The day before Tim and I set off for Bangkok, I became aware that there were protests going on in the city. Big, big protests that involved thousands of people and shutting down busy intersections and government buildings.

Put plainly, Bangkok citizens are protesting because they want the current Prime Minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, to step down from her position and let herself be replaced with a yet-to-be-elected people’s council, and they want the King to choose a new PM. They’re calling the movement “Shutdown Bangkok, Restart Thailand” and while protests have been happening since November 2013, things got heavier on January 13th of this year when anti-government protestors shut down busy intersections. Like those at the Victory Monument and Siam Square, where major tourist shopping centres like Siam Discovery and MBK Centre are situated.

I mentioned to my mum while we watched it on the news that I really wanted to do my university assignment (a hard-news story on a political issue) on the protests because it was interesting and would technically be allowed if I was residing in Thailand at the time. While it was kind of just a throwaway comment, when Tim and I got to Bangkok they had declared a state of emergency, and I decided to go for it.

MBK Centre - you can see the protestors down on the ground.

MBK Centre – you can see the protestors down on the ground.

We went to MBK to try and go to a movie, and chose motorbike taxis over the crowded BTS Skytrain (just in case of a bombing) and I chatted to my driver on the way about what he thought of the protests. Interview for uni done! When we got there, police were checking cars going into MBK for bombs, and the Centre was practically deserted compared to the other times I’ve visited. Stores were shut early and the tourist count was very low.

We went outside into the protests and I warned Tim to stay nonchalant and try not to take too many photos. A lot of the signs were in Thai (obviously) and we didn’t want to cause a stir because there were very few “farang” around. It seemed really peaceful when we were there, with about a million different stalls selling pro-Thailand gems like whistles, ribbons and t-shirts, and everyone was hanging out and listening to whoever was giving a speech on stage.

All of the Thai flag coloured ribbons with whistles attached - I bought a miniature version for my keychain.

All of the Thai flag coloured ribbons with whistles attached – I bought a miniature version for my keychain.

When we went to Siam Discovery a few days later to go ice skating (more on this later) there was a live band and someone even handed us a free lunch, just for attending the protests in support. The sun was out, people were out of the many tents that lined the gutters and the mood was very upbeat. I didn’t feel the slightest bit threatened at all while we were there, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to go to something that interesting and important. And I wish I spoke Thai so I could’ve understood the speeches!

The many many tents lining the city streets.

The many many tents lining the city streets.

I wrote about visiting the protests in my uni forum, and most of the other students said the same thing: so jealous, stay safe! Then my lecturer told me that I was absolutely not to go to any more protest sites or interview any more people as I could inadvertently put myself in harm’s way and end up shot or blown to bits. And while it made me laugh that he was finally replying to my posts now that he thought I might die, he does have a little bit of a point, as protests have now turned a little bit sour and the death toll is double digits, while the injury count sits at over 500 people.

But hey, what’s life without a little adventure? I’m glad we went and experienced it, and I’m also really thankful that nothing terrible happened because obviously that would really suck. But I’m safe in Laos now, and have A LOT of catching up to do with this blog!

I realise I’ve been extremely slack since we actually left on our trip, and haven’t blogged once. Oops! This is why I’m not paid to write – because I’m terrible at sticking to dates and plans.

So, we safely arrived in Thailand – after a few late flights along the way – and we’ve since headed north to Chiang Mai. I will write some posts about what we’ve done so far but I just wanted to write a quick little update before I forgot to blog altogether!

We went motorbiking through the hills today – a post on that tomorrow – and now we’re sitting out at our hostel, fighting the bugs and the cold because WiFi only works in the lobby. Unhappy. We’re also faced with the task of figuring out exactly how we’re going to get to Vietnam, all of the options seem to take up a lot of time and money, and I’m actually considering taking the easy way out and flying from here to Hanoi and skipping Laos completely. But that makes me unhappy, especially since I finally put my Lonely Planet to work and figured out a very interesting little journey and border crossing ): A lot of Googling is going to happen tomorrow, I can already tell.

In other news, I’m trying to convince Tim he should grow a holiday beard and become scruffy, but he keeps fighting me on it.. So rally with me and tell him to grow it out! When else does he have a chance to look so wildly unprofessional and hobo-chic?

I’ll work on staying up to date from now on, and hopefully I remember to haul the laptop out and get writing! I hope I do for other reasons, like having a uni assessment due on Friday – eek!

Have a photo of Bangkok from the 7th floor of Siam Discovery to keep you entertained.

Mango City

So again, I’ve been majorly slacking. I have so many ideas for this blog and what I should post about, and I’ve been forcing myself to explore Brisbane further so that I actually have more to blog about. And yet, I just write everything in my little black book and forget about it.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m working 60 hours this week and am finding it hard to find time to eat, let alone do anything else. Running on about four hours of sleep a night is messing with me a bit, and I need to work out a better routine for myself. I’m still sure that my body will never get used to night shifts and all of the drama that comes from working in an all-female environment, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try anyway.

