Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back in Bangkok

Like an idiot, I watched a movie on the plane instead of trying to get all the sleep that I could. After the movie I went to sleep, and shortly after they finally announced the “welcome aboard” speech for 10 minutes. Why would they wait for the middle of the night when everyone was sleeping to do that? One or two hours later they woke us up again to give us breakfast. I couldn’t catch a break; there was quite a bit of turbulence too.

At least when I arrived I wasn’t thoroughly searched like I was in Australia. They specially carded me there, and went painstakingly over every single item I had on my person, asking very awkward questions that I had trouble answering; given I had been in transit for almost 24 hours. I later realized there was quite a tricky, sneaky architecture to them, and it just pays to tell the truth like I do. I was happy the pants didn’t come off nor did the rubber gloves come out. That was unfortunate; maybe I fit a bad profile. In Thailand I don’t think I even handed in anything for a customs declaration. That was such a nice change of pace.
The flight landed an hour early at like, 5 in the morning, so my friend Anna wasn’t there to meet me yet. I drifted listlessly in and out of consciousness on an awkward airport chair for a while, lamenting the fact that I ran out of cold medicine yesterday. Well, as long as I wasn’t quarantined right? That would have been a crappy trip. Good thing my temperature wasn’t high or those cameras would have singled me out right away.
When I stopped through last week on the way to Sydney I called Lily and Anna to tell them about my layover. I was delighted Lily remembered me right away, and she got right into her tour guide mode right away asking if I needed a hotel or anything. She unfortunately doesn’t really understand computers and emails though, where I had sent some to Anna every now and then. She had a good, cheap place that her friends recommended ready for me. It was less than half the price a night than what I spent when I first came here, and that place had weird bugs everywhere. Mind you it was still only like $40 a night.
So ya, it was nice of her to find a good place for me, and picking me up to help keep me safe from the vultures at the airport. I could check in early too, as I needed the sleep. We met later at the nearby mall for lunch. While I like eating food out in street vendors, it was interesting hearing from a local like her how those places are dirty, and being inside like this was better.
The prices and selection were great either way I thought, and the A/C didn’t hurt. I had some fried rice and some kind of noodle dish. I didn’t realize how much I missed Thai food until I had a bit to eat. You can tell it’s more authentic too when there isn’t a scratch of English to be found in the place. You bought coupons from a counter, and exchanged those with various vendors around the place.

After lunch we walked around the mall for a bit, where I saw dragon fruit being sold for pennies, and told her you could buy it in Japan for $70. Her English isn’t the greatest, but it was still a lot of fun; I have been complemented on my tuned charades skills before. We found a video game machine and had some fun playing it. It takes your pictures first, then if you do well in the game they have something of a “top 10” list. It was not unlike the “purikura” in Japan where you can draw funny shapes into the picture and add goofy stuff. One game we got 3rd place, and another we got first. I went to town, over saturating the picture with gaudy graffiti; it was fun.

We went to the theater after, but they didn’t have much playing other than GI Joe, which we both didn’t want to see. I was a bit disappointed as I remember how legendary the theaters are in Thailand; I guess it was just bad timing. I was pretty beat at this point and hoped a movie would be good to relax. Oh well. I went back to take a nap again while she went home for a while. I was supposed to call her later when I was awake to go for supper.

I guess I overslept, as I got a knock on my door rather late. 9 maybe? Anna had brought me some supper and medicine. I didn’t think I was well enough to eat, but it was good that I did. After the first ½ hour of stomach pains I was feeling a bit better. Or maybe that was the Tylenol I put back; I think that stuff is illegal in Japan.

The cough syrup helped too, as throughout the night I was up every couple hours coughing. Upon retrospect, it was maybe because the room had A/C on, something I didn’t have to worry about in Australia. Having cold air blowing against your throat is never a good thing; maybe I should start wearing a scarf more.
Either way it was good to be drugged up again, as a slight bit of vitality came back to me to tackle the next day. I had hoped to go to the beach this day, but my condition had me consider otherwise again. Fortunately, Anna wanted to show me some famous temples she likes to go to, and I hadn’t seen them before. The first one was really far away, and I got to experience a boat taxi/bus/ferry. It was much faster and cheaper than the taxi equivalent, and quite cool!

It was funny riding it, as I couldn’t help but think of how many problems this efficient and convenient system would have back home. People are so inept and willing to sue, that this sort of thing would never work. Here you just got on the boat like a normal person. No problem. The dudes hung off the side of the boat’s ropes and reached in gathering fares, and jumped off at each dock to quickly secure it for about 10 seconds for people to transfer. There were even pulleys to pull up a tarp to keep yourself dry while cruising down the river. Really fast, really effective. Back home you’d have a million safety checks, then the time and expense involved would sky rocket.

