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March 07, 2005


It is Monday morning, March 7th and I am in Edinburgh, Scotland - God's Country! I got here yesterday after a 6 hour train trip from London through the heartland of England and southern Scotland. What a beautiful ride and a very relaxing way to spend the day, trains are a great way to travel.

Being in the "Mother Country" makes me miss my friend Patrick as the limey accent is, of course, everywhere and it makes me homesick for a bar stool at Applewoods tipping back a beer or two with Jason, Leo and Patrick. When you travel you really learn to appreciate the contribution of England to the world as colonizers. The thing I don't like about their influence is that they drive on the wrong side of the road and have taught many countries in the world to do the same. This is dangerous for a guy like me that walks around alot and can't seem to figure out to look right first rather than left before crossing the street!

The Scottish, though, don't seem to like the Brits too much!

On another topic before officially starting this blog entry, I feel I have made an important breakthrough in international relations between Europeans and America. Its been very apparent for the last couple of years that much of the world is unhappy with the decisions made by the U.S. government concerning the invasion of Iraq. There is even some dissent amongst Americans although I personally agree with he decision. Anyway in the three months or so that I've been on the road I have sat at a number of bars and discussed American foreign policy with a alot of people in various states of drunkeness. Most had strong opinions that led to some heated arguments.

Now recently though I feel the attitudes changing into more acceptance of U.S. policy. I think my bar stool mates and I have come to an agreement that maybe the U.S. invasion of Iraq was wrong but the current (and end) result justifies the invasion. What do you think about that Seth????

I wonder if President Bush or his advisors read my blog, if so, this bit of intelligence will be good for them to hear!

Now, back to the blog entry. This entry covers the time I left to Phuket and headed to Hong Kong.

Alas, all good things must come to an end so I had to leave the paradise of Phuket after 9 lovely days and headed back to the central hub of Bangkok and Khao San Road.

This time I upgraded my accommodations a bit and stayed at the D&D Inn right in the middle of the madness of Khao San Road and paid 750 baht (about $19) per night. This time I got a TV in my room (although it only had a few English speaking channels) which was a good thing as I had to spend much more time in my roon during these 4 days in Bangkok than normal due to my illness.

As I related briefly in a previous blog entry, I got very sick on my first night back in Bangkok. I am almost positive it was from the whole Red Snapper I ate that night. It was probably spoiled sitting out in the sun or a few days old before they cooked it up for me.

This, unfortunately, is typical of how things are in Thailand around the heavily traveled areas. Thai's struggle to make money and there is no effective regulations or laws to protect buyers. They seem to have a general disregard for foreigners and a constant attitude and lifestyle of hustling and generally trying to rip people off. This leads to all types of disregard and led to my, and many others, illness.

I was up most of that night running to the toilet and by morning was pretty beat up and severly dehydrated, feverish and generally feeling horrible. After showering I walked across the street to a 7-11 and got some bread, orange juice and water and struggled back to my room. For the next few days I was mostly successful in keeping food down as long as it was plain and bland (not typical of Thai food). All kinds of scary thoughts were going through my mind during this time, most of them revolved around being alone in a crappy guesthouse in Bangkok and having Malaria or Dengue Fever or some other exotic, tropical disease. I did not relish having to spend time in a hospital in Southeast Asia! I did try to go to a local clinic but the only one that I could find close by was actually closed, good thing probably as there was no English lettering anywhere on the door or other signs.

In spite of the illness, my runaway imagination and that stupid fish I got well rather quickly which surprised me due to just how bad I felt that first night. I was back to normal two days later. I am thankful for that and I think it's also a testament to good, clean living and being a healthy person.

I mentioned previously the constant hustling and haggling every traveler must contend with in Asia from vendors to tuk-tuks to taxis to motos to prostitutes, I've also touched on this in previous blog entries. It is part of the lifestyle out here but that doesn't mean that I always have to like or accept it. So often it is annoying and maddening. Bargaining is no problem, happens all the time and can be fun as long as both parties do it in the spirit of cooperation and commerce. It should not get personal but it sometimes does when the attempts to get a price out of you are so outrageous that it is a joke and then they actually get mad at you for not paying the price or whine that they need the money for any of a thousand reasons. I'm very sensitive to the plight of people in Southeast Asia but also know when I'm being played.

I know that I almost always pay too much when I bargain even after almost 3 months here. I'm just not a very good bargainer, I guess I don't have the stomach to eke out the last baht/dong/riel from someone. But I do generally know what the right price should be (within a range) and am usually okay paying more because relative to the price it's still a good value to me.

I will refuse to bargain or deal with someone who starts at an outrageous price or refuses to bargain in good faith thinking I must be stupid, that really annoys me and pisses me off. I will just give them a look and walk away, not saying what I am thinking...

I may be overly sensitive to these encounters right now after my time in Asia but it just seems like my last week or so in Thailand had many more negative interactions with people blatantly trying to rip me off than in the other 10-11 weeks combined. It does get to you constantly being on guard and suspicious of anyone who trys to be friendly.

