Trompe le Monde: A Round the World Tour Diary

An online travel diary so people can keep up to date with what I'm doing and where I'm going.

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Location: Home, United Kingdom

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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Last Days in Asia

After a mammoth 14 hour journey I yesterday returned to Bangkok, the city where my Southeast Asian travels began oh so long ago, from Siem Reap. On the 22nd at about 8 in the morning local time we leave for Australia, so it's goodbye to Asia.

Firsty, though, it was goodbye to Siem Reap and Cambodia, a place where my sandals were eaten by a dog, replaced by god awful blue plastic monstrosities that have given me blisters (I bought me some better flipflops from Bangkok's brilliant Chatuchak weekend market today), and where on my last night I was electrocuted attempting to remove a lightbulb. The shock cause me to fling the lightbulb in to my room from the en suite bathroom, where it exploded on the floor, scattering sharp glass fragments across the entire room including into my bed. And me with no footwear, being as my trainers were packed away and my flipflops were on the porch, no doubt being eyed up by that bastard hound.

As you may be able to tell, I wasn't exactly upset to be leaving Siem Reap. Though the Angkor temples are fantastic, the town itself is a hole.

Holes were very much in evidence on the road to the Thai border. The difference between relatively affluent, westernised Thailand and mined-to-buggery, recovering-from-disaster, poor Cambodia is extremely marked, and it shows at the border. On the Cambodian side it's chaos and bureaucracy. On the Thai side there are ATM machines, corner shops and roads that aren't constructed out of dirt.

I'm glad to be back in Bangkok. Of all the cities I've thus far visited, it seems by far the most livable. The people are amazingly friendly and helpful, it's clean(ish - clean for Asia), and the public transport is efficient and easy to use. It may lack the atmosphere of Hanoi, but it is still very much a city I've fallen in love with. You can even get used to the sex tourists after a while.

So it's goodbye to Asia, goodbye to squat toilets, semi-frequent power cuts, taking your shoes off before you go in to a building, Buddhism, Hinduism, rickshaws, potholes and the phrase "same same but different". And it'll be hello to Australia, to sport and... er... the outback... er... and not much else off the top of my head. We're talking about a country with Clive James as its foremost male intellectual...

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