Good news for this week is that I’m going to Cirque du Soleil this weekend to see the Michael Jackson IMMORTAL world tour, and at work I managed to meet some of the techies from the show and they’ve promised to take my friends and I backstage when we go on Sunday. I’ve also just booked flights for Tim and I to leave for Malaysia on the 21st of January, and then on to Thailand that night. So exciting! Our rough plan is going to be Luang Prabang in Laos, then 3 weeks on motorbikes in Vietnam and then back to Penang in Malaysia to visit my family because they should be settled and beginning overseas life by then.

We’ll see how that all pans out in reality, but one thing is for sure, I am going to ride another motorbike and try not to crash this time! I’m extremely excited about time off from my hectic work schedule, and even more excited to be travelling overseas with my partner for the first time. I’m sure he’s even more excited about it as this will be his first time backpacking in Asia, but I wish he’d do a little research of his own and tell me what he wants to do instead of letting me plan anything. But since I know he probably won’t, I’m turning to anyone who still reads this blog and I’m asking: what are some fun things to do in Vietnam that we shouldn’t miss out on? Luang Prabang will be our chance to relax after a few days in Thailand, but apart from what I did with my family when I was last in Vietnam, I must admit I’m at a loss.

So let me know in the comments below if there’s anything we should see, something we should eat, or someplace we should stay!

P.S. Motorbike crash injuries from last time that I pray I don’t experience again!

motorbike injuries

Price: $3 AUD per night for a 4 bed dorm
Location: 2 minute motorbike ride from Lat Krabang station.
Staff: Barely talked, but did offer me some foul Swedish licorice.
Sleeping: Average. I failed to get a good night’s sleep the whole time I was here.
Facilities: Only saw one shower/toilet when I was there, and the shower was freeeezing!
Laundry: Not offered.
Internet: Free wifi available.

Backpackers Airport Lounge & Hostel was the last place I laid my head in Thailand – because saying it’s located in Bangkok isn’t exactly accurate – and I left with pretty average feelings about the place.

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So this one is coming a little late, because by now it’s been about two weeks since my birthday, oops. But it’s finally happens, I am officially an adult. Hoorah!film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 online

Instead of having just my birthday in Bangkok, I decided to be just a little more self-absorbed and treated myself to a birthday week. If you’re not familiar with the term ‘birthday week’ it’s really just an excuse for people with far too much money to celebrate for the week leading up to the big day. Now obviously I am not someone with far too much money, unless I’m in Bangkok, where I become stupidly rich – in my eyes anyway. So let me tell y’all what I got up to.

I could’ve started my week on a Monday because my birthday this year fell on a Sunday, but seven days of myself would’ve maybe driven me mad, so instead I settled for five and began my week on the 20th. On the first day I was moving hostels, so to cheer myself up I went and got my nose pierced, the same thing I did for my birthday last year. Hopefully this now-yearly birthday ‘tradition’ doesn’t continue into 2013, because it hurt like hell this time. Worse than my tattoo! I maybe even cried a little. Maybe. Luckily, I cheered myself up with a fake plum Casio watch, and a real plum Revlon lipstick. I swear, lipstick soothes all my wounds.

On the 21st, I bought the only dress on the street I’d seen that would fit me, and then bought a new handbag to go with it. Hopefully this bag fares better than my last one from SE Asia, which I fell in love with, and in return, it fell apart. *tear*
The 22nd is actually a mystery to me (I should keep a diary) other than what I did for dinner, which was treat myself to the first, last and only real restaurant meal I had during my stay in Bangkok. I went to Himali Cha Cha & Son, a lovely little Indian place where I stuffed my face with palak paneer and garlic naan. Good, expensive times.

When I woke up the next day, I was resolved to go and rewatch 007: Skyfall at the Lido, but alas, when I finally got there only Breaking Dawn: Part II was showing. Not being one to turn down a movie experience, and needing to see how it all ended, I went and saw it. It actually wasn’t that bad, the slightly cringeworthy moments aside. Returning from that outing to the New Road Guesthouse, the gang there announced they were all headed to the Sky Bar, so I tagged along to admire Bangkok from great heights. This is actually an outing I would recommend to you if you visit the city.

If you’re unaware, the Sky Bar is located on the 64th floor of the Sky Tower. This probably sounds super unfamiliar, but if you’ve seen The Hangover II and remember the rooftop confrontation scene, then you’ve seen the Sky Bar in all it’s glory, as it was filmed here. They’re still serving the “Hangovertini” – a specially created cocktail for the cast and crew of the movie – and will probably keep serving it for the next ten years.  Whilst I was up there, my birthday ‘treat’ was the most expensive mojito of my life. Excuse me, but fuck VAT and service tax.

