Rudd On The Road
By Steve Rudd
Part Twenty: Stray Dogs and Cheeky Monkeys
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 somewhere to stay, I literally dropped my gear at the first hotel I stumbled upon: 'The Asia Hotel.' A bewilderingly huge establishment at the centre of town, it seemed empty; its grand stairwells and corridors eerily devoid of even the slightest trace of human life.
On the upside, my room was an undisputed bargain; for 250 baht per night, an en-suite bathroom, a double-bed, and a TV were all thrown into the deal. Pity then that the only 'programmes' worth watching on TV were re-runs of classic Looney Tunes cartoons which had been dubbed into Thai.
Hiding away from the might of the midday sun by taking a siesta, I eventually began pounding the streets of Lopburi at two in the afternoon.
Initially I made a beeline for the river, across which a group of children were swimming in spite of the water's stomach-churning dirtiness.
Looking further downriver, a succession of huge nets, supported by wooden scaffolding, dangled over the water in anticipation of being employed to catch fish.
Doubling back into town, I soon passed a sight that was becoming all too familiar in Thai towns and cities: a huge Tesco Lotus supermarket. Determined to avoid shopping in Tesco for food or drink, I picked up my pace and promptly set my sights on a roadside vendor selling skewers upon which unidentifiable hunks of meat merrily sizzled.
At only five baht per skewer, I bagged three and edged back in the direction of the railway line in order to explore Phra Prang Sam Yot. As I neared the ancient Khmer site, a stark warning confronted me in the form of a huge sign declaring that a 'Monkey Zone' was being entered - and at one's own risk to boot.
At first sight I clocked nothing more than a group of monkeys scampering around the grounds of the temple, but a grief-stricken shriek that fell from above soon diverted my attention skywards, towards a couple of monkeys that were running across a bundle of power lines tacked to the side of the nearest building.
Keeping my cool and resisting the temptation to cover my face and establish tight hold on my belongings, I couldn't help but admire the acrobatics that were being performed.
While reports of monkeys snatching bags are quite common in Lopburi, I reasoned with myself that money and passports must have limited value in 'monkey world.' But then I realised that it wasn't my possessions which were at risk in any case. It was my food they were after.
The more time I spent wandering around the laid-back streets of Lopburi, the more it dawned on me that it's not really a place where foreign travellers stay for longer than necessary.
I got the distinct impression that most visitors were simply passing through Lopburi on the way to somewhere else as part of coach-based tours which ventured no further than the main monkey-wracked ruins.
As a result, I seemed to be something of a curiosity when I began to duck in and out of local shops, yet the majority of the Lopburi residents appeared to be too shy to engage in conversation until an elderly man stepped forward beneath the eaves of a '7-Eleven' store in order to try and ascertain where I was from and why I was in town.
As soon as I revealed that I hailed from England, the man unsuccessfully tried to stifle a chuckle before asking whether I came from 'the poor north or the rich south.'
He subsequently enquired about how the prevailing global crisis had so far affected the economy in England, evidently interested in the politics afflicting even the most farthest-flung countries. I later saw the man sat outside the aforementioned Tesco store; as I curtly waved, he coolly doffed his cap with a grin.
After dark, the stray dogs of Lopburi came out in force like never before, boisterously prowling the main thoroughfares and backstreets alike.
Having had an unpleasant encounter with a stray dog in Thailand on a previous occasion, I naturally steered myself away from the dog-strewn pavements straight into the traffic on the roads for one reason and one reason only: given the choice, I would sooner become unfortunate road kill than a rabies victim.
Once safely back at the hotel, I hoped that a clutch of fellow travellers might be propping up the bar in the foyer.
There were, however, two glaring problems that I'd neglected to recall. First and foremost, there were no other travellers. Secondly, there was no bar in the foyer. Thus, there was only one thing for it, and that was to hit the nearest shop.
Having already had my fill of beers of the 'Singha' and 'Chang' varieties, I picked up a couple of bottles of 'Archa' for a change, praying that they'd provide an unfettered taste explosion of bud-destroying proportions. To the contrary, I was sorely disappointed to discover that 'Archa' beer is the Thai equivalent of 'Skol', its cheapness reflected in the unpalatable taste through and through.
