This was an extra day in Bangkok I hadn’t planned, or budgeted for. The last of my baht had been swallowed up by the high reaching tower of high society. The few notes I had left were just enough to get me some breakfast, lunch and a train ticket to the airport.
So having seen what I wanted to see in Bangkok yesterday, I just wandered around the city. Its a bit futuristic looking in that, the roads can’t carry enough people so they have built upwards. Above our heads is a modern train station and a lot of walkways. Stairways link the levels haphazardly and vendors set up their wares on display beneath them. The vast use of concrete gives a grey boring cast to the landscape.
I’m in two minds about concrete. It is clearly an incredibly useful material. We couldn’t have built the towers and landmarks of the modern city without it. Can you think of a better material to make a dam with? Modern concrete mixtures are incredibly strong, even combining them with fibres and other chemicals to give a relatively flexible structure. However it has a darker side which many dont know about.
Concrete comes from crushed limestone thats been baked into quicklime. A process that takes heat energy, usually from gas or oil burning. When the concrete mixture is made by adding water and aggregate, a chemical reaction takes place. This is exothermic (gives out heat), gives off vast amount of carbon dioxide and is irreversible. Once its been started, its going to completely change the powdered mixture into a solid so you’d better get it in the right place, ontime, first time. It’s the irreversibility, and subsequent unrecyclable nature of the result, that gives rise to my dichotomy of thinking. Again, I’m not a super eco-mentalist, I’ll happily use the best material for the job, but the amount of concrete thats being used around the world, that cant be recycled, is a bit scary. Concrete is basically a man made rock, the only thing we can do with it is use it for other building projects as fill or a base. However highly critical constructions rarely allow this, as any recycled content is not as strong as newly processed concrete. Its currently estimated that 17% of the worlds landfill is concrete by-products.
But at least its all new, good looking and crisply clean edged. Not having been erected long enough for industrious locals to start hanging things from, I suspect it wont take long.
All the telegraph poles (not that a “telegraph” has been sent along them in 30 years) are covered in cables, lights, boxes and signs. I suspect most of them are data cables for internet. Amongst the signs and sheets, they sag in concentric loops between the posts held up in bunches by bits of twine and plastic clips. At least they dont seem to be delivering power. The orgy of snake cables in Koh Pangan was carrying power and was making a scary buzzing noises as it arced to ground. Here it seemed to be relatively safe, if a bit crazy looking. The men that work on these must be very good at rubik’s cubes.
I threaded my way through the mass of bikes, tuktuks and cycles. There are so many people, a polite british giant makes slow progress. But that was fine, last night was catching up on me. I’d surfaced from the nights events with a heavy head. The soft pillows muffling sounds barely enough to ease the approaching headache. Kellie had eventually and reluctantly left the bed, in significantly worse state than me, heading for the dentist. She was about to have some new teeth put in, possibly the worst experience to have on a severe hangover. I can’t think of anything worse than a dentist’s drill in my skull along with all the bad decisions of last night.
I found my way to a starbucks and pretended to be American, hiding away from the culture of this land. I piggybacked the Wifi and just read a new Terry Pratchett novel over a hot chocolate and water, waiting for the paracetamol to kick in. I focussed on rehydration for several hours and felt all the better for it. Able to venture out, I went to a park to sit in the hot shade of an old wooden building overlooking a lake. It was the biggest green space I’d seen in Bangkok and it gave a nice contrast to the cityscape surrounding it.
Teeth installed, I met up with Kellie and Julie near a local market. They looked good, like teeth, which I suppose is the point. Surely if you are spending a load of money on custom teeth, you’d go for something a bit special, like blue ones or rainbow ones! Or teeth that have a radio in them LIKE JAMES BOND!! Maybe I’m getting carried away… I’m a 12 year old at heart so find it difficult to appreciate something purely aesthetic unless it can tell the time, has hidden wheels and a rocket launcher!
Julie wasn’t used to the strange foods of Thailand so watched us eat noodles together. We tried to offer some, but she wasn’t having any of it, the culture shock was clearly too much. So we went for a walk to nowhere in particular and found nothing of particular importance. Other than real life in bangkok. We had walked down a street parallel to a train line and in the gap between the legal border of hotels and where the trains actually passed on the tracks, stood lots of little shacks. They were all made with tin roofs and plastic sheeting. Not getting particularly cold in Bangkok, this is all you really need; something to keep the monsoonal weather off you when it arrives. I cant imagine it was very comfortable when a train passed. These houses, if you can call them that, were barely centimeters from where the trains carriages would have knocked them over, frighteningly close!
This time, the hour arrived where I did actually have to leave. Bumping into Kellie and Julie was an amazing stroke of luck. And for the most part, incredibly fun, if slightly scarring. I headed up to a huge concrete station above the road and caught a train to the airport. The last 24 hours bad been such an amazing way to end my time here in Thailand.