Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Bangkok, Thailand

This blog should, in all honesty, be titled:
The Day That I Actually Did Something in Bangkok Other Than Drink and Shop

The sad thing is that I truly did try to go sight seeing on two separate occasions. The first time, I was trying to get to a temple to see an alms giving ceremony. I got so completely lost on my way to the Wat that I ended up having to take a Tuk Tuk back to Khao San road because I couldn't remember where it was. The second time, I was heading out to see the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. I got to the first intersection and became so terrified that I immediately turned back. You know how you see the pictures of traffic intersections in major US cities? They're about three levels high, have two hundred lanes, and probably kill fourteen people a year with air pollution? Well if you took those three levels, and squashed them down into one, you'd have an intersection in Bangkok. And add about seventeen more deaths.

But today - TODAY - I was going to do it. I was my last day in Bangkok, and I refused to walk away saying that the only thing I saw was Khao San road. So I marched out, armed with my Lonely Planet, prepared to take on that bloody intersection...and I immediately went the wrong way. Happily, there was a very nice Thai man who spoke very good English, wished me a Happy Chinese New Years, and pointed me in the right direction. He even warned me about Tuk Tuks and cabs trying to scam me. Which I thought was quite honest and sweet of him.

So I made it to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew! But not before I lost 150 Baht ($5) to some blankety-blank pigeon woman. I was walking down the strip, almost at the Palace, and she stops me to tell me where Wat Pho is. So I thank her, and she dumps corn in my hands. I am then surrounded by pigeons, but she just keeps the corn coming, and now I am completely covered in pigeons. Then her friend joins in with more corn and at this point, she demands 500 Baht ($15). I kept saying no no no no no, and she just kept going down in price, until I gave her the 150 Baht just to shut up. Then - THEN - she tries to ask for another 150 blasted Baht for her friend. I walked away. Which I then realized I should have just done in the first place. Whatever...I got to hold a pigeon. That's worth $5 to me.

The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew were astounding. I've never seen so much gold in all my life. The area that holds the Emerald Buddha is practically blinding. It felt amazing to for-real-for-real be sitting in front of one of the most revered objects in the whole world. On the downside, I picked the smoggiest day that Bangkok has had since I got here to do my tour. Also, I decided to tour the Palace on some sort of state holiday. So half of it was closed. However, the Palace is really only second to Wat Phra Kaew. But don't tell the King that I said so. Or any Thai people for that matter. They looooooove the Royal Family here.

On my way out, I decided to skip Wat Pho for the day, where the giant reclining Buddha is held. After my fiasco with the state holiday, I figured that I wouldn't risk it and just save it for when I come back to the city. Walking back to Khao San I stopped for some fresh fruit at a road side stand, which are fantastic inventions by the way. Cheaper than dirt and better than restaurants, they have everything from fresh fruit and hand squeezed juice to Phad Thai and Som Tam. Anyways, I did some pointing, she did some yabbering, and what I ended up with was either an extremely green mango, or the tartest pear I've ever had. She ended up with my 10 Baht. Or she sold me something that no Thai person would have ever eaten and I got laughed at horrendously after I left. Either way, I liked my sketchy fruit thing.

So this is it now, I head to Phuket at 6pm tonight, provided that I don't play the ass and miss my bus again. Amy, here I come (for real this time)! And Mike, I'll see you on Samui in a few days. To everyone else, wish me luck on the bus! Hopefully none of my things get stolen...

Quote of the Day:

So I ended up talking to the Doppel last night for about four hours on Skype. For those of you who don't know the Doppel, his name is Jesse (but no one calls him that except his mother), he is Kaare's evil twin, and he lives in Kagoshima, Japan. He's also one of my bestest friends. Anywho, I'm talking to him last night, and we get onto the subject of Dragon Ball Z, a Japanese Anime cartoon, for those who aren't losers like us. There is this thing in...you know what...this is just going to take way to long to explain. I'll give you the quote and shut up about the Dragon Ball Z geek-details. Basically, he discovered the translation for something, and in a little kid sad voice, he says to me on the phone:

"But humans are life-people too..."

You probably had to be there.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Angie and the Airports

It's official. I hate airports with a firey passion that could only have been born in hell. Which airports are, so obviously my firey hate came from the airport. Logic.

