21st Sep 2016 - 25th Sep 2016 - Bhutan
One of the best things about travelling is meeting new people. Sometimes, however, you get to meet old friends in a new location, as was my plan in Bangkok. I had flown to Bangkok from Paro, arriving late afternoon with another full day ahead of me. I had planned to take a Thai cooking course in the morning and then meet my friend Alice in the afternoon. As with all best laid plans, it didn’t quite go as expected.
I woke up to a message from Alice saying that due to a drunk passenger, her flight had been delayed at Gatwick whilst the police were called and that consequently, she’d missed her connection in Dubai. This meant that rather than arriving around midday, she’d be arriving around 7. I left the hotel and went down to the sky train stop, where I travelled to Chong Nonsi station to meet the rest of my class. Once there, they split us into smaller groups and I set off with 7 other people and our teacher two stops further down the line to where our class would be cooking.
Once off the train, we headed to the market where our teacher, a small, charismatic man, showed us the local produce. We then moved to the building where we were to cook and things got interesting. Our first task was to make coconut milk. This involved adding water to coconut flecks and then squeezing the water out. The first liquid that comes out is coconut cream. Then you add more water and repeat the process, the resulting liquid from this second process is the coconut milk. Whilst we were doing this, our teacher took a phone call which resulted in him yelling at some of the other staff members “put the vegetables in the bag, it’s not that hard”.
We moved upstairs to the kitchen, where the teacher left us to speak to the staff. We could hear more yelling followed by “get out, go home”. Then another member of staff came into the kitchen, apologised and said that the class could no longer continue because the teacher wasn’t in a good mood to teach and it was “because of the refugees”. He then proceeded to tell us that some of the other staff were Sri Lankan refugees and “we all know what refugees are like. We all know about the refugee problem”. Cue many confused looks in the room and awkward silences. He told us we could book another class which would then be free as we could tell them that our previous class was “cancelled due to the refugee problem”. Just like that we were kicked out the building without really knowing our way back to the sky train station.
Given that we were supposed to be making 5 courses, I hadn’t had any breakfast and it was still only 10 in the morning, so I returned to my hotel and sat by the rooftop pool and a couple of hours before heading out to get some lunch. The rest of the afternoon was sat up by the pool until I finally heard from Alice that her flight had arrived. I jumped in a taxi and headed for the area near the Khao San Road, where she was staying and found her, and her boyfriend Darren, having a beer outside their hotel. We had a wander down the street, before stopping for a pad Thai and a beer. Unfortunately, by this point it was late and I had an early start the next day so I bade Alice and Darren farewell on their year long trip around Asia and headed back to my hotel.
The final stop on the multi country trip back to London was a stopover in Doha, Qatar. As an airport that I’ve transited in many times, I decided it was time to leave the airport and see what the city had to offer. The short answer was not a lot! As I’d arrived right in the middle of the day, where temperatures were a humid mid 40’s, I relaxed a little in my hotel before venturing out around 4, down to the Corniche where many of the city’s migrant population were relaxing under the shade of the trees admiring the city skyline across the bay. That evening I headed to the Souq (market), with a combination of shops and restaurants and found a nice little Turkish restaurant for dinner.
On my full day in Doha I had planned to get up early, stay out for a few hours, head back to the hotel during the hottest part of the day before heading out again in the evening. I’d met a few people who’d been to Doha and when asked what I should do, all of them replied with the Museum of Islamic Art, so this was my idea for the morning. However, a quick look at the website showed that it didn’t open until midday, so I decided to amend my original plan, have a lay in instead and not leave the hotel until midday. The museum was designed by the same architect that built the pyramid at the Louvre and is heavily influenced by Islamic themes and patterns. The square shaped building is a striking feature of the Corniche at all hours of the day. The exhibitions inside were mostly Islamic influenced although there were additional exhibitions looking at the terracotta warriors and another on Mohammed Ali. Was able to kill a few hours here, before taking a wander around more of Doha including the Doha Sports Stadium which, I assume, is not being used for the World Cup as it was very dilapidated. My final evening was watching the Palace game on TV in my room whilst having a bednic!