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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 Village of Two Houses

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

I got “home” late last night from a day trip to a “village” just off highway 304 in Chachoengsao Province about two hours east of Bangkok.  This visit had several advantages.

I got to see my friends Dave and Syy again and meet Syy’s mother, brother and two year old niece who slept the peaceful afternoon away in a cloth swing while we visited in an outdoor covered area attached to Syy’s mother’s house.

I got to see my Vietnamese friend Nick again.  Nick is a flight attendant for United Airlines. I last saw him a couple years ago when he visited me, Doug and Luk on Koh Samui on a quick side-trip on his way to visit family in Viet Nam.  He gave me a freshly minted copy of his memoirs on that visitthat included the story of his escape with his family from Saigon in 1975 when he was 7 years old and subsequently resettled in the middle of Kansas!

Dave, Syy and I were imagining Nick lounging in first class on his flight from LA to Bangkok this time too.  But alas we gave him our appropriate condolences when he revealed that the flight was full, he got the flight attendant jump seat all the way from LA to Tokyo and a middle seat in coach seat from there to Bangkok!  We truly hope that he got a better seat on his return flight this morning….having spent only one night in Bangkok!

And I got to find out how to catch a van to outlying areas.  Skytrain to the Victory Monument. From the skytrain platform, look for one of the figures on top of the monument of a sailor holding a torpedo.  Walk in the direction that the torpedo is pointing.  Take an exit off the platform to the right…to a small street named Ratchatewi 11 that runs parallel to the raised BTS walkway above.  About half way down that street look for a restaurant called Pong Lee.  Next to the restaurant is a sidewalk desk to buy a ticket for the desired van.  Show them a piece of paper that says in Thai (presumably you have found someone to do this for you) Pratchinburi/Klong Rang/Tawa Ravadee Hotel so they can direct you to the right van in a very long line of white vans lined up on the street.  The fee for us was 130 baht one-way…or $4.00.  (But Dave said it should have been 120 baht so we don’t know whether to blame Nick or me!)

Dave wrote a little description of the “village” for his email list that I think I will lift for this post because his description is much better than mine would be. He says:

<em>the village is composed of two adjoining houses, Na Tit’s abode and Syy’s mom’s old house. Syy’s moms house is now an empty shell housing a few relics of the past including a clock stuck at 5:30 and memory filled photos on the wall reminding one of an earlier time. The house has been gutted of all inner conveniences and last night I was forced to sleep on the hard wood floor, waking up with an ache in the back or maybe an ache in the heart for the old home.

The days are warm and mild, the chickens wake us up every morning at 5. Now we have to make the long walk through the overgrown remnants of what used to be a garden but is now planted with thorny eggplants to Somsak’s home for our tri daily meals. Since we were here last, Somsak has built 2 small adjoining rooms on the estate, one for mother and one for Far. Somsak and Duen’s small room was slammed with lightening not long ago which tore out their AC unit.

Ants and papayas seem to be the big cash crops this year. The backyard is filled with recently planted papaya’s already loaded with young green fruit. The homes that were removed this year from the village have been completely replaced by the tropical vegetation and now you can never tell they were ever there. As a result, there is a new natural feel to the village, having lost its human component, and has been replaced by a veritable green paradise.

We started our meal last night with a bang, eating big green and white ants with enormous abdomens that literally pop in your mouth, making a sound akin to popcorn bursting into action for the first time on the bottom of a hot grease filled frying pan.</em>

As I sit here writing this, I hear fireworks. It seems very familiar.  Then I realize I am in Thailand not Oaxaca Mexico!  I step out onto my small 8th floor veranda and see the sky between the buildings alive with light and sound. I feel right at home because I have no idea what the occasion is…just like most of the times there are fireworks displays in Oaxaca! :)   This is the 3rd fireworks in a month here.  Last couple fireworks I figured was in honor of the King’s birthday.

This time…Christmas?!!

