Rudd On The Road
By Steve Rudd
Part 27: A Wasted Day at the Embassy
Having reported the theft of my backpack to the police, I thought it might be beneficial to report the incident at The British Embassy, too.
Before making tracks across Bangkok to the embassy, I sat outside the police station near the end of Khao San Road for a few minutes to collect my thoughts and get organised. As I rifled through my documents, I heard a familiar voice from afar.
It was Sheetha, a friend from London. She was in Thailand in order to get married to her fiancˇ, Simon. Having first met them both in 2006 when we were all backpacking between Thailand and Malaysia, I'd used their impending marriage on Ko Samui as the perfect excuse for me to return to Southeast Asia.
In spite of my prevailing problems, I was thrilled to see Sheetha as she approached beside her sister Rahana's partner Phil, and a friend called Bertie. Suddenly, I couldn't believe my luck; I'd been hoping to bump into Sheetha and friends for the past couple of days since they'd touched down in Bangkok. Coincidentally, they were staying just down the road from me, in a new 'Sleep Withinn' hotel.
I immediately apologised if I seemed displeased to see them. In reality, I was overjoyed.
I was, however, still depressed about the theft of my backpack. Agreeing to hook up with them in the evening for a drink-fuelled night in Patpong, I shuffled off along Khao San Road, rudely ignoring the chirpy tuk-tuk drivers begging for my custom.
More than ever, I was desperate to save money. As I result, I conspired to traverse the heart of Bangkok towards The British Embassy, purposefully striding between the ancient and modern sides of the city in silent fury, on a collision course with destiny as I surmised that no matter how desperate a person might be, they should never steal another person's belongings and in due course show so little regard for the lives of others.
Armed with nothing more than my threadbare satchel and its meagre contents, only now did I feel like a true man of the world. I had no guidebook to steer me; no excess baggage to hinder me. From now on, I aspired to model myself on Spanish traveller Kim Tripy who'd I'd befriended in Sukhothai, a man who relied on nothing more than his wits to see him through.
The 'on the road' ways and means of another friend ambushed my train of thought in quick succession. Indeed, Karl Bushby, more than anybody else I knew, prided himself on investing utmost faith in the kindness of strangers on a daily basis as he slowly but surely made for home, on foot, from the tip of South America.
Nearing Wireless Road almost two hours later, I realised that only when you have nothing can you begin to appreciate the times when you gain something, be it knowledge, a surge of good luck, whatever.
I also reminded myself of what a man by the name of Michael Jenvey had told me when I met him in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Having fled the UK for too many reasons to mention, he confided that the poetry he penned quite literally meant the world to him; if he were to lose it or have it stolen, then that would be it for him.
As he told me this he slowly drew an imaginary line across his throat. Ironically, the words he'd committed to paper over the years meant more than mere words could ever effectively convey.
The timing of my arrival at The British Embassy couldn't have been more diabolical. In my haste to dash across the city, I'd neglected to acknowledge something I knew all along: the embassy closes for lunch between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. every day. I rolled up to the main entrance ten minutes too late. Resigned to sit out the wait, I nipped over to a '7-Eleven' and treated myself... if you can call indulging in a ten-baht sandwich treating oneself, that is.
I returned two hours later and was instantly admitted into the consular section after surrendering my belongings. Cameras, as a matter of course, are not allowed any further than the front gates. Fortunately, I was no stranger to the waiting area of the consular section; I'd swung by less than three years previously in order to seek advice about hospital treatment in the wake of being bitten by a dog in Ayuttaya.
I was, however, a stranger to the vast quantity of fellow Brits who were kicking back in the waiting area this time around, the majority of whom were accompanied by their much younger Thai wives-to-be.
As I took a seat, I couldn't help but overhear the conversation between one Brit and an embassy employee. Furious about the fact that his divorce papers hadn't as yet been 'finalised' in England, he wondered if The British Embassy would be able to intervene and hurry his wife along.
Until she signed the papers, he was unable to marry his Thai girlfriend, a woman who appeared to be at least thirty years his junior. Shaking her head, the embassy employee lamented, 'We cannot help, Sir. It is an issue you will have to take up with your wife.' The man stormed away from the counter at such news, grabbing the arm of his girlfriend as he made a dash for the door before his rage got the better of them both.
Once they'd exited the scene, my number was up. Explaining that I'd had my gear stolen, and that I had in my possession the name of the prime suspect, I hoped some good would come of me reporting the crime. In response, the lady was at liberty to offer me little more than a sad smile.
'It's a matter for the police,' she said. 'If they cannot help, we cannot help either. All we can do is take the name of the suspect. Only if his name is flagged on our computer in the future, should he overstay his welcome in Thailand, will we be able to make further enquiries.'
To be honest, I'd not known what to expect from the embassy. At least I'd covered all bases by paying the place a visit. All I could do now was ensure that I kept my friends close, and suspicion-arousing strangers yet closer.
For more information about Steve and his travels, email him at email@example.com or find him on Facebook.
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part 26: Signing My Life Away By Steve Rudd
I could just about deal with the fallout of the theft. The thing I struggled with most was the betrayal of trust. I have always trusted everybody, regardless of whether they are a close friend or a complete stranger. I don't judge. To do so is unnatural.
Even though I'd had my backpack stolen, I doggedly refused to let such a fact affect the way I acted
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part 25: A Temporary Loss of Faith By Steve Rudd
In my absence, somebody had broken into my room and stolen my backpack from where I'd rested it against the wall beside my bed. I hadn't unpacked anything since checking back into the guesthouse. I'd had neither the need nor the motivation to do so.
