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A Day In Bangkok

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Nice to be back and settled again in Bangkok. After two months in my serviced apartment before going to Samui, the doorman welcomed me back like an old friend….clicking his heels together and saluting (an odd custom here) and the receptionist greeted me with a big Thai smile. The doorman is trying to teach me Thai…just if I could only remember any of it!

Exhausted, I fell asleep early and of course woke up at 4am…hungry and wanting coffee so I ventured out in the warm dark morning in search of water and something to eat.  As I walked down my little soi, squeezing past the endless stream of taxis even at that early hour,  to Sukhumvit 22, the bored doorman at a nearby hotel waved furiously and offered a big “good morning.”  Twice!

A sweating vendor had stopped her charcoal grill cart in front of the ubiquitous 7-11 so I couldn’t resist the sweetly marinated hot pork and chicken satay on a stick. In the dark,  I handed her what I thought was two 20 baht bills.  “Oh, no,” she says as she handed me back one 1000 baht bill (about $30).

Later, I joined the male regulars sitting in front of the Parrot Cafe…a few Dutch guys, an Aussie businessman currently working via his computer on development projects in Saudi Arabia and Mozambique, a Norwegian who had walked all the way from the Ekamai skytrain station…waiting to meet a friend.  We read the Bangkok Post for entertainment and comment on the bizarre political goings-on in Thailand.  The Red Shirts, supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin convicted for corruption and now in exile, are planning a million man march in front of the government house…claiming they want a return to democracy!! :)) Ask the Yellow Shirts, one of whom is among us and who was arrested with 83 others when they took over the airport a few months ago, whether they think Thaksin wants democracy in Thailand.  Thailand is no democracy…just infighting among the ministers, parliament members, the military and the protestors of whatever side. Anyway, we trade comments and hope there is no violence and that Thailand can avoid yet another in a long line of military coups.

They all drift away and I am left with U2 on my iPod on my iPhone where also I catch up on my email with the free cafe WiFi… over another cup of coffee.  A couple approach me.  “Are you the laughingnomad,” they ask? I am furiously trying to remember where I met them before when they said they had found my blog on the web and had been following it.  They reminded me that my picture is on the home page of the blog and that I probably mentioned the Parrot Cafe in a post.  I was dumb-founded!  Americans from New Hampshire, they travel often and, like me, are in Bangkok for medical care.  He is an engineer and they have lived for years in places like Bangladesh and Manila. We trade stories. She shares a lovely children’s book she has written and illustrated. The last of four, the book nearly wrote itself, she says, as she composed it in her head on a serendipitous long bus trip in the company of an origami artist.  I love it! We exchanged cards and I invited them to Oaxaca. I do hope they take me up on my offer.  I really liked these two friendly people.

It was getting hot by this time so I retreated to my air-conditioned room…buying some fruit on the street on my way. I tip the waitresses well at this cafe.  There is no service charge and I appreciate the fact that these girls are not “working” in the bars or on the street.

Back in my room, I get an email from a “friend” I met on Couchsurfing, from Turkey, who says she will be arriving in Bangkok soon and wants to meet for coffee. I call Bumrungrad and make an appointment for another pap with my lovely Thai gynecologist and the dental clinic for an appointment to get the two crowns placed on my implants.

Then up popped my Thai protestor friend on Skype chat.  We talk politics. He tells me he has to fly to Australia to visit a “sick” mother.  This is the 4th year in a row that she has gotten “sick” on her birthday. I tell him my kids would never let me get away with this.  “This is the culture,” he says.  “I have to go.”  After four hours of this chat I notice the time. OMG!

Then I get a call from one of my husband’s friends in Pattaya who is temporarily in Bangkok for medical care.  He wants to see a movie.  I tell him I want to see George Clooney!  So tuesday we will. Goodie!

I call a Thai friend who is a professor of fisheries in a local university to let her know I am back in Bangkok.  She wants to take me to the fishing village again where she has some of her students  conducting a small-crab fishing study.  She is concerned about sustainable fishing practices in Thailand where the fish are fast disappearing.

Well, a few other things happened this day but this is pretty much what my days are like in Bangkok.  I have been here 3 months now and my psyche has adjusted to this culture. Now if I can just remember what little Spanish I have when I get back to Oaxaca…where my internal cultural clock will change back again!

Malaysia Visa Run

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Sunday (probably your Saturday) I spent 12 hours ferrying onto the mainland and going in a van 400km to Malaysia and back for new visa stamp. I have a multi-entry year long visa that cost me $120 ($54US) but they still make me leave every three months! Three caravaned vans with 10-12 people in each…and there are companies all over Samui that offer the same runs.  I thought I would get 3 more months but they gave me only 2 because it is all up to the particular border office what they will give you!  Now if I wanted to stay a third month I would have to go to the local Samui immigration office and pay 1800 baht ($54US) for 1 more month! Imagine how many expats all over Thailand or people on long-term stays who are doing the same thing!  Way to bring money into Thailand!  I think if I had flown out and back in I would have gotten 3 months.  But I’m leaving before the third month anyway.

The run was quite an experience as my son Doug who lives here warned me.  I think the Austrian trip leader belonged to the gestapo in another life! Maybe even a cousin of Hitler’s! :)) Driving 150km an hour (90mph) with only a half dozen near misses, we got only two 5-minute potty stops on the way and on the way back.  And at the border there was a HUGE local week-end market where we were told by the gestapo NO TIME FOR SHOPPING!  But some of the guys (and they were ALL guys) sneaked some food. And on the way back at the last stop we only got 2 minutes because the gestapo wanted to make the 3pm ferry to Samui instead of waiting until 4pm.  At the border office we got yelled at because we were standing as a group, as we had been told NOT to do, and not lined up one after the other like the SS. Wonder what would happen if he tried to do this in China! :)) Oh well…it was all quite organized.  He knew all the border guards and did a good job greasing the whole thing for us.  And wonder of wonders he pronounced my last name (Goetz) right!  I told him it was the first time ever!  Usually people who don’t know me say Go-etz or Goats instead of Gets! Ha!  But had never been on the Thai side of the Thai/Malaysia border so it was nice to see how tropical it was.  Southern Thailand has been racked in recent years by a Muslim separatist movement but like with all the negative media attention in Oaxaca…no bombers were seen! Ha!

The pony-tailed gestapo trip leader had visited most of the States and worked for two years in Florida as a tour guide. “Did you know Central Florida is the second largest beef cattle producer in the States?”  No! I exclaimed.  This is an interesting phenomenon.  Often foreign tourists know more about the sights than the local people.

I was tucked into the very back seat (seats were assigned by the gestapo) with a young guy from The Netherlands who at one time had a band in NYC…writing the lyrics and producing the music and who now was writing a book about Thai culture and the law to be entitled “RESPECT” targeted to all the young Western guys who are here for “Happy.”  Since he was married to a Thai,  I asked how long he had been living here. “16 months,” he says.  Oh, good, I thought!  And you are writing about Thai culture!  Guys don’t realize how dangerous it can be here, he says. Give a Thai the middle finger, he said, and you will be killed.  And of course everyone should know what happens if you are caught with drugs of any kind.  And 8 people are killed every week on the sandy ring road around Samui. Well, it will be better for young guys than reading “Bangkok 8” so it may do some good.  I hope.

A Month On Koh Samui Thailand

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010
Wow.  A lot of work setting up a restaurant!  My son leased one on the beach and since he is temporarily in the States it is up to Luk (his wife) her mother and I to run all the errands ... [Continue reading this entry]