So after five days in Bangkok it’s time to move on to Myanmar (Burma) in the morning. As a place to start Bangkok has been pretty easy. The public transport system is convenient and cheap, everyone speaks English and the hostel is clean, air-conditioned and pretty quiet.
Navigating through the crowds of Chinese tourists makes it a challenge but the Grand Palace complex is worth seeing. As of course is the Songkran festival which is still drawing crowds into the city. Khao San Road is like a Thai version of Kuta, lots of tourists and lots of stores and stalls catering to travellers.
Sneaky selfie in front of a section of the Grand Palace
Getting into the spirit of Thai New Year
The backpacker mecca of Khao San
Tomorrow I’ll arrive in Yangon mid-way through the Burmese version of New Year including their own water festival. Should be fun!
Happy Songkran 2013
Thai New Year, Songkran Festival, basically the largest water fight in the world. The Central Business District where I am staying has been converted into a water battleground. Giant roadside machines pour foam into the streets, tuk tuks become mobile water tanks, street stalls sell water pistols, 7-11s are used as water refilling stations and shopfronts drag hoses out of the door to terrorise passers-by. This creates the perfect conditions for an absolutely awesome celebration.
Tuk Tuk Water Tank
What has to be the funnest moment of the trip so far everyone gets in on the action. Kids, grandparents, tourists, everyone was pouring, throwing or shooting water at everyone else. Coupled with this was the rubbing of a chalk paste onto your face to wish you a Happy New Year.
Cute Thai kid getting in on the action
How to score a free lunch in Thailand:
Step one: choose a local eatery down a small side street that offers a range of Thai dishes for 25 Baht (approx 80 cents)
Step two: choose which amazing foods you want
Plating up some amazing Thai food
Step three: jump the wrong way in front of a runaway motorbike with trolley attached and get crushed between the trolley and the store next door
15 seconds earlier I was squashed between the trolley and the tables next door
Step four: wash curry and assorted foods off pants and check that no bones are broken
Step five: eat delicious food (using your slightly shakey hands) that luckily was already plated up before the bike hit
Step six: offer to pay but because the owner felt sorry get the food for free
To be honest the Qantas delay wasn’t too big an issue for me but the whingeing pom irate person of an English heritage standing behind me in the queue did get on my nerves. When he started comparing the experience of a delayed plane to every other calamitous event that had befallen him and claimed that the bus driver was the worst he ever had in his 60 odd years of life I thought he might be exaggerating the seriousness of the delay.
Despite a very strong temptation to find a spot to sleep at Changi airport in Singapore I jumped on the first train of the morning which at 5.30am left only a couple of hours after I landed. I’d hoped Singapore would be a bustling 24 hour city but at 6am the CBD was pretty quiet. The Marina Bay area was pretty spectacular though. Well out of my budget but I can understand its appeal.
Early morning at Marina Bay
Alas I also wasn’t able to experience a Singapore Sling or G&T at the Raffles. The building and gardens still look impressive. As do the Fort Canning gardens, another reminder of Singapore’s colonial history. I was however able to partake in some Kaya toast in Chinatown, a Singaporean favourite which combines coconut milk, eggs and sugar into a spread. Like an eggy coconut jam…
I’d imagine it costs about as much as the Raffles in Perth
Next stop a few days in Bangkok to sort out a visa for Myanmar (Burma). Also to partake in the Songkran festival (known to Westerners as the Water Festival)!!
Bags are packed, goodbyes have been said, send off brews have been consumed and Qantas has only held me back for 12 hours!! First stop is an early morning in Singapore before Bangkok for a week or so to arrange my Burmese visa. I promise posts will get more interesting when I start doing stuff…
No man will speak to his master; but to a wanderer and a friend, to him who does not come to teach or to rule, to him who asks for nothing and accepts all things, words are spoken by the camp-fires, in the shared solitude of the sea, in riverside villages, in resting-places surrounded by forests–words are spoken that take no account of race or colour. One heart speaks–another one listens; and the earth, the sea, the sky, the passing wind and the stirring leaf, hear also the futile tale of the burden of life.
Joseph Conrad – Karain: A Memory
Pretentiousness might be an odd title for my first ever blog post. It probably doesn’t garner a lot of enthusiasm for those who might be interested in reading on. But, I do feel that the blog title ‘The Stirring Leaf’ requires an explanation and I really need to put it out there that even I, the author of this blog, think that choosing a quote from Joseph Conrad about my world travels is pretty pretentious. There will be no Heart of Darkness style navigation into the haunted inner workings of the human psyche. It won’t be an expose of the hypocrisy of Western colonialism.
It is in fact, a blog with a simple purpose. It is a chance for me to put down in words my thoughts and feelings as I embark on a stint of world travel. I can’t remember the first time I read the above quote from Conrad – a quote that struck a chord with its simple message and evocative imagery. As I embark on what I hope will be a year or two of travel I can only hope that I get a chance to do the things that Conrad’s text brings to mind. To sit and talk with people I have never met around camp fires, by the sea, on riverside docks, in peaceful forests and in a hundred other places that I can’t even imagine yet.
Of course, I could have just as easily called the blog ‘The Passing Wind’ and while that might more accurately reflect the content of my posts, it didn’t really set the tone that I was going for. I am hoping that the blog can, like the stirring leaf, be a witness to the futile tale of the burden of life.
Categories: About Me
Tags: quotes, Travel