Bangkok is at the epicentre of everything in this bit of the world – and this was the second time it had played this role for me. All roads lead to Bangkok, after all. Or something like that.
My first task was to get myself out of Hsipaw, and then out of Burma. Certainly not the easiest thing in the world by any means.
Ben and I had booked a bus to Mandalay the day before, and were up to abuse the buffet breakfast one last time before settling and walking down to the main road for 9am.
Though of course, the bus was late.
And had a food stop after all of 45 minutes. Into a 6 hour bus journey. Oh dear...
It was a mildly interesting journey, down into the gorge that I'd just glided over on the Gokteik Viaduct 4 days prior.
Well, “glided” is pushing it, but there you go.
And back up again. It took a while, long enough that I was surprised that the Chinese hadn't built a road viaduct across the thing. This is the main road to China, after all. Which has an immigration office a good 100km inland from the border.
And there was a second food stop in Pyin Oo Lwin – or “Plllllllurrr” as Ben called it. Yes, we'll go with Maymo. Where I got preached at by some Americans. Stereotypes are incredible things. At least these ones had actually made it out of the USA.
Everyone I'd met had said that Mandalay was fairly overrated – and they were right. It was a rubbish version of Bangkok by what I could see. Unfortunately I didn't quite have time to go and see the famous bridge for sunset, a bridge in Amarapura, 11km away. But Mandalay itself is a bit rubbish.
|This is Mandalay. It really isn't that exciting.|
Though the overpriced hotels were still full.
After an elusive search for a fishkin (Ben had decided that if he saw one on sale, he was getting it) it was time to sleep, in preparation for the big BKK.
Christmas Eve, and it was on to the shuttle bus (that's organised) and off to Mandalay airport, some provincial affair which didn't even have a currency exchange. Just a guy on the information counter. Given that I had a good 60$ in Burmese currency, it was a good time to exchange it all.
Even if there wasn't actually a 5000 kyat departure tax, and we had to waste the rest of our kyats on burgers and cocktails.
Though the burgers were incredibly good, and the cocktails far too potent.
And we were rushed on to our flight, where security didn't care about the litre bottle of water Ben had or the fact that I'd set the metal detector off. And because this is Burma, we went into the skybridge..... then down some steps on to the ground, where we had to take a bus all 100 metres to where the plane was sat.
No, I can't walk there.
Or run, because they won't catch me that way.
The poor guy seemed amused, at least.
The flight arrived a good 40 minutes ahead of schedule too. On an intercontinental flight, this might be impressive, but on a 2 hour flight, it looks like bad scheduling so they can claim that 99% of flights arrive on time, or whatever.
|This was not how I arrived. I just wanted an excuse to use the photo.|
Arriving in Bangkok felt like a bit of a homecoming too. Sorry mum?
From what I've seen, the longer you spend there, the more you like the place. Seems like my experience – and I'm certainly not a big city kind of guy.
And so we got a taxi in, confused the driver by not wanting the tollway, and headed back to see Aung was still in good form. And got reunited with my Burmese hat, that I'd not taken to Burma.
And Nikolas was still there. Magnus had left one day prior.
Bangkok holds on to everyone.
As for Christmas Day, I went to the currency exchange. And the post office, where it's forbidden to post liquids, explosives, firearms – and Buddha images.
Then to Siam Square, just because we were bored – and went to an Indonesian fast food restaurant around the corner. A&W is decent, and I do highly recommend it.
|Must..... take photo..... of root beer|
And of course there was time to get lost.
But we found the pier eventually – and they let the people without tickets on before the ones who'd bought the expensive 150 baht day passes – the ones that require you take 11 journeys before they become worthwhile.
The looks on their faces when the boat departed without them. Ah, Bangkok.
|Bangkok: never the end of the line|
I know I'll be back here. It's just going to happen. It's a good thing I like the place.