Travelling Light

Baja, Hungary to Bangkok, Thailand, via Budapest and Doha

Baja is a lovely little town on the Danube, or rather on a side channel of the Danube – the full Danube is much, much wider than this waterway. It has a large square where vehicles are allowed to park, and several paved pedestrian streets around it.

We didn’t have much time for sightseeing in Baja, because we had a bus to catch to Budapest. Tomorrow we leave Europe – almost three months has gone in the blink of an eye!

All the pictures of Baja are here.

We really want to spend longer in Europe, but it is really starting to get cold now, and the lure of the tropics is outweighing our desire to explore further. We have promised to return, and soon, with in a few years. Next time, we will buy a van that we can sleep in, and cook our own food in, which will make Europe much more affordable.

When we arrived in Budapest, we used the WiFi in the station (why can’t we have WiFi in stations in Australia?) to find a nearby hostel while we waited for our cousin to come and meet us. She came with us to drop our bags at the hostel.

And what a hostel it was!

This is a new hostel, Multipass Hostel, very close to Nyugati Station. Every room has a different decor, and they are all fabulous. The friendly staff suggested a ruin pub for dinner (it’s a thing in Budapest, to turn a ruined building into a bar or restaurant) and told us the best place to get lángos in the morning.

Dinner was great, we got plenty of sleep, and there were a couple of Australian guys staying at the hostel, who said they would join us on our lángos expedition.

We recommended the traditional sour-cream-and-cheese version, and they both approved heartily. They will probably brave ordering it again themselves after we leave.

Budapest is a beautiful city, and we have taken many, many photos there.

After breakfast, we met one cousin to collect a present we had left with her, and another cousin to deliver said present. It is always really sad to say goodbye to our family in Hungary. They are such lovely, lovely people.

However, we had a plane to catch. Actually a train (blue Metro line to the last station), then a bus (airport line to the last stop) and THEN a plane to catch. And we thought Melbourne’s airport was inconveniently located!

Have we mentioned that we love Qatar Airways? We paid 277 Euro each to fly from Budapest to Bangkok, and we got full service on the flights – refresher towels, free drinks, 30 kilos each of baggage and the seats of our choice, no extra fees and charges.

Of course, that was a special fare, and we were not flying in peak season, but still – we will keep ourselves on their email list.

Doha airport is nothing short of fabulous. There is WiFi, a TV area, children’s playgrounds, restaurants, and several monumental sculptures. This teddy bear, for example is nearly two storeys high.

Despite the myriad entertainment available, all we wanted to do was sleep. We had a seven-hour transit, from midnight until 7am.

After some wandering, we found “quiet rooms” – one for men and one for women. Aghast! We only have one alarm! What to do?

Fortunately, a little further down the corridor was a “family quiet room”, and there we settled ourselves for a snooze. The lounge had rows of chairs, fixed in the position that an airline seat would be in once you recline it.

Why? Why would you do that? Why not make them almost horizontal? We both gave up after a short while and slept on the floor.

The air conditioning was a bit chilly, so Jenny curled up under her beloved New Zealend Merino shawl, and Tom did a hobo impression under Jenny’s square metre of black plastic (usually wrapped around her beloved memory foam pillow).

In the morning, we were awake early enough to eat breakfast in the terminal before heading to the gate lounge. The air was quite misty, but we were able to capture some of the intricate landforms Qatar has been reclaiming from the sea.

One of these days, we must make a proper stopover in Doha and see the city. In the meanwhile, we have a growing album of photos of the airport, and shots from aeroplane windows.

Once we were up and away, we made a horrifying discovery – Jenny’s pillow was not with us! Not only did this mean potentially losing a very expensive and useful memory foam pillow, but also the extremely useful square metre of black plastic, and the two extremely useful ladder tie-down straps we use to hold it together in a small package.

Jenny was very brave and didn’t cry.

While in Doha, we got a message from our friend in Bangkok, Saowanee (Pookie), that she was coming to the airport to meet us. It is such a luxury to be met! So often, we are going somewhere as strangers, and we have to find our own way from the station or airport to our hotel.

Bangkok airport welcomed us with flowers, but we didn’t linger, because we wanted to get through immigration and baggage collection as quickly as possible. Jenny went to ask the staff to contact Doha airport and look for her pillow, while Tom collected the baggage.

And Tom’s backpack had been damaged …

… so we spent over an hour with Bangkok airport staff on the phone to Qatar staff multiple times, before finally agreeing that they would send the backpack to be repaired, and then when it was fixed they would send it to Surat Thani for Tom to collect after his meditation retreat. Discovering that Tom was going to a wat to be a monk for ten days actually smoothed the way for a solution, because monks are greatly respected in Thailand, even ten-day monks.

In fact, a Thai Buddhist man is not really considered marriageable until he has done some time in a monastery. They usually spend less than three months, sometimes just a few days, but it is expected of all men. All Buddhist men, at any rate. The Muslim Thai men can’t really understand why he would want to do that.

What this solution meant, though, was that we needed to empty Tom’s backpack here and now. The customer service people lent us a wheelie bag, to be exchanged for Tom’s backpack in Surat Thani, and we broke out all our spare carry bags and created a huge mess in the baggage hall re-stowing everything.

Finally, after what seemed to take forever, we were out of the airport and into Pookie’s patiently waiting arms.

Back to Thailand – crazy, crowded, messy, chaotic Thailand.

We had a couple of nights in Bansabai Hotel, because we needed to rest, and the administrative things we needed to do couldn’t be done on a weekend, and then on Sunday night we relocated close to Khao San road, the famed haunt of backpackers, ready to start our doings bright and early on Monday morning.