I managed to get through the bus journey through a combination of not eating anything, and grabbing as much sleep as I could. We got to Trat at about 4:30pm and got a sawngthaew to Residang Guesthouse which we'd spotted in the guidebook but unfortunately it was full. None of the hostel websites had budget accommodation available, and we didn't fancy staying 10 miles out of Trat in a swanky resort, so it was a case of traipsing back up the road to find a different place to stay. By pure coincidence I spotted Patrick sat outside Pop Guesthouse! He recommended the place - they were paying 150 baht (£3) for a fan room with shared bathroom but we opted for en suite for practical reasons...I was still fairly ill. However, we were feeling well enough to get some food with Patrick and Cayleigh at Cool Corner Cafe in the evening, and shared a bowl of pad thai. I'd forgotten how much I love Thai food. I'd also forgotten how much I loved Thailand. Unlike Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, it has a decent infrastructure, with proper roads(!), decent amenities, and pretty much everything a westerner used to creature comforts could wish for. Patrick and Cayleigh were off to Bangkok the next day, which we'd have done too if I'd have been feeling better, but we thought it best to stay two nights and get a full day's recovery in Trat. We may catch up with them there; we have a habit of running into each other!
We had an early night and a lie-in and then went for a wander the next day. Trat itself was described by Gilly as "cute" and I think it's a great description. It's a bit like a miniature Chiang Mai, but with far, far less going on. Lots of winding, mazey little roads, and interesting shops and cafes here and there, but with a few department stores and some electronics places dotted around too. We found a couple of mp3 players which were not unreasonably priced, but thought we'd wait until Bangkok as they are likely to have more choice and possibly be even cheaper. Shamefully, I had a craving for some stodge (which on reflection wasn't too bad, considering I'd not eaten much for the best part of 2 days), so went for KFC at lunchtime. It was only the second fast food meal I'd eaten in almost 4 months, so I'm not going to beat myself up about it too much. And it tasted great.
We found a place called "Cookies" which sold...cookies...and bought 3 packs: fruity sliced, cornflake/oatmeal, and rocky road. Should keep us filled up on the 5 hour journey to Bangkok. I also traded in our Vietnam guide and phrasebook at a quirky French-owned bookstore called Tratosphere which offered a decent selection of titles in various languages.
On Rob's Bookshelf:
I've read a few things over the last couple of weeks, mostly thanks to the extended beach time.
Press Enter (John Varley):More of a novella (~90 pages), this was an interesting blast of near-future sci-fi, with conspiracy theories mixed with some technobabble which I actually understood, but which made it slightly unrealistic. Fairly decent ending, and a couple of the characters had a conversation about the history of Vietnam and Cambodia which couldn't have been more apt given where we'd recently been.
Hawksbill Station (Robert Silverberg):This was paired up with Press Enter as a double novella book, and wasn't bad. It told the story of a group of prisoners sent back from a utopian non-violent future to the beginning of time, which acted as their "prison". Interesting premise, disappointing ending. I loved Silverberg's The Book Of Skulls, and I think Hawksbill Station was one of his earlier stories - and it shows.
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner):
I remember my friend Mark reading this a fair few years back, and enjoying it, so thought it was worth a go. It was actually very interesting, and more about social anomalies and statistics rather than the number-crunching you would associate with economics. Definitely worth a look for a fun diversion from novels.
(Whilst I'm recommending stuff, if you're in the Bristol area and need a driving instructor, check out Mark's driving school).
I'm currently halfway through Consider Phlebas by Iain M Banks as well, a sci-fi novel which makes me wistful for Mass Effect. So far, very enjoyable, and hopefully it will continue. The next trick will be finding the second book in Thailand. Another friend, Wayne, recommended Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear which is what I exchanged at Tratosphere and am looking forward to leafing through.
We decided to book a bus for 10am to Bangkok the next day, and also booked a room at Ecotel Bangkok for one night. Far pricier than we'd been paying since...well, since we started travelling, but it's only for one night and we wanted a decent location near Siam Square so we can go shopping the following day. We shared a Thai green curry at a restaurant across the road which Cayleigh had recommended and which didn't disappoint, before getting an early night to watch Mission Impossible 3 (I think I enjoyed it more the second time around); we may be heading to the cinema to watch the fourth film in Bangkok if it's still playing. Cinemas! Who'd have thought we would miss them so much? Perhaps it's more the "option" of them that we missed.
I love Thailand.