A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand

War, death, elephants and sedated tigers....

Louis picked Alan and I up at our hotel and we went for our death and wildlife tour. Japanese museum We first stopped at a small museum, built out of bamboo and rain stained, that featured an exhibit with paintings done by a former POW who was forced to build the railroad to Burma during the Second World War. There were wild dogs running around, and some were "making new dogs" in the museum, I had to avert my eyes from the spectacle every so often. Alan wanted to take a photo, but I had to remind him we weren't allowed to take pictures inside. I found the sinks outside to be interesting. I was also intrigued by the various implements, bomb remnants, and railroad-making equipment on display near the exit. War cemetery There is a cemetery nearby which holds the bodies of foreign soldiers who died in WWII. This includes soldiers of British and Dutch origin. It's a peaceful place to come for a brief moment of reflection in a busy world. On our way out, Louis bought us some fried banana. MMMmmmmm sooooooo good, they are made from finger bananas so they are extra tasty and delicious. These are one of those things that you feel like you could eat forever and ever. But then you realize your co-traveler has snagged the last one without informing you, and then you don't have to worry about eating too many anymore. Hellfire Pass Next up, a trip to Hellfire Pass, an especially deadly section of the Burma-Thailand railroad. They say that one person died per "sleeper", this means one person per wooden piece, used to put the track together. There was a brand new museum at this location, built by the Australian government. It was beautiful and also extremely moving. A movie plays on loop, featuring footage taken from the POW camps during WWII. Some of these captured soldiers were Australian, forced to work under completely inhumane conditions, many died from cholera, dysentery and other terrible, awful things. After their original uniforms began to rot and decay, they were forced to wear loincloths made from the shredded remnants of their original clothes. Sometimes they would steal food sacks and use those for their clothing. The Australians have built a beautiful nature walk, with teak wood boardwalk amidst the mountains. It reminds me of Mexico and Cuernavaca, probably because we are at a similar latitude in Thailand. Elephant Ride Louis took us to an elephant camp for a ride through the jungle. We sat on a little metal seat behind a 15 year old boy who directed the elephant by using his feet, kicking the elephant under his ear lobes depending on the direction he wanted the giant beast to go. He listens to an iPod and talks on his cell phone while taking us on our jungle tour. Our first destination with the elephant was the river, we descended down a muddy embankment, slipping quite a few times through the muck. Alan laughing his head off while I scream and freak out every time. The elephant takes a drink and then heads over to the trail. We cross the road, can you imagine? An elephant crossing the road? Traffic stopped because an elephant had to get to the other side? Incredible. Anyway, we ramble through the forest, winding our way past extremely primitive huts (the homes of the elephant drivers usually) and their children. A group of the kids run after us yelling "Hello, goodbye, hello, goodbye" at us, most likely looking for a handout of some sort from the rich white people. The forest is just a mess of vegetation, vines and lush, fertile flora twist and entwine themselves all over, creating an atmosphere of utter chaos and confusion, I can't help empathizing with the trees, feeling a little chaotic and confused myself in this faraway country. As our elephant ride comes to an end, the driver takes our cameras and then takes a million photos. Finally Alan waves his arms and just says "Enough! No more photos" "You give me big tip now?" "Yes, yes big tip". We get off the elephant and sit down for a little show. It's not too humiliating of an ordeal for the animals, but for me, I still find it annoying enough. They dance around and some people lay down on the ground for an "elephant massage". Alan volunteers to go and gets his testicles gently prodded by an elephant's foot, to much laughter from the crowd of course. Animal humour to me, is the equivalent of fart jokes. I find they insult the intelligence of the viewer and hardly ever do I find this an enjoyable experience. On the way to lunch, I wanted to take a picture of the monkey x-ing sign, I found that hilarious. Just down the street, true to the sign's word, there it was, a whole herd? of monkeys, hanging out and waiting for banana handouts from people getting off of tour buses. Awful lunch Next, we are ushered into a buffet style lunch, serving what else? Spaghetti and barbecue chicken? Wow, this is western food, once again. The spaghetti is bland, the satay is pretty good and yes, we have some more fried banana. I chow down on the banana and we hit the road for the tiger temple. Alan and I are feeling a little confined by the whole experience already, and we are struck by the blandness and routine nature of the tour. It will only get worse as the day goes on. On the way out, I notice a bunch of tour guides actually eating Thai food in a little cluster at the back of the venue. Tiger temple The tiger temple was one of those things I did NOT want to do. If I was here on my own, I