Back in Bangkok
I wasn’t going to do a post from Bangkok, but I’ve got…ohhhhh, 8 hours to kill, so I might as well. I don’t think I did a good enough post on Bangkok before anyways, and I want to remember this place. I said goodbye to Ron and left Hong Kong in the morning and headed on the subway to the ferry terminal. It’s always funny walking down the road with your big backpack because everyone looks at you and wonders what the hell your story is. It’s a funny feeling, too – having your house on your back. I had been craving coffee for a few days and seeing as I had foregone breakfast, I was able to justify splurging on some Starbucks. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to walk into a McDonalds or a Starbucks in these foreign places. Let’s put aside the attitude that American cultural imperialism is eroding these countries little by little. At least you can walk into a comfortable place just like back home and get a good cup of coffee. It’s like a mini vacation. It reminds me of so many lazy Sunday evenings that I would head over to Starbucks and read or study and that feels really good. I imagine it’s kind of like how the British had all these islands and random countries in their “empire” so they could just pop over when they felt like it. The Starbucks empire is far more impressive than that ever was.
So I sipped my coffee and wandered to the ferry terminal. I bought my ticket and met two Kiwi (New Zealand) girls and chatted with them for a while. I made the mistake of asking if they were Australian and got a dirty look – but then apologized. They really don’t like that. I fell asleep on the ferry and woke up in Macau and we all piled off the boat. Much to my surprise, though, I didn’t even have to go through customs in Macau – there was a hallway that led straight to the airport shuttle. Once there, they checked me into my flight, scanned my bags and hauled me off to an airport backdoor and classified me as a transfer passenger. It blew me away. You know, Macau really has a good thing going for them with the flights they offer. With airasia.com you can fly to Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur for sometimes 10 dollars. It’s incredible and much cheaper than flying from Hong Kong, so they really accommodate it and make it easy for everyone. I didn’t really have much time to get any impressions of Macau, but I would like to go back and check it out one day.
So after hanging out in the airport for a while, I was off to Bangkok. I met two Dutch girls in the plane and we got into a pretty heated discussion about the European Union constitution which naturally led to a discussion on the value of life (…?). They were both really smart so I learned a bit. We really hit it off and so after landing, I made their lives a little easier by showing them where to get the bus for cheap into town. We asked a few people and finally got which number we were supposed to take and once there, a lady got up and gave us her seat and explained to me that we would need to transfer at a certain place and get another bus. She was really friendly. I chatted with a Thai girl next to me and she told me when to get off, so that was great. Everyone was really friendly and a surprising number of people spoke English. Bangkok passed by outside the bus and I was able to catch a nap. Once we arrived, I went to my favorite hostel which required us going through some random alley ways (I surprised I remembered). So we got checked in (I have a really nice and huge room for 3 bucks) and then I showed Anka and Sandra (the Dutch girls) around the Kao San area. I was really surprised. It’s not peak season anymore so this whole area is way quieter and chilled out. Kao San wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered it and the girls had fun checking out all the random stuff there is on display to buy. I bought some fruit (which is kept on ice) from a fruit vendor on the street and that was something I really missed. I haven’t eaten very well since southeast Asia. I used to eat so much fruit when I was traveling here. In China it was all fried stuff. So it was time to get my ticket to Cairo. My friend Colleen had found a guy who had a ticket “on reserve” for me so I tried to find his office, but just before I asked another guy how much the ticket should be. He quoted 345 dollars. I went to my guy. He quoted $385 – quite a difference, no? So I went back and asked him to match it, plus I would give him 5 bucks for helping me out when I was in Hong Kong. He told me something about how he had to call in the morning and find out about taxes and, “come back tomorrow – I don’t know if I can do that price,” very rudely. Hah. I went next door and bought the ticket. I had to get some money out so they guy said he would be there until midnight. Me and the Dutch girls went out and got dinner (they treated me!) and we chatted for quite a while before I excused myself so I could go pay for the ticket. When I got there, he wasn’t there and the girl told me he had gone and would be back the next day. I asked if she could call him and she was kind of rude to me, asking why I didn’t come earlier. I snapped (very politely) back at her that I was told that I could come back any time before midnight. She reluctantly called her boss and he walked in two minutes later. I paid him and joked around with him for a bit, then joked around with the girl and they liked me after that. Tough crowd though, damn. That’s how a lot of southeast Asia is. If you just go in and do your transaction, you are just another stupid foreigner to get money from. But if you joke around with the people and get them to laugh, they kind of let you in and you learn a bit more about the culture because they let you see more. So me and the Dutch girls then went back to take a look at Kao San. The local beer I had was much stronger than I realized, and I found myself quite tipsy. Some old lady was selling all sorts of fried insects in the street and we met a bunch of Germans and Israelis there pondering which to eat. I had a whole bag of a wide assortment of insects and we all chatted in the street for maybe 30 minutes before heading to a bar and chatting some more. We all talked in this group for another hour or so and I lost track of time. It was great though because I had an excellent time and met lots of people. Me, Anka and Sandra left and headed back home (well, it is my home) after a while where I got ready for bed and passed out.
This morning was all about recovering though. I had a hangover (I NEVER get hangovers! This local Thai beer is some harsh stuff) and it took most of the day to get over it. I’m okay now though, and have spent the day wandering around Bangkok and running some errands. I picked up my ticket and nearly gave the guy a heart attack when I said “but, the destination says Tel Aviv, not Cairo! Why??” and he laughed pretty hard. I then had lunch with a Thai girl. Actually, she ran the bookshop on the corner and I asked her where she bought the food she was eating so I went and bought the same and came back and ate with her. She was quite an interesting girl. I sold my China and India guidebooks and made 15 bucks. I also got one of the worst haircuts of my entire trip. It’s never good when the woman messes up your hair and is rude about it. Oh well.
And I’ve been examining Bangkok while I’ve been here. It really is an interesting place. The people really are friendly and there is always a hilariously random assortment of things going on in the street at any given time. It really is just a big city, but it’s definitely got its own flavor, too. You really get the feeling that this place has a unique and rich culture, but there is of course that feeling of separation too. There are quite a bit of expats here, as well. One thing you notice as soon as you arrive, though, is that the girls here are stunning. They really are. It is amazing. But never once have I seen this sex trafficking while here. I haven’t seen little kids for sale or really even porn for sale anywhere. Of course you see prostitutes and ladyboys, but that’s in all countries. This is a place that you could just sit back and observe it zip by and never get bored of it.
So I leave tonight at midnight for Cairo. I’ve written down a hostel name and the exchange rate, so I’ll brave the chaos when I arrive. I’m glad I got this flight though. Soooo cheap!