I’m going on holiday tomorrow and I realised I hadn’t written in since the start of July, so I thought it was high time I pop in. It feels like a billion years ago that I wrote up my LOTR review; I can’t one hundred per cent remember what I’ve been doing in the last six weeks? I cut my hair into a bob (2020 took my plans and my money; it may as well take a foot of overly bleached split ends). I’ve nearly finished the Major Arcana series and ordered some pencils. I uninstalled Instagram from my phone and installed the newest series of Umbrella Academy onto my brain. I’ve eaten in a couple of restaurants (weird but okay) and done a bit of shopping (less weird but all right once I remembered what it’s like to be in a room with more than 4 people).
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about where I’d like to take this blog, and where I’d like to put my time. I haven’t decided anything except that I’m glad I’m taking a break. Making decisions after six months of Pandemic Life is like making decisions on an empty stomach: you might get it spot on, or you might end up crying in a heap and stuffing bread into your mouth while trying to block out the sound of self loathing.
Shhh, don’t tell anyone you saw me. I’ve blocked my emails from my phone for the Easter Weekend, so I am officially off the grid. Ish. I am supposed to be recovering from a monster cold I had last week and catching up with course work, but I’ve actually gone shopping, reorganised my Etsy cupboard and had a medium nap. HAPPY JESUS WEEKEND!
I love Easter, mostly because it’s the only weekend other than Christmas when I can eat more than I check my emails without thinking I’m losing business, but it’s also got that new year feel to it, because the new tax year is next week. I love the new tax year. It’s a fresh start! An opportunity to make more money and to remind HMRC that I am a valued member of society. Well not really because I earn a fraction of the acceptable wage for most adult humans, so I’m not eligible for income tax, but next year might be the year!
I’ll stop with the Jesus Christ Superstar gifs now, but I want you to know that I don’t really want to.
Speaking of the new tax year, I’ve got a little end of year clear out/sale thing going on over at my Etsy – there’s 10% and 15% off almost everything. Out with the old and in with the new! If I have space for the new… which is why I’ve discounted the old. It’s also the last day of the month, so if you were thinking of pledging to my Patreon to help support dragonnovel, (becoming patron number three would be seen as highly auspicious in some cultures. Not mine, but some), today’s the last day to do it before April’s cycle starts.
I’ve run out of gifs, so I’m going to have a cup of tea and stare longingly at my Easter eggs. Because Easter Sunday is Peak Jesus Day and my mother always insists on upholding Christian tradition despite last going to church circa 2010, I can’t touch an Easter egg until Sunday morning. I have no idea why I can’t break that tradition, despite being a) 22.5 years old, b) an atheist and c) hungry, but there you go. Happy Easter!
Today is the longest day of the year, and goddamn, England, you’re doing a good job. My glasses are sliding down my face and both dogs have been hairy, panting puddles of exhaustion for days but SUMMER IS HEERRRRREEEE! A bunch of my friends are back from uni – they’re even graduating and getting firsts and things, it’s very grown up – I am naturally awake before eight am, which never happens in winter, and I’m ready for my summer holiday.
Wait, not that last bit. I had my summer holiday in January. According to my mental maths, I will have the money for my next holiday in several summers’ time. But with the weather this glorious, who even needs other cultures. I mean, I can’t afford to explore England either, but let’s overlook that in the spirit of summer.
Operation Instagrammable Bedroom is creeping along; I have some art on the walls, which are painted brilliant white specifically so I can display as much art as will fit, and I’ve wired up my stereo. I can’t find the radio aerial, so I am Today Programme-less for a while, but my neighbours are having their roof done so I can listen to that instead. I’ve colour-coordinated my wardrobe and banished my blankets and winter PJs to a box under the bed, so I am feeling incredibly smug organised. My order for 100 tote bags arrived this morning, and they are also going to live under the bed – I was slightly nonplussed when I realised that unlike notebooks and postcards, bags take up space – so it’s possible the blankets will have to find somewhere else to live. Still, as long as they’re somewhere other than my bed, and as long as I don’t need winceyette jammies until September, WHO CARES.
