Korea time is over and we moved on to Thailand. Our travel day there was not actually that awesome... Day started by getting up at 4 am ( gross!) but everything getting to the airport went great. Um airport/plane, not as much. We waited and waited and waited in line to check in for Korean Air, all the while me, shaking in my boots praying that they wouldnt ask us for onward travel plans... bc we didnt have any! See, unexpected to us, travelling on a one way ticket is logistically more complex than on a round trip ticket (I.e. governments and airlines like to see that you are actually planning to go home someday!). When moving btwn borders, everyone wants to see proof of onward travel OUT of the country (within the time frame that you have a visa for or at least a relatively short term plan to go back to your own country)--and for the most part, this is supposed to be an air ticket. Which is bullshit bc most people in this area, us included, just travel overland and you cant really buy bus tickets online or in advance from anywhere other than on the ground to my knowledge. So as far as the rules go,for us, we basically look like we are a bunch of illegal immigrants looking to set up shop on the beaches of Thailand. Mainly it's the airlines who will ask you for proof bc by the sounds of it they're liable to get you back out of the country if immigration in the new country happens to ask you--so if you cant show them something, tough luck, they dont let you board your flight and you lose your cash. BUT, they dont always ask. Ive read lots of horror stories about people trying to board and being rejected so either missing their flight or having to scramble to either buy an air ticket online if you have WIFI or going to the airport ticket office to buy an expensive flight ticket. So ultimately it's your gamble: buy proof in the form of a throw away air ticket that you may never use and waste your money OR buy nothing and hope to hell they dont ask and if they do, hope you can pick some cheap throw away air ticket at the airport in time before the gates close! Neither are that good of options. Now, I know this comes as a surprise, but Bridger is more of a risk taker than me so he opted that we would buy nothing and hope they dont ask...
Anyways get up the counter, check in man is checking us in and doesn't speak that strong of English, things are going good and there it is... "Can I see ticket out of Thailand?". Fuck! Bridger, curse you, I hate you!!! Nothing to do now but plead ignorance and beg and make up some hard and fast definitive travel plans--insist that we don't have a ticket bc we are planning to take a bus ticket to Laos. So then he says "can I see bus ticket?" Fuck! Well no you cant bc I cant buy one until I get there. Then the poor man, he's really trying to help us, says something like "show me some booking for something for somewhere" and I have to say sorry, can't do that either because outside of this flight we literally are winging it and have NOTHING else booked, like, at all so I just keep going round in circles basically explaining how backpacking in SE Asia works and hoping he'll just get exhausted of us stupid tourist people and let us go. Haha ultimately I think we just got to the end of his English skills and his nerves so he eventually just gave up and waved us on. Win!!!
I've never been so relieved to got on a plane and kind of felt like my persistent, arguing, explaining ways were pretty awesome. It was shortlived. The plane smelled like dirty socks so my already jumpy post barf stomach was quivering, threatening to dump my breakfast out again. Luckily for me it didn't. Buuut that didnt stop the little kid in the seat directly behind us from dumping his...all over himself and the plane floor. Super! Now it smells like dirty socks sitting in puke. I felt really bad for the poor little guy b/c its never good to be stuck on a plane and puking :( But I also felt bad for us too! Ok, eventually your nose acclimatizes to the smell of puke, good. Then we get some super turbulence for a few hours-more than we've ever had on a plane before. Bridger kept saying he "was scared to deat" (he said I was allowed to tell that) so I held his hand and told him that everything is fine until the flight attendants look freaked out (I never knew I could be so brave on an airplane!). Good enough, we land, never been so happy to be on the ground and we're in Bangkok, hooray!
I was expecting so hot, so humid, sweat through your clothes standing there kind of Bangkok heat that I experienced last time I was there but it was absolutely beautiful!! Warm in the sun but a dry heat and constant breeze-I never sweat through my clothes once which was a huge and pleasant surprise. Bridger chided me for telling him he cant wear cotton shirts bc he'll drench them and I had to eat it and say that as it turned out, he was right...ouch! I think I will never travel in the summer again, winter weather is so much nicer...I guess that's why it's high season.
