I awoke in surroundings that had thankfully now become fairly familiar to me, the carefully drawn curtain of my personal cube separating my space from the rest of the well maintained dormitory that lay outside it. I led there for a couple of moments before moving still feeling slightly punch drunk, taking my time to gather up my fragmented thoughts in order to form a cohesive plan for the day before forcing myself up, to shower, dress and lumber downstairs to make use of the breakfast facilities before the deadline for that passed. The shower took longer than it usually did, as did the dressing and the lumbering downstairs. Even at my “slower than usual” pace, I still managed to bang my head on a low concrete beam that hung above the stairs between the first and ground floor. I had done so every single morning during my stays at this hostel, and sometimes evenings too when my though process was away from "ducking". At least in this uncertain time, something was remaining constant.
Downstairs in the open spaced communal area I placed a shallow, empty cup under the nozzle of the coffee dispenser and pulled the lever into the on position, turning away for a little too long to deliberate the quandary of whether to toast the white or the brown bread. “AAAhhhhhfuuuuuu” inadvertently broke free of my mouth as I whipped around just in time to see the expanding pool of black coffee drop over the side and begin splashing onto the tiled floor below. It was now obvious that despite my preparation for the day, the overly long shower and inadvertent concrete "WAKE UP" bang on the head, I was still pretty far from firing on all 8. I felt like my brain was being pulled out out, battered then compressed turning me into a a shuffling, mumbling liability. I apologised profusely for the mess I had caused and cleaned up what I could, finished my breakfast and then headed out to get hold of the now absolute requisite blood testing kit. “Liability” decided it liked being around me so it also decided that it was going to stick around for a few more days, I can’t say I was overly glad of its company.
Although I previously hadn't managed to find any new strips for my existing meter, each failed endeavour had given me an idea of prices to pay and places to buy. By the early afternoon I had taken a couple of short train rides, walked lengths of air conditioned malls and arrived at the Big C Supercentre not completely overheated, At "Boots" (the chemist) I asked the counter assistant a couple of quick questions before paying around £40.00 for what would be needed to get through the next few days. I left the store with my shiny new replacement meter, a box of 25 testing strips in addition to the 10 supplied in the pack and then sat at a window seat at the nearest McThai. I watched the day pass by as it suffered under the oppressive heat outside. I stayed cool with my second very, very large and very, very cold vat of iced Coke Zero.
The first one I had fumbled and dropped off the tray as I turned back away from the counter. It had made a hell of a mess.
The solution as it so often has been was to be found on the internet, with a bit of research leading me to find a conversion table* which would show the correlating figures of the 2 measurement types. This I could then keep folded up alongside the meter for reference. This was going to be a little bit cumbersome when testing on the move and a little less than pretty once it had acquired a few small blood spots on it from being folded up after testing befoe my fingers stopped bleeding, but it was a workable solution which is what I needed. It didn't need to be anything else.
The hotel itself was located on Deco Road and was just along from the LubD hostel where I had spent maybe the most nights during my time travelling, it therefor seemed like a somewhat fitting location for my trip to come to an end. The room itself was beautifully presented with a large comfortable bed, large bathroom and large slatted wooden doors which opened up to a small balcony looking out onto the familiar busy junction below. On the opposite corner of the street the restaurant that I had helped ease me back in to travel over 5 months before was now gone, abandoned and dressed with boards advertising its availability for rental. I took this as a reflection of how things are in that part of the world are always moving, changing and adapting, a complete contrast to the slow, plodding pace that things can often take to get things done back home. To this end you could be fairly sure that the place wouldn’t be empty long due to its busy and prime location, but its current plight did give me reason to think back and reminisce. Here was a visual representation of my own self-imposed exile. A personal journey that had taken me the best part of two and a half years to complete was now drawing to a close and the empty building in it's current guise was a reminder that nothing ever lasts forever, no matter how much you might wish that it would.
A few shopping trips came over the next couple of days, fresh t-shirts and clothes to replace my well-worn rags, small gifts and a set of bathroom scales to ensure my bags were under their travel limits, 20kg for the larger backpack and 7 kg for the smaller, carry on bag. The scales eventually fitted into my backpack after a quick bit of reorganisation but it wasn’t long after that I realised that old liability had struck again and I rushed back to the pillar outside the shop where my re-fit had taken place, finding my camera sat on its own on the tiled floor exactly where I had left it, watched over a bemused looking couple who perhaps though the setup was a part of a TV show’s elaborate prank. With my camera safely back on board I then headed back to base to start with the sorting out process.
I didn’t take long before I had a bin full of discarded items and 2 piles of clothes, ones to keep and ones that would not be making the trip back. Clothes from the latter pile would then be used for the rest of my time in Bangkok to ensure that I had a full set of clean and tidy clothes for both the forthcoming travel and imminent repatriation. With the bags now down to their target weight I checked my flights to ensure everything was in order and nothing had been altered late on, noticing then that my flight had been moved back a couple of hours and my baggage allowance was actually 30kg rather than the 20kg I had worked to achieve. However, I reasoned that the stuff in the bin pile was still to be binned, I could no longer be bothered to carry the extra weight both to and from the respective airports, sometimes you just need to have that cull.
With most things now in order I spent the next day at leisure, relaxing as I visited coffee shops and outdoor markets, photographing what I could and memorising the sounds and smells during the little time now left to me. For the first time in what seemed like an age I saw rain fall in Bangkok and I watched as the people outside, for once unusually unprepared, dash to shelter under nearby concrete structures with inadequate, short-term cover items held above their heads. I just sat there and sipped on a Green Tea latte from the comfortable confines of a ground level coffee shop.
As I sat there I knew very well that I was going to miss so much of this after I left, but I was also aware that in myself, I was completely drained. I was exhausted in both my body and my mind and hadn’t been functioning well enough for the last few weeks at least, probably longer, struggling more than I should have since breaking that bone in my foot several months before. It's amazing how something as small as that can change everything as much as it does. Everything required more time, more effort, more energy effory and when you're already running close to the limit, sometimes you just don't have that ability to sustain that kind of demand for any prolonged period of time
As departure day edged ever closer, I started to see it as a sort of half-welcome inevitability. It had been a good run.