I suppose I’d be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t link you the tote bags in question (free UK postage until the end of the month and a free print with the next 10 orders, UK and international, you’re welcome) and show you all what they look like so tah dahhhh:
I can’t even remember when I first had the idea for them, and I’m very pleased with the design and the quality (I mean, you can really carry a lot of textbooks). So storage aside, I’m quite proud and I hope you guys like them! (All profits will go into my holiday fund, HINT HINT.)
I have to go and reapply my deodorant – maybe I should just have another shower – so I will see you on Saturday for another Read, If You Like… in the mean time, if anyone has any tips for locating aerials, let me know.
Guardians of the Galaxy is on at half eight, so I have a finite amount of time to start and finish this, unlike every post I’ve worked on this week, which has basically been me trying to remember how to write about something that doesn’t involve a bus journey or jet lag. I still feel a bit like I’m at home in a foreign land – I nearly came out of a junction on the right side of the road yesterday morning, and I had entirely forgotten that teenagers in Southend enjoy shouting abuse at their elders (me). Usefully, surviving three months in a foreign land has imparted a large dose of self confidence, so I no longer feel it would be inappropriate to shout back. I had missed giving the finger.
My job search is going well, insofar as I haven’t had many rejections. I have not had any interview invitations yet, which is a fly in the ointment, but I had also forgotten how much I enjoy making Excel spreadsheets and striving for professional greatness. By that I mean I would like to land a paid internship, if possible, or a job that offers a salary large enough that I might be able to replace all the clothes I’m throwing out. I had a look in the shops the other day and it might be cheaper to fly to Bangkok with a large suitcase and hang out in the markets until I’ve replaced my wardrobe than it is to visit Topshop. Why are cold shoulder tops still a thing? What’s up with jeans that have been ripped during the manufacturing process? GO BACKPACKING AND RIP YOUR OWN DAMN JEANS.
Oops I’m doing it again. This has been happening all week. I think that subconsciously I’m worried that I’ll fall back into the Great 2015 Blogging Pit of Despair and Creative Frustration if I don’t keep talking about the only interesting thing that’s happened to me since I passed my eleven plus. To be honest, I’m worried that Asia might be the only interesting thing that’s going to happen to me, and that I’ll go back into the Great 2015 General Pit of Despair and Creative Frustration. I like how I felt when I came home. I like that I was relaxed and rested and enthusiastic about everything. Even throwing out clothes! In the 12 days since I’ve been back, my arms have ached from the cold so much that I thought I might need to go back to physio, I’ve forgotten to exercise and meditate virtually every day and I’ve shouted abuse at teenagers in the high street. They were little shits who needed to find hobbies, but still. I don’t want to fossilise into a grumpy, arthritic unemployed old lady. Or not until I’m at least thirty, anyway.
That’s why I’m going to dye my hair purple, go back to my old Pilates class and share my writing more. I’ve just finished working on a thing. It’s a pretty okay thing. I don’t know where I’ll put it yet, but I’ll put it out somewhere before I decide it’s not good enough. I’m going to finish up those blogs I started. I’m going to exercise enough that I won’t need to go to physio. I’m going to keep talking about Asia, probably. I’m never going back to the 2015 Pits of Despair.
I have to go because Guardians is on in a minute and that paragraph ending feels really dramatic. BYE.
Good morning, or evening, or whatever it is. I don’t know what time it is here, because I haven’t been to bed since the day before yesterday. I think. We arrived in Phnom Penh about half five this morning; we caught the night bus from Siem Reap at 11:30pm last night and although I slept for about five hours, I’m not what you’d call fully functioning.
I’d never been on a night bus before so my only reference was Harry Potter’s experiences with the Knight Bus… we were not offered hot chocolate or a toothbrush and no one vomited, but our conductor did remind me a little of Stan Shunpike. If you’re getting a bus in Cambodia any time soon, I can recommend Giant Ibis – they have wifi, arrived on time and had an almost-completely-normal toilet on board (I nearly took a photo but I didn’t want to touch anything as there was no soap. Or sink).
