my lack of Chinese tongue. There's no denying that it's lively though with streets filled with shoppers and street performers and the occasional peaceful protest being lined by small streets and stalls selling delicious smelling and looking street food, mostly. Stinky Tofu has to be one of the foulest things I have ever smelt, the whiff of which sent my stomach wrenching in several directions at once as I ran in another. Not the kind of thing you ever need to smell, especially when you are already feeling a little bit tender after travelling in. Phhhhheewy

Taipei seems to be split into different areas all with their own unique look and feel. Our hotel was in the trendy area,  but a short walk away lay the national museum surrounded my parks and more opulent looking buildings and a further walk away lay Teipei 101, a looming tower that reached for the sky with a bamboo like form, directly over it's shopping mall below, next to lego brick looking exhibition centre and soviet block style apartments opposite. Between this area and ours lay a massive, undercover market split into 3 distinct areas. Jade, horticulture and then arts and crafts.
I say undercover as opposed to indoors as the entire thing is under a raised freeway running over head, but inside you'd never know. Tarpaulin sheets run the length of the horticulture section keeping the elements at bay and inside is filled with the aroma of all the plants on sale and hot tea stands. Hot, because at our point of visiting, the temperatures in Taipei were hanging around the 15 degree centigrade mark,  a massive drop from the mid thirties we were sweltering in just the week before in Bangkok, but far from a negative, for me this was a plus, a reprieve albeit temporary, and justification for hauling jeans with me for the previous 3 months despite a nagging thought in my head that they were really just a waste of space (or after a little weight gain, more aptly a waist of space).

The last couple of days it rained, a light misty rain with occasional downpours adding to the chill factor. This in turn meant a need for longer socks (dutifully labelled as tourist socks) and a pair of gloves with little rubber beads on the palms to help me climb walls if I need to. I know I'm not going to need them for long as in only a couple of weeks I will be heading back to warmer climes, but now they are a necessity, a bare necessity and you need the bare necessities to forget about your worries and your strife.

But the nice thing about rain, is that it also gives things a different light, shape and texture than what the eye sees in the dry, and as someone who's lumping a camera around and several lenses to grab the best images I can, that also makes me very happy.



Thursday, 25 February 2016

Flight to Taiwan - 19/2/2016

We arrived at Don Meuang airport at 10:20 pm ready to check in the requisite 2 hours before for the 12:30 flight to Taipei, but not for the first time during my travels I had got my timing wrong. Luckily my subconscious had aired significantly on the side of caution, affording us an extra hour to grab a coffee, make a few last phone calls back home from my soon to be worthless tourist sim, visit the toilet, watch the departure boards and all the other things you end up doing when trying to kill a little extra time. That however proved to be the only hiccup of the outbound journey. The flight on v-air was the smoothest I had yet endured though a travel sick feeling stopped me getting any sleep on the journey itself, Vicky (who claimed she hadn't slept either) only stopped her light snoring at the first sign of turbulence kicked up as the plane dipped out of the golden sunrise into the light grey cotton ball clouds.

Maybe it was the fact I was feeling a little nauseous, or maybe it was the abrupt change from the smooth ride and more ominous skies, but I got the unnerving impression the the plane was coming in too fast as I caught glimpses of the scenery below from the window 3 seats away. Panic was trying to force its way through my tiredness and I fought hard against the urge to say something, not wishing to subject anyone else to the feelings that I was trying hard to suppress. Besides, no matter what had happened at that point in, we were all just along for the ride now anyway, so no point causing any worry to anyone else now.

The initial touch down was bumpy and fast and the engines roared in such a way as to momentarily suggest that we would soon be airborne again, but the plane stayed planted firmly enough and was rapidly brought back down in speed. As the plane slowed down along the runway, the lack of the sound of belts unclipping of meant that I wasn't the only one who had suffered the jitters during the approach to Taiwan. As the plane stopped and belt lights extinguished, the metallic clunking commenced and the over head luggage retrieval scramble began in earnest. I grabbed mine, stood patiently in the queue for a minute or 2 until the line started to move, carrying me down the aisle, past "see you again" staff and off of the plane to another land.

