BootsnAll Travel Network

Goodbye Asia

After I finished typing the blog entry, I decided on a whim to shave my head bald as I realized I have never seen myself bald and here was a good opportunity to do it. (I am on the trip to gain new experiences.) I went to a barber near the Ta Phrae gate and she worked for over a half an hour with an old fashioned razor to give my skull that smoothness that I desired. When you shave yourself bald you learn a few things about your skull that you didn’t know before. For example I have numerous scars and my head is not perfectly round on top. (If you are good, later I might even show you a picture.). Despite my head having an albino, never in the sun color, it didn’t look horrible. That task accomplished, I walked back to the hotel noticing that I was walking a bit easier and I was now so much more areodynamic. I went to bed early that night as I had to catch an early train.

The train left Chiang Mai at 8:30 am on time. I was traveling second class (the only class on the train) on an express train to Bangkok. Second class in Thai trains consists of seats similar to what one would find on a nice bus facing foward. Meals are served at your seat. The trip took 12 hours. It began slowly as we first had to wind our way through the mountains of Northern Thailand. After the mountains the rest of the trip went through what seemed like one big rice field. Thailand is one of the world’s largest rice exporters and now I know where they grow it all. I decided to get off the train early in Bang Sue as there was a subway link here. This was about two stops short of the main station. The train conductor was quite concerned when I wanted to get off here as he kept telling me this was not the main station. Through a series of train noises and hand signals trying to convey underground, I managed to convince him that, yes, I did really want to get off. When comprehension dawned on him that I wanted the subway, he recruited a disembarking passenger to show me the way (not really necessary as I could see it from the train, but nice.) I boarded the subway to Sukhumvit. After leaving the subway, I made my way to Robert’s (the guy I stayed with on my first trip to Bangkok) apartment. Robert was gone on a business trip, but was kind enough to let me use his apartment anyway.

My first full day in Bangkok was fairly slow. I spent most of it running errands and watching TV (my first TV to myself in quite a while). I first went to the tailors to do another fitting of my suits. The jackets were having a tendency to bunch up in the back. After a bit of fiddling with them, they decided to remove some fabric from the back  and told me to come back the next evening. I also found the post office as I would have to mail the suits and various other souvenirs homes. I ate supper that night at a food stall that I found in a grocery store parking lot.

 The next day was a sightseeing day. I decided to go out to Dusit Park. There is the world’s largest golden teakwood mansion here built by one of the Thai kings (Rama V I think) in 1900. I caught the skytrain and then the boat up river to the 15th stop. I then had to walk probably two kilometers to get there. The day was hot and muggy so I was annoyed and sweaty by the time I got there. I paid 100 baht to get in. This gave me access to the mansion and several other museums (housed in small homes built for various royal children) in the garden. I was highly annoyed that when I got to the mansion, I had to pay 20 baht for a locker to put my camera in as they were not allowed inside. There was no mention of this anywhere so everyone had to cough up the 20 baht. Normally these lockers are free. The mansion itself was quite good and worth the money. It contained 81 rooms full of period furnishings. The house consisted of two wings built around an octoganal center which served as the king’s apartments. After leaving the mansion, I stopped in the first museum which housed some of the current king’s photographs. Supposedly, he is a budding photographer. The pictures themselves mostly consisted of various family members and were okay. They were full of descriptions involving words like magnificent, beautiful, catches the light. The other musuems consisted of exhibits showing collections and gifts that the royal family had ammassed over the years. The clock exhibit was very nice with lots of antique European clocks including several somber English grandfather clocks. After viewing the museums, I left the garden and decided to try to find an easier way home. Sure enough, I found a bus that took me directly to a Skytrain station. The trip back was a lot faster. In the evening I returned to the tailors and finally found the jackets pretty much to my liking. I finally had to admit that the remaining dislike was due to my body shape not the clothing.

My third full day in Bangkok was another errand day. I brought my suits and other souvenirs to the post office. Due to the odd size of some of my items, the guy at the packing center had to get pretty creative with cutting up a box to get my things to fit. In all I had about 6.5 kgs to mail home. After having them packed, I went to the mailing counter and paid 2500 baht to send them by economy air. They should arrive home in 3-5 weeks. In the evening, I contacted Ed. Ed is a friend of an engineer that I worked with in Houston. He works at a valve company in Bangkok and emailed saying we should meet up if I had time in Bangkok. We agreed to meet for lunch the next day. Robert arrived home late that night and after a quick visit he went to bed.  It took me until midnight in the Internet cafe buying the remainder of my plane tickets for my trip.

I met Ed for lunch the next day at a mall near where he works. We ate in the food court and visited for an hour before he had to return to work. I then returned to Robert’s apartment, finished packing, and killed time until it was time to go to the airport. I decided to try to make it without a taxi. I took the Skytrain to the On Nut station. From there I saw minivans with airport signs on them leaving regularly from a car park near the station. I got in one and was driven to the airport. Even though it took longer, I ended up paying 60 baht as opposed to 250 in the taxi.

At the airport, I had to wait nearly 1.5 hours for the Royal Jordanian counter to open. After checking in, I bought some peanuts from a store and changed most of my remaining baht to dollars. I used my last baht to buy supper. After eating I went to the gate and was still two hours ealry for 23:15 flight to Amman, Jordan. At the gate counter, I asked if there were any exit rows available and was told I had an exit row. Upon boarding the plane, I found I was actually sitting right behind the exit row so I got to spend 10 hours watching others enjoy the leg room. The leg room on this plane for normal seats was ridiculously low compared to other airlines I have been on. I passed the time talking to a lady named Rita who had recently moved to Jordan from Sweden. She taught me how to say hello and thank you in Arabic. I didn’t sleep very much due to the confined space and my inability to sleep on planes. Arriving exhausted in Amman, I found a small bench on which to semi stretch out to pass my six hour layover. I spent most of the time drifting in and out of a half sleep. At 9:15 am, I boarded the plane and how a quick one hour flight (I was in an exit row this time.) to Cairo.

