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.
It’s incredibly hot. The pavement radiates heat and the lack of trees mean you’re in direct sun most of the time. September back in England is a time for cardigans, not sun cream, and you’re struggling to make it up the steep pavement to the top of the village.
To avoid paying for a taxi, you all split into two groups and hitchhiked the 28km to St Lizier- and (curse my luck) the group you weren’t in were picked up first and arrived an hour before you.
Nestled away between the karst peaks of the Turquoise Coast is the ancient village of Simena (modern day Kaleköy). Citrus trees heavy with fruit line the crumbling stairways that take travellers on winding walks across the hillside. Thousand year old olive trees with gnarled boughs and ashy leaves, and a Byzantine castle atop the hill complete the charm.