Bangkok Impressions

After only a week in this city, it is a bit presumptuous to summarize it, but this is my web site, so I will presume anyway.

City of Angels  Bangkok is a bit of paradise. Its Thai name (Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit (กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยามหาดิลก ภพนพรัตน์ ราชธานีบุรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์ มหาสถาน อมรพิมาน อวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะ วิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์)) designates it the City of Angels, among other things. I think you have to look a bit harder these days for its heavenly virtues, what with 20 million denizens in the metropolitan area, but it is still there.

Motorcycles  There are lots of motorcycles plying the streets of town. That eases congestion a bit. It is interesting to watch as they weave through all the cars at traffic signals so that the first several dozen vehicles at any intersection is a mass of cycles. In Spain, we were annoyed by the way folks adjusted the exhaust systems of their motorbikes so that they sounded like hoards of angry wasps. In Bangkok, the motorcycles are nice and quiet. Much more pleasant.

Clothing  Even in the hot, humid days of summer, Bangkokians wear long pants, even jeans, when wandering about the city. The shorts-wearers are tourists. If ever there was a place that deserved a more lenient dress code, this is it.

Bilinguality  Bangkok has language issues. Much signage is in both Thai and American English. But few of the Thais we met are comfortable with spoken English. On one hand they are proud of their heritage and language. On the other hand, they are inveterate shoppers and technology users, and brands and the Internet are primarily English-based. We met school children at tourist sites whose assignment was to interview Americans. We are easy enough to pick out of the crowd and they had a set list of questions. I sensed that most of our answers were not understood, but it was a start.

Traffic  There is lots of traffic.

Public Transport  The public transport is not as robust as this visitor would like. They have one underground metro line (MRT), two elevated “SkyTrain” (BTS) lines, one bus rapid transit (BRT) line, and ferries that ply the river. We used all of them but it can take a long time to get between points, and a lot of the city is only served by a regular (complicated and non-English) bus system. And the various systems do not have integrated ticketing or schedules. But at least they are air conditioned, which can be wonderful after a long walk from some city destination. Our flat is located at the Wat Pariwat BRT station, so at least it was convenient for us to enter the system.

Con Artists  Some of the cons in Bangkok are quite famous. One of these is that an individual outside the Grand Palace will tell visitors that the Palace is closed due to a visiting dignitary, and wouldn’t you like to take a tuk-tuk ride to see other sites while waiting for it to re-open. We encountered just such an artist, dressed as a policeman (quite possibly a real policeman). We decided that we would enjoy the con since there is little downside. We got a cheap (40 baht/ $1.50) tuk-tuk ride through the government part of the city (administrative departments, king’s palace, etc.), saw a less-visited, but still interesting, temple, and then sat in air conditioned comfort for 10-15 minutes while a salesman tried to tell us we needed to buy more stuff to stick in our luggage. Not very convincing, and not very painful.

Shopping  Bangkok is big on shopping. It has several of the largest malls in Asia. The weekend market at Chatuchak has thousands (!) of little shops that add to the commercial mix. While we were not in a buying mood due to our limited budget and luggage space, we did do several of these just to experience the “culture.”

Carelessness  It seems to be a cultural quirk that people don’t care overmuch about getting the details right. English signage is wonderfully fractured, even though the city has many thousands of proficient English speakers. There are typos everywhere and no one seems to do the transliteration from Thai to English in any sort of consistent way. A visitor cannot tell if that is due to thoughtful differences of opinion or just sloppiness.

King  The king is obviously respected. Many shops proudly display a photo of him. There are many billboards honoring him. He is the ninth in his kingly line (Rama IX) and by far the longest reigning at 65 years. He is a presence in the city.

Heat  The Thais point out that it is hot in the city, so I guess it is OK for visitors to note this as well. Daytime temperatures peak at around 90F with some humidity thrown in. It can be uncomfortable, but not unbearable. We look at Delhi’s upcoming 110F daytime highs with trepidation.

Pink  Much to Eryn’s delight, Thailand is a pink country. Most taxis are pink. Many of the king’s official portraits have him dressed in pink shirt or jacket.

Last full day in Bangkok

Today was our last full day in Bangkok, and I thinkwhat we did a pretty good job of enjoying it while we could. Here are the things that we did today:

We ate a meal (breakfast) consisting of rice, chocolate milk, mangos, and scrambled egg. Then we went down the street to the coffee shop (Chimney) and had mochas, small for the kids, medium for the adults. We also had two pieces of cake and a triple brownie. It was all very good.

