Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Still Wandering!

Hah, every time I start to make plans they get changed.  This time I was planning to go to Trang, to Pak Meng beach - actually to the pier there - to get a boat to Koh Muk (Mook) which is said to be very un-developed and tourists are rare, those who do go get to sleep in tents!  It sounded great and I was excited to go, but instead met a Thai on the train who lived south, closer to Satun.

Satun is near the Malaysian border, and also near Pak Bara pier - the jumping off point for Koh Lipe.  We shared a cab and I ended up going to Koh Lipe for a night.  I would have stayed longer but it was rather expensive, the cheapest place to stay was 300/night and the cheapest meal I found was 70 baht, more than 2x what it has cost everywhere else!  I figured I would save myself some money to just leave in the morning, it was beautiful and mildly developed, but I guess that means it costs more too.  I passed the night at the Mellow Mango bar with the owner who spoke nearly perfect English.  Cool guy.

On the ferry to the island I met an interesting Thai guy who was very passionate about Thailand and nearly cried when he was telling me how corrupt and undemocratic it is, and how because of everyone's greed his beloved country is being destroyed.  He seemed to know what he was talking about, and his comments certainly warrant more investigation!  He said the only difference between Thailand and Burma (where a brutal military junta have oppressed democracy violently for over 30 years now) is that the people have been brainwashed to not believe it - they actually believe it's a democracy - and that the outside world turns a blind eye.  I definitely need to find out if this is true.

In any case, on my ferry back to the mainland he was there again, and when we landed he offered my a ride with his friend who was going to Krabi.  It's about 300km and would have cost over 600 baht to make the journey myself by any means, so I gratefully took the offer.  I skipped Trang and Koh Muk and instead went to Ao Nang - near Krabi, and a jumping off point for Koh Phi Phi (Pee Pee).

Koh Phi Phi was made famous by the movie The Beach - with Leonardo DiCaprio - and has been developed heavily, though hopefully not as much as places like Pattaya or Phuket.  Hopefully I can find accommodation for 200/night or under as I did in Ao Nang.

I've also uploaded new pictures to Picasa that may give a brief snapshot of my last night on Koh Samet and my night on Koh Lipe, they can be found here:

Boat to Phi Phi leaves in 15 minutes, so maybe I'll update again from there!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Back on Track

Back to my original plan, ish, I am happily back to travelling alone and will be headed south tonight on an overnight train which takes 15 hours and change to take me almost to the Malaysian border.  I'm told that these are some of the last unspoiled islands, which is much more in line with what I'd like to see.  I walked from Khao San Road area to Hua Lamphong train station which is about 4km, then paid a tuk-tuk 45 baht to come back.  The ticket for the train was 521 baht, but considering that I won't have to pay for lodging tonight that sounds pretty good for going so far.

Having a travel partner was fun for a while, but also led me to do things that I likely wouldn't have if I had come on my own.  Some of the things I saw and did were great fun, some seemed a waste of time, all in all it was a good experience but being solo again will be glorious!  I will meet so many more people and here so many interesting stories I'm sure.

Last night being alone on Khao San Road I ran into somebody who I had met before through a couchsurfing meeting and we spent the night walking around and drinking beer.  I could think of a lot worse ways to pass the time.

Planning to go to Koh Muk, Koh Lanta, and others around the Trang province, where I will be surprised if they have electricity around the clock.

It may be a few days before I update again, so until then, adios!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Week 2, in brief.

After leaving Bangkok we caught a bus to Pattaya for 109 baht. It was a lot more than expected for the bus, and it took nearly 2 hours, but it is pretty much the only option for transport so we had little choice. It was fairly cramped with our backpacks at our feet, but for such minimal discomfort, the anticipated excitement of Pattaya definitely overpowered it.