Khao San Road looked exactly the same as last time I was there and I was pleasantly surprised that I could still find my way around. What I don't remember being the case last time I was there was how many people smoke--it must be like 70%, its shocking! So Bridger and I have decided to start smoking too to fit in ;) The other thing I don't remember is how bitchy the Thai people on Khao San road were (nobody smiled ever!) though if I was them, I would be bitchy too bc Khao San Rd. is actually very, very annoying! I didnt know this because I loved it when I was there last. Did the place itself change or did I just change in the 9 years since I went?! The latter seems more likely. It was also really funny to just people watch as Khao San Road has people of all ages, travelling experience, country, everything!
We spent alot of time just walking around the area and eating (thai pancakes finally!!!). Its so fantastic bc there are 7-11's everywhere that sell beer and coolers for like $1.50 so you just pick up a drink from 7-11 and walk down the street with it. Haha one time we went in to 7-11 and a guy was meticulously mopping the floor with a mop and spray bottle and Bridger was very impressed. And then ironically Bridger (who can be known to be careless!), went to go grab a beer out of the cooler but somehow knocked the one behind off and it smashed all over the floor! So now the mopping man that Bridger had just given props to who had just finished mopping the floor had to come back and start again...was he ever mad, as you would be! Bridger felt horrible and kept trying to apologize and the guy wouldn't speak to him or even make eye contact with him AT ALL! It was very awkward!
Bridger has had quite the experience in Bangkok- I guess at one point he was sitting in the bar and the Thai bartender came up to him and point blank commented "you have a really big nose" and then "she wants to touch it" about a Thai waitress. So she did. Wherever there was booze, Bridger seemed to have a rough go!
One day we went to the mall bc we needed memory sticks and everything on Khao San Rd. was fake. God bless him, our taxi driver on the way kept pointing out things and trying to say things to us that were pretty well unintelligible! Bridger and I kept looking at eachother praying that the other one understood at least one word of what he said so that we could respond like a human but no such luck. So we spent the whole taxi ride saying riveting things as "oooh" and "hmmm" and "ok" and willing it to be over as fast as possible so we could escape the awkwardness. Haha in hindsight, I wonder if he was on some sort of a bluetooth or something and we just interpreted that he was talking to us but he wasn't and we kept responding like monkeys!
While we were at the mall I had the gut-churning realization that, through a series of miscommunications btwn Bridger and I, I don't think I locked up my money belt and it was just sitting on the dresser openly in our room. Not only did it have my $300 American cash, it had my passport and literally every single credit, bank, dive, IAMAT etc. card I brought with me. I almost puked. What a dumb, dumb, dumb shit mistake-I cant believe I would ever do that! I made us peel out of the mall as fast as possible to get back but then we got stuck in traffic for like an hour-I thought I was gonna lose it! We eventually made it back to the hostel and sure enough, it was locked up haha! Ive actually screwed up so much this trip--way more than Bridger which has been an unexpected twist! I'm also clearly on edge b/c I've also been totally convinced we've gotten robbed twice on this trip so far. Once I cant remember what happened but the other I was absolutely convinced that someone broke into our locker (by watching us to the combo in the video camera--for the love Bridger I told you to cover it up when you entered the combo!!!) and stole our ipad b/c it actually wasnt there! But then I found it plugged in in our room, where I last plugged it in haha. I think I'm losing my mind.