International Driving

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007
Don't know if it's just Oaxaca or maybe it's the whole of Mexico. However, my dentist says that drivers in Oaxaca are worse than in Mexico City! But in Xalapa they were ever so polite...big fines meted out ... [Continue reading this entry]

Market In Tlacolula

Monday, June 19th, 2006
oaxacacentralmap.jpg Yesterday my friend Sharon and I hopped a diesel-spewing bus for the hour ride to Tlacolula, southeast of the city, where vendors from multiple little villages around the Oaxaca Valley come on Sundays to ... [Continue reading this entry]

Tuk Tuk Tour

Saturday, April 15th, 2006
After the Lao Cotton Company party, Villa, the driver, took a nap in his tuk tuk while we rested in our room. Later that night we toured the city under the lights. Villa, it turns out, is not just ... [Continue reading this entry]

Sabaidee Pi Mai Lao!

Thursday, April 13th, 2006
Lao New Year (and in Thailand) is a time to encourage young people to absorb the spirit of cleaning their temples, houses, stupas of their ancestors and apparently the bodies of anyone, especially the foreigners they come across. The purpose ... [Continue reading this entry]

Phousi Market

Sunday, April 9th, 2006
LKcJ5S1GCDOhltUeaMWmZw-2006185144552848.gif I discovered today that the Talat Dala Market that used to be up the street toward the river has moved to the outskirts of town and is now called the Phousi Market (pronounced "poosi ... [Continue reading this entry]

Lao “Disco”

Monday, April 3rd, 2006
ySKKSpbtXBjgyhP6z8LuC0-2006217035001655.gif Last night a lively 50 year old woman that teaches kindergarten in Alberta Canada, a young woman from California who is a consultant to a California educational testing company, an even younger woman from ... [Continue reading this entry]

Luang Prabang Lao

Sunday, April 2nd, 2006
1wXSp3CkNsDoJl3s0SgHmw-2006171144731304.gif DSC00495.JPG Luang Prabang is an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and ... [Continue reading this entry]

Faithful Tuk Tuk Driver

Saturday, March 25th, 2006
eWCBF9KYWi73omUCUHRffw-2006185115650300.gif Nice to have someone faithful to me. I trust Supoat, in his 50's, with soft face and warm bright eyes. I call him when I need him to drive me somewhere in ... [Continue reading this entry]

Motorcycle Serenade

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006
Last night I hopped a motorcycle taxi at the corner. "Where you from?" the cute young driver asked. "America," I said. "America Pie" he sang to me all the way to my dentist appointment. "I used ... [Continue reading this entry]

Washington Heights

Sunday, October 23rd, 2005
The "F" subway line, if you take it to the very end at the northern tip of Manhattan Island, lets you off in a Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights. Everyone on the streets and in the stores were Spanish-speaking giving ... [Continue reading this entry]

Stories Of The Bangkok Street

Tuesday, July 12th, 2005
Ten baht (25 cents) for a motorcycle taxi gets me to the American educated dentist down the soi and around the corner in little more than a minute...scared to death that the trucks, cars, motorcycles, light poles, ... [Continue reading this entry]

A Harley in Viet Nam

Saturday, June 18th, 2005
1wXSp3CkNsDoJl3s0SgHmw-2006171162818157.gif June 10, 2004 While I was in Bangkok Bob flew to Vietnam. He wrote to say he had difficulties accessing the web today and spent most of the day traveling. His emails: Now in Da lat ... [Continue reading this entry]

“Oh New Shoes Lost Me!”

Monday, May 16th, 2005
1wXSp3CkNsDoJl3s0SgHmw-2006171163517229.gif After a flight from Bangkok on Bangkok Air, I have been enjoying my 26 year-old daughter-in-law on quiet Khlong Muang Beach in Krabi Province the last couple of weeks while my son Doug is ... [Continue reading this entry]

Message from Ulaan Bataar

Saturday, October 9th, 2004
GyTjn0QZP9l6Qu21TubskM-2006198062551304.gif Greetings- Have been in Mongolia for the past week--initial few days in a ger bordering on a national park--lazy, relaxing days with hiking and Mongolian pony riding (when on the horse my feet nearly reach ... [Continue reading this entry]

Big Noses In The Back Again!