Pattaya was like nothing I've ever seen before, if I thought the sex tourism industry was busy in Bangkok, in Pattaya it was 10 times worse. There is a street called walking street, which is probably about ¾ of a mile long and consists entirely of strip clubs, bars, more bars, 7-elevens (which are EVERYWHERE here), mens tailors who will make a custom suit for about $100 usd, and little independent shops selling knockoff watches and sunglasses. In just that short stretch of road there were probably 2-3,000 prostitutes, and plenty of men looking for company. Telling which was a lady-boy (katoy) and which ones were real women was a fun game, but seeing all the men who were clearly there to drink and play STD roulette was shocking. One would think that the prototypical customer would be a man who for whatever reason (age, weight, etc.) would be unable to find a girlfriend or company in his home country, and surely there were many examples. However it seemed that a lot of the men there were average looking and there for the party.

The city was just dirty. Thailand in general is pretty dirty, they don't seem to have a concept of cleanliness in throwing their garbage in cans or whatever, and recycling is unheard of. Pattaya was worse. There is garbage everywhere, there are empty lots full of trash. It is very much a city of contrast, with what seems to be a beautiful beach upon first look with many tall and shiny looking condos and apartments, when you look closer there is a coat of dirt everywhere, and the beach is unfit for walking barefoot.

The first night we just walked around and took it all in, because even though it is sad, repulsive, and disappointing, it is surprising to see with your own eyes, and shows that improvements in the quality of life from the spread of globalization have yet to be realized by many people, and there are hordes from the more developed countries who still seek to exploit this.

These pictures are from Sunday at about 7pm, Saturday it was MUCH worse and you couldn't see through the crowds at all.  As you may be able to guess, Boyz town is for the gay crowd and the lady boys.

The second night we decided to try to enjoy it a little bit, for what it was, and went out to Mixx Discotheque – a dance hall with 2 parts, one hip hop and one electronic (techno). After a couple hours there we wandered back down Walking street to another smaller bar where I was glad that I was not alone, because even walking 5 feet ahead by myself, I was accosted by Thai women who weren't just trying to dance.

Monday morning we couldn't escape Pattaya fast enough, and hopped a bus to Rayong for 50 baht each - which is the jumping off point to Koh Samet. We met a couple at the bus stop – Nathan from Michigan, and his Thai girlfriend whose name I cannot even imagine how to spell. They were also headed to Samet for a couple days, and we sat with them on the bus. Nathan teaches English in Myanmar (Burma) and offered that If I wanted to experience a very slow, friendly way of life, I could very easily get a job there at one of the language schools because it is hard for them to find teachers. I can't imagine why with such an oppressive and restrictive military junta running the show. The only way for westerners to enter the country is by air – they won't let you come across at a land crossing. Apparently the visa process takes 2-3 days, and you better not say you're a reporter. It's an option I'll keep in mind, he said the pay is about $2,300 a month, and the cost of living is maybe $500. With not much to do in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) it would be easy to save quite a bit.

Koh Samet is beautiful. It is the first time I have ever seen white sand beaches, and they stretch out for quite a ways. Because we got to the pier at about 4pm, we had to pay 300 baht per person to take a speed boat there, but it was a pretty fun ride, and they dropped us off right on the beach. We started to walk down the beach and wondered how much it was for rooms which were directly on the beach, but the cheapest we could find was 1,200 baht per night, and we decided to wander into the small town. The town is pretty much one road, with buildings on either side and not much else – no side streets or anything to speak of. We found a guest house which had rooms for 400 baht per night, which seemed ok, so we checked in and went to have dinner on the beach. The prices are a little higher than in the city, 40-50 baht for a plate of chicken and rice with vegetables, more if you wanted seafood. It tastes delicious, the sauces they use are always a little different, but always very good.  These pictures are from the night we arrived.