At the end of our Bangkok trip we started to take our malaria pills. Since they are an antibiotic we are supposed to take them with lots of water and food but not iron or calcium...wtf, that's all food!! So take them with food but not food?!! Decided to just give it a shot on an empty stomach bc the whole food thing was too much of a pain in the butt. Didn't work! Within a short time I felt like it dropped a hole through my stomach. Bridger didn't say anything at all so I waited and waited, don't want to suggest, and still nothing so thought maybe he's ok. Finally I asked him how his stomach was and he said totally fine. haha then within minutes (i.e. after his attention was drawn to it) his stomach became totally not fine and in so much pain and then minutes after that he said he was hallucinating--hallucinating is not even a side effect of the pills! I thought he, being the chill out one, was above the power of suggestion but I learned something new about him that day--that he apparently is not at all! See, 8 years later and still learning :)
So Bridger and I fought for half the time we were in Bangkok and ended up staying a few days longer bc of it...so by the end of it, we just needed to get the heck out of there as fast and as easy as possible! We decided to take the hit and book a stupid tour agent fully all paid in trip (transport to bus, long distance tour bus, taxi to boat dock, boat ride) to Railay for an exorbitant amount of money by SE Asia standards. But at least we'd get there hassle free we thought...why do people ever think that?!! We were told to wait at our guesthouse at a certain time assuming the tour bus would swing by to pick us up from there. Haha, oh dear sweet us, how stupid. What shows up to pick us up...a man on a bicycle who says "follow me". For real?! So we throw our big pack on our backs and our small packs on our fronts and hoof it down the street, down the next street, down the alley, through the narrow passageway, through the parking lot, down the next tiny street silently following the man riding the bicycle. He did lead us to a minibus which we got on for awhile until it dropped us at what looked like a bus station but not quite the bus station...the bus just dropped a pile of tourists on a grassy patch and said "wait here" and left. Wait for what?! For how long?! How is this our "convenient and user friendly $40 trip?! So we did... not sure for who or what we were waiting for but just waited, hoping this wasn't the great $40 scam where we get dumped on the grass and nobody ever comes and they laugh at us for being so stupid and then we end up buying our own bus ticket anyways. Haha the thing about travelling is there is only so far you can get yourself and the rest is just blind trust in people you've never met who you cant really communicate with because of the language barrier and you just hope and hope some more that everything works out. Ironically, I guess that's why travelling is good for my neurotic, anxious soul as it literally makes you surrender to whatever it is that is out of your control! Anyways, we waited for like half hour until someone else showed up to give us our tickets and sent us walking over the real bus stop. On the bus trip we met a girl from Brazil who was travelling solo so the 3 of us kind of packed around together. Its funny bc we hung out the whole bus and after bus and didn't even occur to me that we didn't even know her name! It seems so common when travelling that you meet people and hangout with them for hours but never even know their name. And then eventually you part and realize you never ever knew their name and it doesn't matter bc theyre only around for a brief and fleeting moment in time. Anyways, I dont know what kind of a bus we were on but "dinner was included". Since it was an overnight bus, we stopped about about 11 pm at a giant roadside warehouse thing...usually these bus stopping places are like places of grisly meat and squatty potty's if not just a hole in the floor in place of a toilet altogether so I didn't have very high expectations to begin with. You cross your fingers and hope for a western toilet and if you're REALLY luck you might get a western toilet WITH a toilet seat lid (seriously, I don't know where the toilet seat lids go but they are so rare!). On this particular time, my stomach dropped bc I walked in and squatty potty's (those holes in the ground with foot pads on each side that you literally squat over and do your business and then dump water in them to flush) but kept walking and found a western toilet with no lid! So I kept walking and eventually found a stall WITH a toilet seat...GREAT day!
Anyways, we walked into the main area of this place and they ushered us into a giant room where "dinner" was prepared and the "hosts" directed us to sit around a circle table for a shared meal with random local strangers from the bus. On the table, we each had some sort of a soup (i.e. rice pieces floating in water) and then very small plates of random mystery items in the middle of the table to share. Now this was very confusing because mostly we had NO idea what each of the items was and we just had a bowl with a spoon in front of us with no extra plates to actually put the food in the middle of the table on...so we honestly sat there and had NO idea what we were supposed to do and even if we did, we weren't totally sure we could do it anyways! So we laughed.