Still, looking on the bright side, such beers did aid my passage into The Land of Nod. It was just a shame that I didn't get chance to switch off the TV before slipping away.
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 - Beinvenue: Paris in 3 Days for Less Than 100,000 Calories! By Ruth
The long weekend in Paris was a spur of the moment idea hatched by my daughter. I was initially sceptical about the cost. Summer fares to Europe are never less than extortionate.
My cousin in Paris pointed out that fares spike sharply at the end of June and remain high throughout the summer months. Armed with that information, we checked flights for the first week of June
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Twelve: Onwards and Upwards By Steve Rudd
I don't do early mornings. At least I don't do them very well. I mean, was it 5 a.m. already? We'd had less than two hours of sleep, and it was time for my friend Evangelina to whisk me to the airport in order for me to catch my 7:50 a.m. flight with 'Mexicana' back to Los Angeles.
Having joined a bunch of Evangelina's friends for some food and drink at a cantina close to Bellas Artes in the Historical Centre of Mexico City the previous night,
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Part Eleven: Going Barmy in Barra. By Steve Rudd
As I grew increasingly accustomed to the laid-back beach-life around which the tiny Pacific Coast town of Melaque revolves, I realised it was going to be no easy task to pull myself away from this area of Jalisco, Mexico.
The pace of life which afflicts Melaque is a world away from the hustle and bustle that comes as part and parcel of larger towns and cities
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
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Nine: A Perfect Demonstration of How to Protest. By Steve Rudd
Fans of folk who like to voice their opinions can't go wrong in Mexico. I mean, barely a day goes by without some demonstration or protest taking to the streets, and those in its favour tend to come out in such force that it's only a matter of time before the 'rally' passes you by.
You certainly don't need to make the effort to seek out such rallies
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Eight: All Aboard 'The Nerve-Shredder' to Puebla! By Steve Rudd
I really couldn't blame the lady at the ticket counter for giving me such a puzzled look. After all, I had just asked for a ticket counter instead of a ticket.
I was at the main bus station in Oaxaca City, Mexico, intent on buying a ticket north to Puebla. Having clocked numerous signs emblazoned with the world Taquiller, I wrongly assumed that such a word was the Spanish for Tickets. In truth,
Places to Visit - Cusco, Peru - La Ultima Cena Con Cuy By Ruth
The flight from Puerto Maldonado was uneventful. The flight attendant served coca tea, Inca Cola, and Cusqueno beer to interested passengers. The city of Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire, sits in the Andes Mountains. The elevation is roughly 11,000 feet. The updrafts buffeted the plane a bit during landing.
At the airport, old women peddling bags of coca leaves crowded towards the passengers.
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road - Catching up with Steve Rudd as he hits America in style ... Part 1 By Steve Rudd
The flight from London to LA was a long haul to say the least, yet it was made more tolerable by the company. I'd barely got settled when the guy beside me introduced himself as Jim Becket, a film director and documentary producer who lived in a place called Ojai, a little north of Los Angeles. He'd just returned from working in Athens where he'd sold the rights of his latest documentary to
Places to Visit - Playing Chicken In Turkey Part 1 By Steve Rudd
It wasn't the best welcome to Turkey. It was the dead of night, we'd just crossed the border, yet there I was, beside a Mancunian called Liam, being frog marched back to the tiny hut that issued visas. Upon crossing the border, us English lads had been issued the correct visa, but the official had inexplicably neglected to stamp the visas with our entry date.
Places to Visit - Roaming Around Romania By Steve Rudd
I was worried. It was four a.m., I was on a train bound for Bucharest, and somebody was tugging at my bed sheets from below. Coming around from a bout of deep sleep, I urged my weary eyes to focus. They were having none of it though, refusing point blank to reveal the person before me.
'Is there a problem?' I asked, hoping that a response might bowl my way in English.
Places to Visit - Gibraltar and La Linea, Spain By Mo
Recently I went on a week long trip to Gibraltar and La LÍnea, Spain staying with my mum and dad in their La Linea flat. My twin sister and her boyfriend were also at the flat on holiday for a week and had rented a small car booked online for only 60 quid for the week. I think that included car insurance too so a pretty good deal.