wouldn't have gone at all, but since it was being offered to me, I reluctantly followed along. I had read countless TravelPod blogs on the tiger temple in the past, saw the cheesy pictures of people caressing what look like drugged up animals and taking pictures. We walk through the grounds and see some peacocks, water buffalo and baby tigers, gently pawing at tourists, drinking milk from bottles and playing with each other. I think this is the cutest aspect of the tourist attraction. We walk down to the tiger canyon, where the large cats are lounging around in awkward positions, tolerating smiling tourists, who squat next to them, placing one hand on their backs, or for the bravest, placing their heads in their laps. They are lead away (by the hand) by workers in bright yellow shirts. I can't bring myself to partake in this display of foolish voyeurism and exploitation. The elephant ride is one thing, but to me, the tigers look sedated (wihtout their consent of course) and that's just not right. Right now, the temple is under construction, and I can see the pieces of a plastic tiger oasis gradually coming together. The temple is nowhere near wheelchair accessible, but I'm sure that it will be soon. Louis says that he doesn't agree with the business practices of these monks. They are working with a large comapany to create an entertainment complex out of their sacred space. It doesn't strike me as moral or ethical either. Ride home On the ride home, we stop at a gas station and Louis buys us chocolate ice cream, yum. I try to go to the squat down toilets. It's got about a couple of milimetres of water on the floor and there's a scoop full of yellow coloured liquid sitting beside the "toilet". I am so nervous about not toppling over into the mystery liquid, that I suddenly can't convince my bladder to "go" anymore. With a heavy heart, I leave the washrooms, once again missing out on an authentic Thai experience, urinating while squatting in a filthy porcelain dish. Protest Throughout the day, we would engage Louis in conversation about the current political unrest and protest situation. This morning, about 100 protesters were sent to the hospital, some with fatal injuries from being shot at with tear gas cannisters from riot police. What we didn't know at this point, was that at 3:45 p.m., a car bomb went off and killed two people. I don't know if this is registering in your news source right now or not, but there are giant protests (over 5,000 people) in Bangkok every night. This has been going on for a while, and the gatherings keep getting bigger as time goes by and as the government in power continues to exercise its power. I didn't have a chance to go down to the parliament buildings until tonight to see it for myself. Two people died in a car bomb incident this morning and there was lots of tear gas distributed throughout the day. I went down there with Toronto Sun reporter Alan Parker, it was just incredible. We were welcomed with open arms (we were the only white people there, does that mean I'm smart or dumb? I don't know) We were given food, drink and prime spots at the speeches and concerts, even though we couldn't understand a word. I got shivers watching all the people together, doing what they believe to be the right thing for their country. I'm still not sure which side I stand on, but I'm pretty sure that this many people, camping out in the streets for weeks on end, because they believe so strongly in a single cause, can't be wrong. Everyone there was incredibly encouraged to see someone from the "outside" interested in what they had to say. Whether or not we could fully understand was not of their concern. Two highly influential members of the political party challenging the current government's leadership were arrrested and the violence will probably be escalating in the coming days. You'll be glad to know that I probably won't end up back in Bangkok at the parliament buildings for the rest of my trip. So I just wanted you to know that I'm safe, and that the assemblies here aren't as violent as they may (or may not) seem to be on the news. Here's an article from CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/10/07/thailand.political/index.html?iref=newssearch Probably the most moving part of the event, was when a man got up to speak and after 30 seconds, half of the crowd was in tears. Their eyes shimmering under the harsh fluorescent lighting, some gently wiping away the remnants of sadness from their cheeks. After this speech, the rest of the crowd all sang together the King's Song. Later I was told that the words were similar to God Save the Queen. Tuk tuk rip off Alan and I walked straight to the protest from our hotel, about 5 km. We were hot and tired, so we hopped a tuk tuk to our hotel. We told him the name of it, and he seemed to understand. We paid 200 baht, a freaking fortune for such a short ride, and got off where I instinctually thought was the wrong place. Alan seemed to believe this was the place, but we quickly found out that it wasn't. We asked people how to get to the skytrain, and looked at the map, we were really about halfway home. *sigh* We bitched and moaned the whole walk home, sweaty and miserable. On the way inside the hotel, we heard a really bad Thai cover band doing songs like Stupid Cupid and Oyo Como Va. So we sat down for a well deserved Singha, buy two get one free, but the bottles cost twice as much as one jug on Khao San Rd. Oh well, I was too exhausted to care.

