Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Day 53 - The sewage boat, bathroom design, and some time in a Thai prison. (Thailand)

As we had been driving north to Chiang Mai and Pai, we were really enjoying the gradual but definite lowering in temperature and humidity. But now that we've driven back south again to Bangkok, the tropics are once again taking their toll on us. But we've pushed through and have spent the last two days wandering the streets of the city.

We took part in the important cultural experience yesterday of catching the river boat, or as we have fondly nicknamed it, the "sewage boat". This is a small vessel that travels the narrow canals or "open sewers" at a pace most of us would be uncomfortable doing in a car on an open road. As we found out the hard way, the splash from the river into the boat is quite hefty as you're travelling along, so there are tarpaulin walls operated by a rope. Unfortunately the onus is on the passenger next to the rope to lift the tarpaulan, and we were that passenger. So everyone got a nice splash before we realised what we were supposed to do. This is where we're glad we had the foresight to be immunised against things such as hepatitis.

As we're travelling, we are continuously baffled by the bathrooms. Squatting instead of sitting, and squirting instead of wiping, and lack of hot water and soap are all things that we would expect and can to some extent understand, and certainly deal with quite easily. But the thing that we just can't fathom is that even when a bathroom is reasonably spacious or we're in quite a Western establishment, the shower is invariably located above the toilet. It's great if you need to relieve yourself whilst showering, but for the vast majority of us (Ben being one of the few exceptions) this isn't actually ever an issue.

The Prison Museum sounded exciting and was recommended to us by our friends who live in Bangkok, so we headed there this morning. At first we were a little skeptical when the guard with the gun told us to follow him down an alleyway, in the opposite direction of the arrows on the signs, but we did as we were told and he took us to an old prison building. Then he unlocked the huge bolts on each of the doors, showed us in and closed it all behind us. We weren't entirely confident that we weren't locked in, but we did what the man with the gun told us to. The museum was actually very interesting, if not a bit spooky. There were all sorts of torture devices and objects prisoners used to make and use such as dominoes for gambling and pipes for smoking. And there was information on all the different methods of execution, accompanied with pictures and life-size models. As it turns out it is a free museum, so that added to the overall enjoyment of the experience.

When we left we were all quite thirsty so resolved to stop at the next 7-11. Usually they are within 200m of each other (sometimes literally across the road) so we just walked in the direction we wanted to go. We realised it was actually the furthest we have travelled in Thailand without passing a 7-11 and decided to ask someone for directions. We still couldn't find one and even started walking around in circles a little bit. This is the land of 7-11's and the one time we were actively looking for one, we just couldn't find it. Needless to say we bought drinks elsewhere, and around the next corner we found one.

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