Avoiding skin whitening, a craving for meaty burgers, and getting our blues fix.

Day 33: We finally managed it. A day of downtime – no monster walks and a welcome chance for Jim’s niggling plantar fasciitis to calm down.

We had a long breakfast at the apartment while we caught up with stuff online – drinking countless cups of coffee with lots of chats and reflections on the trip so far. The brief summary is we’re loving it, we still have to pinch ourselves occasionally as we realise that we’ve really made the jump from corporate life to crazy adventures, and the first five weeks have charged past. We’re happy.

Late morning, Lil headed to the local shopping mall to top up on sunscreen and insect repellent – we blitz through both in copious amounts. Toiletries and lots of other goods are surprisingly expensive in Bangkok; for once it’s not Sydney that’s the higher priced culprit. A tube of sunscreen that we pay $18 for in Sydney is around $30 here and lots of other toiletries are either a bit more, or substantially higher. It turns out that Boots the Chemist had a sale and sunscreen was 75% off, so Lil returned swinging a large bag of the stuff – now we just have to squish it in our packs and carry it around with us. We’ve struggled to even find sunscreen in some towns and villages, so it’s worth hauling supplies with us.

Lil also had to search high and low for a mainstream moisturiser that doesn’t contain whitening agent (the thought of her Irish skin being any whiter than it is, is pretty amusing). Despite health concerns, the multi-billion dollar skin-whitening market is still growing and apparently set to double over the next 10 years. Demand is driven by a mix of following western ideals of white skin, but also a cultural notion that people working in the fields have darker skin so more associated with poverty, whereas pale skin indicates a life out of the sun and hence a higher socioeconomic status. All a little baffling.

Late afternoon we caught the sky train into the city, to walk around the outside of the Grand Palace and surrounding streets. The Grand Palace is a huge complex of buildings that has been the official residence of the royal family since 1782. There are also lots of government buildings nearby – it’s a big central focus and sparkly clean compared to some other parts of the city. The streets were noticeably more quiet too, which made walking around a lot more comfortable, and crossing the road a lot less scary.

We passed a civic square where some kids were playing footy, and an outdoor aerobics class was taking place. Once again Lil tried but failed to convince Jim that we should join in the aerobics class. Next time maybe?

We also passed the city train lines, which reminded us that getting to our next location involves train travel rather than buses – that should be interesting. Unless you’re prepared to pay a hefty premium, train travel here is pretty basic. We’re looking forward to the experience.

After nearly 5 weeks of noodles and rice dishes, we’ve found ourselves craving a good meaty burger – a little odd given we hardly ever eat them in Sydney. Perhaps we’ve finally received our calling to get our burger fix sorted out – we spotted some advertising for Jim’s Burger & Beers (the face even looks like Jim too).

We took a walk down Khao San Road – it had to happen. It’s backpacker and party land – a crazy concoction of loud bars, neon lights, blaring music and stalls selling cheap drinks and buckets of cocktails. There were a couple of stalls selling insects too – as Jim was eyeing up his next crunchy meal on a stick, Lil dragged him away, pointing out they’d probably been out in the sun all day long. Jim says Lil worries too much. Lil agrees, but says someone has to. Food poisoning averted.

We spent the rest of the evening at a tiny music bar called Adhere the 13th Blues Bar – we assume the name is a reference to the US 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. The bar seats about 30 people, packed around small round tables with flowery fabric table cloths, and lots of blues music posters, albums and memorabilia pinned to the walls. It’s popular with both locals and tourists and is one of the few blues venues in the city – we tried to visit another one called ‘Nothing but the Blues’ a few days ago, but found it permanently closed.

The support act was an Asian lady who sang mostly folk ballads – she was really good. Then the main act came on after 10pm (a late start but at least we don’t have to get up early for work) – and they were awesome. Mostly blues music with some reggae numbers thrown in. High energy, great musicians – just the music fix we needed.

We caught a Grab car home (similar to Uber) – fair play to Jim for aptly working out locations and street names, which are hellishly confusing here, and getting us safely to our door.

Tomorrow we need to finalise plans and book accommodation for the next stint in our adventure, then we’ll head out for a walk and to check out some more nightlife.

More then.

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