I get to the airport in Istanbul exactly two hours before my flight to Bangkok. I stand in line for thirty freaking minutes to check in. When I get to the check in, the woman at the counter asks me how long I plan to stay in Thailand. I tell her thirty days, which is the allowed length or time for Canadians without a visa. She then asks to see my ticket out of the country. Which I don't have because, firstly, I've never found information telling me that I needed to produce one, and secondly, I had been planning to take trains and busses overland. So I get a little frightened. The lady at the desks directs me over to the ticket agents on the other side of the extremely large, international airport, and tells me she'll reserve me a seat, but that I need to get a ticket out of Thailand.

Over I head to the ticket counters, feeling like an idiot hauling my luggage all over the place. I explain to the woman at that counter what my problem is. I ask her to get me just a cheap ticket to anywhere in Southeast Asia because at this point I don't really care. Inter-Asia flights are quite inexpensive, so I knew that even if I didn't catch the flight, I wouldn't really care too much. This woman then proceeds to tell me that it's going to cost 150 Euros (about $225 Canadian), but that it is only a "ghost ticket"...I can't actually use it. This seems a little steep and sketchy to me, so I ask if I can pay with my credit card. When she tells me that they only take cash, I start to see what this "ghost ticket" is actually about, and why I can't catch a flight with it. Thank God I'd been in Turkey long enough to reconize a scam when I see one.

Next, I run all around the airport trying to find an internet stand. I finally find one, get online with Air Asia, and book a flight from Krabi (Thailand) to Kuala Lampur (Malaysia) for about $60 Canadian. This sounds fantastic, doesn't it? The fine print, however, is that they won't let me print, even after I explain what my situation is. I think they work in tandem with the ticket sellers. Well my only option now is to write down all the information for my ticket and hope that the check in people accept it, because at this point, I've got about forty five minutes left to catch my flight.

I get to the check in counter, sweating from running, wide eyed with fear, ticket on the ready...and the lady checks me in. Without even asking to see my ticket out of Thailand. This is actually the exact same story that a friend of mine had when he was leaving Britain for Singapore. It appears that airport officials just get to decide on whatever they like. I end up making it onto my flight with five minutes to spare.

I then have a wonderful flight, no problem with my transfer in Doha (Saudi Arabia), and a very comfortable rest of my flight to Bangkok. I arrive at 6:30am. As I am heading to customs, I see a sign that says "Visa on Arrival". This trickiest of tricky signs roped me in. When I get to the Visa on Arrival counter, I see that I need 1000 Baht ($30) for my visa. I also see that I need small ID photos for the visa, which cost 200 Baht ($6). Thankfully I have some of these...in my checked luggage. I have only Euros on me at the moment. So I ask an official walking by where an ATM is. He tells me that it's on the other side of customs. So I hit the currency exchange counter (interesting that they had one of those but no ATM) and change about 50 Euros into Baht. I head over to the photo booth, get my ID pictures taken, and get told by the lady standing there that I don't need them if I'm Canadian. This is after I'd already spent the 200 Baht for them. Great. Well then I go sit down and wait for my number to be called for my visa. Thirty minutes later, an official walking by asks me where I'm from. He then informs me that Canadians don't need to apply for visas on arrival, and that I'll just get my passport stamped at customs.

Which I do, and finally arrive outside of the airport at 10am. I catch a taxi to Khao San road, which mysteriously went from being 500 Baht ($15) when we started the trip, to 600 Baht ($18) half way through the drive. But what do I do at that point? I'm already in the cab and I frankly don't want to be left on the side of the highway in Bangkok. I'm not going to squabble over $3 for something like that. Finally arriving on Khao San road, I grab a hostel for 180 Baht ($5-6) per night and immediately fall asleep.

So here I am everyone, in Bangkok! It's been a few days now, and I have done absolutely nothing. I haven't left Khao San road the entire time. But it's been amazing. I've been playing my favourite sport everyday, people watching. It's just so much fun to do when the whole atmosphere is a completely new experience. And I've also met some really nice people, some of whom I'm meeting up with later this month. I ended up missing my bus to Phuket yesterday because I was hanging out with a gent named Travis and totally forgot about it! So I rebooked and now head to the islands tomorrow, and hopefully you'll all hear from me safe and sound on Phuket.

Quote of the Day:

Travis is an American rock climber...his take on America? (Pardon the French Nana)

"America actually celebrates Colombus Day and the fucking retard thought he was in India."