MONDAY 10TH SEPTEMBER 2012
PERTH to BANGKOK
Everything is shipshape, the kayaks are parked in Laurence and Nadine’s front yard and the car is under cover at a neighbour’s place.
Perth has a relatively new transport system. There is no graffiti along the side of the railway tracks, as you see in Sydney for instance, because the authorities have placed rolls of razor wire at the base of vertical surfaces where the graffiti artists would normally stand. The bus and rail carriages are clean and comfortable and there is not one felt pen scribe or scratched window.
The system is computerised so all Bev had to do was type in the bus stop number where we wanted to leave from (a couple of hundred metres from L & N’s house) and we were advised what time to be at the bus stop so as to make train connections to the city. The whole journey (65 km) cost just over $4, which computed to 8 cents per kilometre. I have decided to keep a record of kilometre costs on this odyssey. I’m thinking Switzerland will be the most expensive and Albania the least.
Arrived Perth and had an early lunch in a café adjacent to the Perth stock exchange building. It was interesting watching the people passing in and out. As you would expect, there were a lot of suits. The only suit I have ever owned was the suit I was married in, never really had the call for such garb. Bev and I tried to work out how to tell a handmade designer suit from one mass produced in China or Pakistan but we couldn’t tell the difference from a distance.
We sat in the lobby of a hotel nearby where the airport bus was to pick us up. A little before the bus was due we moved to the bus stop and while waiting a taxi drew up and the driver, a sleek sub-continent personality, wanted to know why we were not going by taxi. I told him if there is a traffic jam his metre still ticks over but the bus one doesn’t. The bus arrived and pushed the taxi on. The driver of the bus, a jolly Thai, asked if the taxi driver told us that the airport bus doesn’t turn up sometimes, that we had better go by taxi! Apparently this is the go with Indian taxi drivers; it’s good to know they have bought a little of the culture to Australia with them.
The journey from Perth City to the airport cost $16 each and that worked out at 75 cents per km. I think that perhaps it will be more expensive than Switzerland.
Airport check-ins are usually a non-event if you are not carrying a couple of bar fridge size bags and have to pay excess baggage fees. Our bags weighed in at 15kg each which the check-in attendant thought pretty good for a five-month trip. Directly after the security door we passed through the duty free goods maze. One shop specialised in frozen Australian foods and two small pieces of abalone about 50mm across were $40!
Sitting in airport departure lounges and watching people is always entertaining. I look at the travellers and try to imagine where they are coming from and going to. For example, sitting opposite was an old surfer; he wore thongs, board shorts, a T shirt with a happy face on it and his sun-bleached hair signified he had spent a lot of time on the beach. I expect he was going to Thailand for the surfing.
The happy face originally indicated the happiness associated with the use of marijuana.
Sitting near the surfer was a Thai lady and because she was constantly playing with her scarf, wrapping it one way then another and each time tying a different choker knot, I assumed she was nervous about the coming flight. As departure time approached she began pacing, obviously stressed.
The main reason for visiting Thailand is to meet with Sirilug, an exchange student who lived with us 21 years ago for twelve months. She was a quiet unassuming girl and each day she had to travel on the school bus to school. Knowing the local school kids were giving her a hard time, I asked her if she would like to live with another family in Tamworth and therefore not have to travel on the bus. Her answer was ‘This is it, this is how it is’. I have never forgotten this; in fact I often say it when confronted with an awkward situation.
Because we got in late (around midnight) we are staying at the Airport Novotel Hotel
11TH SEPTEMBER 2012
BANGKOK TO NAKHON PATHOM
Lying in super comfort this morning I thought sleep and travel are one of the two same things; their outcomes are the same if things don’t go as planned. By this I mean that when you go to sleep at night you never know if you are going to wake up in the morning and when you start a new day’s travel you don’t know if you are going to make it to the end of the day to be able to go to sleep again.
The Airport Novotel Hotel is a pretty flash affair and even though I like my free bush camps it is good to treat oneself to a bit of luxury now and then. Bev has suggested we stay in similar digs when in India on our way back to Australia next February. I thought maybe just for the first and last nights as they are the most hassle-prone days.
The poles and wire ropes are not maintenance scaffolding but are part of an ingenious structure to hold a glass wall the size of a basketball court in place.
It’s hard to equate isn’t it? But our bill at the Novotel ($124) for one night was probably equivalent to all these people’s wages for a whole month. However they were happily laughing and joking with each other and willing to talk with us. It’s a matter of being happy with your lot I suppose. This is it…this is how it is.
The Airport Novotel boasts the largest lobby of any airport hotel in the world, 2800 square metres of it. The hotel has 612 guest rooms and when you think of these numbers, that’s a bloody lot of tiles, doors, windows, curtains, light globes, cakes of soap, bottles of shampoo and think how many rolls of dunny paper they go through each year. It’s just mind-boggling and that’s only one of tens of thousands of hotels of this class in the world. And what about all the lesser hotels?!!!
One thing that fascinates me about five star digs is the attention to detail and the incredible little bits of engineering that most people don’t see. For example, the beautifully crafted hinges on the shower recess door and the hand made stainless steel handrails.
The question I ask is, how is it attached to the glass?
Breakfast was all-inclusive and, you guessed it, I had Thai fried rice. Bev had fruit, rice, egg and hash browns.
Early afternoon Sirilug and her husband Seng arrived to take us to their home in Nakhon Pathom sixty kilometres away. Their Bavarian Motor Works car was waiting outside. Sirilug and her husband import luxury European and English cars such as BMWs, Porsche, Rolls Royce and Bentley into Thailand.
Comfortably seated, we sped along the freeway. I felt like I was sitting in a high-speed train, in other words we were punching along pretty well. Once off the freeway the road we followed was lined with fence to fence factories and small business enterprises. There were miniature temple and Buddha statue makers, recyclers, scrap metal and timber yards, brick makers, charcoal burners, potters, furniture and even a rocking chair maker. I wanted to be out there in the thick of it and wondered if it would be possible to hire a Tuk Tuk and driver and get him to take me for a run along the road so I can get close to the fabricators doing their stuff.
Along the way to Nakhon Pathom the road narrowed and the traffic intensified. Motorbikes, sometimes with three passengers on board, buses, trucks and cars went in every direction, however they all seemed to have a mutual respect for each other and even though there were a couple of near misses no one ran into each other. Bev described the traffic as organised chaos.
Thai cities are notorious for local flooding, mainly because of blocked drains and klongs. The big problem is associated with the floating weed, water hyacinth, which builds up under bridges and acts like a cotter dam forcing water to flood out. One of Thailand’s kings brought a piece of the plant to Thailand, broke it into pieces and gave it to his servants to propagate and now it’s out of control.
It always amazes me that cities like Bangkok can actually function when you consider the essential services such as water, gas and electricity that have to be brought in and the wastes that have to be taken out. Bangkok has a population of 9.3 million and is increasing steadily. All these people have to be fed and bedded. It’s amazing how it all happens.
From my observations today and on previous visits, it’s obvious there is still a huge gap between the haves and have nots and as the images of poverty swept by today it reminded me of my very first poverty drive in 1970 when travelling by bus from Colombo airport to Colombo city centre. At that time I was flabbergasted, I had never seen poverty on such a scale.