Hiding In Your Cupboard

Hiding In Your Cupboard
Banksy's desecration of the Palestinian wall

Thursday, 19 April 2007


I have had something of a dicky tummy in Bangkok - ironically enough seeing as we escaped such misfortune in 'dirty' India. It may have something to do with the local whiskey though (actually rum) as many people seem to have a similar problem. Am fully recovered now and Jayne and I are residing in Krabi - soon to do some sea kayaking and make our way to the island of Koh Lanta.

As Jayne mentioned we arrived in BKK during Songkram - the Thai new year and as she also mentioned this entails a five day water fight. You can't step out of your hotel room for more than twenty seconds without returning drenched. Obviously this is good fun, but unfortunately it makes for rather poor blog entries as there are only so many times that I can regale you with an hilarious tale of throwing a bucket of cold water over some unsuspecting child. I will nevertheless attempt to describe the scene at least once - although there will be photos and soon you will be thrilled to know there will also be video footage.

Rama I is Bangkok's main thoroughfare and, due to the Thai people's real love of their monarchy, is lined with with paintings of the King and his family. Some are just portraits and others are sort of contemporary action scenes. Imagine Oxford Street lined with photographs of Charles pretending to be Camilla's tampon, Fergie sucking a millionaire's toe or Harry giving the Nazi salute and you'll have something of the opposite that occurs here.

Normally Rama I is a wide pleasant road with little traffic except at rush hour. During Songram the street is a crush of Thai's and travellers all throwing water at eachother and rubbing dough into eachothers faces.

Naturally, a few drunk English people take things a bit too far, buying supersoakers and imagining themselves as a bermuda shorted Andy McNabb, lurking behind corners and generally not following Sangkrom ettiquette - that is: dont soak any old person who isnt joining in, anyone with food or anyone who is working (with the exception of the police who take the punishment with good grace and are not impartial to giving someone a good soaking themselves).

We manage a couple of nights out which rather inevitably sees us drinking buckets: a mix of Sangsom (Thai rum) coke and Thai Red Bull (about 14 times as strong as our own diluted stuff). All sorts of exciting and mundane characters were met but the one that sticks in the mind is Enrique - a part Guatamalen, part Brazillian, part Australian with long dreadlocks and a face like Ronaldinho's. To top this off he wears a Barcelona T-shirt with Ronaldinho pasted onto the back.

His English is very good and we chat into the wee hours about him liking very tall girls, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and The Office. He teaches English as a second language which is slightly worrying as he has a somewhat comic mastery of it. The funniest thing he says revolves around an amusing interlude with his exgirlfriend and her mother. His exgirlfriend's mother had been slightly flustered at the prospect of meeting her daughter's new part Guatemalan part Brazillian boyfriend and somehow came to the decision that the appropriate thing to do would be to take him to the local drag queen show in Sydney. Enrique went along, amused but unpeturbed until his girlfriend and girlfriend's mother retired to the ladies room - while left alone Enrique was approached by a gay man who asked him (well according to the way Enrique tells it - begs him in a quite extraordinarily camp manner) to buy him a drink. Enrique, although no homophobe - he insists, isn't into this and only relents to his request (and here is the coup de grace readers!) after "at least half an hour of him buggering me". I'm not sure if he saw my childish and stifled laugh but it worries me that Enrique teaches English as a second language - soon we'll all be getting extremely buggered off with all the incorrect usage.

We eventually grab gold-dust-like train tickets to get out of Bangkok and arrive at the train station dry due to cunningly taking a taxi rather than a rickshaw. We enter the station and sort out a couple of formalities and then have to stop in our tracks as the Thai National Anthem is played. As previously written - the Thai's are very fond of their King and it is actually against the law to insult him or deface his picture. Infact, a Swedish man, whose name escapes me, was recently sentenced to ten years imprisonment for defacing images of the King. The King's not such a bad chap though and pardonned the man after a few weeks. This is a law that anarchic Jayne has no fear in breaking - in the last day she has said the Queen "has put on a bit of weight" and accidentally compared the Royal family to Thailand's version of the Battersbys from Corrie.

As the anthem comes on everyone, approximately 500-700 people, stood up as one and sung their hearts out - they certainly put English footballers to shame at any rate. We take the overnight train and then a bus to Krabi - a riviera town where one can get some of the best cooked food in Thailand down at the River Market. It can be quite hard to work out how to get the best food here as there are a plethora of stalls and they are mainly used by Thai people who seem to know instinctively what they are doing. We try a couple of places and get an odd variety - some very greasy noodles, delicious garlic pork yet served in an unfeasibly small portion, a wonderfully fragrant vegetable Thai Green Curry and pork stir fried with Calare greens (a little like asparagus if it flaunted leaves rather than its customary spear) which was a fresh tasting, moreish dish.