Wednesday, December 18th, 2002
YUqE3FCf1Hd9CjfG1qqmt0-2006171132705308.gif Bus to Dali As we pulled ourselves up into the luxury express bus we felt that we were living large...we wouldn't have local color but we would have comfort for a change. Jana, ... [Continue reading this entry]

Westerners Go In The Back

Thursday, November 21st, 2002
YUqE3FCf1Hd9CjfG1qqmt0-2006171132705308.gif Video Thursday November 21 2002 Reading "The Coming Collapse of China," a book written by a Chinese American economist...a dissenting opinion...he gives China five years to get their banking system in order...which he doubts will ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hanoi City Tour

Wednesday, September 25th, 2002
Wasn't excited by the city bus tours so spent an entire day riding behind a motorcycle taxi guy to visit the One Pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature and the Martyrs Monument erected to those who died fighting for Viet Nam's ... [Continue reading this entry]

Nyaung U

Friday, August 23rd, 2002
Burma.gif The largest village in the area is Nyaung U about 5 km up the Irriwaddy River from the Pagan Archeological Site and you can visit the market and food stalls there by taking a ... [Continue reading this entry]

Skytrain Tuk Tuks Cycles & Boats

Tuesday, August 6th, 2002
The SkyTrain is an air conditioned jam-packed elevated transportation system financed by the World Bank that can scoot you quickly from one part of the city to another but for some reason, probably due to corruption, is in the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Rickshaw Driving Lesson

Wednesday, July 31st, 2002
After dinner, Bob entertains the nearby date sellers by dickering with another rickshaw driver who makes the mistake of saying to Bob "You are rich man-why can't you give me few extra rupees?" Bob shot back that "I have ... [Continue reading this entry]

Bargaining for a Rickshaw

Tuesday, July 30th, 2002
Our last night in Delhi before taking the train to a cooler Shimla in the mountains for a few days, we strike out in the worst part of the day for traffic to have dinner in Old Delhi. Bob ... [Continue reading this entry]

Traveling India Bob-Style

Saturday, July 27th, 2002
The Indians have a wonderful sense of humor so Bob takes advantage of it and manages to turn everything upside down wherever we go. In addition to an auto-rickshaw, India has bicycle rickshaws-a three-wheeler bicycle with a seat for ... [Continue reading this entry]

Mr. Singh’s Rickshaw In Udaipur

Sunday, July 21st, 2002
We take the offer of Mr. Singh, the Sikh driver of an auto-rickshaw, a small, noisy, three-wheeled motorized contraption with no doors, to take us around the narrow streets that are filled with cows, people, dogs, pigs, men in dirty ... [Continue reading this entry]

Four Taxis to Dinner In Mumbai

Thursday, July 18th, 2002
In Mumbai one night it was so ludicrous we just had to laugh...afterward. Taxi number one only got us to the end of our street before Bob, realizing the driver didn�t know where the hell to go, jumped out of ... [Continue reading this entry]

Asane’s Taxi Tour

Thursday, July 18th, 2002
In Mumbai, we took a three-hour government sponsored tour in an Indian-made Ambassador car with "Indian A/C" which is a fan that sits on the dashboard. While we were waiting for Bob to run back to the hotel for the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Table Mountain & District 6

Tuesday, June 25th, 2002
S12J2pKbmw6zVZyRvmb7L0-2006193181305721.gif The geographical configuration of the city of Cape Town at the foot of Table Mountain is as beautiful as everyone has said it is. We took the cable car to the top of ... [Continue reading this entry]

Otjiwarongo Cheetah Camp

Wednesday, June 5th, 2002
t5vdleC6v9bjElbi1QdXwg-2006193172914229.gif June 5, 2002 The next morning James drives us back to Outjo, the small predominantly German/Afrikaner town we had stayed in before and we buy apple strudel and real drip coffee in the bakery and ... [Continue reading this entry]

Ombinda Country Lodge

Sunday, June 2nd, 2002
t5vdleC6v9bjElbi1QdXwg-2006193172914229.gif Sunday June 2, 2002 near Outjo Yesterday the truck broke a spring so we stopped in the Afrikaner town of Outjo to find a mechanic and pick up some groceries. James drove us to ... [Continue reading this entry]