On our way back home we stopped at the Buddha Dharma Relics Museum and saw a lot of Buddha relics. It was interesting because we saw a bunch of weird items, like Buddha blood relics (which looked a lot like red sand) and other stuff like that.

After that we went down to the pool (all four of us) and swam for a long while, using my father as a horse to ride upon, (I know that that sounds stupid, but you probably don’t want to get in between someone and the wall of a pool) also we used him as something to splash. It was very liberating……..

Then we went up to our room and sat around for about an hour before heading down to go to our favorite restaurant across the street, Buri Tara. Again, for the third time. By the time we came home, it was about 7:15 and we decided to pack and then swim for a while (we being Eryn and I). Today was our first day of 270 that we have to take malaria pills. Lucky us…..

Bidding Bangkok ‘Bye

Today we had a more relaxed day. After a typical breakfast (rice, eggs, mangoes, mystery sauce, chocolate soy milk, and pomegranate juice), we headed down the street to the Chimney Cafe for mochas and desserts: hot lava cake and whipped cream (I thought the sign said “Chocolate lava with whipped cream,” but it said “and” instead of “with.” They were right. There was more whipped cream than cake!), a brownie, and a piece of almond mocha cake. They weren’t all for me… :(. I had the lava cake, Ethan had the brownie, and Mom had the piece of cake. We all had mochas, which were, as usual, very good. Ethan also got a bottle of water because he “need[ed] something cold to drink.”

On our way home, we stopped by the Buddha Dharma Relics Museum across the street. It was a bit confusing since we’re not Buddhist because to us it seemed like the relics (such as brain, heart, skin, hair, tooth) were just little rocks. That makes us sound disrespectful, but no one could speak enough English to explain, and Wikipedia wasn’t much help either. There were stories written in English and Thai on the walls, though, and we read those and appreciated the many statues, including the three of Buddha in his three different outfits: one for winter, one for summer, and one for the rainy season.

Once home, we all went down to the pool and swam. Our parents got out after only an hour-and-a-half and Ethan and I left fifteen minutes later. I had Mom take 366 pictures on my camera. Okay, I didn’t have her do that. I let her do that. We just had supper in Bangkok for the last time at our favorite place, Buri Tara, which is across the street. Sigh. Well, duty calls. Ciao!

 

Paddleboating!!!!!!!!

Today we went to the Lampini Park which is a big park right in the middle of Bangkok. For the first half hour we sat on a bench and took pictures of water monitors and turtles. After that, we went to a dock and rented two paddleboats that each had two duck figureheads made out of plastic. We paddled those around for about half an hour before returning the boats to the dock. Then we went home after going to the grocery store and getting ice cream, which we had for supper along with pizza after we swam in the pool for a little bit.

Oh, I just remembered, as we were leaving the bus station, we saw some people filming a movie that involved people in black suits having a gun pointed at them.

High ‘n’ Dry

Let me start off by saying we were neither high nor dry today. Now I will continue:

We were going to visit the floating markets of Dar, but we, as obvious American tourists, were advised against it. Instead we had the second-most laid-back day of our trip. We had our typical breakfast of rice, eggs, and some mysterious (but thankfully mild and flavorful) sauce. We also had oranges. We spent a while after that just dilly-dallying until about ten. After a few stops, we finally got off the sky train at the Sala Daeng stop to visit the park given to Bangkok by King Rama the sixth. It’s called Lumpini Park, which is a very Italian name. That explains the sign on a nearby skyscraper that reads “ITALIAN-THAI” in fifteen-foot red letters. That building also has a big white sign on it that says Oregon!

Way back in the 1920s, when the king gave the civilians the royal property, the area was on the outer edge of town. Now it’s in the middle of the business district and has two train stops- a Metro and a sky train- on its edges. There’s also a big statue of the king. The park was named after Lumbini, which is where Buddha was born in Nepal.The whole area is 142 acres and has plenty of things to do, including watching the water monitors and people, paddle-boating in boats that look like ducks, zoning out in the shade, playing on the playground, and getting soaking wet in the sprinklers on the ground and fountains in the lake. We did all of these things, plus getting bit by mosquitoes, bouncing on the see-saw, playing “Escape” on the play structure, “working out” on the gym equipment, and getting pelted by rocks from the edger.

