So the story ends with a train ride from Nong Khai to Bangkok. The day train reveals the Thai countryside looking bare and dry, and very much like Australia in places. Although it does have floppy eared Brahman cows running around to keep things entertaining, as well as the occasional expanse of water, or limestone outcrop.
Back in Bangkok, I decide I never want to go there again. Khao Sanh road is a cesspit of evil – at night it pounds with music, neon lights glare from everywhere, sun-soaked tourists wearing far too little crowd the street, and vendors pack the arena. It’s impossible to move, and I have the flu.
The one thing that saves Khao Sanh road is that there is someone there making the banana and chocolate pancakes I fell in love with in Ton Sai three years ago. I eat one as we walk towards the airport bus to make our escape.
The only stopper in the whole escape plan is that we’re both coming down with some sort of evil Bird Flu virus, and my ears are blocking up. I am warned that my ear drums will explode, that I should delay my flight by two days if my ears don’t improve overnight, and pay far too much money for some antibiotics and eardrops and other hocus pocus medicine from the medical centre in the Bangkok airport. It’s midnight, and we abscond to a hotel in the hope that a good nights sleep will reduce the chances of exploding ear drums. The foyer looks like a scene from a Wild West movie, but they have rooms with beds.
Waking up at 5am from a night of fevered sleep, we catch a racing taxi to the airport. 140km/hr in a 90 zone gets us there in no time. My ears don’t feel good, but I can force them to unblock, which I figure is better than nothing.
They don’t explode. I am relieved.