10 months and 10 countries
Trip Start May 01, 2007
209Trip End Jun 17, 2008
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10 months and 10 countries since I left California. I've been in Thailand for less than 12 hours, so not much to report, yet. My first impression--limited to the airport, a cab ride, and this wonderful hostel--is that Thailand, at least Bangkok, is what China could be like if you let the organization and freedom of Hong Kong spread throughout China. That impression could be totally wrong--it will be interesting to see how it holds up in the coming weeks. (Also: hearing about what the f---n Chinese are doing to Tibet and Xinjiang right now just tears me apart, not to mention what they've already done for the last 60 years).
I felt pretty sad to leave New Zealand. If you coudn't tell I absolutely loved it there. It felt just wonderful to see Ann and Chris and to hang out at their house off and on for 2 weeks and of course it was a blissful treat and delight to have my family come join me for 2 weeks. I felt sad to leave. I had just started to get a feel for the place and really loved the people, the sites, well, just everything. There's more of New Zealand in my future, I can tell.
Part of the sadness, too, I think is that everytime I switch countries now it makes me a little bit burned out on this long term traveling thing. I still feel pretty motivated and driven by curiosity and desire to explore but I also have developed a strong aversion to planning and tourist type activities.
I arrived at Bangkok around 10:30 PM, or 3:30 AM New Zealand time. I was damn tired. The hostel I chose online turned out super swank and there were no problems getting a cab there or checking in which was awesome. As I started to drift off to sleep I realized only one fault with this otherwise absolutely perfect top-end hostel: the whole floor is one dorm which is entirely surrounded by glass. This means if someone even farts or god forbid drops a coin in the far opposite corner you are going to hear it, even with the world's best ear plugs from the Home Depot jackhammer section in your ears which was what happened to be in my ears. So the two eager excited Brits two days into their journey and as hyper as high school girls getting ready for the prom who were yapping away in the bed above and next to me was not what I had in mind after staying awake for 24 hours. Eventually they stopped or left only to return at 12:30 and pick right up with the giddy conversation.
That said I did manage 7 quality hours of sleep though I didn't feel too guilty when Grandpa's shower and rearranging of his goods in his locker at 7:30 AM made a bit of noise.
The excellent breakfast and incredible friendliness of every hostel employee combined with the spotless cleanliness and wonderful accoutrements of the hostel made up up for the dorm echo chamber. They even let me check my e-mail for free.
Didn't do much as I can't bring myself to be a tourist yet. Checked out the weekend market though I don't know why since I hate shopping. I guess it was the prospect of seeing 90,000 vendors in one market. Overwhelming. Bangkok's cleanliness and organization still impresses me. The sky train, metro, even the canal taxis zip along, are clean, and function flawlessly. Others don't seem to share my opinion (I don't care). This place kicks ass compared to many big Asian cities though I haven't seen Kuala Lumpar or Singapore which are probably pretty nice. So far I say it still compares well to Hong Kong.
I've moved now over to the apartment of my past teaching colleague from Edmonds Woodway High School, Bill Haverty. He's here in Bangkok now teaching math at an international school and he's letting me crash on his couch, given me complete use of his computer, a metro card, a cell phone, keys to the apartment and has a library of SE Asia guidebooks for my disposal. Ahh, very refreshing. Thanks, Bill! You rock.
So far I still have avoided any tourist activities. I spent the day with more reflection and writing. I feel that's most important right now.
Got a visa for Burma.
Also walked to the temple with the gigantic sitting Buddha. I couldn't believe I was the only foreigner there and that there were just a handful of worshippers in the massive complex. That was the coolest sightseeing experience I had in Bangkok because I felt I had the gigantic place to myself and they just let me wander around unattended.
Remember Swensen's? I do. Back in the day, when Mom and Dad wanted to bribe my sister or I, they promised us a trip to Swensen's Ice Cream Parlour in the Vineyard in Escondido. In the swell 70s and 80s that was The Place to go in Escondido. Get a sundae at Swensen's and then catch a movie on the 2 screen theater next door, maybe a stroll around the fountains or, if you're really swish, dinner too.
It was with great excitement when a date surprised me a few years ago and took me to the original Swensen's in San Francisco. I had no idea it still existed and she had no idea that it used to hold such a nostalgic place in my heart. Nowadays The Vineyard shopping center is a Home Depot parking lot. I think the original in San Francisco might be the only one left in the US as far as I know.
Well turns out Swensen's went Asian. They're everywhere in Thailand. There's 3 within a 1 block radius of the Siam sky train stop. And today I finally gave in, sat myself down in the food court of a Swensen's in Siam Center and had myself a Chocalate Ring-a-Ding sundae (or 'chocwitt ling a ding' as the waitress said). It wasn't nearly the same. Mom and Dad weren't there, I wasn't 11 anymore, my sister wasn't anywere to be found and if she was she's not a shy little 7 year old anymore and even worse, there was no hallway with a gigantic plate glass window where you could go watch the employees make fresh ice cream on the premises.
Instead I found myself surrounded by Thai shoppers in a bustling food court consisting of Starbucks, Au Bon Pan, Sizzler, McDonalds, Burger King, Haagen Daaz, Pizza Hut, and several others, I'm sure.
Nonethess, the sundae tasted delightful and for 20 minutes I stared off in an 11 year old's bliss hoping I could go home and play with Legos the rest of the day.
Made a good decision to go visit the Suan Pakkad Palace and museum. What I enjoyed is that there were only a few people there and it was immaculately maintained with lush gardens and lacquered floors that shine like mirrors. The apparent originality and ornateness of the buildings impressed me more than Jim Thompson's place which was also quite well maintained and beautiful. After that I walked around the corner and paid to have a beer and check out the view from the top of the Baiyoke Sky Tower hotel. The view is magnificent. The hotel's looking pretty dingy, however.
Where I stayed