But that wasn’t even the most interesting part of our day. At the station that connects the bus system and the sky train system, we saw part of a movie being filmed. We weren’t in it (sadly), but all the extras were white and the cameramen were speaking in English and the five main actors looked slightly familiar. This isn’t the first time that we’ve been in the same city as some famous people. When we were in Venice in 2010, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp were there filming The Tourist. We figured this out because there was a sign by a canal that said something in Italian, but we found the words “The Tourist” and “filming.”

After that “exciting” event, we went on to the food stalls where we bought our first “street” food: waffles. They came in all different styles, including maple (which I got) and cranberry, and with all sorts of different fillings, including chocolate (which we all got), taro root, Thai custard, and red bean. The outside of the waffle was the best I’ve ever had except for in Florence, Italy: large grains of sugar and coated in a sweet syrup. On the return trip, we got some dried kiwi and mango from a different stall. Yum!

On the way home we bought some groceries at MaxValu, including ice cream, chocolate soy milk, and pomegranate juice. For supper we’ve ordered two pizzas. Since we’ve been home, we’ve swam in the pool, ordered two pizzas and a salad, eaten the dried mangoes, and worked on schoolwork, which made it just a typical day in Bangkok.

Steep Stairs, “Steep” Prices

Today was our “Wat are we doing today?” day. The answer? Wat Pho and Wat Arun. Wat Pho was filled with high-schoolers working on their English and asking American tourists questions in English on video. We had two groups of girls come up to us, and one girl told us what to say when you bow. Bowing means lots of things including thank you, hello, and good-bye.

After Wat Pho (pronounced “poe”), we crossed the Chao Phraya River on a ferry that cost $0.10 a person. When we got to the other side, the clouds burst into tears. We found our way to the entrance and, once inside, our parents sought shelter as Ethan and I climbed to the fourth- and top- level of the temple in the torrential rains. It didn’t rain that much, however, until we decided to go down. I hid in a corner, trying not to get soaked. It finally let up ever-so-slightly, and we decided to go down the slick stairs. My parents and Ethan went up in the sun after that, and, as I watched and waited, three teenaged Thai girls came by. Two of them asked to take a picture with me (I complied); the other couldn’t find her phone.

On our way out, we saw more of those boards that you stand behind that make you look like you have a different body. The guy was charging 40 baht (about US$1.34) to get your picture taken behind them! We had already done that upon our entry. He hadn’t seen me and therefore we saved a dollar-and-a-third. Another cheap way to make money is to charge five baht to go to the bathroom. Yes, we could pay the  sixteen cents, but it was still frustrating.

Swenson’s are more popular here than in America!!!

Wat Pho and Wat Arun are both temples on the river running through Bangkok. Wat Arun was my favorite because you could climb up high on steep staircases. However, Wat Pho was interesting because there were some school girls who practised their English by asking us questions about where we are from and if they could take their picture with us. On our way home, we stopped by Swenson’s and had some ice cream before going into Tesco to buy some things for supper, which we had at home.

MK & MBK

Today was the most non-touristy day so far. After over-sleeping, we went out for mochas, fried rice, and chocolate cake at the Chimney Café. Yum! (Despite what seemed like sarcasm, it was really good. ESPECIALLY the chocolate cake.) Mother, Ethan, and I all had the chicken fried rice and Dad had the green curry chicken fried rice. The mochas were good, especially with the whipped cream and sugar. 🙂 Ethan and I each had a piece of double chocolate cake, and Dad got a piece of chocolate fudge cake, which was by far the better choice of dessert. Our cake was heavy and dense (but it tasted good!) while his wasn’t so sweet but was light and airy.

After we had frittered away two hours, we returned to our apartment and just chilled for an hour. Finally, at around noon, we decided to visit the huge MBK mall. It’s seven stories tall and sells just about everything except the kitchen sink. Oh, wait. We skipped Level 5, the household items floor, because we have no house for which to buy things. Yeah, I’ll bet they sold kitchen sinks.

Anyway, here’s our (small) haul:

1. Pink shirt for me

2. Blue dress for me

3. Red and black shoes for Mother

4. Flowered Converse for me

5. Ice cream at Swensen’s (got to have dessert first!)

6. An interesting supper at the elusive MK

Here are the things we wanted to buy:

1. MBK

 

Ciao!