On Tuesday morning we decided to wander farther into town and look for cheaper options for lodging, and stumbled across “Papa Roger's bar and guesthouse.” He is an old very gay Finnish guy who lives on Samet during the winter, and this is his 21st. He's got a great personality and his English is decent, but the accent makes it more fun. 250 baht per night for rooms with a fan is pretty cheap on a little island like this, and we are still only about 3 minutes walk from the beach. He likes to call it the “Backpackers Hilton,” which may be an exaggeration, but its still a decent little spot and cant be beat for the price. The only thing that would make it better is internet access in the rooms.

We'll be here through Sunday and have met a hand-full of characters since arriving. An old British woman who lives in Goa, India and was only here for 10 days so she can go back and get another visa. “Audi” the bartender at Mbar – where buckets of the local whiskey are only 130 baht from 10-midnight daily. He is quite the entertainer, he also plays guitar and does Thai boxing (Muay Thai). A pair of ex-pats from Bangkok who were here to celebrate the birthday of the older one, Jessica who is a 28 year-old South African, and apparently still has quite strong feelings about the post-apartheid government. Her partner in crime was Erin, a 17 year-old English girl who is living in Bangkok with her parents – they met at a South African discussion group because Erin's dad is Afrikaans.

Wednesday we rented a motorbike for 250 baht for 24 hours, it was an automatic and easy to ride, though on some of the roads it took some getting used to. Think some of the worst forest service roads with massive ruts from the flash floods, peppered with large rocks and random areas of pavement. We managed to get about 2/3s of the way down the island before it started pouring down rain and we decided to turn back. Before too long we found a little shelter near one of the resorts and pulled over to wait it out. By then we were thoroughly soaked so after waiting for the rain to lighten for about 30 minutes we took off back towards our guest house. We wasted away most of the rest of the day and got ready to go to the bar.

We hung out with Audi, Jessica, and Erin for pretty much the whole night, and after he closed Mbar we walked up the hill to a Reggae bar to get food. I definitely ate too much yesterday. Today (Thursday) I wasn't really hungry in the morning and all I wanted to do was get rid of all the food that was in my stomach. 3 normal sized meals and 3 pancakes was apparently too much, and today I'm paying for it. I'm sure I'll be just fine, I've definitely felt worse in the past and I'm drinking plenty of Gatorade (Yep they have it here, though for half the price you get the Thai knock-off) and eating easy foods.
Thursday morning we woke up early and went to the north end of the island so that Emilie could learn to ride the motorbike, because she probably never would on her own. It was fun, but being tired all day and not feeling great kind of put a damper on the fun. Hopefully I'll be back to normal in the morning.

That's all for now, and I've taken almost 3,000 pictures since landing 9 days ago.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My wandering path through Thailand

Well, I am glad that I did not make any concrete plans, but rather just had goals and ambitions, but left myself open to change.  But I'll start back where I left off after the scavenger hunt through Bangkok...

Thursday (the day after the scavenger hunt and hanging out at a small bar in downtown Bangkok) it was planned to meet some other members of couchsurfing at the northern train station at Hua Lamphong around 7:30 am.  My host got up late to call a taxi for me to get to the subway (he lives about 20km outside the city center, the subway starts about 10km away) and the subway took much longer than I expected to get to the station (about 45 minutes, with 18 stops) and long story short, I ended up being late to the meeting point and missed the 8 am train by 1 minute.  I called a couple people who I thought were going, but none answered, so I bought a ticket for myself on the 8:20 train going to Ayutthaya.

The train station was very was an odd mix of modern construction and technology, with an obviously old structure and very old benches.  I was told today (saturday) that most of the railroads were built by Thai slaves during WW2, so although the rail system is fairly good, it is a sad memory for many Thais.  The station was full of a big variety of people, from the destitute who were probably traveling with some of their last baht to find work or visit family, to backpackers fully loaded with the nicest backpacks and high-tech clothes, guide-book in hand.  The picture to the right was at a station farther up the line, but hopefully it gives you an idea of how people use the train in is much more than just an easy way to go visit friends or whatever, many of them were carrying goods to take and sell.  I almost expected to see some animals (not pets, but those being taken to be butchered, cooked, and sold), but was disappointed on that front.