Article in the newspaper this morning

Article in the newspaper this morning


Meklong River

Meklong River


Outside sinks

Outside sinks


Tiny handcuffs for POWs

Tiny handcuffs for POWs


Giant mallet for building the railroad

Giant mallet for building the railroad


Various artifacts found

Various artifacts found


The bombs used to bomb the bridge

The bombs used to bomb the bridge


War cemetery plaque

War cemetery plaque


War cemetery

War cemetery


Cross at war cemetery

Cross at war cemetery


Died after the war was over...

Died after the war was over...


Be nice!

Be nice!


Me vs. fried banana

Me vs. fried banana


Alan vs. friend banana

Alan vs. friend banana


Louis on the way down to Hellfire Pass

Louis on the way down to Hellfire Pass


Termite nest

Termite nest


Former railroad track

Former railroad track


Crazy parasitic vines

Crazy parasitic vines


Alan pounding the dirt

Alan pounding the dirt


Hellfire Pass

Hellfire Pass


Railroading implements

Railroading implements


Railway cart

Railway cart


Pretty landscape

Pretty landscape


Pretty landscape 2

Pretty landscape 2


Hellfire Pass

Hellfire Pass


POW art

POW art


POW sculpture

POW sculpture


Me and Alan

Me and Alan


Our elephant driver

Our elephant driver


Elephant

Elephant


River

River


Me and Alan 2

Me and Alan 2


Huts

Huts


Crossing the road on an elephant

Crossing the road on an elephant


On top of an elephant

On top of an elephant


Baby elephant

Baby elephant


Alan and Me

Alan and Me


Me vs. chicken satay

Me vs. chicken satay


Monkey X-ing

Monkey X-ing


Monkey

Monkey


Monkey 2

Monkey 2


Peacocks

Peacocks


Peacocks 2

Peacocks 2


Tiger

Tiger


Construction at the tiger temple

Construction at the tiger temple


Sedated tigers?

Sedated tigers?


Tigers on drugs?

Tigers on drugs?


I don't think they are sleeping

I don't think they are sleeping


Bridge on the River Kwai

Bridge on the River Kwai


Bridge on the River Kwai 2

Bridge on the River Kwai 2


Bridge on the River Kwai 3

Bridge on the River Kwai 3


My foot is this close to falling off

My foot is this close to falling off


Bridge on the River Kwai 4

Bridge on the River Kwai 4


Bridge on the River Kwai 5

Bridge on the River Kwai 5


Bridge on the River Kwai 6

Bridge on the River Kwai 6


Urinals at the gas station

Urinals at the gas station


Earnest English

Earnest English


Protesters

Protesters


Speech-makers

Speech-makers


Protesters 2

Protesters 2


Protesters 3

Protesters 3


Protesters 4

Protesters 4


Speech-makers 3

Speech-makers 3


Speech-makers 4

Speech-makers 4


Protesters 5

Protesters 5

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Excessive luxury and piety, all in the same day

Today was super busy. I left at 8 a.m. to go for a riverboat tour of Bangkok. Louis pointed out a whole bunch of old temples to me and they all started to just blend together. Yes beautiful, but not unique. The boat turned down a quiet canal, and I saw some traditional style Thai houses, up on stilts, made out of teak. Nowadays, people build their homes closer to the water, but this is a huge problem, as the canals and rivers have a tendency to flood during the rainy season.

I fed some crazy catfish with some bread, and they were jumping everywhere...sooooooo gross!

We pulled into a little canal lock, and then stopped at Wat Arun, (Temple of the Dawn). The steps were incredibly steep, and the sun beat down on my head, heating up the handrail, probably giving me first degree burns on my palms as well. There is a great view of the city from the top, and some pretty incredible carvings.

Next up, we got back in the boat and headed to the flower market. There were all kinds of nice flowers, orchids, hyacinths, and lots of arrangements for funerals and things. Louis bought me a jasmine garland on the way to the wholesale food market. We looked around smelling fresh herbs and looking at more weird fruit. Then we called our driver, and got back in the nice, airconditioned car. It's one of the only times in my life I can remember feeling glad that I had air conditioning.