WE FOUND IT!!!!! (kind of)

Well, we finally found the resturaunt. As it turns out, it is a chain that is around Thailand, it is called MK. It is an interesting place, where, sitting in the middle of each table, there is a stove burner with a pot of spiced water in which you put in your food that you order. There are no forks or knives, only a soup spoon, a ladle, and a set of chopsticks for each person.
Now to start at the beginning of the day,
For breakfast, we went to the coffee shop down the street, then we went back to our apartment for a while before heading to the MBK mall by the national stadium.We stayed there for a while (about 6 hours) before heading home. We had supper at the mall

Where was that restaurant again???

Ice cream and pizza, in Thailand!!! Who would’ve thought?!?!?!
Sounds more like Italy, except there you would change it to be gelato and pizza (or would that be piazza??)
Anyway, today started out like any other day, we got up, took showers and had breakfast. But that is as far as the similarities go, today we stayed at ourbapartment building doing schoolwork until we left for supper. Eryn had looked up everything for our supper arrangements and had it all planned out when we found out that she had remembered the wrong mode of transportation. So, instead of doing that, we decided to go to a Lebanese place somewhere down the street.

Guess what, it wasn’t there, so we changed our plan again and decided to go to a piazza place. The pizza was okay, but what I really liked was the chocolate ice cream…..YUM!!!!!

—zzz—

Today we made it our goal to visit the museum across the street. Well, in the end (or as of 5:30 pm), we accomplished nothing other than more schoolwork, eating more chocolate bars, sorting pictures, reading, drinking plenty of water, and taking a nap. Oh, we also added photos, as you probably saw. Well, the museum will still be there tomorrow. Ciao!

Today’s News Report

Today was an interesting day. We got up early and were supposed to leave at 7:30, but due to our late breakfast, we finally slugged out the door at 8:05. After four modes of transportation (super crowded bus [morning rush hour], sky train [also crowded], Chao Phraya Express’s blue flag [tourist] boat, and our own tired, blistered feet), we finally got to a corner diagnol from the Grand Palace. There, a man with a lanyard that said ‘Royal Thai Police’ saw that we were looking for the Palace (and had walked right by!) and asked if he could help. Then he told us that a prince was there, and the Palace was closed until 11:30 am. He suggested that we take a tuk-tuk ride to the Marble Temple and the James Tailor warehouse. He called his friend over, and the price was 40 baht (about $1.35… total).

Well.

That was an unnerving experience.

After what seemed like some near-death experiences, we finally got to the Buddhist temple. The most interesting part to me was the pair of ladies selling live fish, eels, and baby turtles at the entrance. I even saw a tourist buying a bag with water and three of those poor babies in it!!! Oh well. 🙁 I can’t rescue all the helpless animals on Earth, although I did rescue a slug from the rental car in Oregon. Anyways, the inside was mostly statues of Buddha. Someone had put an orange monk robe around the last Buddha. So I took a picture. The most interesting Buddha, however, was the statue of him fasting. It was very skeletal. Another interesting one had elongated ears.

After that, we went back to our tuk-tuk and told the driver, who I will now call Frank, that we’d decided to skip James Tailor. He convinced us that we should go there for just five minutes because they’d pay for his gas. So we went, looked through a catalogue, avoided the salesman’s questions, and left. Then, instead of returning to the Palace, we went to a jewelry factory/store. It was really interesting, or at least the factory part was. Apparently if you put certain gems under your pillow, your pains will be relieved, or, as my mother eagerly said, “With a rock that size, you’ll get a new pain.” Then we had to look through the whole showroom with things as expensive as $1,000,000! Dad later noted that the lady at the front had written down our tuk-tuk’s license plate.

I also found this at http://thailandforvisitors.com/central/bangkok/ratanakosin/prakeo/: “The Grand Palace is open every day from 8:30 to 3:30, unless it’s being used for a state function, which is quite rare.  Be careful of touts working outside the palace area who tell you its closed, and suggest their own guided tour instead.  They’re most likely lying, and their ‘tour’ will be to several shops where they get commissions on  purchases.” Hmm. Mother’s starting to have her doubts about the liability of our ‘Royal Thai Policeman.’

