Other than the flight being delayed, leaving Dhaka was a smooth operation. I got on a small plane with wider aisles going through first class so I managed to take my chair all the way to my seat. Tricky transfer but definitely preferable over getting dragged along in a standard aisle chair. As the ground worker took my chair away I had a feeling that I might not see my chair again in one piece when I get to Bangkok. On a previous trip I watched them throw my chair about from the other side of the glass next to the conveyor belt and found the frame had been bent. Anyway, long story short, my chair was there to meet me on the plane when we arrived and it was in one piece – possibly helped by the ‘fragile’ stickers that had been placed on it.
I have to say, Bangkok Airways were great at serving drinks on the flight considering we were in the air for just over three hours. I managed to get through two gin and tonics with the more wine being offered, I would have made more of an effort but as we only set off at midnight I decided to get a bit of shut eye. I found some Wi-Fi at the airport and started look for a hostel. At the top of the list was the Phoenix Hotel, it looked decent, cheap enough and apparently wheelchair accessible. Tick, tick, tick. As luck would have it, it was also the closest to the airport and in 15 minutes we were there. As I’d not booked it took a while to get the room ready but by 5am I was flat out. The only downside to the room is no accessible shower which was easily fixed using one of the stools that was hanging around the room.
The first day was spent wandering round one of the main shopping areas, which was fairly inaccessible. There were a couple of steps going into each of the shops and getting across eight lanes of traffic was difficult because a lot of the bridges didn’t have any lifts. There were a couple of times when a dash across the road was necessary, made possible by slow moving traffic in some lanes and drivers slowing down to let me cross – the driving etiquette is on the other end of the spectrum from where I’ve just come from. I’ve arrived a couple of days before the king’s birthday so there are celebrations for that, some of which I came across on a random visit to a park.
In order to look around a bit more I jumped in a taxi which over here is a motorbike with a long seat on the back, the equivalent to the Indian tuk tuk or the Bangldeshi CNG but more powerful and with roads moving a bit more fluid, you can really pick up some speed and the drivers aren’t afraid to. I’m torn between what the transport highlight was, the taxi or the boat ride down the river today. The rail system over here is pretty good as well. It’s the fastest way to get around by avoiding the traffic and fairly accessible. It’s not as accessible as some of the transport systems I’ve seen in Taiwan, Korea or Japan, but the staff are great – even when the only access is via an escalator, they stopped people using it then got two of their people to hold me in place while we went up. At one station they even reversed the direction of the escalator so I could get down! Transport for London could really do with taking a page out of their book.
On the way back to the Phoenix I got off at Ladkrabang, the local station. I remember seeing on a map that it wasn’t that far to the hotel so I decided to walk. Big mistake. It was pitch black by this time and I was going down roads I didn’t know and a direction I wasn’t sure of. I checked with a taxi driver for directions to the hotel when I exited the station, he looked it up on his phone and I went on my merry way.
Now, the hotel is pretty far out of town, near the airport and in an area that isn’t that built up. I quickly noticed that this meant there were a couple of street dogs roaming around the side of the road, which wasn’t a big deal, I like dogs and I rolled by and it started to bark it didn’t phase me.
After about ten minutes of pushing down a dark road I stopped to ask for directions from two older guys drinking beer at a café (wooden shed) at the side of the road, but the language barrier thwarted my initial attempts to get help. Luckily, a younger chap with good English, Neksh as I would later find out, overheard the attempt at conversation and came around the corner. I got confirmation that I was heading in the right direction and carried on.
By this point there seemed like there were a lot more dogs laying at the side of the road as I passed, especially at an out of place gated property that I went by. I kept following the directions that were given to me by Neksh which led me past some young scooter boys who were drinking what appeared to beer out of plastic bag. I started going to what appeared to be a dead end and from what I could see there were a couple of dogs on the floor and decided to explore to see if there was another way around there. As I got closer, the couple of dogs that I saw got up and were looking in my direction. Faint rumbles of growling came from their direction and I started to slow down. All of a sudden, more of them appeared. It must have been a dozen in total. All edging towards me. Like I said, I don’t mind dogs but with a pack of a dozen street dogs edging towards me in the darkness I was getting a little worried. They kept on coming closer and I had no idea what to do. As they got closer to me, their faces became clearer and I could make out their snarling teeth shining in the moonlight. There was no way of outrunning them; if they attacked then I was done for.
Something behind broke by gaze on the dogs. I heard some growls coming from behind me; these were slightly different to the dogs though. I spun around and was blinded by headlights coming toward me. The dogs ran off and the scooters that had scared them away came to a stop next to me. Neksh and his friends had decided to follow me and see how I was getting on find the hotel and I was happy that they did. They told me that the hotel was very close and would show me there. I grabbed the back of one of the scooters and we took off, arriving at the hotel in no time.
The hotel was comfortable but equally boring as it so far out of town. Today, I decided to find somewhere more centrally located for my last night in Bangkok. Accessibility is more of an issue at this place but I’m here for one night and there’s actually people here to chat which is a plus.
I headed to the train station earlier this evening to book a ticket to Chang Mei tomorrow. My initial feeling from looking at the ancient relics that were the trains was that it would be a difficult journey. When I entered the station, this feeling was almost instantly turned around with the sheer number of disabled signs everywhere, which in my mind showed that they were hot on the accessibility side of things. Guess I’ll just keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.