On my birthday eve, the 24th, I played leader in an outing with three Dutch girls to the Chatuchak weekend markets, another outing I’d recommend if Bangkok is your destination. All I bought there was a hairband and some of my beloved smoked chicken which is so good. That night I dragged my new Dutch friend, Florine, to see Cloud Atlas. I’d been obsessing over this movie for about two weeks since first seeing the trailer – which I’ve nicely placed below for your viewing pleasure.

Even though we both left a little dazed and confused, it was a beautifully made movie which I would recommend to anyone who is capable of following multiple storylines. But perhaps read the book first.
Returning home from the cinema, we watched the clock tick over to the 25th, Florine brought me a beer and sang Happy Birthday and then we crashed out in bed.

Finally at the big day itself, I woke up at 6 am and wandered off to Mcdonalds in the rain for the best hashbrowns ever, and when I returned to the guesthouse and awoke after a nap, Florine fed me pancakes and tea and we set off on the boat towards Khao San Road. When we got there we headed off to the “massage garden” that Mark recommended to me, and left about two hours later feeling quite refreshed after our massages in little tents. Following this, I watched proudly as Florine bartered down the prices of some cute dresses for us both, and then we triumphantly took a tuk tuk home, with some obligatory tailor stops along the way. My birthday adventure would’ve ended there, if not for the taxi driver I encountered at the airport on the way to my next hostel.

After driving around for about an hour without the meter on, looking for Airport Backpackers Lounge, we finally found the place and the time came to haggle the price down to something reasonable. Imagine my surprise when instead, the taxi driver offered to take me to dinner. I agreed, and he drove me to Banglamphu, and we ate the best fish soup ever in a little street restaurant. Then he drove me all the way back to my hostel – not without some awkward attempts at handholding and me squeaking “Have boyfriend!!” – and let me out without paying for anything. Oh, and he even gave me a hat as my “present, present” for the day. Such a lovely guy, who really gave the day a great (and slightly hilarious) ending.

All in all, I think that this week and my birthday were perhaps the best so far. And now that I’m an adult, I can happily stop ageing and and never celebrate getting older ever again. But hey, if someone wants to give me some ice cream cake when I get home, I wouldn’t be totally adverse to it.

Price: Free for a night spent in rooftop hammocks. 
Location: 10 minutes from Saphan Taksin BTS, 5 minutes from Pier 1.
Staff: Helpful, knowledgable, really friendly and approachable.
Sleeping: In the hammocks, so-so. The weather is a big indicator of how well you’ll sleep.
Facilities: Mostly clean and always available. Only cold showers in the dorm building.
Laundry: Done hotel style, by-item.  
Internet: Free wifi available, as well as computers where Internet access can be purchased for 1 Baht per minute.

New Road Guesthouse was the last place I stayed for a whole week in Bangkok, and to be honest, normally I wouldn’t have stayed there if I hadn’t scored the cheapest accommodation in the world – not even exaggerating.

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Price: $6.30 AUD per night for a twelve bed, air conditioned dorm.
Location: 5 minutes from Lumphini MRT and Lumphini Boxing Stadium.
Staff: Helpful, happy and sweet.
Sleeping: Really good. Good temperature, and the couch upstairs is comfy too.
Facilities: Always clean and readily available. Hot showers possible.
Laundry: Available next door, 40 baht per kilo and ready within 24 hours.
Internet: Free wifi that works on all levels, and 3 computers with all-hours access and net connection.

I’ve actually been excited to write this review, because aside from May De Ville Backpackers in Hanoi, and the Sea and Sand Hotel in Hoi An, both in Vietnam and both places I would recommend, ETZzz Hostel was my favourite place I’ve stayed in SE Asia.

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Price: $6.90 AUD per night for a ten bed, air conditioned dorm.
Location: 8 minutes from Khao San Road.
Staff: Distant and uninterested.
Sleeping: So-so. If you’re a light sleeper, the sound from the busy main road may make it hard to get to sleep.
Facilities: Mostly clean and readily available. Warm showers possible.
Laundry: 40 baht per kilo and ready within 24 hours. May or may not be damp.
Internet: Free wifi offered, but mostly unreliable. Internet cafe down the street for 20 Baht per half hour.

Feel @ Home Backpackers was the first place I’ve stayed at by myself in Bangkok, but sadly, I can’t say I felt “at home” or anywhere close to it. And I know it’s just a name, but what I’m really trying to say is that I enjoyed my stay here the least of all the places I’ve stayed, every time I’ve been in Bangkok. At my last hostel I actually told a girl NOT to stay here.

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