We didn’t realise how early we would arrive, and had neither the details of our hostel nor any map to get there, because stupidly I hadn’t downloaded the info before the wifi drove away, so we sat on a bench on the waterfront and watched the sun come up. Well, I watched. Maxim dosed as I kept an eye out (Backpackers have belongings stolen while they nap is not a headline I want associated with my name). I did not see anyone who looked remotely like a baggage thief, but I did see three rats (or one rat three times), several bats, some finch-type birds and two gentleman urinate on a verge. The shrub in that verge was far healthier than the shrubs in neighbouring verges, so I can only assume communal weeing is part of their daily routine.
We got breakfast as soon as it was light and walked to our hostel by about 9am, which was interesting. Traffic here is busier than Siem Reap but with a similar relaxed attitude, and my bag was heavy. Heavier than I remembered. Too heavy for an exhausted five foot nothing who hadn’t had enough water that morning. God forbid any hostel should let you check in before 2pm, so we collapsed into a couple of chairs and haven’t really moved since. Well, that’s not true. I had a shower as soon as we had room keys, and Maxim is asleep in his bunk right now. Today has become a rest day, which I think I will make compulsory following all travel days. Or nights. There is no way I have the energy to go to the Killing Fields today, or the S-21 museum, or the regular museums… so as I have no book, my magazine disintegrated and I haven’t got any postcards to write on, I thought I’d say hello. Maybe I will meditate. I don’t want to fall asleep, because I’m just getting over my jetlag. Perhaps I will write a short story, or start a conversation with a fellow backpacker.
Who am I kidding, I’m terrified of other backpackers. They’re all so tanned.
If you guys are bored or stuck with a lot of time, what do you do?
By the time you read this we will have started exploring Siem Reap and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, but I haven’t told you an almost-amusing anecdote about umbrellas, so let’s continue with Francesca’s Edited Highlights (part one is here).
The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace, a complex of buildings which used to be the royal family’s permanent residence, is the one place everyone says you have to go when you’re in Bangkok, so we went one morning… so did everyone else in Bangkok. I’m travelling with Maxim who-needs-a-guide-just-take-photos Burke, and know little to nothing about Buddhism (and even less about Thai history) so dodging a million people in the rain – and by rain I mean HUGE DOWNPOUR – to squint up at golden pagodas through soaked glasses was a bit like walking into a chocolate shop never having tasted sugar. Everything was wonderful, but I have no idea what I was looking at. I did enjoy sitting in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (which is not actually emerald) and searching for nirvana, but I think it’s going to take more than a few sessions on a meditation app for that.
We also accidentally kept the umbrellas we borrowed from staff, and I was wracked with guilt for a few days for stealing from the Thai government, so I have left mine in the hostel. I wasn’t going to smuggle contraband into Cambodia.
Wat Pho, one of about four hundred wats (temples) in Bangkok is right next to the Grand Palace, and contains a couple of hundred bronze-and-gold-leaf buddhas. We paid for a tour guide this time, who told us that the Thai name for Bangkok is the longest city name in the world, and that it means ‘city of angels’. Take that, LA. We also met, amongst others, the reclining buddha…. which really reminds me of Kate Winslet in Titanic, now I think about it.
The Thai equivalent of the British Museum, the National Museum doesn’t look that big from outside. Ignore this and wear your most comfortable shoes. And take snacks. There’s a sprawling gallery dedicated to Asian art, a section filled with royal objects, a separate art gallery, a building dedicated to one of Thailand’s queens…
And more umbrellas.
I did not try to use that one. I must say, I was a bit worried about the number of priceless artefacts out in the open. What if the rain got in, or a passing child vomited? Then again I once visited a museum where a local stray would follow visitors in and curl up on the antique bed, so I guess a bit of rain isn’t the worst thing in the world. I’d still be wary of puking children, though.
Khao San Road
Khao San Road is the other one place everyone says you have to go when you’re in Bangkok, and since we’ve given the ping pong shows a miss, we did. In a nutshell, it’s like Camden Lock Market but instead of punk gear and tattoo parlours, there are street vendors with scorpion kebabs and tattoo parlours. I didn’t get any good photos, so just imagine Camden Lock, replace rain with sun and add the scorpions. The tourists were identical.
Greetings from the veranda outside our hostel. There is a bazaar directly to my right, which stocks live gerbils, and a coffee shop to my left, which doesn’t. So far as I know.
Thank you to everyone who saw my last post – if you’re family and you’re new here, please be aware that I swear here more than I do in front of you.