At Taipei airport, we stopped briefly to fill in the requisite arrival forms before joining what was initially just 3 lengthy slow moving immigration lines. Over the next hour new slow moving lanes were opened as old ones that had been starting to move too quickly were shut, an interesting take on line management seemingly designed to just frustrate the waiters as much as possible. When I was 2 people back from the last of 2 open immigration desks, I was ordered across to yet another queue as the one in front closed meaning that out of an entire plane of people, somehow I had managed to be the last person to get through a slow, timely and unnecessary frustrating process. It's exactly the sort of thing you don't need to happen when you're lacking sleep, feeling rough and yet to have sourced your first coffee fix of the bourgeoning day. Well, that and not being able to access any money from your account at the ATM, meaning that coffee feels a million miles further away than it did 2 minutes before.

HSBC had pulled this stunt* before of course, in Vietnam my cards had been stopped due to a transaction of about 4 pound which they deemed suspicious (it wasn't). This time i had ensured that all the travel information was up to date on their internet banking page but as the first "transaction cancelled" message came out the ATM, I was 90% sure what was going on again. When a 2nd ATM from a  different bank gave me the same message I was up to 99% and when on the 3rd interaction I couldn't even check my current account balance, HSBC skullduggery was all but confirmed again. The difference here over Vietnam was that this time I had a travel buddy with me, so I wasn't completely paddle less, but still,  in different circumstances I would have been in a new country, with no money, no phone card and even further increased blood pressure. As it was my blood pressure this time had probably only doubled up briefly before I reasoned it back down to an "elevated" state, allowing me to then come up with a course of action that only an idiot with a broken foot could comprehend. We caught a taxi into Taipei to drop off our luggage at the hotel so I could execute my plan, a trip of around 20 minutes at a cost of just over $1000.

Locating the nearest branch of the Worlds Local Bank about a half hour walk away, we reached the front desk looking bedraggled and worn out. "Do you speak english?" I enquired with the young girls behind the counter, one of whom then rather nervously replied "A little". But a little was all she needed. Soon she had taken me around the corner and I was on the phone to HSBC services back in the UK and everything was sorted as far as the damned cash flow was concerned. The people on the phone I dealt with were all polite and helpful, questioning that my last transaction was for a small amount with the airline I had booked with and reasoning with me that there had been a lot of fraud in Asia at the moment, hence my card had been blocked for this reason.

I didn't bite.
I didn't push as to the potential problems that just stopping a card almost indiscriminately could cause someone travelling into foreign countries or enquire why as why they couldn't notify me by email or leave me a message on my internet banking page informing me that a hold had been placed on my card. I really didn't need to get worked up anymore for no reason.

I just waited the 2 minutes I was told to wait for my card to be ready before calmly pulling $10,000 from the branch ATM, thanking the staff there and heading into Taiwan in search of a worlds local cafe.

Coffee had rarely been so needed.

*clean version.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Ayutthaya: 14 - 17/2/2016

Ayutthaya lies about 80km north of Bangkok's Victory Monument, from where the buses (or mini vans) leave from as regularly as they are full. The taxi driver who collected us from our hotel offered to take us there instead of Victory Monument, on the meter to which we agreed, but as usual things never go to plan. A large thud and couple of minutes later, we were stood outside the taxi with our bags deciding what to do next as the Taxi driver thunked around under the bonnet trying to fix the problem with his air filter. Heroically he got us back in the taxi and got us as far as the departure point for the buses, keeping the revs high when the traffic slowed, gutted that he wasn't going to be able to take us further, but such is life.

The queue for the vans tailed back a little, and a quick estimation put us at about the 4th van mark, into which we were being loaded about twenty minutes after. Seeing as there was no room for luggage we had to buy an additional seat on which to place out bags, but even then the total amount only came to 200 baht, or 180 if you don't include the change that didn't come back, or around 4 pounds total in real money. It took 40 minutes to clear the Bangkok traffic, and then another 40 to reach Ayutthaya after that including several quit drop offs en-route. After that the hotel was a long 5 minute walk away and the heat was such that I was sweating before hoisting my bag onto my stiff, manly frame. My strong manly knees lifting the substantial weight competently enough as my quadriceps bulged under cloth. This was the textbook health and safety stuff for which I had been trained, Gary at my old place of work would be so proud that someone at least had been paying attention during his induction process.

