Saturday, April 10, 2010

Failure to Book

For the first time on my trip, my lack of ability to plan and book things in almost failed me. almost! I was in Kanchanaburi and attempted to book a ticket to get from there to chiang mai but unfortunately for the next day the night buses were all fully booked (according to the travel agent). This was for a ticket that went via bangkok. I tried to get her to book a ticket from bangkok for the following day but the lady at the desk who I am 99.9% posive was a lady boy couldn't quite understand my request to to bangkok on one day and then from there to chiang mai the following. So I instead booked a ticket to Bangkok to try and purchase a bus ticket (ideally a night one as its a 10+ hour bus ride) from there instead. Upon arrival back to Bangkok I tried out a number of different travel agents on Khao San Rd and eventually discovered that all the private buses and mini buses up to Chiang Mai were fully booked until Songkran, or for the next 5 days at least. Great!

I decided that if I wasn't able to get up north (as I wasn't prepared to pay $200 a ticket to get up there by plane) then I would go straight down south instead and explore some of those areas. the last wild card that I had with my attempt to get up to Chiang Mai was to get myself to the bus station (about 40 minutes away from the area of town I was in) early in the morning and try get a ticket on one of the local or government buses. This was a huge gamble, but my last chance so I gave it a shot this morning and grabbed a taxi out to the bus station at 7am. The bus station has at least about 50 different companies that run from it and subsequently outside there are that number of counters to choose from. Thankfully here in Thailand alot of things are written in both English and Thai. The first counter I approached that was advertising buses to Chiang Mai (1st class as I'd been recommended to try) was unsuccessful as all buses are fully booked. So then I tried the next counter where the government VIP buses are booked from. I was informed that I could get a a 2nd class bus to Chiang Mai leaving at 10:30 (it was 8:30 at the time). With 2 hours to kill I went outside the main (airconditioned) bus station to the little plastic chairs joint across the road for some breakfast where I had some amazing pork noodle soup for breakfast. Yum. First noodle soup I've had in Thailand and for a while actually. Most of the foods here are all greasy and oily which (for me at least) gets a bit overrated quickly.

So I am now currently on the bus on my way up to Chiang Mai. I have been advised by an expat couple that have lived here for over 5 years that it is probably not a smart idea for me to hire a motorbike and ride out to Pai at the moment. Which is a bit of a shame as I've heard the drive is amazing. This is because with it being Songkran (thai new year) I will get buckets of water thrown at me and apparently the village kids have perfect aim and technique! Many accidents occur during Songkran all over Thailand. It will be absoutely impossible to stay dry, which is good as the temperature will be soaring in the mid to high 40s I believe.

With my extra unexpected day in Bangkok I did a bit of shopping and explorations of the city. I'm glad I'm not a huge shopper, can only manage a small amount before I'm fed up. The shops here just never end. The markets on the street sell pretty much anything you could ever want as well, from tshirts to shoes, to jewellery to hair braiding, massages, watches and even counterfeit ID, diploma's, degrees. You name it, they can recreate it apparently. I did manage to sneak a photo of one of these guy's display while he had left it for a moment, and had overheard him selling some ID for 1000 baht ($30). I went to MBK again for an hour or two and probably only got through a third of one of their many many levels. I think there is 6 but it could be more. I also grabbed a little netbook which is what I'm writing from now. I can't believe I've managed so long without it - It is so convenient to have as everywhere has wi-fi and means you have instant access to so many things. ahhh.. the joys of flash packing!! :) I don't think you can call it backpacking as much as you used to in asia as you always stay in guesthouses or hotel rooms for a few dollars. I have never had to use my sleeping bag.

In Bangkok itself, it seems as though there is a little bit more of tension, but doesn't feel uneasy or anything. This morning on my taxi ride I saw quite alot of police out and about on the roads, some of whom were in I guess what you'd call "riot-ready gear" with the big shields, helmets etc. There is quite a long major street in town that has been taken over by the "red shirts" which causes hassles with traffic. Last night there were also a few police roaming round khao san road but from what I saw nothing happened. I was warned at one stage by a local not to walk too far away because of the red shirts, for safety. I've never felt unsafe here though.

Felt a little bit lost last night in Bangkok. The people I did know who were in town all went out to the red light district to watch a ping pong show which I had absolutely no desire to be involved in. So I spent the night exploring, walking around the streets and people watching.There are some real characters in the world out there. As always I'm questioning what I'm doing, where I'm going, what I should to aiming for, focussing on. Continuous questions. I know what I'm interested in, but not what I want. Why is that such a hard question to answer? I don't quite understand, but I just don't know what I want. For anything. It is quite frustrating.

Something a little more lighthearted, while I was in Kanchanaburi i went out to a few of the small bars and restaurants that graced the peaceful tourist stretch. I have to say that I had the best thai green and red curries at this little restaurant that I have ever had. But I Forgot to take a picture :( ah well. Anyway. In Asia almost all the toilets are manually flushing, squat toilets. Next to the toilet is usually a big tub or bucket of some sort where water is kept to flush the toilet after use. In one of the bar's that we went to on my last night in Kanchanaburi, this water well in the mens toilet contained a large goldfish swimming around!! Needless to say, this caused some amusement to all patrons who happened to venture into the men's toilet (the ladies was closed). I asked the bar owner a Thai guy who referred to himself as "Jack Sparrow" why the fish was in the toilet. He said it was to eat the baby mosquitoes. Fair enough I say. Why else would you put a goldfish in the toilet water except for a laugh and to prevent bitten bottoms... :)

Its now Saturday morning and I am in Chiang Mai. Yay!! On the bus trip up I met an English girl, Ally who I joint forces with upon arriving to find some accommodation. Unfortunately everything we went to was full!! Uh oh. After we had asked 3 or 4 guesthouses if they had any space, one of the ladies I guess took pity on us and because we are women and it was almost 11pm she told us we could stay with her sister across the street. Turns out that her sister owns a herbal steam spa and thats where we ended up staying for 120 baht ($4). We got a mat in one of the rooms that the usually use for massages. Quite nice and they have looked after us well. We went out for dinner as we were both starving and when we came back there was another girl in the room as well. We are going to share a room at one of the guesthouses around the corner tonight.

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