We walked around at Wat Pho, Bangkok's largest and oldest temple to see the giant golden reclining Buddha statue. It happened to be "Buddha Day" so there were important monks at the temple today, and lots of Thai people were there to hear them speak.

There is also a school of Thai massage at this temple, and you can see the paintings teachers would use as sort of a blackboard to show important reflexology techniques and human bone structure. I had forgotten my camera in the car, so all you're getting are videos of this temple, sorry folks. It's kind of a good thing because while you're observing the reclining Buddha statue, all you can hear is clinkclinkclinkclink from somewhere. What is it? Ohhhhhhhh hundreds of people are dropping one coin in 108 alms bowls. It's a pretty amazing sound, and probably one of those sounds you won't hear anywhere else.

OK, so Louis took me to a little restaurant for some real Pad Thai, which was yummy, less greasy than I'm used to. I like it better in Thailand than in Ottawa. We also ate coconut milk with some weird jellied green things in th bottom for dessert. Sorry I forget what they were called. Also delicious.

So from extreme piety to extreme excess, I travel in a Camry with A/C and leather interior to the Gems Gallery. The self proclaimed "largest jewelry store in the world". I'm not quite sure, but hey I'll go with it. I watch a lame-o video on the semi-precious gem industry and spend way too much money here, but um, yeah I think it'll be worth it. (Shhh, don't tell the people who are getting fancy gifts)

Thailand is famous for sapphires and rubies, so I bought myself a GREEN sapphire, something I have never seen before, inlaid with a pretty shiny star in a little white gold ring. I thought it was unique, I couldn't help it. I did not however, feel good about the 34905483 tons of earth that had to be displaced to provide my little finger with such adornment... *sigh*

Next, time for more luxury and excess at the tailors, I go for the fitting for my jacket, pants, skirt and dress. It all looks pretty good. I really like the suit, but I'm not too excited about the dress really. I guess I'll see how it looks tomorrow when it's finished. They are delivering it straight to my room.

After this, Louis drops me off at a Thai massage place, and it's actually a really invigorating experience. I put on some pyjama type clothes and the lady who barely speaks a word of English pushes and pulls every single one of my joints in different directions. The confusing part comes when I have get naked and she starts mopping up my body with an herb infused BOILING HOT WAD OF HELL. This is the "herb treatment" part of my 1,200 baht 2 hour ordeal. At first I think my body will also have 1st degree burns like my palms (from the temple) but soon it starts to feel good and I begin to drift off to sleep. Nope, not so. Soon, the lady starts standing on me and pulling me around some more, twisting me up in all kinds of weird shapes, all while totally buck naked. Yeah, can you say uncomfortable? I guess it's not my culture...

I walk from here to the hotel. Louis has graciously dropped off my bag already, so after a little bit of language confusion (again) I find my bags in the "Executive lounge" check in to my room, and go back to the lounge for some (free) drinks and h'ors doevres. Wow, not used to being schmoozed like this since I was working at the Sun.

Speaking of the Sun, my Quebecor buddy, Alan Parker has just arrived from Toronto, he'll be going to see the Tigers and the Bridge on the River Kwai with me tomorrow. That's exciting. I get all bubbly and start talking about mutual colleagues, people that left Ottawa and went to Toronto mostly. I'm sure he doesn't want to hear any of it, he's just been on a plane for 24 hours and boy do I know how that feels. But anyway, that's the way I do.

Back in my room, I do some laundry and eat the fresh plate of fruit waiting for me. Life is pretty good.

Chao Phrya River

Chao Phrya River


At the dock

At the dock


Louis and me in the boat

Louis and me in the boat


River tour

River tour


A Chinese temple?

A Chinese temple?


A barge and famous place

A barge and famous place


Wat Arun

Wat Arun


Canal

Canal


Some houses along the canal

Some houses along the canal


More houses along the canal

More houses along the canal


Garbagemen in the canal

Garbagemen in the canal


Entering a lock

Entering a lock


Catfish!

Catfish!


Catfishes!

Catfishes!


Catfisheseses!

Catfisheseses!


