Early morning this morning, too early by far: our travel alarm (very useful thanks Dayna) exploded in an electronic tintinbulation at 6:02am precisely, shattering our slumber into little shards of activity. We showered (well, Dee showered — I had one last night instead, always be prepared. And prepared to be smelly), dressed and rushed down for a quick hotel breakfast by 6:30am (eggs, toast, apple juice and, why not, a spicy lasagne!
We arrived in Bangkok with big hopes: our hotel, The White Orchid, looked great in the photos, with a jacuzzi, spa and massage room and a roof-top restaurant overlooking the city from the 12th floor. We were tired, smelly (nowhere to wash on an overnight train) and ready to just melt into a pampered, self-indulgent lifestyle for a couple of days. But as the quote goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.
So we’ve made it to Bangkok: we got a tuk-tuk to the train station, just past the Laos-Thai Friendship Bridge, and were happy to find there were first-class tickets left — not too expensive, and after the “hard sleeper” in China and “chicken bus” in Laos we weren’t in the mood to find out what second-class bunks were like in Thailand.
We were, of course, ridiculously early — 2pm when the train left at 5pm — but we figured it was better early than late.
We’ve been a bit quiet on the journal since we got to Laos, but it is because we’ve been doing a whole lot o’ nothing: days relaxing/lazing at the hotel, reading book after book or watching (often bad) movies on HBO. In the afternoon or early evening, as the temperature dropped, we headed into town on foot or by tuk-tuk to look at shops, swap our books; invariably we would find a place to eat — it is a strange fusion of asian and european, with French restaurants selling Italian food alongside fried crickets — then a place for a quiet beer, if only to wash the cricket taste out of our mouths.
Our last full day in Budapest was all about the tourist attractions. Neither Dee nor I are particularly drawn to large crowds of photo-snapping foreigners in plaid shorts and polo shirts, strangely enough, but there was much of Buda left to explore and so we once more boarded the Big Red Bus and headed over the bridge. As it was all planned on Thursday we knew exactly what we were doing: first, the Heroes Square, then onto stop 13 for the Fisherman’s Bastion, a wine-tasting at Faust’s Wine Bar, a walk to the Palace and the “Fenicular” down the hill towards the chain bridge.
A late post (on a train to Warsaw) about the rest of our time in Budapest — what, you were expecting something as mundane as linearity? Seriously, from me? Okay, I’ll back-date it so it appears in the right place in the timeline, eh, that should just about do it.
On our second day in Budapest, and on Dayna’s sage advice, we bought tickets for the big red “hop on, hop off” tour bus.
I awake fully clothed, sans shoes, face down on a mattress of calico stuffed with porridge, my drool-patch soaking in nicely to combine with the drool-patches of a thousand backpackers before me. In a foolishly improvident move I attempt to lift my head — the action sends my body back to the porridgy embrace of the well-worn mattress, whilst simultaneously dipping my raw brain into a nearby lava-pool. My own heart-beat, pulsing traitor, ticks out the eternity of my agony in a syncopated thumping in my temples — ba-BUH, ba-BUH, ow-OW, ow-OUCH.
With Chris Kendrick coming to visit, I went ahead and booked a Haggis Tour: Skye High.
This should see us travelling around Scotland and Skye on a bus for a few days, with plenty of opportunities for walking (Chris’s idea) and drinking whiskey (my idea), as well as a chance to meet some new people on the bus itself. We’ll stay in backpacker hostels, nice and cheap for the poor Aussie lad, and should get to see some awesome sights – Skye, Loch Ness, Inverness, Culloden Moor, castles, monsters, Celtic battles ahoy!
I have my entry clearance!!
This is a really, really good thing, and has been a point of stress for both Dee and I, as if I didn’t get my VISA then I wouldn’t be allowed on the aeroplane without a return ticket. And that’s an expensive move!
But it arrived this morning, which means my application was processed in under two weeks – very quick, from what I’ve read on the Internet.
We may have another buyer for the car! He looked today, and seems very interested, but first we need to get it checked out by his mechanic. We’ve agreed (informally) on a pretty good price for him, not as much as we were hoping for but it will nevertheless be good to get it over and done with. No more car!! But I won’t say any more. I wouldn’t want to “jinx” anything!