I bought my ticket in 3rd class for 20 baht with no air-conditioning, but still relatively comfortable, and with the window down and the wind blowing in my face it was a nice ride.  I sat with an old lady who spoke no English, but we had a short conversation still about where she was from and where I was from, and where we were going.  It's amazing how with a few gestures and simple words, much can be understood.

Having not ridden many trains in the US or anywhere else I guess I wasn't used to riding in the lap of luxury or anything, so this train seemed just fine to me.  I sat near the end of the car, but close to the front of the train still.  It seems like with how close to the front I was, 1st and 2nd class must not have been too big, or if there even was a 1st class.  The train stopped several times before it got out of Bangkok, and the picture at left which I took during my scavenger hunt shows a pretty typical stop in downtown BKK.  This was taken under the Phaya Tai BTS station, but apparently there is a train stop there too...people standing in between the tracks is completely normal, and the gates across the road are placed there by hand by guards who I guess stand there all day?  When we weren't moving much, sitting in traffic I guess, it got pretty hot because it rarely drops below 80 F here, with 80-90% humidity being about average.  The rains are actually a nice respite because it cools the air just a bit and legitimately gets you very wet, instead of just making you sweat slightly and feel sticky.  It may not sound like much fun, but at least there's rarely a need for a jacket or pants.  The rains, although typically heavy, are also typically brief.

When I got to Ayutthaya alone I started searching for somewhere to rent a bicycle and ride around the ancient city, seeing the temples (wats) and cruising around among the locals.  Although it took me a bit to find a place and was an interesting adventure along the way - maybe I'll tell that in another post - I made it and for 40 baht I had a set of wheels for the day.  The city is not very big, and in about 10 minutes I was pretty much on the opposite side.  I saw quite a few temples and took quite a few pictures, but without a local there to guide me, I was pretty ignorant of the history and significance of the places.  All the signs are in Thai and I didn't want to spend the 70 baht to buy brochures at each place...

Nearly all of the temples were in ruins, but I guess most are quite old - 200+ years.  The Buddha images though were quite surprising, as they were almost all damaged in some way.  The majority of them were missing their heads and/or arms, with the rest being disfigured in other ways (missing shoulders, torsos, just the top of the head, etc.)  Still, they are revered and respected by Buddhists, as you can see by the yellow string of flowers on the broken Buddha image to the left.  

After touring around quite a few temples and seeing elephants, a small floating market, and a lot of surprised locals (apparently most farang - foreigners - don't ride around on bicycles, but instead take tuk-tuks or motorbikes) I decided to head back to the train station at about 2:15.  The next train back to Bangkok was not scheduled until 3:35 so I found a massage place and got a one hour foot massage for 200 baht.  It felt good, but unfortunately my feet were still a bit sore when I put my shoes back on and went back to the station.  

When I got to the station I found out that the train had somehow been delayed until 4:45, but having already turned in my bicycle and being ready to get back to Bangkok, I just hung around the station.  It didn't take long before I met some fellow travelers.  First was Ed, a slightly overweight older guy from Tennessee who was balding and wearing a sweat-soaked Nike t-shirt.  He was sitting on the hard wooden bench outside on the platform waiting for the train to Bangkok.  He had 3 large (1.5L) beers in a plastic bag, with one in his hand. Upon hearing that I was from the US and had just graduated in June, he immediately grabbed another one out and opened it for me, without asking if I even wanted it.  Apparently being a recent college graduate automatically means I'm open to drinking free beer, good call Ed.  The beer here really isn't any different, most is between 5.5% and 6% abv.  I hung out with Ed the rest of the time before the train came and on the train.  We pretty quickly downed the beers he already had, and at about 4 went back across the street to the little market which had food carts with a variety of meats and noodles being cooked.  The aroma was great, like being at a giant barbecue with a ton of different spices and flavors all being blended together.  Most things are grilled and smoked over open flames, though I'm not sure what they burn, probably propane.  Ed was very generous and bought me beer for the train ride, I think he was quite happy to have a fellow American to ride with and the money he saved in taking 3rd class over 2nd class (the only difference according to him seemed to be assigned seating) meant he still came out ahead.