Ayutthaya is the site of the old capital of Thailand, and during the mid 1600's was apparently resident to around a million people. 100 years later, the Burmese army attacked and destroyed much of it, the buildings became ruins, the statues broken and decapitated and this is how it stood, pretty much, until the 1950's when the restoration projects began. The modern town there now has wide, quiet streets, a mixture of modern houses, internet cafe's and restaurants along them, never encroaching on the larger temples that are all around the site, but often built along side or incorporating small groups or individual crumbling stupa's, or parts of the old city walls and other buildings from around that time.

The first night there corresponded with a large market running over several streets, the final of the celebrations to celebrate the Chinese new year. As usual with the street markets there was an abundance of food to be had, but there also more of a carnival feel to this one as people took pot shots at targets at a shooting gallery, or fished for goldfish in a large paddling pool filled with the little critters. It took me a while but eventually I had to double back and go and get the camera, some things are just too good to miss.

At the end of the first street, where the road crossed over the river, the Chinese celebrations were in full swing, with traditional Chinese stage shows full of colourful characters and traditional sounds. Behind this were more stalls selling everything you never knew you wanted alongside a huge amount of tables laid out for a communal feast where everyone in attendance dressed in red for some  kind of fund raising event being dutifully compared on stage by a young man and woman whose mannerisms would have suited a wildcard destination during the eurovision song contests scoring broadcast. The stalls light and tables carried on far into the distance, we however did not, instead returning back to the hotel just after 10pm, stopping only to grab a quiet bite to eat on the way back, and stopping at the 7-11 to stock up on snacks and coke for the coming days.

Just around the corner from the hotel lay Wat Phra Mahthat with it relatively famous and oft pictured image of a buddha head entwined in the roots of a tree that has grown all around it, as well as many other statues and ruins in varying states of distress. The site teems with tourists both guided and lone, but is surprisingly peaceful in it's large grassed area bordered by main roads and a lake. More historical sites lay scattered around the town both in distance and description and the following day we explored with slightly larger scope, with a river boat tour in the evening taking in 3 more temples that lay further away than the ones we had managed to get to during the daytime on bikes. The biggest hindrance was not the distance between the sites themselves, but more the temperatures in which we were now being subjected, hitting the mid 30's by around the midday mark and continuing to rise into the afternoon. With most sites exposed to the elements with little or no sheltered areas to which to escape, exploring was not as leisurely as you would want it to be and in only a short time of being in it's full gaze, my easy dri top had become an easy wet one. I'm sure I spent as much on coconut ice creams as I did on historical site entrance fees during these all too, but necessarily short outside excursions and If we had know the temperature was going to be as obstructive as it turned out to be, then maybe we would have allowed for an extra bit of time there to see more things. As it is though we still fitted enough in to warrant the journey there, and maybe warrant another trip back again at some point in the future.

2 days later and with my body fluid about half what it had been due to perspiration alone, we were back in Bangkok for one more visit before heading out to Taiwan. It's a great place to get supplies in most instances, however and rather frustratingly, it seems like chemists here no longer stock the "Freestyle"  blood testing strips suitable for the diabetes meter I use. I still have a couple of boxes left before I need to really panic, but if it get's to the point that I do run out, I may have no other option but to get myself a t-shit with "Sugartits" emblazoned upon it as a last ditch attempt to draw attention to my situation.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

the trouble with tripholes - 4/2/2015

......or strange things are a foot.

My loose plan for travelling this time around was to get to Asia in November, give myself a couple of months to acclimatise and then spend a couple of weeks teaching english to school kids in Thailand from the 6th of February and then further travel after. With the TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) course completed before I left the U.K and ACRO police check paid for, received and submitted to the organising company along with my flight details from Bangkok to Koh Samui for airport pick up, I was all set to go. Total cost incurred was around 700 gbp (not including flights in and out of Asia) and everything was on track.....until....well..,you know.

