Another day, another country and Thailand beckoned. We had to fly via Singapore and spent a few hours in transit at the airport, after which we both wanted to move there permanently. What a place! It had everything: shops to rival Bond Street, more workstations than Bill Gates and even a full sized movie theatre.

By far the best experience though was the ‘Sunflower Roof Garden’. Escaping the air conditioning and venturing in to the high humidity of a Singapore morning you were rewarded with a refreshing puff of water vapour from a series of mist-machines hidden within the sunflowers! Startling, but fab!

Tearing ourselves away from the gadgets, we eventually got back on the plane to complete the last leg and landed in Bangkok on a sunny Monday morning.

The last time we’d been in the city was four years ago and we noticed a change immediately. Traffic has always been a huge problem for Bangkok but some kind of miraculous clean-up operation had taken place. All the cars on the road were modern, quiet, pollution-free models and even the infamous Tuk-tuks looked like they’d been through a makeover. Kind of missed the smog clogged chaos of before, but had to admit it made for a more pleasant drive.

We’d booked a few nights at the Asia hotel which is situated near the central Siam Square district. It also had the advantage of being right in front of a Sky Train station making travel around the city a lot easier.

The Sky Train was still being built last time we visited, and I’m glad they finished as it was a pleasure to use. Clean, efficient and cheap it enables you to fly between the sky scrapers and mammoth shopping malls taking in the sights and city-wide views.

Hitting the streets as darkness fell, we discovered Nigel’s Nirvana. A giant shopping mall completely dedicated to all things electrical and technical. Hundreds of goodies, gadgets and gizmos all under one roof rendered him speechless for almost an hour. Only the threat of severe reprisal and dragging him out by the ear enabled us to get back outside. Needless to say he revisited a number of times during our stay.

That first evening we happened upon a late night bar that was serving food and dived in. It turned out to be a Karoke hotspot and the owner was a very genial host, sitting with us and sharing his life story as we ordered.

He was a retired Thai-Boxing champion who now entertained leading lights of the sporting fraternity and the odd lost tourist. His brother had also just returned from a visit to the family in the country and had brought with him a highly prized delicacy caught that very afternoon.

There was no escaping the inevitable as we were forcefully invited to try this tasty dish, all the while trying to discover what it was we were eating. A mixture of language and charades later we came to the unhappy conclusion that, joy of joys, we were munching our way through a portion of fried lizard. Swallowing manfully and crunching the bones, we gave thanks for Thai whisky!

Thus initiated back in to Thai cuisine we endeavoured to try something different at each meal. I have no idea what we ingested over the coming days, but each dish was tasty, filling and left few side effects so I’d recommend jumping in.

Only one mission to complete in the metropolis and that was to try and get the digital camera fixed. The flash had given up the ghost on our second day in India, so we figured a trip to a Sony centre here might solve the problem.

Duly discovered the address of the only service department this side of Singapore and set off in a Tuk-tuk full of hope. The Sony building was enormous and took up almost half a block and alighting in the vast car park we were greeted with the last thing you’d expect to see in the middle of a busy city. Two fallow deer were nibbling the greenery, between them a tiny foal. Totally enchanted they let us stroke and pet them before returning to their lunch!

Anyway, back to the business at hand and onwards to Sony. No joy, easily fixable, but would mean a wait of three to four weeks whilst the part was ordered from Singapore. No go – we’ll manage.

Never ones to disappoint we also managed to keep our perfect record and got lost a couple of times in this city too. We had been in the Khao San Road dodging Europeans (not easy) and were trying to find another part of the market area that backs on to it when we set off on foot.

What seemed so simple on the map ended up being a three mile hike around dimly-lit back streets and alleyways until the bright lights of a major dual carriageway beckoned. Should make a mental note to take the map out with us next time. Still it gave us the chance to sample some local colour (!?) and take the odd detour through the back of a couple of shops.

Managed to find a 7-Eleven where you could buy little scratch cards that give you local dial-up facilities for the internet. Great, for the price of a coke you got 25 hours online time all at your convenience. Combine this with a flat rate for any local call and we were laughing.

Bangkok was as rich and mad as we’d remembered and the best times were spent wandering around the streets soaking it all in. We witnessed everything from en masse Tai Chi in the park during dusk to a full on dancing water fountain display worthy of a Golden Jubilee celebration.

The final task of arranging travel to Koh Samui duly done we took our leave, the richer in both culinary delights and scads of pirate DVDs and headed south for the islands...




India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa