Bangkok: March 2009

Like blank canvases sterilised by the plane, we ambled down Soi Rambuttri and soaked up the colours. My fringe was sticking to my forehead and sweat trickled down my back; even close to midnight the heat was intense. Other travellers walked alongside us, following the flow of traffic. Some had bottles of Chang dangling lazily in one hand and looked like they'd been here forever. Others were fresh from the airport, like us, and looking a little overwhelmed.

Our hostel was a twenty minute walk behind us and despite my sense of urgency to reach the end of the road, the humidity slowed us to a crawl. Instead, I tried to relax and take everything in; the smell of noodles and incense, the Thai street-sellers in headdresses with bells trailing down past their ears, the scent of fruity tobacco drifting through the soupy air from people sat outside bars with their rented Baungs. The thump-thump-thump of Khaosan Road was still audible but duller here, the pace a little slower.

As the road curved left we passed a stall selling fisherman pants and harem shorts, its owner haggling with the tourists; 'Cheap, cheap! Special price for you, Sir!'. I made a mental note to come back tomorrow and relieve him of some stock as a tuk-tuk loaded with an entire family puttered up behind us, honking frantically until we increased our sluggish pace enough to move out of the way. Soon, the road straightened out and became lined with food stalls on one side, bars and hostels on the other. One of our party stopped to buy some hot spring rolls with chilli sauce while I scanned the neon signs impatiently, looking for one in particular. Before I found it, I heard my name being called. I turned round and there she stood. Six months travelling had made her thinner and more tanned but she was, without doubt, my little sister. I threw my arms around her skinny body and didn't want to let go. Bangkok carried on around us in all it's noisy, messy, vibrant glory. Surrounded by strangers in an unfamiliar city, I felt more at home that anywhere I'd ever been to before.

P Helm

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