So here we are, on the last leg of our travels. Full circle we have returned to South East Asia where we spent our honeymoon two & a half years earlier. The familiar smell of Bangkok hits us bringing with it an immediate hankering for street food noodles. Noisy horns and cluttered traffic creating a dangerous frogger like game of crossing the street. Scary tangles of electric cables knot themselves in a kind of urban canopy. Stalls of all kinds selling the same thing littered along every street. A welcoming buzz in this fast pace of a big city. We feel less like walking ATMs this time and spend a few days soaking in the atmosphere again and wandering the streets, enjoying the food.
Moving to a place which we found through couchsurfing, a six-story haunted whorehouse turned artspace, our Bangkok encounter begins to change. Run by a young Israeli guy called Yuval, the Overstay is an eclectic mix of bar/party space, Hostel, gypsy camp and artist space. All surfaces are covered with art, paintings, scribbles and manikins. We are given a wide room on the fifth floor with large windows and room for improvement on its many blank walls. Dinner is bought cheap and home-made by a gorgeous Thai woman called Mee, a character seen every day tidying up The Overstay with her 2 year old daughter Shong in toe. A mischiefs little pixie who love to watch people playing pool and steal the white ball when no one is looking. But not without manners, Shong let us play with her doll and gave us a each one of her candies. Mostly quiet during the day, the evenings awaking with an eclectic array of people from around the world swapping banter with each other and the locals around the bar. Conversations of human history, travel and general nonsense compete with the mewing of kittens from stray cats as they roam the bar top, purring for pats and treats.
Inspired by the walls covered in pictures, Emm saw the blankness of the walls in our own room in need of a scribble. Brewing with the concept of getting ideas out into reality, to birth them, a picture doodled in Ecuador of this very sentiment was just what the 5th floor needed. Having asked Yuval, an exploration of an old bathroom/turned cupboard unearthed a lot of old mouldy paints. Luckily a few were….. OK. So with them and a couple of feral looking brushes the slopping of paint commenced.
After hours immersed in the wall a break was called and we ventured out to the city. We found the new art gallery in central Bangkok. A huge spiralling building, modern with hints of Thailand in its strange assortment of small spaces and stalls on the lower levels. A beautiful, if repetitive, photographic exhibit spread the Thai cultural landscape before us in rich colours and mystery. An eclectic exhibition for peace within Thailand which had some surprisingly great and controversial works. The history museum was also experienced with distaste as it was the worst collection (there was no artifacts only photos) and the most incomprehensible and at times unbelievable written account (a rock proved that the Thai people have always lived there since the beginning of time) with no mention of the culture through the times, only which king battled Burma with elephants.
One cannot help but get a little suspicious when approached by strangers offering help and advice in Asia. However, this time, probably due to the recent drop in tourism due to the protests and violence in Bangkok, we were approached on a couple of occasions by local pedestrians offering genuine and friendly advice. One man told us what was good to see due to the buddhist holidays, flagged down a tuk-tuk driver haggled a price far below what we could hope to achieve and got the man to drive us around to many sights for $2. A good lesson in the kindness of strangers. We visited beautiful temples with large golden buddhas, suit fittings for Tahn and rides along the river filled with colorful boats.
More hours spent communing with the wall as Tahn worked on our desert piece with trips to 7/11 to stock up on water, redbull and snacks. To break the monotony are trips downstairs to play with the kittens and Shong. Chats with Yuval filling in some of the blanks in Thai history, like how they forgot to mention that Taksin the Great went crazy and thought he was a god, killing much of his government as the country descended into turmoil. So they cut of his head. Although there are many more rumours, like that he was put in a velvet sack and beaten to death with a sandalwood club or that it was an imposter they killed and the real Taksin the Great retired into the mountains to be a monk. The history museum didn’t mention anything about his death, only that he was Great.
On the last day the monstrous painting was finished and we celebrated with cheap beer and merry-making with the Overstay crew, making plans to return and help put on a birthday party for Yuval.