After for once staying reasonably sober I still slept late after having to stay up half the night to watch the Champions League final. Liverpool couldnt match their victory of 2 years previous though. Still feeling apathetic and intimidated by the prospect of the sizeable challenges which lay ahead, I made tentative moves in the right direction however by getting more work done on the net, more reading, checking flights and heading off to Thonburi railway station.
The main rail terminus Hua Lamphong lay close to the city centre and would be a nightmare to get to in Bangkok traffic. I had been there twice before by way of the riverboat then hoofing the last K, but it was too hot for that game now. You grew tired of constantly washing shirts as they were saturated with sweat within half a day. Then I noticed that Thonburi station lay tantalisingly close the other side of the river just 2 boat stops away. Devoid of a guidebook now, I had a guess that that must be the station which served my desired southern destination (Butterworth in Malaysia again), but upon reaching it found it to be closed. It was more than just closed though, it had been abandoned. Having made the effort I thought I might as well check out the local area anyway and after viewing another temple sporting young would be monks jogging, was rewarded in spotting a small decrepit sign pointing to the real station. Sure enough, and god knows why, about half a K down the line a new spartan platform and ticket booth had been built, but it was not the major terminus with a booking office I had hoped for. I picked up a timetable anyway for its single route, this was the terminal for trains serving the notorious Death Railway using the bridge over the River Kwai. That was the one short excursion I thought that I really still wanted to muster in Thailand, no guidebook aside, and it was also great in that accidentally, I had stumbled upon a real living part of the city, devoid of tourists and reassuringly grungy. Several obviously honest living women proferred genuine spontaneous smiles, people lived in contrived "houses" squashed underneath a highway flyover, the carparks were a shambles and the number of wild dogs was unbelievable. Poverty, how I had missed it! It made me want to get out and see some of the real Thailand, with real people who at least occasionally might not just see you as a business opportunity. A massive stinking marketplace adjacent to the station was a breath of fresh air, where memorably a guy wearing only a pinny used a blowtorch to encrispen rolls of raw pork.
I continued the theme back over ther river by eating in a low key restaurant, me the only white face, simultaneously treating myself to the first steak I had had in months for a small fraction of the tourist restaurant prices. And there it dawned on me that I hadnt been hit on by any touts the other side of the river either, not a single "tuk-tuk" or "taxi" was heard. It bred hope that Sumatra was maybe just exactly what I needed. I had come to realise that I would soon get tired and ashamed of just getting hammered every night anyway, but I also now understood it was only to be expected. After what I had just "achieved" over the last 8 months (to the day), I realised it was only natural it was starting to show. I had not met a single traveller whose ambitions even came close to my own escapades. And I had forlornly tried to re-iterate a few times to women that sex was one thing, I could take care of that myself at the end of the day, but my body was screaming for a cuddle and no bloody wonder.
Perversely, the spicy food of the subcontinent, the only food to which I am trully allergic, proved to be much better for me than the greasy Thai/Chinese concoctions here which were screwing up my skin. And Sumatra was in the land of spices, the first link towards the root of the revered spice islands. I began to feel a certain rejuvenation at the prospect.