We finally got in the Grand Palace, found a guide who was very nice and learned about the palace. She told us a lot of things, including her name, which was hard to say and really long. After the Palace, we went to Tesco Lotus and the Swensen’s for ice cream. Ohsogood. I think it’s the second-best ice cream I’ve ever had (Moose Tracks is always #1). Following that, we got some oral rehydration “sachets,” or pouches. We returned home to the pounding of thunder and the calling of schoolwork and the moaning of children. We spent about two hours on schoolwork and found a restaurant. The food was really good, even the mushrooms, and we ate almost everything. Ciao!

Palaces & Temples

Some people like Buddha, and some people don’t, right???
Today we got to experience what people who like Buddha do and see when they visit the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Karo (pronounced Pre Q). We saw that, in a legend, there is a demon king with 10 heads and, when he gets angry, 20 arms. Also there are snake guardians that have five heads and necks. Their faces look like human faces when they are happy and crocodile faces when they are mad.

Buddhists have lots of ways of getting good luck, including dripping holy water off of flowers and onto their heads, taking a small piece of gold leaf and sticking it onto a statue of Buddha, putting some money on top of the heads of elephant statues, and many more. Also, elephants with curled in trunks are supposedly happy, while ones with out facing trunks are supposedly lucky.

We also learned that you can tell the difference between monkey statues and demon statues by looking at their feet; demons have shoes, monkeys don’t.

Exploration & Transportation

Today was apparently cooler than yesterday, but obviously we couldn’t tell. What we could tell, however, was that the Or Tor Kor vegetable market was missing because of construction in the area. We walked what seemed like miles just looking (and never finding) it. It was supposed to be right by the Jatujak Market (nicknamed “JJ” by the locals), but we walked up and down and side to side on those streets and never found it. We did, however, find the three main forms of transportation in Bangkok: BRT, BTS, MRT. (The bus rapid transit, the sky train, and the underground.) Well, all three except for the Chao Phraya Express (pronounced Chow Prayuh), which is the system of taxis on the Chao Phraya River (แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา).

First, we got on the BRT at the stop 50 feet away from our apartment– Wat Pariwat. Wat (วัด) means ‘temple’ in Thai, and, yes, there is a wat that you can see from our balcony. Anyways, we got on the BRT and rode to the Sathorn station, which is the end of the line. It connects to the BTS station Chong Nonsi. As you should remember, the BTS is the sky train. Most of the people on our train, including a Canadian family who, no, Destiny, we did not talk to, got off at the station that connected one line of the BTS with the other. That was at the station of Siam. After that, we got off at the last stop on the second route, Mo Chit (หมอชิต). Once you walked out the doors, you were in the blazing Thai sun and the Jatujak park and market. We arrived around 8 am and finally left at around noon.

On the return trip, we entered the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit- การรถไฟฟ้าขนส่งมวลชน) station of Jatujak Park. The moment we entered the shade, it seemed like it was five degrees cooler. As we descended into the tunnels, it became even cooler until we were in the train itself and it was like a freezer. It was on there, and at breakfast our first morning in Thailand, that we noticed the weird TV ads they have. I’m not going to describe any, for the sake of both my weary fingers and the content, but some are very interesting.

We rode the MRT to the MRT Si Lom/Sala Daeng BTS station and boarded the sky train. We rode the one stop to Chong Nonsi, where we switched to the BRT. We rode the bus from the first stop on the route– B1:Sathorn– to B4: Thanon Chan, which is where our landlord told us the Tesco Lotus was. Well, we looked and asked and were finally redirected to the next station, B5: Nara-Rama III. We walked a ways, found the store, and ate sandwiches at Au Bon Pain. After we bought some groceries like rice and eggs and Tim Tams, we found a Bangkok map and finally arrived in our own B7: Wat Pariwat. Ciao!

Market Day

Today we got up early (6:45 haha) to go to the Jatujak weekend market and the Or Tor Kor to look at stuff. The Or Tor Kor sells fruits and vegetables, while the Jatujak market has just about everything. We found the weekend market but then could not find the Or Tor Kor. So we just gave up on that idea and went to the park for a little bit. On the way home we decided to go to Tesco and buy some more food for breakfast. When we finally got home it was around three and I swam in the pool for a little bit. Then my mother joined me and she and I raced, me beating her most of the time. After that we went out to supper to the same place that we had supper at the day before yesterday and had the same things, too (bean curd with bean sprouts, chicken with sweet and sour sauce, and green curry soup with chicken.) 🙂

A Busy (and sweaty) day in Bangkok

Since you can’t be friends with dogs in Thailand and since it is so hot and Americans sweat so much, bottled water has become man’s new best friend. The pool at our hotel is fairly big, with fountains and tile whales at the bottom. We also found out today that 7-11 is a very common store on the streets behind our apartment building. On a single walk on only two streets we saw 4 7-11s!!!!