After getting back to the station from the market, fully prepared with 6 fresh, cold beers for the train ride, and a few skewers of barbecued chicken (40 baht per beer, and 30 baht per skewer of chicken) we sat down and started to eat.  While we were sitting there a pair of couchsurfers who I had met the night before at the bar, after the scavenger hunt, showed up and we all began talking.  

About 10 minutes before the train was scheduled to arrive I noticed a lone backpacker sitting, or rather laying, on a bench across the platform.  She looked tired and bored, and when I got closer I noticed small Canadian flags sewed to her backpack.  I said hello and started talking with her, asking if she wanted to come join our random group of travelers (at this point we had also added a lone Japanese guy with a massive bundle of dreadlocks perched atop his head) as we drank beer and chatted on the platform and on the train back to Bangkok.  Our group's plan when we reached Bangkok was to immediately head to the river and ride a river taxi up to the pier near Khao San Road, where there was a couchsurfing meeting at yet another bar, to meet with yet more travelers.  After talking with her for a few minutes the train was coming near and everyone was hurrying out into the middle of the tracks - unfortunately I didn't get a picture, but there were railroad ties on the ground to raise it to the level of the tracks.  There were 2 railroad-ties laid end to end to make a path from the platform out to the middle of the tracks, where we all had to stand to board.

It turned out that the Canadian's name was Emilie, and she was taking the train back to Bangkok because she was quite sick and had been for almost 3 days and wanted to get to a hospital.  She had bought a ticket in the air-conditioned first class so that she could have her own seat and be as comfortable as possible, so we wished her the best and found seats together in our non-a/c 3rd class. 

For the entire 2 hour train ride I sat with Ed as he showed me several different ways to open beer bottles, some I had seen before some I had not. We were joined by Thancyn - one of the couchsurfers (a big Burmese guy who is from Texas, and travels with his wife around the world as they teach English and do freelance reporting - they are headed to Burma in a couple weeks to report on the upcoming elections.)  Across the aisle was Thancyn's wife Courtney and the Japanese guy whose name I cannot recall.  The train ride was a great deal of fun, and by the end of it we were all super excited to get to the bar and meet up with the others.  I'm sure the 4 or 5 big beers I had drank since meeting Ed contributed to the excitement.  However when we got off the train in Bangkok and started walking out towards the street, my plans were immediately changed.

We again ran across Emilie, who was now searching for a phone so that she could call a contact she had in Bangkok and get to the hospital.  I offered her mine and after a brief conversation in French - she's actually from Quebec, and I'm sure plenty of jokes will ensue - she hung up and looked even more distraught than before.  Our group of travelers offered to take a taxi with her to the hospital - which wasn't too far away - but traffic was so bad that no metered taxis would even think about going in that direction.  Finally we found a driver willing to haggle over the price and said for 150 baht he would take us there (for 150 baht in a metered taxi you can go all the way across the city, we were going about 20 blocks).  When we were actually going to the taxi, my fellow travelers decided maybe they would rather just help pay for the fare and go to the bar to meet up with everyone else.  I could see the fear on her face when it seemed like we were all leaving her, and could only imagine being in her situation.  

Traveling alone is exciting and invigorating most of the time, but when you get in trouble and need help, you are completely reliant on yourself and the goodwill of others.  It can be incredibly scary, and not yet having been in a situation where I was in real trouble and really needed help, I cannot even imagine how scary it would be to think you would have to go through it completely alone, and have no idea what was going to happen or how you would be when it was all over.  Just thinking about how scary it would be if I was in trouble, and what I would want somebody to do for me, I offered to still go with her to the hospital and make sure she got there and got taken care of.  I still fully intended on just going, basically dropping her off, and turning around to go meet the others at the bar and have a fun night in the backpacker mecca of Bangkok, which is one of the biggest backpacker destinations in the world.