Tom Yum Gung

Tom Yum Gung


Wat Arun

Wat Arun


Bangkok from the top of Wat Arun

Bangkok from the top of Wat Arun


Steep stairs at Wat Arun

Steep stairs at Wat Arun


Carvings

Carvings


More ceramic mosaics

More ceramic mosaics


Smaller prang at Wat Arun

Smaller prang at Wat Arun


Kitty at Wat Arun

Kitty at Wat Arun


Yep, it's tall alright

Yep, it's tall alright


Flowers

Flowers


Me at the flower market

Me at the flower market


Funeral arrangements

Funeral arrangements


Chili stand

Chili stand

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Chatuchak market and getting lost again

Well, I woke up even earlier today, at about 4:30, but this is probably due to my neighbour's constantly ringing telephone. It goes off periodically at 1:30, 2:30, 3:30 and you guessed it, 4:30. I decide to get up and write the blog and take a swim. Definitely worth it and a very nice, salt water pool. I sit down for breakfast, yogurt, fresh fruit and hot pot, plus my favourite custard bun. By the time I get back, Keith's already online so we chat a bit too. I have about an hour to kill before Louis meets me in the lobby. He calls me at 8:30 sharp, so I meet him downstairs and we head off on the skytrain to the giant market. I buy some stuff for my dad and boyfriend, and also pants and a shirt for me. There is a large section for original art, so I buy a red painting of what Louis calls "real Thai art". Sounds good to me, plus it'll fit really well with my living room. Maybe I'll take all the crap down behind my couch and put these two matching paintings up there instead.

Louis and I stop for a snack of satay, Thai tea, pineapple and sweets, it's really delicious, nothing like anything I've had called "Thai" in Canada. There is a passing resemblance, but really, everything...totally different. The sweets are also delicious, made from banana, coconut and tapioca, also indescribable. Another snack is sticky rice with pepper and cocunut, not my favourite, but it's still pretty good. We walk through the food market, I almost lose my breakfast just walking past the fish section. I see crabs, desperately trying to rid themselves of the elastic keeping them from escaping the selling block, giant prawns, all kinds of random fish I can't name, and it smells...disgusting. There's also meat hanging on hooks and lots of different kinds of fruit to buy. You can get durian, four different kinds of mango, papaya, longan, a whole bunch of spiky fruit that I can't remember the name of.

Louis says that I should get a tailored dress and suit, so I agree, I can't really leave without getting one, can I? Plus, I have to look good for the welcome reception on Wednesday right? I pick out a pretty halter top dress and an amazing looking suit jacket with pants. The lady also talked me into a skirt:

"You can't just buy a suit jacket, you have to have matching pants and skirt!" she says to me. OK fine, so I ended up paying almost $600 for everything. More than I've ever spent on any clothes in my life, but whatever, it's Bangkok. Louis tells me James Tailor is one of the top 10 custom made suit places in the world. I pick out some fabric, medium blue for the suit and brown, pink, blue, yellow polka dot for the dress. The print is nicer than it sounds, trust me. So tomorrow, I go back to the store for a fitting, and then they deliver a whole new wardrobe to me the next day at my hotel. Wow, is that service or what. Honestly for that price, I don't think you could do better than that anywhere else on the planet.

Next, we head to the James Thompson house. He's an architect and credited with bringing the silk manufacturing industry to Thailand. He's got a nice house with a jungle for a backyard in the middle of the city. It's a very nice place, but I was confused by the significance. Apparently he just disappeared one day, tired with his life, he took a walk and never came back. The official version is that nobody knows why he left. So I guess I'll leave it at that. There was a modern art exhibit on top of the store, and really expensive silk for sale downstairs.

I wanted Louis to get back in time to vote for governor. The big election is taking place today, and he's pretty interested in getting "Number 5" (the incumbent) to return for another work term. So we went back to the hotel on the skytrain, I will see him tomorrow at 8 a.m.

I remembered a girl wanted me to call her to hang out tonight, so I did and she kept saying she would meet me at the McDonald's at "Ploem Chit" what I thought was a skytrain station. Nope, turns out it was right down the street from my hotel, not a whole skytrain stop away. I got on the train, went to the "Phloem Chit" station, couldn't find a McDonald's there, so I just went right back. I called K. from the McDonald's near Phloem Chit and she couldn't hear me speaking on the crappy pay phone. I didn't have any more change and I was too lazy to go and get some, so I just went back to the hotel, hoping she'd still be waiting there. When I got there she wasn't, so I just turned around and bought some more pants. I went through a little touristy night market, paid too much for the pants and bought a fake Thai porn CD, I know, I know, judge all you want. It's hard to resist in Bangkok and night. You kinda get swept up in the immorality just floating around in the air around here.