Its low season here now so Krabi feels a little deserted, tomorrow we are going sea kayaking and my prowess as a navigator and rower will no doubt come to the fore again much as it did when I had that job ferrying BMW Bikes across the channel.

Hope everyone is feeling well and good.

Lots of love James and Jayne xxxxx

PS. The next blog may be hot on the heels of this one as I have got slightly behind schedule!

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Ad Hoc Bangkok

After a very long and uneventful 24 hour journey we have arrived safely in Thailand. The differences between India and Thailand were apparent as soon as we stepped of the plane. James kind of knew what to expect as he's a regular here but I feel as if I have become so acustomed to the way of life in India (the way of life for a couple of travellers that is) that for me it was a lovely surprise just to be surprised again.

Firstly as I approached the main taxi rank with a sinking feeling bracing myself for the expected onslaught of aggressive touts and leering men I noticed that no one was looking at me. In India I was constantly stared at just because I am pale skinned, a woman and not in a Burka. Secondly a taxi tout approached us, 'taxi sir'. 'NO' I growled at him in my 'do not mess with us we are seasoned travellers even though I dont have a clue where Im going voice'. He then smiled at us and walked of!!!! The Indian touts do not give up, they will even follow you out on to a dual carriage way without looking, all the time screeching 'very cheap price!'. I even managed to sit and have a fag outside the airport next to the taxi queue without an audience of giggling children, staring ladies and crotch grabbing men!

The second difference I noted between Thai and Indian people occured when James and I found ourselves in a bit of a pickle. James went to get some cash out of the ATM but his card was refused. We have had ongoing problems with our bank since we left the UK. No matter how many times we tell HSBC that we are in Asia and will be visitng many different countries they still insist on temporarily and always at the most inconvenient times, barring the cards. Anyway, we were stuck in Bangkok airport with no local currency, and about 20 Sri Lankan rupees to our name. If this situation had occurred in India we would have been swarmed with people trying to help, offering lifts on their mopeds to a million different ATM's, promising us the loan of their Grandma's savings and generally making our problem very much their problem. Used to this attitude of helpfulness mixed with nosiness I assumed that all we had to do was explain the problem and someone would let us use a phone to call the bank, have the block removed and reimburse them when we had been able to get money from the ATM. Nope. Emirates couldnt help us, the bank couldnt help us, the peolpe at the currency exchange couldnt help us, the lady at the 'Can I Help You Desk?' couldnt help us, infact she seemed put out at being approached. Eventually a young girl at an internet cafe took pity on frantic James and gave him her own phone card to use.

Bangkok so far has been alot of fun, the sort of fun that would not happen in India. Our last night in India was also a lot of fun, we decided to blow our budget by living it up with the Glitterati of Delhi society. The nightlife for the rich young hip things in Delhi revolves around impossibly expensive and showy hotel bars. The Delhi jeunesse all have fantastic drawling 'Hinglish' accents 'like yaar man I am thinking these tunes are rrreally hip'. The club we ended up in played a mixture of Hindi film songs (which got the dance floor heaving!) Bangra tunes and dodgy dance and trance remixes. In England it would have been terribly uncool but I have never seen so many people going for it. It was a world away from the chilled backpacker bars playing Jack Johnson for the millionth time, full of stoned Isrealis and we loved it!! I was sad to say Goodbye to India and Delhi in particular. We will definately be coming back.

So Hello Bangkok. So far we have been immersed (literally) in the Thai new year celebrations which involve huge street water fights, visited the seedy district of Patpong Market where we saw a rather half hearted sex show and eaten the best food in 2 months. More on all that soon.

Jayne xx

Friday, 6 April 2007

Goodbye India and the Coco Gokarna

We are soon to leave India. This was really brought home to me when a slightly unusual English lad, sporting a Clark Gable moustache, bundled past me out of our hotel, fixed me in the eye and said "Goodbye India". As if me entering the hotel as he was leaving the hotel meant that I was somehow arriving and he was perrenially leaving. It wasn't - I had simply left behind my wallet.

Before I get on to the subject of leaving though there are a few more tales to tell. After leaving the cliffy sanctuary of Varkala we took the train up to Gokarna. Another beach resort you will be fervently excited to hear but this one is the most deserted so far. There are only several beach shacks here and we were lucky to find one that wasn't simply a concrete altar strewn with a blanket and surrounded by the least fortuitous pigs building material of choice.

And surprisingly enough - not much happened. We met another couple called Ryan and Steph who are doing exactly the same as us (moving to New Zealand). We get on well and have invited them to meet us in Wellington for a Roast Dinner.

