When I finally emerged from the plane, the close hot air hit me like a ton of bricks. It seemed to suffocate me and leave no room to breathe. After long queues and an hour and a half taxi ride to our hotel in China Town, we were finally in Thailand.
The heat (comparable to those swelteringly hot days in Johannesburg) coupled with jet lag left me lazy and unwilling to do anything strenuous. Unbeknown to my husband and I at the time, our very first tuk tuk driver ripped us off badly. He initially wanted to charge us 200 baht each to get the river only five minutes away. We haggled him down to about 170 baht and later found out that we should have never paid more than about 60 baht for transfer around the city unless it was really far out. Irritated and still feeling like zombies, we made our way to the deserted jetty. A wooden boat putted towards and the owner asked if we wanted to explore the river. When he said it was 800 baht, we swiftly declined and a few minutes later we glad to find out that we’d made the right choice when the public ferry was only 15 baht.
We hopped off at Wat Arun temple beside the river, paid a deposit to get a shawl to cover my shoulders and a sarong for my legs. A statue of a gold laughing Buddha greeted visitors at the bottom and followers said their prayers before entering. I climbed a few stairs with intricate, ceramic mosaics in the walls and looked up. The centre of the temple towered into the sky and I was surprised at the sheer steepness of it. The steps were steep and we had to climb them one by one whilst holding onto the rails and not ever looking down. The sheer exhilaration and fear of being so high with not much below me was terrifying and I breathed a sigh of relief once my shaky legs were on solid ground. This viewpoint permitted us to look out onto the other side of the river and to see the immaculate gardens below. Buddhist monks walked beside the manicured bushes and school children posed beside the temple walls.
With only a few hours left to explore the city, we stopped at the renowned Khao San road. We decided to rest our weary feet and visit one of the many massage places along the road. In an effort to keep cool, my husband shaved his head and we followed our masseuse upstairs to a room filled with mattresses on the floor. The aches and knots of being cramped in an airplane seat were being worked with her strong hands. We made our way past vendors selling headphones, sarongs, juice stands, fake MAC make-up and jewellery and tried to avoid the persistent tour operators.
Once back in China Town, it seemed this part of town was only waking up. Women cleaned meat on the sidewalk and washed dishes right beside it. Bags filled with refuse filled the street and coupled with the open drains and humidity left the air with the most hideous of scents. Before we knew it, a waitress was ushering us to a plastic chair at a seafood restaurant on the sidewalk. Crabs tied with string lay on the table beside us and a cockroach scuttled beneath my feet. With that I lost my appetite. Good thing I was leaving this dirty big city the next day.
Lauren Manuel is a writer for the South Africa travel site SA-Venues.com, where you can book your Knysna Accommodation directly with the establishments. Lauren and her husband enjoy surfing and spending their time outdoors.