In the days after I rolled over on my ankle in Myanmar the bruising had come out quite nicely, the usual hues of reds, purples and blues along the outside base of the foot leading around to and below the joints of toes was in keeping with a grade 2 sprain according to the information I could source online. The swelling had swelled as expected and was now starting to unswell, but each day that the size decreased the more pain became apparent, even with no movement or weight bearing on it. With 2 days to go until the teaching trip began, I started to wonder whether my sprain was actually something a little bit more sinister than I had initially diagnosed. A week to the day after the initial damage was done, it was time for my first hospital trip on foreign soil.

The 2 hospitals nearest the hotel in Bangkok were Sukhumvit and Bumrungrad, both shown as being 1.1 miles away from our location. This meant that it was no longer the simple case as just going to the one closest to us, but now other factors would have to be considered for me to be able to make the required choice.  At the most basic of levels it had now come down to which ones name tickled me the most, and the bum just about squeezed it.

A short ride in a taxi later and we walked into a foyer more in keeping with a luxury hotel than what I have come to expect from a hospital. The staff directed us towards an adjoining building where we were instructed to take the elevator to the 10th floor for registration where, on arrival, a man in a  grey Dr Evil style collarless suit, sat me down to complete a form in need of some basic personal information and my passport as proof of my ID. I was then affixed with the universal style hospital wrist tag and sent on my way to the 20th floor to see the Dr for my initial consultation.

The Doctor was out at lunch when we arrived and this information was provided immediately on arrival along with what time he was due to be back. Somehow this was reassuring that Doctors here seem to be allowed to have lunch breaks. 30 minutes later I was taken to a small room and given a quick check over by the nurse. The usual things were confirmed

weight (heavy)
height (tall(ish))
blood pressure (higher than it should be).

With no new revelations to shout about, I was then taken straight in to see the young doctor.

I explained what I had done, sharply rolling my wrist in the motion that my ankle had taken 7 days before.
 "Ahhhhh like this?" he replied back while holding my foot in his (thankfully) non moving hand and rolling the other.
"Yup" I replied back again motioning arm, "But with a CRACK" at the point where my wrist reached the desired rotation.
"CRACK, like the sound?" he said suddenly seeming more excited, "Yup" I replied.
"And it hurts here?" he said, gently pressing exactly where it did.
"Yup, right there", I acknowledged the press both vocally and involuntary movement away.
His entire face lit up.
"Yes, I think we will send you for an X-Ray".

There's something warming about making others happy isn't there?

I followed the nurse the short distance down the well lit hall to the X-ray room, an all too familiar sight. Not for the first time in my life I found myself on a table wearing the not too comforting led lined protective matt over clothes containing my essential bits, held my ankle in the 2 positions required for and then quickly re-shoed. I was escorted back to the waiting room for the results to be analysed expecting the usual prolonged wait that we would have back at home. The wait instead lasted around a minute.

Back in the Dr's room the X-ray was already pinned against the light board, the image confirming that somehow or how other, that roll with no impact as such had managed to cause a fracture of the bone. It wasn't the worst break, and certainly not by my standards  and I was advised there was a good chance it could heal on it's own as long as it is rested properly and given the time to recover.  This did mean however that the English Teaching trip that had been the pivot point of the journey was now off, but as I have mentioned before somethings are just not worth the risk when the possible consequences are considered. Sometimes as they say, shit happens, and thats all there is to it.

Other than the outcome, there's really not much to fault the trip to the hospital here. There was very little waiting between everything, the hospital itself seemed very modern and clean and the staff were courteous and friendly. Everything is efficient and exactly how you would want a hospital to be, even the total cost of the consultation wasn't too eye watering, coming in at 2545 baht (around 50 gbp).

So now I have to think about what next. I have ruled out returning to the U.K in the hope that the foot continues to recover and I have a few other destinations I would like to get to before I ultimately have to return. This just gives me something else to consider before setting off again.

Best foot forward and all that