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Friday 15 December 2017

Bangkok's 'snails' now on steroids

MONDAY: Disaster. Durban airport, early afternoon. Here in plenty of time for flight SA579, but I don't make it to the gate in time, so I miss the first of the three legs of my journey. Durban is an interesting airport, a gleaming trinket built for the World Cup in 2010. The Sharks rugby team are in the business lounge. Big guys. I had work to do and by the time I had charged my laptop and got my files ready they had closed the gate. All ends well. They offload the bag, bring it to the desk, recheck me and get me on the next flight and I make the dash from Terminal B to Terminal A in Oliver Tambo. The bag makes it, too, (Jo'burg has one of the highest rates of baggage theft in the world).

The captain tells us to expect thunderstorms over central Africa and turbulence over Algeria. I fall asleep to the soft escapism of John Logan's (a great Irish writer, even if he was born in Chicago) beautiful script for the film Hugo.

tuesDAY: It has been two months since I have been home for more than two nights and the country looks well. What do I miss? The long light of an Irish summer. The smell of the pollen in the air. The sound of the prolonged cooo-cooo of north Kildare pigeons. The splash of an exuberant fish in the meandering Liffey in that secret stretch between Straffan and Celbridge. The pint of black creamy Guinness in McEvoys.

wednesDAY: With Amanda Brunker on a TV3 daytime show. She opens her first book to show a colleague the acknowledgement of that impromptu writing class I gave her in a ski resort seven years ago.

thursDAY: Off to sample Croke Park's new Etihad Skyline walking tour. The view is great but I ask Peter McKenna if €25 is not a bit, er, steep. He cites Munich which costs €42, the London Eye's charge of £20 (€24) and Sydney Harbour's bridge climb fee of $140 (€110). Croatia's ambassador has some fine wine to taste at the Zagreb presentation. Everyone goes to Dubvrovnik, she says, they should go to Zagreb as well.

thursDAY night: Back in Ballymount to talk on Tonight with Vincent Browne about sex tourism. Most of the discussion is plodding and worthy (how did we manage to make prostitution sound boring) but I repeat my view that Bangkok would be wise to shut down its sex tourism industry as it puts more people off Thailand than it encourages.

friDAY: Away in the arms of Emirates. Flight EK162 to connect with flight EK418 to Bangkok.

saturDAY: Bathroom with a view at the Oriental Residence in Bangkok, overlooking the gardens of the Dutch Embassy.

sunDAY: Bangkok is cleaner every year I visit, and the wonderful BTS Skytrain has transformed the visitor experience. The traffic is also getting better. It has improved from snail's pace to snail-on-steroid pace. Great city, great people.

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