The cab driver had apparently thought we said the name of another hospital, even though we had had a bilingual Thai speaker write it out in Thai so there could be no mistakes.  He got us within about 3 blocks, but I think that traffic was so bad he just made up the excuse of a mistake so he could get us out and escape the traffic.  We hurriedly jumped out and I grabbed her backpack, leaving her to carry my small bag with cameras and maps in it.  The driver was useless in giving us directions to where we really wanted to go, so we had to resort to asking locals selling their wares on the sidewalk.  After being pointed down a small side street we had to run across 6 lanes of traffic to cross the street and get going in the right direction, which at that hour was nearly gridlocked and not much of a problem.  Normally traffic in Bangkok does not stop for pedestrians, and little motorcycles weave through traffic as if it was unmoving and they were simply racing through an obstacle course at breakneck speeds trying to win first place.  

When we got to the side street which the hospital was on it seemed like it stretched out for miles with no end in site, the sidewalk was made up of broken blocks and 200 ft down the road we ran across freshly poured concrete, forcing us to walk on the busy street with cars racing by.  We had no idea how far down the road it was or even if this was the correct road, so every time I saw somebody standing on the side of the street or at a security gate I ran over and pointed to the hospital on the map, trying to ask where it was.  They kept pointing us further down, and I could tell that she was having a hard time just walking down the street but wouldn't let me take the two small bags she was carrying.  When we finally reached BNH hospital, apparently the nicest private hospital in Bangkok - probably the nicest in Thailand - we went to the emergency room, which looked more like a reception room at the hospitals I've been to in the US.  The nurses were all dressed in perfectly pressed uniforms and there was no hurry to care for her, but instead the asked her to fill out some forms before she could have a bed.  Hopefully this procedure could be circumvented in the case of a life threatening emergency.

When they got Emilie into a bed and started asking questions I started thinking about how I would feel being there, laying in a bed alone in a foreign country, with people asking questions and trying to treat me for some unknown ailment.  I don't really know what made me stay at that point, but I just felt like I should, and should do whatever I could to help her get through the ordeal.  I called a couple friends who I had met who would be at the bar, to let them know I wasn't going to make it to hang out, and pretty much hung out in the waiting room for a while before going in and sitting with her behind the curtains.  At that point I still figured that once they got her situated and taken up to a room to get cared for, I would leave and go back to stay with my CS host.  

For whatever reason I ended up staying with her through the night and sleeping on the couch-turned-bed in the hospital room, which looks more like a hotel.  I talked with my CS host who was nice enough to bring my backpack full of stuff - mildly important things like my clothes, laptop, passport, etc. - and meet me at the BTS (sky-train) station near the hospital on Friday morning.  Again I had fully intended on going to meet with other couchsurfers to go south towards Phuket on Friday afternoon, but instead chose to ride the canal boats around Bangkok for a while and stay with Emilie again so she was not stuck in her hospital room alone with nothing to do all day but read her travel guide and watch Thai TV.  In the evening I took the MRT (subway) up to go bowling with some couchsurfers and grab dinner, leaving her with my laptop to facebook and email her friends and family. 

In the mall which housed the bowling alley, there apparently was the bowling alley, an ice-skating rink, and a movie theatre with 10 screens, all on the TOP floor.  It seems to me like all of those things would go on the bottom, but I guess not.  The escalators also made no sense.  Typically they are arranged so that going up or down you only have to take a few steps to get to the next escalator going the same way, but in Thailand it seems to alternate so that the end of the up is next to the end of the down, so you have to walk around the mall to get to the next escalator to go up another floor.  I suspect they just want you to have to look at more shops and see their junk so hopefully you will buy something.  There is also a full skating rink on one of the floors, but I never looked to see which one.  The bowling alley played all western music, and even had the little animations on the screens mocking the player based on their efforts in that frame.