When I get back to my room, I find some notes from K. under my door. She was so sweet, coming and waiting for me to come back, she thinks that maybe I am lost or in trouble or something I think. I just thought she left and went home! Aw. I remembered my free drink coupon for the bar, so I go down there, order a guava juice (still no alcohol for sale in the city) and pack up my stuff to change hotels in the morning. Hurrah.

Touring around with someone is really easy, but I feel like I missed a lot of the "little things". For example, I had a lot to say yesterday, because I saw and experienced things on my own. Louis was translating for me the whole time, we never got lost, he knew exactly where to find things. It was helpful and everything went faster, but still I like being by myself a whole lot better and figuring it all out like that. I feel like I just "skimmed the surface" of things today. It was nice to "do everything" but I miss being confused and bewildered in a strange place. It probably sounds weird, but that's what made up half the fun of my day yesterday.

Pool at Majestic Grande

Pool at Majestic Grande


Lady who makes omlettes

Lady who makes omlettes


Delicious fruit

Delicious fruit


Longan fruit...ooh arty

Longan fruit...ooh arty


My favourite, custard bun

My favourite, custard bun


Skytrain

Skytrain


Louis and Louise

Louis and Louise


Louis at Chatuchak market

Louis at Chatuchak market


The guy who made my painting

The guy who made my painting


Food market

Food market


Me vs. mango, sticky rice and coconut sauce

Me vs. mango, sticky rice and coconut sauce


Art installation at Jim Thompson house

Art installation at Jim Thompson house


Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson House


Very nice garden

Very nice garden


Election poster

Election poster

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

TravelPod meetup on Khao San Road!

Today I woke up early, at about 6:30, I don't know why. I go around trying to get my survey sheets printed out for the TravelPod meetup tonight. That was an ordeal. They had the wrong version of Word, so it didn't work until like an hour, and then the lady didn't know how to photocopy on double sided paper. After about an hour doing that, I went to breakfast. Wow, they had a ton of stuff. The fruit was not very good, except for this lichee type thing. I ate a bunch of Asian looking food, an omlette and some crazy delicious juices.

I talk with Keith for a little bit on Skype (it's the only thing that works on my computer) and then I try and make reservations for the party tonight. About 20 people are supposed to come, so I'm pretty excited about that. I have to meet Aor in a few hours at the Burger King on Khao San Road, so I decide to see how close I can get by walking. It doesn't look that far on the map, but I know I'm probably wrong. I take off in the exact wrong direction, and about five minutes into my walk, it starts to rain. There had been all kinds of lightning that I could see from my window earlier, but I thought that maybe this was something normal. So I end up standing under an overhang for about 15 minutes while the rain dies down. I walk on what I think is the main road for a while, until it comes to a sort of T. Trusting my instincts, I turn left, and end up in a terrible shanty town. People are eking their living in the outskirts of the city by selling street food, and a small number of shacks are sprinkled along the road, selling a small selection of cheap clothing and other miscellaneous stuff. I even see some guy just peeing into a pile of garbage at the side of the road. I am in complete disbelief, I turn my head and pretend I didn't see him, but he either doesn't notice, or knows I did and doesn't care. I can't believe that anyone could tolerate life in these situations, underneath the shadow of the skytrain and all of Bangkok's sky-high freeways. Later Aor tells me that they are probably former ruralites, who have come to the city with too much false hope, dreaming of a better life. It's terrible, and my brain immediately wants to fix the situation. But what can I do, as a single person? I decide (maybe for my own well being) that really the best thing is to just spend money and hope that some of these people receive the trickle down benefits themselves. I don't know, is there a better answer than that? As I'm walking, at least 10 tuk tuk and motorcycle taxi drivers stop and offer me a ride. I have this conversation 10 times:

"Where you go?" "Oh, nowhere really." "I give you a ride." "Oh, no thank you I like walking." ".... (long pause) Where you go?" "Nowhere, I just like walking." "I take you there!" "No thank you."

Until the driver gives up and just leaves. They are more persistent than you would imagine.