Upon arrival in Cairo, I first had to get a visa for $15. I then got in line for immigration. While in line, I caught sight of Tyson a friend who is joining me for the Egypt portion of my trip. He was coming from New York and our flights arrived at the same time. After immigration, I grabbed my checked bag which only contained a sleeping bag, shampoo, and toothpaste. The only reason I checked it was because of the big shampoo and toothpaste that I didn’t want to throw away. I added the sleeping bag to give the bag some volume. I met up with Tyson after he cleared immigration  and then we went through customs. I am not sure why they bothered as we were just waved through. They didn’t even take the big blue form that I so painstakingly filled out. We then tried to find a taxi to take us to the hotel. I declined a few offers that were too expensive. We went to the front of the airport and waved down an old black and white taxi.  While we were getting in, a policeman came over and for some reason got involved in the taxi price negotiation. I guess he gets a cut. We finally agreed on 50 Egyptian pounds (5.5 pounds per US dollar). The only problem was we didn’t have any pounds, but I didn’t tell him that. I took the risk that he would except dollars later. We first had to give him some money to pay to leave the airport. (He took dollars.) He set off driving and it soon became apparent that he had no idea where to take us despite the maps we had gave him. To be fair the text was in English of which he spoke very little. Despite asking several taxi drivers at stop lighs he still had no idea. We knew we had to cross the Nile, but he kept driving away from it. He finally stopped the car, got out, and had a long consultation with some man.  They came to the conclusion that we were pronouncing the name of the hotel wrong. This is why he couldn’t find it. We had to pay the man a $2 “tip” for this earth shattering conclusion. We decided to except their theory for the moment as the taxi driver finally seemed to have a destination. He proudly pulled in front of a hotel that was spelled like the new pronunciation. The only problem was that our hotel name is spelled completely different and we had to drive on again. In a large group of traffic, he gave our maps to a guy in a car in the lane next to us and asked for directions. We spent about 10 minutes playing car leap frog as our lanes we were in moved at different speeds with the discussion being abruptly broken off as one lane or the other move faster.  This really didn’t appear to resolve anything, but fortunately we were finally near the Nile. We got our driver to cross it and started to recognize some street names on the map. With one final direction stop, we finally arrived (after a fuel stop as he must have burned a tank of gas with all the U- Turns.). We paid him extra for his trouble. While Tyson checked in, I set off to find an ATM. I found one with the help of a shop owner. After using the ATM, he wanted me to come look at his shop which I felt was only polite after his help. I spent a few minutes looking at his papyrus paintings and perfumes and pled sleepiness so that I could leave. This wasn’t a lie as  I was now exhauted. Returning to the hotel, we checked into our room and promptly went to sleep as Tyson was also sleep deprived. At some point, Tyson made mention of all the AK-47s that he had seen while the taxi driver was taking us on an unscheduled tour of Cairo and how it made him uncomfortable. This observation surprised me as I hadn’t noticed the guns. I have seen so many people with guns in Laos and Cambodia, I guess I just don’t notice it anymore.  Getting up about two hours later, we then walked to this Internet cafe where I am typing this blog. Tomorrow, we will meet up our tour group for our 15 day tour of Egypt.


1. New country costs for those following my budget.

Thailand: 23 days $23.70/day – a lot of this was mailing costs and visas

Laos: 35 days $19/day

Cambodia: 24 days $24.25/day – Angkor Wat/Siem Reap is very expensive

2. Sorry I tried to upload my bald pictures, but this computer is not recognizing my camera. It happens sometimes. I will try again on the next entry.

3. For those in Thailand looking to get suits made. Mohan’s Fashions of Sukhumvit Soi 10 proved to be very trustworthy and willing to do what was necessary to make the suits my satisfaction. There are many rip off tailors in Bangkok, so a good reference invaluable.

 4. As I am now in Africa, I say goodbye to Asia where I have been since August. Asia is a very differnt world from the west and had to be taken on its own terms. At its worst, its exhausting and overwhelming. At its best, it’s an invigorating experience that engages all the senses. I will miss the busy markets and often inefficient (yet much more interesting) ways of doing things. I look foward to the new challenges that Egypt and Europe should bring.

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3 Responses to “Goodbye Asia”

  1. Rita Shakhtour Says:

    Hello Barry, we sat next to each other on the plane to Amman, which was not a very comfy flight for you 🙂 I enjoyed reading your blog. I hope the arabic words you learnt will come in hand. Looking forward to read more about what you experience in Egypt! I have never been there but thinking of going some time. Email me if you ever decide to go to Jordan. I hope you end up on a comfy sofa in Paris 🙂

  2. Posted from Jordan Jordan
  3. Gashwin Says:

    Hola buddy … I’m back from my overseas travels … haven’t checked your blog in a while. I’m good, so show me the photo of bald Barry :-p

    Get ready for Europe and the dizzying slide of the dollar versus the €!

  4. Posted from United States United States
  5. Sean Says:

    I am sure by the time you get this you will have stubble on your head and will have experienced the utter weirdness of putting on and taking off a T-shirt, or really anytime that your head comes in contact with a fabric for that matter.

  6. Posted from United States United States

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