The only incident of note happened to Jayne. Middle aged Indian men have a nasty habit of staring at Western Girls - if they are in a bikini it drives them into some sort of pent up frenzy. Sometimes they will set next to you (well Jayne not me) and ask sexually innappropriate questions such as "Do you remove the hair on your legs for all men or for your boyfriend?" or "do women where you come from sleep with many men?". All the time trying to sneak a touch here or a touch there.

Why they think this of Western Women is of some debate. Traditionally the west is viewed (by some, especially older people) as a place with low moral standards (or broad mindedness as the pervy men like to put it!). Also the general attitude towards women in India isn't brilliant. I seem to get a lot more respect from travel agents, shopkeepers, waiters, barmen than Jayne doees which can be frustrating. There also seems to be a slightly strange attitude that men cannot help themselves if they see a beautiful, semi-naked (this being a skirt and top in India) woman and that they should either be flattered by their crotch grabing, accidental brushing and lingering stares or accept that it is their own fault for having such an outwardly licentious presence. Hollywood films don't help either as many poorer Indians view of the West is informed entirely from Film (in many cases having not met a white person before or refusing to believe that there are many Indians that live in the UK). The image of James Bond flicking his fingers and delivering some incredibly witty double-entendre before bedding a bevy of varied beauties lingers in the mind and they feel frustrated that such wanton Western women will happily bestow their charms on men from all around the world but either ignore or swat away Indians. In a sense they have a point - when was the last time you saw a lead man in a Western Film that was Indian (Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans doesn't count), when they are portrayed they are often quite geeky and the last character in the film to actually have any success with the opposite sex. This seems to cause some resentment which may acount partially for the racist bastards that approached Jayne on the beach.

As they approached her Jayne could hear them describing her as lovely jubbly etc, and then they stood over her, stared at her and said hello. Jayne said hello back but then covered herself over to which they replied "fucking white bitches all deaf and dumb" and then walked off. Unfortunately these things obviously ocur when I am not around so its hard to do anything real about it.

This attitude does seem to be largely confined to lesser edcuated middle aged men (the younger men sem to have more manners?) and that the vast majority of Indians you meet are pleasant. In fact it is not unusual to receive vociferous assistance from bystanders (women and men) if you are touched innapropriately by a stranger.

Anyway enough of this rant!

After Gokarn we took a couple of trains up to Bombay. The land around Gokarn is quite mountainous and the track burrows through several very long tunnels. In the small service gaps along these tunnels some people appear to live or at least permanently take shelter. As the train drove past one group they all leapt up in white sheets, howling into the damp air and pretending to be ghosts. Not scary as much as highly amusing.

And then Bombay once more - a city that is part London, part New York, part Bangkok. We drive past what I assume to be slums - wooden shacks painted brightly but later realise to be quite good accomadation when we notice that they have electricity and see a postman. Their children are all dressed in school clothes, which is a good sign as very poor people use their children to work or beg. We drive past the slums on the way to the airport tonight and I shudder to think how these people live.

A few amusing points to record;

The baseball capped Indian grandad who sat next to me on the train to Bombay was a Jehovahs witness and reading a copy of their magazine "Awake". He didn't pester me for cups of tea but was reading an article entitled "Youth Questions: How Can I Avoid Homosexuality?".

The bins in South India have clearly been designed by a delusionist. I presume his idea was to make them more appealing to children or generally more aesthetic so as to encourage people to use them. An animal motif was his choice and you might think that monkeys, tigers or elephants might have been suitable choices - instead he plumped for penguins. Possibly the least likely animal to find in India. As a result the streets of Bombay are littered (spot the irony?) with open beaked, sunward looking Penguins - all of whom have conspicuously empty bellies.

More excellent TV to report. To celebrate Easter one channel devoted the weekend to showing scenes of flagellation and modern crucifixion.

And finally - my new favourite sport. Sport Stacking - where teams of repressed teenagers race against the clock to stack cvups in pyramids. Its real and details can be found at:

Please contact these people if you would like to organise a competition of your own. Perhaps you could see how fast you can stack plates as well as cups - the possibilities seem endless!

For League Information:
Reach Matt Reed Executive Director of Leagues
Direct Telephone: 1-303-962-5667
E-mail: mreed@worldsportstackingassociation.org
For Tournament Information:
Reach Pola Metz Executive Director of Tournaments
Direct Telephone: 1-303-962-5654
E-mail: pmetz@worldsportstackingassociation.org
For General Information:
Telephone: 1-303-917-4171
E-mail: info@worldsportstackingassociation.org
Fax: 1-303-962-5650
Address:P.O. Box 260526; Highlands Ranch, CO 80163-0526

Keep stacking

James And Jayne