And when in doubt, do what you normally do which was just start very slowly eating the disgusting rice floaties "soup" first and then go for the other mystery food after. But we watched the local people, and nope that wasn't what you do. Now I would assume that if the mystery foods were supposed to go in the soup, you would scoop them, dump in the soup to "create" your soup and then mix it all up and eat. No....not true. The local people took a spoon and dumped like one piece of mystery food in the rice-floaty bowl and then ate one bite of rice-floaty soup with one piece of mystery food on top of it. Then repeat and so on. This made absolutely NO sense to us but that's what we did anyways to fit in. Thank god for bus snacks (I learned a long time ago that you ALWAYS stock up on random junk on the bus so you don't starve if they don't stop or if when they do stop the food is inedible!) bc that was the smallest portion size I ever saw and the local people picked at it like birds so we didn't want to be glutinous pigs and stuff our face and take more of our fair share! But we also didn't want to starve! But we also didn't really want to eat it anyways. We got in as much as we could and then went back to the bus but I feared explosive diarrhea on the bus for every minute thereafter bc I realized that maybe the soup was made from local water, ugh. Luckily, it didn't happen.
So after we got back on the bus we drove for a bit and everyone was getting ready to just settle in and go to sleep bc it was now about midnight. But the bus made one more stop...and on this last stop before everyone going to sleep, ya, we picked up a woman and her infant...a baby on a night bus, for the love of god! Haha you could just feel the collective "oh shit' that everybody on the bus silently said as baby got on. Sure enough, baby fussed and cried for a great chunk of the night...luckily she was super super cute which tempered it a bit!
From what I continue to gather on the road, seatbelts are just not a thing. Seatbelts are actually so not a thing that even when there are seatbelts there (e.g. on the bus), they are usually neatly tucked away behind the seat so you cant use them...why?!?! It's ok most of the time bc honestly, you're often stuck in traffic and never really going that fast anyways! But none the less, I always hope that next trip I go, seatbelts will have caught on globally and Ill get to buckle up every time im in a vehicle, but alas, I'll keep waiting for the day.
For me travelling, is a daily, minutely exercise in trying to stay in the moment and "just don't think about it"--you'll go crazy thinking about the "what ifs"! That definitely comes more easily to Bridger as his default setting in life is to just not worry and "cross that bridge when we get there" where my default setting is to think of all possible possibilities and plan for all of them in advance of them occurring! However, that being said, Bridger's default is also to move, move, move, move ahead all the time so I'd say he's struggled (and grumbled!) a bit (alot!) in the "hurry up and wait" mentality that is travelling!
Which didnt fare well for him when the bus dropped us off at the bus station and the "convenient" fully paid trip went awry bc the company that was supposed to pick us up and take us the pier and get us to water taxi to Railay didnt show up for like an hour and a half. A kind tour desk lady called for us and was told "they were coming". Then they didn't. So I called and was told the same thing and then I tried to politely push for a time window and they hung up on me. And then the Brazilian gal called and demanded a time and they hung up on her too. Haha so now we were sitting at the bus stop wondering if they would ever come and faced with the possibility of having to forfeit our money and just buy another ticket for like $20 at the bus stop. I was actually a little nervous that Brazil losing her temper was going to make them hate us and just decide never to pick us up but eventually they showed up. My god and the people who showed up to get us...they must have been like 20 and i think only one of them actually worked for the company and the other was just his friend along for the ride. They threw us in the back of an open air truck and blazed down the highway to who knows where. Eventually they stopped...at the pharmacy and did a little errand. And then they stopped again...at the music store and bought a cd! And then they finally stopped at the pier so we eventually got our water taxi on to Railay beach. I honestly don't think I've ever been so happy to get out of a vehicle before!
And the story goes on...