You can look at a map of a city and it all makes perfect sense. You immediately conjure up visions of strolling along the wide boulevards, popping into conveniently places landmarks from time to time, before summoning a handily waiting tuk tuk for the short ride home. Then you arrive at the city and it’s chaos. Nothing makes sense. Visions of the map are blasted out of your head by the sheer incomprehensibility of size and scales and noise and clutter. Walks that you think would take 20 minutes are 45 minutes in via motorized transport. Nowhere is this more apparent than the steaming, dusty, teeming city of Bangkok, our last stop in SE Asia.
We didn’t have long here, but it was enough – 2 days of pavement pounding, tuk tuk haggling with hard-nosed businessmen, many, many golden buddhas and the incongruous clash of old/new Bangkok that is epitomized in the region around Jim Thompson’s house. Lovely pagodas, lots of bling, and the odd snatch of serenity in JT’s lovely garden.
Our hotel overlooked the river and, rather incongruously, one of the great British public school exports, Shrewsbury school. From our 26th floor we could look down and see the children beetling around the sports fields and ploughing up and down the swimming pool, before the oppressive heat removed them to their classroom.
On our last night we snagged the last tickets (front row!) to a Thai ladyboy cabaret. Naively, I thought we would be entertained by a lot of elegantly dressed transvestites – I hadn’t quite realized the enormous anatomical measures this group of young men go through, or the culture that exists around ladyboys. It was everything you would expect – completely bizarre, slightly uncomfortable-making, a bit robotics, but also beautiful, inventive and touching. Our children we, of course, the youngest ones there but- as with everything – they took it in their stride – gawped, giggled and grew just a little bit more in their understanding of the amazing diversity of our species.