Please don't get me wrong, I love it in Asia and enjoyed most of the people I have dealt with. Most are friendly or at worst, indifferent. Bargaining and hustling are just part of life and the culture here. By deciding to visit Asia that's what you sign up for and the need to smile and keep a good attitude is essential to have a rewarding trip. You just need to stay on guard and always be aware that locals will try to take unfair advantage of you in hundreds of different way and that they are very, very good at it!

One of my best tonics when I get annoyed with the locals is to watch other foreigners interact with vendors and touts. So often you see them get upset and you see how silly they look doing so. This never fails to bring me back to reality and bring a smile to my face and gives me the proper attitude adjustment.

I got sidetracked there, sorry...

I decided to leave Bangkok and head to Hong Kong. Why Hong Kong? No real reason except it's another place I've always wanted to visit. Hong Kong has held a special fascination for me ever since my Mom and Dad visited there in the late 1970's and told us stories and showed us pictures of their visit.

Also, several books by James Clavell, notably "Noble House" and "Tai Pan" were set in Hong Kong and were fascinating books with much history and culture within their pages. Anyone who has read James Clavell novel's (Shogun, Gai Jin, Whirlwind, King Rat) knows they are great stories and are filled with detailed historical facts and context that make them page turners. I have read all his books at least twice and loved them all.

Also, it is quite easy and relatively inexpensive to get to Hong Kong from Bangkok. It's only a 2 1/2 hour plane trip so when I got back to feeling normal I bought a ticket and was gone from Bangkok once again!

My next blog entry will be about my time and observations in Hong Kong.

Once again, sorry about the lack of pictures, the Internet Cafe I at here in Edinburgh doesn't allow USB hook ups to get my pictures transferred.

I wanted to put up a picture here of me in London in front of a poster for the Phantom of the Opera. It shows how cold it was there. I saw the play and really enjoyed it. Theatre in London is awesome and not to be missed.

The other reason I bring up the Phantom of the Opera is that I heard that Linda and Seth sing the duets of Christine and the Phantom after hours back in cube city.

Thank you for reading this. I hope to make this blog both interesting and entertaining. Please post a comment and let me know your thoughts, observations or counsel. Hearing from readers and knowing I have an audience is a great motivator and will be a great morale booster during down times on the road. Don’t forget to bookmark this site and tell a friend! Please feel free to e-mail me at “JeffMichie at Yahoo Dot Com”

Posted by Jeff on March 7, 2005 04:12 AM
Category: HONG KONG

I see a diplomatic job in your future. You are missed at the Wood and here at GV. Take care.

Posted by: Jason on March 7, 2005 09:21 AM

Your wheeling and dealing reminded me very much of a trip we took to the Yucatan - the vendors followed us constantly with "such a deal" - my girls actually made a video of us dealing with the Mexicans - one guy was trying to sell us a bracelet - my husband finally told him he would buy all his bracelets if he would leave us alone - he did - 6 bracelets - finally got rid of the vendor. There was always a story to tell. Love "Phantof the Opera" - I'm a big Andrew Lloyd Weber fan. Maybe Linda will enter the talent show the 3 casinos are having so we get a chance to hear that talent. Have fun in Scotland!!! Travel safely.


Posted by: Karen Wyatt on March 7, 2005 09:32 AM

Wow you do have a good imagination too. I never did like the barter system when we went to Mexico. I like a sticker price on the goods that I buy and if I don't like the price I am willing to wait for a sale. As a parent the word NO is one of the first words you teach a child. Often for their safty or the parents peace of mind which is about the same thing. Consider the bedlam in family life if NO is ALWAYS considered MAYBE.
Take care and have fun.
P S I like train rides too. Fred and I are doing a day on the train from Whitefish to Minn in June

Posted by: Bobbie on March 7, 2005 10:43 AM

Here's the story about driving on the left... back in the days of Knights, they always wanted to pass each other with their strong arm on the side of the stranger... just in case! Hence, the left side of the byway! Correction, Scotts are Brits too... only they don't like the English because we beat them in every war (except for Mel Gibson’s movie, which was one battle!) However there are reportedly more Scotts in England than Scotland, well close to it! I hope Peter Martin doesn't feel this way...

Shame you weren’t out on Saturday, we had a good night and missed you and Bob!

Posted by: Patrick on March 7, 2005 01:12 PM

Well I think the world has just succumbed to "Bush Fatigue" rather than any real acceptance of the administration's policies. Realizing that they (as we) are stuck with him for another 4 years, I imagine they think they better let bygones be bygones. This will only last as long as we avoid killing our allies (whoops!).

Rumors of my participation in Phantom duets is greatly exaggeraged. I am more inclined to "A Night at the Opera" rather than Phantom!

I imagine it's a bit chill to get a round of golf in while you are at the center of the universe?

Posted by: Seth on March 8, 2005 01:39 PM

I tried to tell you that George "W" stood for WRONG!!!!

Posted by: Anita on March 9, 2005 09:43 AM

Just reading through all your entries, feeling very envious, :):) maybe in 15 years when the kiddos are in college -- (oh wait I'll be really broke then) -- :) still miss you!

Posted by: Jen on March 10, 2005 03:57 PM
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