Fortunately, I still had my passport, my bankcard and my camera; they went everywhere with me
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part 24: Spontaneous Combustion By Steve Rudd
I'd returned to Bangkok in anticipation of heading south to Ko Samui, one of Thailand's most-visited islands, on which two friends were due to be married. However, they weren't going to tie the proverbial knot for another two weeks, a fact which awarded me plenty of spare time to gad about at my leisure.
It was a scorching hot Friday morning, and I'd just met an English girl called Abi on Soi Rambuttri in Bangkok. We both had something in common: money - or rather 'lack of.'
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part 23: A Cashflow Crisis By Steve Rudd
Twelve ATMs down, and not all that many to go. It was fair to say that I was in a quandary, with no cash to my name other than a few dollar notes I had left over from my recent trip to the US.
It wouldn't have been so bad if I'd had a clutch of British pounds, or a sizeable wad of notes in any currency for that matter; a staggering number of currency exchange offices line both sides of Khao San Road in Bangkok,
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part 22: Trios Amigos! By Steve Rudd
OK. So what do you get if you cross a well-to-do Frenchman, a freethinking Englishman, and a mad-as-hell Spaniard? Adventure by default.
I was in Sukhothai, Thailand, all psyched up to savour the unassailable beauty of one of the most dazzling jewels in the country's crown. Long before Ayuttaya and Bangkok succeeded the city as Thailand's capital, Sukhothai flourished as the naval of the nation.
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part 21: The One Hundred Baht Experience By Steve Rudd
I was searching for 'The London Hotel', having had the place recommended to me by a friend. Paying close attention to the road signs, I was definitely heading in the right direction as I made tracks away from Phitsanulok's train station.
Confusingly though, the hotel that I presumed to be 'The London' had no exterior hoarding in English proclaiming it to be the place I desired. Its sign was in Thai script, and thus beyond my comprehension.
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Twenty: Stray Dogs and Cheeky Monkeys By Steve Rudd
I'd barely made myself at home in Lopburi, and I was already on the verge of being chased out of town. From the off, as I ambled out of the train station after catching an early morning train north from Bangkok, the town's myriad stray dogs were on my tail, as though they genuinely resented backpackers snooping around their patch.
Making more haste than usual to find
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Nineteen: Going West for Eastern Inspiration By Steve Rudd
'Tuk-Tuk!' came the shout across the concourse. In the same beat I was offered a taxi, before a middle-aged lady rushed up offering me a cut-price massage. And this was all out front of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, into which I'd just flown from LA.
My writing work in the US finished, I had decided to head over to Southeast Asia in order to attend the wedding of a couple of friends who I'd first met on my first visit to
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Eighteen: A Mile Of Miracles, And Then Some By Steve Rudd
Taking the bus was too easy, despite the fact that my film making pal Dave Kebo had dropped me off at the Shell gas station at the Wilshire and Vermont intersection in Koreatown which was conveniently situated right beside a bus-stop.
Looking due west along Wilshire Boulevard, my feet felt the twitch before my heart. A bus bound for Santa Monica had just pulled up, and for the meagre fee of a buck and a quarter ($1.25)
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Seventeen: On Foot Across LA By Steve Rudd
I don't like not knowing what's out there. I prefer to be informed rather than ignorant. I hate living in the knowledge that there are sections of certain towns and cities in the world that I know next-to-nothing about.
That's why, given the chance, I always walk whenever and wherever I can. I walk and I walk and I walk until my feet begin to announce their grievances.
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Sixteen: When in Venice ... By Steve Rudd
No visit to LA is complete without a saunter along Venice Beach, south of Santa Monica.
The actual beach is beautiful, yet it is the mad parade of stalls and performers which are set back from the beach on Ocean Front Walk that are the real attraction to this part of the city.
It's like the sixties never ended, a slew of tarot card readers, tattoo artists, dubiously talented musicians and all manner of folk on the scrounge for marijuana making
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Fifteen: A Run-In With Gordon Ramsay By Steve Rudd
Having touched back down in LA on what had been a sensationally overcast day, I was glad to see the sun the following morning as I ventured out into Santa Monica, aspiring to hit the beach. I was back in the city to catch up with a friend and to do some writing, but I still intended to make some time to see exactly why people get so excited about the smattering of beaches gracing The Pacific Coast at LA.
It's certainly easy to understand why
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Fourteen: St. Patrick's Day With A Difference By Steve Rudd
In the wake of an exhilarating hike into Runyon Canyon, one of Hollywood's best-kept secrets, I was all buoyed-up to sample a prime slice of LA nightlife. It was St. Patrick's Day, and I was keen to see how Americans celebrate it. Rest assured, I wasn't disappointed. They celebrate the day with just as much gusto as stout-addled folk back in Ireland.
Opting to head downtown in order to appreciate the wide variety of bars in the district, I was accompanied by Dave Kebo, a movie-making friend who I'd first met in Istanbul back in November 2008.
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Thirteen: The Green Side of Hollywood By Steve Rudd
Keen to see a side of LA that the majority of visitors to the city never get to appreciate, I couldn't have been more pleased when my friend Dave Kebo, a movie-maker who was raised in LA and knows much of it like the back of his hand, offered to show me around.
It was St. Patrick's Day, and our first port of call was a cafe in the Silver Lake district, east of Hollywood. Neither of us had so far indulged in breakfast, so we ordered up and sat back, sitting out on the busy sidewalk in order to increase our chances of spotting a celeb.
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Ten: Sun, Sand, Sea ... and a Man on a Mission. By Steve Rudd
In terms of beaches, visitors to Mexico genuinely are spoilt for choice. World-class stretches of sand are to be found on both The Pacific Coast and The Gulf of Mexico, with old favourites in the ridiculously commercialised forms of Acapulco and Cancun still managing to draw in huge crowds with ease.
However, some of the country's lesser-known beaches are