Bangkok…

 

So I’m away again. I landed in Bangkok a couple of days ago. It’s very, very warm. Thank FSM for air-con.

Bangkok airport is awesome. Well, no, it’s just a regular airport, but it does have some awesome things in it. Firstly, please observe not only escalators that’re stairs, not only escalators that’re conveyor belts, not only escalators that’re sloping, but ALL OF THE ABOVE AT ONCE.

I took a train from the airport to, well, a train station somewhere. Apparently this was the closest place to where I was staying to then get a taxi from. Waving down a taxi driver who spoke and read enough English to understand the address I was going to was a challenge in the middle of rush hour traffic, but I got one in the end.

The next thing that struck me about Bangkok’s dealing with traffic was the incredible traffic lights. They have timers on them to tell you how long the red light has left until it changes, and the same for the green. I’m sure this isn’t exclusive to Bangkok, but it’s the first time I’ve noticed it anywhere. It also really reduces the frustration of sitting waiting at a red light if you know when it’s gonna change, even if that is in three minutes.

I arrived at my hostel and checked in, made my way up to my room and crashed out on the bed after something like 20 hours of travelling. The plane journeys were not conducive to sleeping, so that didn’t really happen.

Since my body now had no idea what time it was, it being about 8pm local time and 2pm English time, it was kinda hungry. It’d been many hour since I last ate on the first plane journey, so kinda understandable. Now, see, I’m not a huge fan of eating food if I don’t know what it is. This made getting food here somewhat of a challenge. I wandered the streets for a while until I found something that resembled something I recognised and got a dish of that. Turned out to be delicious.

So, that was my first day in Bangkok. Onwards (and a fight with jet lag)!

 

Important cultural differences…

Alright, I admit, the title may be slightly misleading. Unless you classify ice cream and light switches as important, as I do.

So there are many and varied differences between the US and the UK, and for some reason it seems to be something that I’m asked quite frequently by Americans when I’m chatting to them. “So what’re the biggest differences between here and the UK?” they say. And despite how many obvious and huge differences there are, it’s actually rather difficult to name any of them when put on the spot like that.

Well, now I have a specific and immediate answer I can give whenever presented with that question in future. It might not be what most people are expecting, or the most interesting answer, but you can’t fault it for it’s pragmatism.

Light switches in the UK look like this (without all the chrome and fancy black plastic, but the general shape remains the same):

Now, imagine you’ve just made your evening meal, and you’re holding your plate of food in one hand and your drink of choice in the other and you’re about to walk out of the kitchen, but you don’t want to leave the light on. You have no choice but to ineffectually jab at the light switch with the edge of the plate over and over again until you either catch it just right and turn the light off, or spill your lovingly prepared food onto the floor. Was the floor hungry? Possibly. But you didn’t need to feed it just yet. And certainly not with that bolognese you just made (with tagliatelle, philistine).

American light switches have overcome that problem quite nicely. Observe:

You see that? The majesty of the little nubbin sticking out so brazenly into the room like that? Now all you have to do, chow in hand, is wander past and deftly catch the little bugger with the edge of the plate, your finger, hell, flick it with your nose if the fancy takes you.

Light switches, eh? It’s the simple things that make the difference.

Also, ice cream.

There are so. many. more. flavours of ice cream here. It just doesn’t seem fair. The UK market gets maybe, conservatively, 20% of the available flavours that the US has access to. Now, admittedly, it’s cold in England a lot, and so ice cream isn’t going to be such a big thing, but even so. We like our after dinner niceness, dammit, and I resent the fact that we only get thrown a metaphorical bone when it comes to the flavours on offer.

Today, for instance, I purchases some Ben and Jerry’s Cinnamon Buns ice cream, which is not available in the UK as far as I’m aware. Caramel ice cream, (pronounced ka-ra-mel, not car-mel, tch) with cinnamon bun dough and cinnamon streusel swirl. Oh God it’s good.