Fame Scmame

For all you die-hard Directioners…

On the planes from Seattle to Japan to Bangkok, I listened to One Direction. Okay, now for the rest of you… At supper last night, “American” music was playing. I use quotation marks because it was by a certain Canadian… Justin Drew Bieber. At a Thai restaurant!!! Then there was a Bruno Mars (I think) song and some others. The real surprise was when the three guys doing the live music covered the Lazy Song, Set Fire To The Rain, and a bunch of others… In English. And these guys are Thai! Oh, and if you Directioners are still reading, I bet they covered, say, Up All Night after we left.

And when we got off the plane in Japan, there were TV cameras and guys with ‘Press’ signs waiting at our gate. I was hoping for One Direction, but it turned out that a famous mountain climber was returning home. Ciao!

Help! There Are Whales In My Swimming Pool!!!

Today, Saturday for us and 1/2 Friday and 1/2 Saturday for you Pacific coasters, we got up at around 8 am, showered, and walked down the street 850 meters to the Chimney Café. We had an interesting mix of food- to drink, Mom and I had hot chocolates and Ethan and Dad had lattes. For the main course Mom and Ethan had chicken fried rice, Dad had green curry chicken, and I had a chicken soup of some sort and steamed rice. Let me tell you: salty chicken soup and a creamy latte don’t taste good together. At all!

Anyway, we decided we needed to make a plan for the rest of our time in Bangkok, so we spent what seemed like forever talking and writing and thinking. In the end, we decided that we needed to go grocery shopping. We rode the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) down three stops, from the Wat Pariwat stop 50 feet from our building to the Charoen Rat stop, which is number ten on the line. We’re near number seven.

At MaxValu, which is only a few feet from the BRT stop, there was a singing competition going on in what we discovered to be a mall. There was even an Office Max! That and the Nutella were the only really familiar parts, and I think we were the only white people there.

We bought some cool looking fruits, a mango, rice, a spicy looking sauce, eggs, an onion, and some shampoo. When we returned to our apartment, we ate another chocolate bar, and then Ethan and I went swimming in the awesome pool: it has blue tiles on the bottom and whales made with green tiles. It’s only about three feet deep in most places, but it has cool fountains to compensate. Ciao!

When in Bangkok

Today it is Saturday and we have been in Bangkok for about 30 hours, and we have done a lot of things. We have learned that almost all of the locals wear long pants and jeans, making us easy for pickpockets to spot as rich tourists if we wear shorts. So, since we decided to wear long pants, we sweated a lot yesterday as we walked around searching for the “elusive” 7-11, that, as it turns out is only a little ways down the street. We also have to keep ourselves from petting or in general, touching dogs, because most dogs in Thailand have rabies and sometimes rabies can be transferred by a lick of a dog. This change might be hard for me, since I really like dogs.

17 Hours

17 hours, 17 things:
1. Landed in Thailand
2. Checked into BS Residence
3. Gone to bed
4. Woken up
5. Had breakfast (rice, toast, and chocolate dry cereal… yum)
6. Swam in the (“biggest … I’ve ever seen” Ethan said) pool at BS Residence
7. Packed up and moved out of BS Residence
8. Rode in first taxi of my life to Star Estates
9. Entered apartment to find it wasn’t yet cleaned
10. Left in search of the Holy Grail… okay, bottled water
11. Went to the “market” across the street
12. Sweated
13. Crossed back and found a Seven-Eleven
14. Bought four bottles of water, a huge bucket filled with H2o, and a tube of toothpaste
15. Returned to apartment and chose rooms
16. Taxi-watched (10 colors, 1 street: Pink, red, orange, golden, yellow, yellow & green, green, blue, purple, and dark purple)
17. Finished 2 pages in my math book and 2 pages in my science book

We’ve only been in the land of the Siam for 17 hours* (1 am this morning to 6 pm tonight) and already we’ve been through so much (and yet, comparatively, so little). Ciao!