I get lost any number of times, asking people where I am on the map. They look at it like it's plotting my course on a distant planet. Later, I find out from Christina, that maps "don't work" in Thailand. I'm not really sure where I was walking at all, what seemed like a simple "straight" walk to Khao San Rd. shoves me into a maze of stalls full of designer knockoffs, cheap silk, and any number of knicknack emporiums. At one point, I see the intersection I think I should be travelling straight through, but I have to make a detour, because what used to be the pedestrian crossing has been blocked by overzealous vendors, competing for valuable space. The food stalls here, in contrast with the ones I saw in the outskirts of the city, smell amazing. The scent of padthai and barbecuing kebabs is everywhere. What I guess is fresh squeezed juice, and "Japanese crepes" are also sold at about every 20 paces.

Finally I figure out exactly where I am, the streets are usually not labelled, so I have to ask everyone that looks friendly and that looks like they might speak English which street I am on. They usually reply with something that sounds like "Pamajamathama" to my ears. Finally, I find something I can work with "Rama I Rd." Thank freaking GOD. I was walking in approximately the right direction after all. A nice lady who is dressed in probably authentic designer clothes, asks me where I'm going.

"Oh, Khao San Rd., eventually." I look at my watch, oh crap! I'm meeting Aor in 30 minutes! The next person that asks me to drive them somewhere, I'm saying yes, I don't care if it's on an elephant, I'm taking it. I'm still about 2/3 of the way there, so I don't even know if 30 minutes is enough time to get there. Wouldn't you know it, another tuk tuk driver asks me if I need a ride. Earlier I had told Keith that I refuse to ride in a tuk tuk. He bet me that before the end of the day, I will probably end up in one. Funny how your values change when you're getting desperate.

"How much to Khao San Rd.?" "80 baht." "What, really? It's close though." "80 baht."

Eighty baht is about 2.50 or so, so it's a good deal for my overpriced Ottawa standards, but I had been led to believe that this place was cheaper than that. I know that tuk tuk drivers usually rip you off (according to them) so I get in the tuk tuk anyway of course. He snakes the little rickety golf cart-like vehicle in BETWEEN lanes of traffic, sometimes cutting off tiny speeding motorcycles and other taxi drivers. You wouldn't believe it, but at this point, I was not in fear for my life. I had experienced traffic like this before, in Mexico City. It's amazing how developing countries on opposite sides of the world can be so similar. Oh and did I mention this is a J-walkers' paradise? So many times, I have just crossed at any point in the road, wherever traffic is slowing due to bottlenecks. Even if the traffic is not so slow, drivers always slow down or at least show they are aware of you by swerving out of the way with a little friendly tap on the horn. Ha. I'm quite the aficiando of J-walking, so I felt right at home, even downright comfortable with this feeling of pedestrian empowerment.

I get to the Burger King on Khao San Rd., and Aor is there to meet me a few minutes later. Her husband told her that foreigners like to be on time, so she said she did her best to get there. Someone even called her right at 3 p.m. and she was afraid it was me (it wasn't). I was about to, but then I couldn't figure out how to use the payphone. Funny how stereotypes are played out, sometimes even in the most unstereotypical (at least I like to think) kind of people.

The lady on the phone at the restaurant kind of hung up on me, so I didn't know if she actually understood the reservation I made today. Aor asked her in Thai, and she said yes, she remembered, of course. The restaurant was a little bit difficult to find, back in behind some buildings, in a leafy courtyard.

We went to Silk restaurant after that, ordered some salads, and a jug of Singha beer, and just chilled out, watching all the hippies and foreigners walk up and down the street. Aor is really interested in the online travel business, even starting up her own social bookmarking website, ggberry.com. So we have been chatting pretty frequently up to tonight's meetup. It was nice, almost like meeting an old friend. I have a giant bag full of TravelPod t-shirts and notebooks on my back, so I'm grateful to put it down for a while. Soon, we decide to go do some tourist stuff, look at the things for sale, and perhaps buy something. I need some sandals so I buy some imitation Birkenstocks. (They are already starting to smell *eyeroll*, you get what you pay for)

I look around for some stuff to buy people back home, but I can't make up my mind. It's all just a bunch of crap amongst the novelty t-shirts being sold around here anyway. Suddenly I see a store full of shiny things. Necklaces, earrings and stuff. Lots of it looks really nice, but ah, I'm just not sure what people will like. I'm going marketing tomorrow, so at least I got a good idea of the kind of stuff they sell here.

