Alas, I am back in Southeast Asia, one of the worlds great areas to travel and one of my favorite places to be. I have been pretty busy and moving around a lot which is why I haven’t posted recently as keeping up a blog is a lot of work and finding the time can be tough. Also, sometimes you run into holidays and visa delays which can seemingly take days to work themselves out. As is always the case in the developing world, you can’t be in too much of a rush because you will inevitably have something go very wrong and keep you grounded for a few days. Southeast Asia is certainly no exception but believe me there are far worse places to be stuck, no matter where you are and especially Bangkok, Thailand!
As Lonely Planet eloquently puts it, “Bangkok is the cockiest city around”. This is perhaps true and it is also one of the worlds most exciting cities. Anything can and will happen and as the classic Murray Head 1980’s hit “One Night in Bangkok” says:
One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster, the bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free
You’ll find a God in every golden cloister, and if you’re lucky then the God’s a she.
I can feel an angel sliding up to me.
One night in Bangkok makes the hard man humble, not much between despair and ecstasy.
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble, can’t be too careful with your company.
I can feel the devil walking next to me.
I stayed for three nights in Bangkok, the first night I stayed in Sukhumvit which is the upscale shopping and business area as I had a free room at the Westin thanks to Starwood and I was exhausted and just needed a good night’s sleep in one of those heavenly beds. Afterwards, I moved to one of my favorite spots on Earth; the mecca of backpackers, Khao San Road.
Khao San Road was made famous by the movie “The Beach” when Leo DiCaprio spent some time there but in truth it has been famous for decades with the legions of travelers who linger in the dirt cheap guesthouses, massage parlors, bars, food stalls, shopping and generally great times. Khao San Road is the place to get stuff done in Southeast Asia as there are a million and one travel agents and tour companies along and around it. Most offer very cheap tickets, bookings and tours and can save the intrepid backpacker weeks more in spending money to keep their trips going longer.
My main purpose in Bangkok and on Khao San Road was twofold; to eat amazing and dirt cheap food and to get a Myanmar visa. The food stalls along Khao San Road serve up huge portions of pad thai for 25 cents…yes for 25 cents you can have an amazing pad thai meal and have plenty of cents left over for egg rolls, pizza, fruit or whatever else you want to munch on. It is all possible on Khao San Road. Additionally, you can pretty much get whatever you want period. Whether it be a designer suit, fake ID, any type of clothes, jewelry, massage (legit), lady friends or lady boys, tuk tuk’s, etc., you will certainly be offered by tons of hawkers and enterprising Thai’s trying to pry away your Baht.
As for my visa to Myanmar, I have to say it was a pain in the ass for a few reasons. First, I didn’t know if I would be approved at all because of this site. Myanmar’s military junta government doesn’t allow journalists into the country. Now I do not claim to be a journalist but as you can plainly see I do write about my trips and offer insights into countries, etc. However, that turned out to be the least of my problems as I got to Bangkok on some random Buddhist holiday that lasted for 4 days.
The major problem was that nobody could actually tell me if the embassy was open or not and everyone in tourism whom I asked gave me as different answer so finally I called the trusty concierge at the Westin to get me this crucial information. They told me it was closed until Wednesday which was the third different day that I heard it would open so I decided to go with that as they didn’t ever answer the phone when I skyped the embassy and had no recording that gave closing information. It turned out it was open on Tuesday but what can you do. So anyway, to make a long story short I eventually did get the visa on Thursday after paying a little extra Baht to the giggly man behind the counter to rush it.
To make another long story short, my ticket which I booked with the travel agent at Sawasdee House, which is my go to guest house along Khao San Road, was not able to be issued until I secured the visa and because I didn’t know if I would be approved I had to wait until I found out at 3pm. Before I paid for the booking, I asked the idiot woman SEVERAL times if I would be able to initiate the ticket which was to leave at 5:50pm. She kept assuring me that it was possible and there was no problem at all. So I believed her, with trepidation, but I figured she knew what she was talking about as she insisted.
Clearly not though because I called her as soon as I left the embassy to tell her to issue the ticket and she told me that she couldn’t do it and seemed to completely forget the hour long conversation we had had just an hour or so beforehand. She kept telling me I told her a different time that I would call when clearly I didn’t as it didn’t give her enough time to issue the ticket. This did not please me as I was kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place as I wanted to fly to Myanmar immediately on the Thai Air flight I thought I had booked.
She then told me that I had to go to the airport to buy the tickets which would invariably be at least twice as expensive or she told me to book online with Air Asia. I was so annoyed but couldn’t be bothered arguing with her as she was conveniently forgetting English as we spoke on the phone. So I went to the airport and tried to get a good deal on the ticket to Yangon. No such luck on Thai Airways. So my only options were to wait two days and go on Air Asia or go to Kuala Lumpur for nothing on Air Asia and then come back up to Bangkok. So I chose going to KL as I hadn’t been in years and I like that city. So to KL it was and a good time was had by all (more on KL in upcoming posts). By the way I didn’t write much about sights in Bangkok because I have been to the city many times and have seen every sight imaginable several times and didn’t sightsee this time, but if you do go, there is a lot of cool stuff to see, especially the temples.
I don’t know why I just thought of this but here is a top ten list about Khao San Road and Bangkok in general.
You know you’ve been in Bangkok too long if:
1. You think that paying more than 25 cents for a meal is highway robbery
2. You think it’s your God given right to a $3 hour long massage from a 9 year old
3. You try to invent reasons to get a fake ID, even when you’re 30
4. You own a “Same Same But Different” tee shirt (yes I bought one again-it never gets old)
5. You think it’s normal cruising around town in a tuk tuk at 100mph sans seat belt while the driver tries to sell you on everything imaginable while staring at you in the rearview and not looking at the road
6. You don’t even bat an eye when you see lady boys and prostitutes
7. You have looked at designer suits and actually thought, hmmm these could be good
8. You think it’s normal to sweat profusely at all times day and night and Singha and Tiger beer actually are better than water for replenishing your lost fluids
9. You think Thai whiskey is good and not simply the liquid crack that it is
10. You can say NO to several hawkers at the same time without losing a syllable of the real conversation you are having
I will have more on SE Asia in the next few days as my travel schedule is pretty hectic right now and I have to write about Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia and then I go to Borneo so check back really soon as hopefully tonight I can get some time to write.