*I found several mistakes in this, so I edited it 17 hours after posting it. 🙂

In Bangkok

We arrived at the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport around one o’clock this morning. We were a couple of hours late due to airport construction and the associated air traffic congestion. After boarding in Tokyo, we sat on the ramp for an hour, then idled another hour over Thailand in a holding pattern. In the airport, everything worked just as planned. Immigration and customs were non-issues and we just sailed through. In the terminal we quickly found the DTAC mobile phone shop and obtained a couple of SIMs for our phones. Then we wandered down to where the hotel touts were holding court and the representative for our lodging was there and had our name on the list. We were in our rooms by 2am and blessedly horizontal shortly thereafter.

The pool at the curiously named BS Residence was very nice. It is one of the largest pools we have encountered at a hotel, and Ethan and Eryn had it to themselves.

At noon we took a taxi to our flat in Bangkok itself. We are at Rama III overlooking the Chao Phraya River. It took an hour for the drive, passing through two toll stations (25 and 45 baht). The taxi fare was 215 baht (about US$7). Upon arriving we walked around the corner to the 7-Eleven store and picked up some bottled water. Eighteen baht (about US$0.60) for a 2-liter bottle.

We could grow to like these Thai prices.

Thais generally tend toward the left side of the road when driving. However, there is some flexibility in driving rules in order to fit more vehicles on the roads. It occurred to us that we will not be in a right-driving country until we arrive in Argentina next January. It also occurred to us that having a taxi driver take us through town can be a real aid to intra-family civility. Our next chance to drive ourselves is in Australia in August, but that should be relatively benign given the wide-open spaces of the outback.

The time changes are interesting, if that is the right word. From Seattle to Tokyo is a 10-hour flight. We left at 1pm on Wednesday and landed at 3pm on Thursday. We arrived 26 hours after departing Seattle, what with time zones, date lines, and general relativity.

We had been warned about hot temperatures in Thailand, but so far things are not too bad. Today is generally in the 80s Fahrenheit, with 50% humidity. Warmer than we are used to in Oregon but far from unbearable.

Waiting in an Airport

Our whole family has been up since 5:30 (some earlier) taking showers, eating breakfast, and getting ready to go to the airport. Since then we have ridden one plane from Portland to Seattle. Soon, though, we will fly away to Japan for another layover. Then we will fly to Bangkok, in Thailand. Right now, though, we are sitting in the United Lounge charging our electronics and waiting to go to our gate.

Afternoon Fun

We chose to go bowling (since it was raining), and we played two games at the Hollywod Bowl from 2 to 4 pm. All that arm use made us hungry, so we drove for forty-five minutes to get to the Old Spaghetti Factory, which was 3.5 miles away. On the bright side, if we had taken only five minutes to drive to the restaurant, it would have still been closed. (It opens for supper at 4:30 pm.) After spaghetti (obviously), spumoni, and Oreo milk shakes, we said good-bye to my aunt, uncle, and Fergus and headed to Fred Meyer because we couldn’t find a Target. There we bought things such as pencil sharpeners, plain watches, and erasers.

We checked into our airport hotel and made sure it had a pool. Then Ethan and I went swimming while our father went to return the rental car and our mother watched us (because we’re not 14 yet). We played Marco Polo… you should try playing that with two people in a small pool. You can bet you’re going to get tagged!

Ciao!

On the Road

This morning, we got up at the odd (okay, even) hour of 4:30 am.

After breakfast, we loaded up the hotel van, got to the Portland International Airport a few minutes later, and boarded our Seattle-bound plane. We landed on Washington tarmac at 8:27 am according to my watch. We’re supposed to get to our Bangkok hotel at midnight in Thailand on Thursday, or about 7 am (on Thurs.) Oregon time.

Between here and there, however, is the Pacific Ocean, a layover in Narita, and the South China Sea. Ciao!

We’re Off

We completed packing the house and getting out the door Monday, just two hours later than planned. Not bad.

Now we are between flights, sitting in Seattle’s airport, waiting for our fight to Narita.

So far, the travel dramas have been minor ones. At United Air Lines check-in, they couldn’t issue boarding passes until they had “proof” that we were going to leave Thailand someday. Since we are on a one-way ticket, it took a few minutes to figure that one out. Then their boarding pass printer decided that it had a 10-coupon limit. Let’s see: four passengers times three segments = 12 coupons. Oops. Susan could only get as far as Seattle while they rest of us go on to Bangkok. United is still struggling through the transition of their computer systems to Continental’s, so the legacy United agents at the counter were challenged by this. Another bunch of minutes and several agents later, all is swell and we can all go. Then at boarding this morning, we were informed that the adults cannot sit in their assigned exit row seats because we are unsafe, what with children elsewhere on the plane. So more boarding passes are produced, and we are on our way.