When I left I walked past the MRT station, thinking that I had seen it and it was closed because the trains had stopped running for the night.  I turned around and started jogging back to the hospital because it was about 3km, but luckily I saw where I had previously gone by, that the MRT station was actually open, so I went down and took the train back to the station closest the hospital and got back at about 11pm.  Walking by myself from the MRT station to the hospital, I was approached several times with guys offering to sell me porn DVDs, and probably more if I wanted it.  I also saw a few clear instances of the sex trade, in about 3 blocks on the main road I saw 2 different old white men with young Thai women, and one old white guy with a young Thai guy.  Sad, but I guess it's the reality of things.

Today she should be discharged in an hour or so and we will be taking a bus to Pattaya, which is south-east from Bangkok, not towards Phuket but still nice and tropical beach-like.  From there we will head to Koh Samet and Koh Chang.

I don't know exactly when I'll be updating my blog again, but hopefully this has given a good idea of what I've been up to and what it's like here...

Until next time!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

First 2 days

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

Great first 2 days, I've seen so much and taken a lot of pictures.  Tuesday my host took the day off work to show me around and we went to several temples, including the imperial palace, Wat Aron, Golden Mountain, the great teak mansion (the largest all teak wood structure in the world, they even used wooden nails - built over 100 years ago), the emerald Buddha, and what is considered to be the most beautiful reclining Buddha in Thailand - it is 15 meters tall and 46 meters long.  Learned a lot.

Today (Wednesday) I took part in a scavenger hunt around Bangkok!  Fitting as it was I wore my Ski to Sea t-shirt and was teamed up with another Swedish girl from Umea!  Lucky for me she had lived in Bangkok before and knew her way around a bit better than me, so it was a lot of fun.   It is definitely confirmed, the Swedes are a great bit of fun!  Afterward we went to meet with quite a few couchsurfers at a bar and had a few beers and met some very interesting and cool people from all over, pair from Texas who have been travelling over a year, some German, Dutch, Czech, Indian, Thai, so many!  I know there are more who I have forgotten.

Tomorrow I will go to Ayutthaya - the ancient capitol and home to a great number of temples and other old cultural relics - it is only 20 baht for the train trip 90km up there and 100 baht to rent a bike for the day to tour around (32 baht = about 1 usd)

So far so good, glad I brought both my big (SLR) and small (point and shoot) cameras though, just wish I had a small backpack to carry things for day trips...oh well, it is still lovely and a great deal of fun.

Still jet lagged, but forcing myself to adjust to the schedule here.  It is 12.20 am and I need to be up by 6 to make the train...maybe I can sleep on the train? Doubt it.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Getting through customs was a breeze, I had no address to put on my immigration forms so I just wrote "Khao San Guesthouse, Bangkok, Thailand" and apparently that was enough to avoid any scrutiny.  My host from was there waiting in the arrivals hall as promised and was quite easy to find, I wish I had a picture of him waving at me, but it was definitely a relief and an exciting site.  Time to sleep and in the morning he is taking me to downtown Bangkok to show me some temples and such, should be great!

Half way around the world

The boarding process at Seatac was uneventful, the flight to Seoul was long but smooth, I was able to get 4 or 5 hours of sleep which was nice, and the food was decent.  Somebody sat in my seat so I just traded him, and ended up getting an aisle seat with nobody next to me.  Plane was a Boeing 777-200, narrow seats, video games on the little screens in the seat backs.

70 minutes until I board for Bangkok.  Met some other travelers, a brother sister pair from New York who are also going to Bangkok, so if my CS host doesn't show to meet me at the airport, I will likely take a taxi in with them and find a guest house to stay at for a few dollars.

Need to get an adapter for my plugs, but don't know which they'll have in Thailand and Vietnam so I have to wait...