I am slowly starting to make friends with Bangkok, although I doubt we’ll ever be on as good terms as I am with, say, London. I suspect this is because even the thickest motorists in London usually observe lanes, traffic lights, zebra crossings and the difference between the road and the pavement. But we’re getting there. It’s been nearly a week since we left home, and I’ve learnt a lot since then, for example:
It’s possible to crack the code on your own padlock, which you accidentally reset
Tuk tuks are terrifying
I mean if one crashed and- I don’t know how they don’t – every person inside would be toast
McDonald’s in Asia is identical to McDonald’s everywhere, down to the smell (although the one we popped in to seemed to serve more fish)
It rains more in South East Asia than it does in England, which I did not think possible
Boat taxis are cheaper than taxi taxis
We’ve started to get our tourist heads on and been exploring too. We’ve seen a lot, so let’s call this part Francesca’s Edited Highlights (because the forty minutes we spent at the Vietnamese Embassy, or the forty minutes we spent stuck in a taxi on the way back from Chinatown does not make good reading).
If you hate Westfield, do not try the Siam Centre, MBK Mall or Siam Discovery. They are air conditioned to a t, absolutely bloody enormous and include everything from contemporary art galleries to supermarkets. They remind me simultaneously of Debenhams and Are You Being Served, andfeature many Starbucks.
Jim Thompson House
CULTURE TIME. A US soldier, Jim Thompson, was posted to Thailand during World War II, but I think the war ended by the time he got there or something – he had a lot of free time, so he explored Bangkok and fell in love with it, returning to live and transform the local silk industry (he came up with printing onto silks directly with moulds; previously patterns were woven in). He built himself a house and a reputation, went to Malaysia on a trip and went missing. Now his private art collection is on display in his house, which his family gave to Thailand. No one knows what happened to him, although one therory is that he was assassinated by the CIA (is anyone else getting serious Leonardo diCaprio blockbuster vibes?). Anyway his house had a pond and a potty shaped like a frog so I like him.
(I was not allowed to take a picture of the frog.)
I’m trying to keep these blogs short like me so I will leave this here… part two coming soon! Or when I’m next in a decent wi fi zone…
Afternoon, Internet. Or morning, if you’re in the UK. So, we made it to Bangkok! After a 4am alarm, two long haul flights, a delay at Muscat airport which I will look upon fondly when hell freezes over and several moments where I thought ‘I am really not sure about all this.’ (More on that later.)
We arrived in Thailand at about 7:30am local time and we were more interested in sleeping for a week than exploring, but we had to wait around until about 1pm for our hostel, so we found a cafe with wifi and chilled out, aka messaged home and read a book (Maxim) or Private Eye (me). I will be honest with you, reader: I was really, really not sure about this. Somewhere amongst all the planning and and organising and job-leaving I forgot that I was leaving home for three solid months. It was only when people started saying goodbye that it sunk in that I was heading to another continent for a quarter of a year. It really sunk in somewhere around the stop off at Muscat airport and I am not too proud to say that I considered ringing my mum and asking her to pick me up. I know anyone who’s heard me moan about my jobs/life/itchy feet will find this deeply ironic; I will reflect on this as we go along… possibly appreciation for one’s bed, routine and family is one of those growing up things everyone’s said I’ll do while I’m out here.
Anyway, back to Bangkok. Here is what I’ve learnt so far:
Dry heat (Mediterranean) is not the same as humid heat (South East Asia)
Marks and Spencer is everywhere, and costs about the same here as it does at home
7-Eleven has a grip on the convenience store market
Corn soup is tasty
If you’re crossing the street and a moped comes towards you, keep walking
Every few cars on the road (and there are a lot of roads) has a custom set of wheels or rims. Maxim is fascinated by this.
I reckon it will take a couple of days to feel human again, but in the mean time I draw great comfort from the fact 7-Eleven sells cornflakes.
We’re going to hunt out mobile phones now, so I will leave this here. The plan is to chill out today and plan where we want to see. If anyone here’s already been to Bangkok, where would you recommend? We definitely want to see the floating market and some temples, but we’re not sure where else to go before we head to Cambodia next Saturday. Any suggestions?