We got to the temple and it was nice, peaceful change. It had a great overlook of the city. I guess Anna goes here every now and then, and then showed me out the window the different temples she visits regularly. I need to understand more about Buddhism maybe, is this like a monthly pilgrimage maybe?
It was cool to see how people prayed, rang bells, and so on. Then it was unfortunate to see how some of the tourists act. One jerk had like 3 separate flashes on one camera, and took over fifty pictures of people and statues and stuff. That’s incredibly rude, can you imagine how you’d feel if people took close-up pictures of you while listening to a sermon in church on Sunday? Or whatever your religion is :)

We went down, but it was quite hot so we got some ice cream sandwiches. Now I do mean sandwiches: they opened a roll not unlike what you can get at KFC and put a number of spoonfuls inside along with sweet beans and other stuff. It was really good; I don’t think I’ve had bread and ice cream together before. There were many food stalls, but again I was reluctant to put stuff in my stomach.
A dude just walked up to me and started talking; he was really cool. He thought I was in the military or something with my composure and went on what a handsome guy I was. Maybe he was just practicing his English, I don’t know, but it’s neat to have people walk up to you and have a friendly conversation with them.

Although at this point, it’s getting a repetitive trying to explain where to find Regina on a map and failing. Maybe I should start carrying a map with me, or taking control of the conversation and changing it earlier. If I weren’t so lazy I’d have more pictures of my family in my wallet. All I have right now is Patty, and she’s a huge hit every time I pull her out. (Which isn’t too often, don’t worry Patty :P) I guess we look a lot alike, and then I joke about how I have nicer hair :)

We walked around some more, and she showed me a really popular road, near Susie Walking Street (good thing I take pictures so I know these weird names), that turns into one big party at night. There were bars and tattoo parlors everywhere. I found it funny, the number of shops set up selling many different fake IDs. Anna herself got a small tattoo here, but I still don’t think I’ll ever go under the needle. Unless I got a cool “Volleyball Canada” tattoo like that one teacher in high school, Mr. Delorme; two of my favourite things together.

Getting dizzy and ready to puke, we ducked into a subway restaurant for over an hour to escape the heat. I was excited I found root beer :) Because I was dying, we started heading back. It was lucky I had my computer with me, as I could share pictures and other stuff. It’s always fun teaching someone to play video games for the first time, as there is a lot of fun to be had. It ended up being an early night, even if I didn’t sleep well with all that coughing.
She showed me some of her pictures too, then proceeded to tell me about her friends in one photo: this one was married to an American, this one a Dutch dude, this one an Australian, and so on. What was strange though, was that all of them still live here in Thailand while the husbands come in periodically to visit. That reminded me of Richard telling me about those 2 Canadians he met on his airplane flight visiting Thailand to see their wives. Crazy world.

I was hoping I’d be healthy when I got to see Lily again. Alas I had one day left in Bangkok; my plane left at midnight. I called her up and made plans to meet later. I was hoping to make it to the beach on this trip, but I’ll have to go back again sometime when I’m feeling better and finally learn to surf. I made up for it though, by asking around where I could find a swimming pool. Anna helped me find one, and we went to the mall where it was.

This mall was really cool; I wish we had more time to spend here. They had open buffets and all kinds of different treats to munch on. On the roof they had an amazing amusement park like area, complete with water slides and other fun stuff. You need to wear a cap in pools here to hold your hair; but I was obviously exempted from this. I wanted to do more of course, but knew my limits and had fun floating/splashing around for what it was worth. There were big pools, kiddy pools, and a long, circular pool that had a current going around; that was great to float down.

It was a bit strange though; they closed the pool for ½ hour so they could check the water or something. We used that time to get a quick bite to eat: some delicious, cheap, wonderful Thai food. We didn’t stay much longer after it re-opened though, I was at my limits again and I needed to go see Lily in a couple hours.

I was reeling in and out of conscience in the car, thinking of excuses to not go and just pass out instead. It took about an hour to get there thanks to downtown traffic, but I’m so glad I made the journey and got to see her again. We talked for about an hour or so, and I saw Peter again; the cool dude that sent me to the ping-pong show on my first night. They are doing well, and I got after Lily to check her email more. As of this writing I still haven’t heard back, I’ll try again later.

It was a really good time of joking around and so on. Peter asked me if I remembered the ping-pong show then accused Lily of taking part. She played along and said she did an “apple show” instead. Mortified, we all laughed still. I love their humor, it fits me well. Because of my new hair, Lily doesn’t think I’m a lady-boy anymore. She was also a bit sick and gave me one of her facemasks, but it looked used so I kinda put it in my pocket, smiling and saying thanks.

I appreciated the gesture but that seemed a bit gross. I remember not being able to find a new mask one time on the farm when I needed to do some work inside a bin, so I used a mask my dad had used before. Ya, those things aren’t meant to be used more than once; I don’t think I lasted long before I gave up. Ah farm memories.

The coughing and fatigue caught up to me though, and Lily and Peter urged me to take a nap before having to catch my plane. I obliged and was happy I woke up with time to spare to get the plane. Anna helped me catch a taxi there and I got home ok. I arrived in Nagoya really early and for some dumb reason they wouldn’t help me find a train to Ina, so I went to the main city and found a bus to go the rest of the way. Maybe it’s better that way, in some weird twist of fate it’s often cheaper and faster to take a bus than the train. I spent the rest of that Sunday in bed I think.

This entry was a challenge to write as I didn’t want to describe all the various and strange symptoms I suffered during these three days. For what it’s worth I still enjoyed myself, but there were regrets; I never learnt to surf. Next time beach, you’re mine!

"A goal without a plan is just a wish." -Antoine de Saint-Exupery


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