But then, I hear it’ll be snowing in parts of the UK soon, so maybe ice cream isn’t at the top of their list of priorities…

One month on the road…

Well, as of yesterday, I’ve been on the road for a month. I say on the road – it’s mostly been by rail, but you know what I mean. I would have written this post yesterday, but yesterday became a clusterfuck of very swift changes of plans and directions and thus I had neither the time nor ability to sit down and write. Here I am a day late instead. You should’ve expected it.

So I left on the 19th of July, and it’s now the 20th of August. I’ve been travelling around for a solid month now. Let’s recap on what’s happened so far.

I’ve visited the following places: Lyon, Clermont Ferrand, Grenoble, Genoa, Pisa, Florence, Lucca, Bologna, Ravenna, Ferrara, Venice, Ljubljana, Zagreb, and currently Sarajevo. That’s 14 cities in five countries so far. That’s broken my previous 13 cities in one trip record.

I’ve befriended 10 people, two of which I imagine keeping in active and regular contact with.

I’ve travelled a total of 1116 miles as the crow flies.

I’ve taken approximately 1400 photos, which is a little over 17Gbs of hard drive space.

I have finished reading six novels.

Hmm. Is it a little sad that I can only summarize an experience like this by using lists and tallies? Or, as in my previous post, Bell curve graphs? I guess it comes from having a scientist’s mind. I keep it in a jar. It doesn’t make for good empathic reading for you folks though, so let me try and expand and get in touch with my emotional side. This might get messy.

When I set out on my trip the first couple of places I stayed at were for four days each. During the first week or two it felt an awful lot like time was dragging. The whole “it’s only been a week? Feels like ten” effect. Now I’ve been going for a little longer it’s feeling very much the opposite, and it doesn’t seem like I’ve been away for more than a week or two. I wonder what the reason for that is, but perhaps it’s just that I’m hitting my stride. I’ve another few weeks left of treking around, then I board the yacht in Greece for the sailing stretch of the trip. After I disembark and fly to Athens I have no fucking idea what I’m going to do still. Fun fun.

What have I learned about myself? Introspection incoming.

I like the company of others and I hate people. There’ll be a whole detailed post upon this subject when I find the motivation to write it.

I’m certainly getting more confident in strange places, but that’s gotta be kind of a given at this stage.

I can walk a long-ass way with my pack on my back, and will usually elect to do so if the public transport is remotely complicated.

I am really uninventive when it comes to cooking dinner.

I’m not too sure what else I’ve learned about myself so far. I’m sure something will come up separately. And I think right now, that’ll do for the summary of the first month. Onwards.

Om nom nom…

Yes, that’s the fucking title. That’s because I’m eating for the first time since breakfast, and it’s now half past midnight.

Anyway, I left Italy (which I will update more about later), and am now in Slovenia. This is just a quick update to list a few things I’ve noticed in the few hours I’ve been in the country so far.

Everyone here (that I’ve talked to so far) speaks English, well. Italy did not.

Prices. I just bought, for dinner, a 14″ soft roll with ham, cheese, and cucumber, and a pastry thing with a Frankfurter sausage atop it. This all cost me 3.5 Euros. That’s three and a half. I had change from a five Euro note. In France, that would have run me over ten. In Italy the roll alone would have been four to five Euro, let alone the pastry thing. Well done, Slovenia.

Food…

…is becoming problematic.

I went to a shop today to purchase provisions for tonight’s dinner. I bought some wraps (like one might use for fajitas), some sliced turkey, two tomatoes, some slices of cheese, and tiny block of mozzarella, and that was it, which came to E8.50. I could order a pizza from a nearby restaurant, who will deliver for free, for E5. I ask you, when I can have hot, fresh, good food brought to me for five Euro, where’s my incentive to buy and make my own food?

Now I understand…

When I was in Clermont Ferrand I often times saw locals walking around with full French sticks of bread in a long bag in their hand, eating it as a snack. This I did not comprehend at the time. Bread has never struck me, on its own, as a particularly snacky type food. Then I walked into a shop where they’d just baked some fresh loaves, and immediately it all became clear. So I bought one and ate it for lunch. The whole thing. Om nom.

Also, the Photodump has been updated with some more random shots.