While shifting compost you feel a little nip on your stomach. A closer inspection reveals that an ant is the source of the nip, and actually you’re covered in hundreds more of these tiny bitey specks. They’re swarming into your boots and up your trousers all hell-bent on burying their pincers as deep into your flesh as possible- and although you are the higher species (with the intellectual capacity for building cities and sending dogs into space), you have no recourse against such a large army.
Today you chased two pigs back into their pen, swept up several kilos of animal manure and showered two dozen sheep- and aside from the mosquitoes, the fire ants and the pellets of digested grass squashed into your toes, you quite enjoyed it.
And the best part is that you got two cooked meals and a free place to stay for your efforts.
If you take the small, brightly-painted ferry from Khlong Toei across the Chao Phraya river, you will reach Bang Kachao- the aptly-nicknamed ‘lungs of Bangkok’. Rent a bike for 100 baht from the shop directly opposite the dock, and spend the day cycling through palm oil plantations, swamps and little clutches of houses raised on wooden stilts above the water. Monitor lizards can be seen here (we found one!), and the abundant greenery and water help keep the air cool.
It’s free, air-conditioned, and right next to the Siam Centre, Siam Paragon and MBK. Comprising 5 floors of art (the current exhibition is a collection of prints from Japanese children’s magazines and other bits by artists like Chihiro Iwasaki) and a multitude of shops offering ice teas, clothing, or both, it’s a pleasant enough place to spend a peaceful few hours. Deposit your bag along with your ID card (or 100 Baht- they don’t accept passports, but will return your money) and head up to the exhibition on the very top floor
A strongly accented rendition of Jessie J’s ‘Price Tag’ blasts over the stalls as you pick your way carefully over the disused track. There’s everything from stuffed toys to deep fried dumpling skins (quite nice, by the way)- and the clothes stalls aren’t just your average street market fare- there’s secondhand Tommy Hilfiger and Levi’s in some of the shops.. and American Apparel sweaters if you have the heat-tolerance of a Thai.
You have been in Thailand for a total of two days already and all you’ve seen is the inside of a travel clinic and the Bangkok Sky Train (which, by the way, is pleasantly straightforward to use- bar the fact that you will have to change your notes into coins at the information desk if you want to use the ticket machine).
So, on day three, you venture into the Centre of the Backpacking Universe.. almost.
Everyone is sprawled in the shade on a street corner just off the Capitole. Your flight isn’t leaving for another 9 hours, so you’re spending some time in the overbearingly hot city of Toulouse.
“Guys, I’m just going to pop into that McDonalds to use the bathroom.” You announce to the group, who rouse from their heat-induced delirium for a few seconds to acknowledge you.