We get to the restaurant early, and I start stressing about whether someone will show up or not. I decide that if I can fill one table of 10, at least, I'll be happy. About 15 people manage to make it. It's really exciting, because only two people showed up to the last meetup. I dole out the new t shirts and thank everyone coming. I think everybody has a pretty good time. So that makes me happy.

After the meal, people go out to find a place that is selling alcohol under the table. Tomorrow is an election, so most venues will not sell any drinks to anyone for any reason. Aor offered me and Christina a ride home tonight, so it's too irresistible to turn down. While drinking ill-gotten alcoholic beverages is just my kind of fun, I reluctantly have to turn the offer down. Louis is picking me up early in the morning for a tour anyway.

Aor has a beautiful car, just like a limo, wow, and she drops me off in grand style at the hotel. I wave goodbye to everybody and take a shower, heading straight to bed, with a crazy full day behind me, looking forward to the next one.

Khao San Rd. at night, very sober

Khao San Rd. at night, very sober


Some canal...

Some canal...


Me on a tuk tuk

Me on a tuk tuk


Me and Aor

Me and Aor


Me and Kirsty

Me and Kirsty


Travelpodders

Travelpodders


More Travelpodders

More Travelpodders


Yep, more

Yep, more


Annnnnnnd, that's it

Annnnnnnd, that's it


Aor, Anne and her new shirt

Aor, Anne and her new shirt


Group picture by the fountain

Group picture by the fountain


Some guy walked into my pictures

Some guy walked into my pictures

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Finally I get to Bangkok

Finally managed to spatula myself out of the airplane, and wander around zombie-like in the Tokyo airport.

I am not in the state of mind to comprehend the directions for the Tokyo toilets. They are very complicated, it takes me a while to figure out that I don't actually have to do anything different than usual. However, if you want a spurt of perfume on your bum, or maybe an automatic bidet spray, it's up to you to figure out which buttons to press.

I have always wanted to try real Japanese sushi and right now, airport sushi is the closest I'm going to get. So I head over there and buy some tuna rolls. There are some pilots queuing up for the fishy treats, so I assume that I'm at the right place. Turns out, not so much. Don't get me wrong, the sushi at the airport is pretty good, better than most sushi I've had in my life, but it's not life-changing or anything. I briefly consider buying some Japanese stuff at the duty free but then reconsider, since I'll have to carry it around with me the whole time. Probably, I won't have a chance on the way back home, but that's the chance I'm willing to take.

I pass out on the bench near Gate 46, and then wake up just in time to leave for Bangkok. On the plane, I sit beside a nice man who is helping start up a glasses lens factory in Thailand, he is going back home after visiting his daughter in Tokyo.

The best in flight service you can get, is on Thai Air. Oh my goodness, what a nice meal they serve, and everyone is really nice and friendly and there is LOTS of leg room. Alejandro told me all about it, but I didn't believe it till I actually witnessed it. So now, you have two unbiased, objective opinions. Thai Air, seriously good flying.

So I sleep a little bit on that flight. I get to the airport, pick up my bag, exchange some money into bahts and then meet Louis, my tour guide outside of the baggage pickup. Him and his driver take me straight to my swanky hotel, the Majestic Grande, and we drive through the Muslim area of town, down a street that doesn't look anything like a street, however Louis says it's a "shortcut" so it's OK. I mention to Louis that I saw some monks flying in first class on the way here! He says, yeah, some rich people probably paid for them, because these monks can't touch money. I thought it was strange anyway, and maybe a little hypocritical. Louis used to be a "temple boy" for 10 years, arranging such things for monks at the temple he worked at. He had to cook them meals twice a day, because they aren't allowed to do it themselves, and they also aren't allowed to ask for food. After checking me into the hotel, Louis says that he'll make reservations at the restaurant for the meetup tomorrow, and call me in the morning.

Tokyo toilets are complicated

Tokyo toilets are complicated


Here are the directions

Here are the directions


Me vs. Tokyo sushi

Me vs. Tokyo sushi


Thai Air meal, delicious

Thai Air meal, delicious


My swanky bathroom

My swanky bathroom


My swanky bedroom

My swanky bedroom

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

(Entries 16 - 20 of 20) Previous « Page 1 [2]