They all met me at Gibraltar airport and we walked across the border with Spain
Places to Visit - The London, Bath and Bristol Chronicles By Steve Rudd
I knew I should have taken the train. Being stuck behind a combine harvester is never fun in a car. In a coach, it's murder. The battalion of towering power-line supports that stoically marched across the dead level Lincolnshire landscape didn't help. From their indifferent vantage point, they simply taunted.
'Technology is overtaking everything,' said the woman in front, Read more...
Places to Visit - Kate Langan's Travel Journal - Thailand
Tonight we ate at a Thai Taverna, there was a baby elephant going by so Becky took my photo. We are staying in Phuket also as we have found a really nice basic room that's really cheap. It's clean and got 4 stone walls - not like the wood hut! I loved the wood hut but was bitten to death by the mozzies. No mozzies here - yey! And I'm not a huge fan of the cockroaches!
Places to Visit - The Three Peaks Of Yorkshire Challenge 10th June 2006 By Steve Rudd
'Good morning gentlemen - rise and shine!' As I slowly came to my senses I couldn't
help but glance at my watch. I'd been warned the previous night that we would be
woken up at 4:15am sharp, and barely a second later.
Unfortunately, that really was the case, and as exhausted as I was, there
was a mammoth 25 mile walk ahead...
It's a shame that I'd only managed
Places to Visit - A Weekend in Amsterdam By Dave F
Amsterdam is a city of freedom which instantly appeals on a lot of levels.
What's the point of a holiday if you don't have the freedom to go and do what you want, when you want?
If, like me, you want to wander aimlessly from coffee shop to coffee shop getting as
stoned as humanly possible whilst ogling half-naked women through dirty windows
and snacking heavily along the way,
Places to Visit - Christmas in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka By Dave F
I hate Christmas for too many reasons to mention and the chance to get away from it
all this year it was an opportunity too good to pass up. Knowing someone with a
house in Sri Lanka which stands empty for 9 months every year definitely has its benefits.
I'm travelling with a mate and his daughter who've been here several times before
so I get some insight
Places to Visit - Skiing In Bulgaria - Part Two By Steve Rudd
Giant Christmas trees loomed as far as the eye could see below, as I marvelled
at the extraordinary engineering it must take to make a gondola a reality.
After the thirty-minute ride to the top we were immediately greeted by a
stunning panorama of the surrounding countryside which was beautiful beyond words.
So pristine and so serene.
Well, serene if you can discount the
Places to Visit - Skiing In Bulgaria - Part One By Steve Rudd
I could have thought of worst places to be, seeing in the New Year, as the last
second of 2005 ticked over into 2006. Happy New Year indeed.
For the best part of the past ten years myself and my friends have contented
ourselves with heading into the town centre of Driffield every December 31st
for one of the few nights of the year when it genuinely hustles and bustles.
Places to Visit - Walking The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path - Part One By Steve Rudd
Get out of the city and into the country, sooner rather than later.
A great many people genuinely have no idea how scenically diverse and breathtaking some
swathes of countryside are in the UK, and such a fact is a great shame,
because while they might be spending all their spare time in dirty and cramped
urban environments, there's often fresh air and inspirational
Places to Visit - Thailand By Rich Mills
Expressing the experience of being here in Thailand is difficult to put into words.
The sensorial experience is so mind blowing that you begin to feel overloaded.
However it is the smallest of things that grab your attention, and stick in the mind.
We are waiting for a taxi to take us down to the ferry, so that we can go
over to the small island of Koh Maak.
This is where we will get the full
Places to Visit - Ostend Weekend By John Allbones
I needed a break. Well, you just do sometimes don't you?
The constant day to day drudge of the nine to five erodes your spirit until a
change of scene is all you crave. Nothing fancy, just a few days will do.
Preferably abroad, it just seems more of a break when you're on foreign soil.
I managed to grab a late deal on a long weekend in Ostend.
So desperate was I to get away,
Places to Visit - Eight Feet and Two Weeks On Crete Part 2 by Steve Rudd
One of the best ways of exploring the huge island of Crete is by car: in your own time, at
your own speed and in your own style.
Without the stress and cost of embarking on guided tours.
Head into any of Crete's major cities such as
Hania, Rethymno or Iraklion and you'll be bombarded by rent-a-vehicle establishments, all
of which are fiercely trying to