Life is getting simpler all the time. Now that we have our luggage in hand, we no longer have to decide what to pack or worrying about stuff fitting. It just works now. We’ll see how long this nirvana lasts.

George Washington

Okay, this post is not about George Washington but about Washington (state) in general. We are at my aunt’s house in rainy Kelso, Washington, and, now that we’re all here, we’re trying to decide what to do. Two options on the table: minigolf and bowling. Tell me what you think!

Bur here’s what’s happening: my uncle and Fergus just came home from work, my father just woke up and is now discussing how we don’t have seats on our plane, Ethan just beat my aunt at Stratego, and my mother was a spectator of her sister’s epic loss. My cousin Candace, woke up early and left to babysit, and we’re having the time of our lives entertaining her crazy cat Jade with the fuzzy fish on a string. I think we’ve decided to go bowling. Well, at least it will be a totally new experience for me! Ciao!

So Long, Farewell #2

Okay, two hours later (1:45 pm) we were still at home, but a mere 34 minutes later we were at the bottom of our driveway. Everything fits (!!!), and Ethan and I have room to spare. We’re currently at our grandparents’ house saying goodbye and dropping off frozen and refrigerated goods, cherry tomatoes, a banana, and some potatoes. Also, it’s June 18. Shouldn’t it be sunny?!

(no) It is Oregon after all. Ciao!

So Long, Farewell

Today we leave the house. Tomorrow we go to the airport. Wednesday we fly.

It’s 11:45 and we’re supposed to leave in fifteen minutes. I personally don’t think that’s  going to happen because we haven’t checked our luggage yet… or finished laundry. In two hours, though, we’ll be on the road and this will seem like only a bad memory.

Tonight we sleep at my aunt’s house in Kelso, WA, and then spend tomorrow with her and my uncle and their puppy-in-training, Fergus. Tomorrow night we check into our airport hotel and on Wednesday, in two days, we fly from PDX to Seattle.

Have to go fold the sheets. Ciao!

Height

Status

For those of you who know us well, you know that the height of Ethan, our mother, and me is very important to us. Until today, we thought that our mother was 4’11.5″. When Ethan and I were measured and it turned out that I am 4’11.5″, we took the time out of breakfast to measure Mother. Turns out, she’s 5′. Ethan’s still only 4’10.5″, and I’m lording it over him because I’m pretty sure he’ll end up taller than me. And you can bet there will be a post when one of us become taller than Mother.
Ciao!

Preparation

We leave home in a couple of days for our trip. The cars have been sold. Our friends who will be staying in our home are slowly moving their stuff into the garage and closets. The house is 90% packed.

Departure is getting close.

As we have talked about our trip with friends and colleagues, we have been asked several common questions. Herewith are some thoughts on these queries.

  • “How do you pack for a year?” The short answer is, “lightly”. In our case, we have decided that we do not want the drama of lugging huge amounts of baggage around. We are doing carry-on only: one small piece of baggage and a “personal item” as they say at the airlines. Two of the pieces of luggage have wheels so that we can consolidate the four bags onto wheels for treks through airports and on sidewalks. All four pieces have backpacking straps for when rolling is inconvenient. Inside these bags are nestled about a week’s worth of clothing. We have endeavored to get quick-dry items, both because the dry quickly (we hope) and because they are generally nylon and therefore lighter and thinner. We all have ultralight down jackets for colder climates, but they will not escape the luggage for at least six months as we are starting out in hot places. Then there are the bulky medicine supplies, mostly doxycycline for malaria, but also several types of antibiotics and altitude pills for our time in the Andes. As a dyed-in-the-wool gadget guy, we are also carting along a lightweight computer, Kindles for all, GPS, a couple of cameras, and the associated cords, batteries, and memory cards. And the quart ziplock containing our liquids and gels. (How our lives and vocabularies have changed since September 11, 2001.) If we need anything that was not packed in the bags, then that is why they invented credit cards.
  • “I am so jealous. How did you manage to do it?”I am afraid that I am not very gentle in my reply to this question. First, I question the premise – I suspect folks are not really jealous. Curious, perhaps. Certainly envious of avoiding work for a while. But I think that most people would far rather spend their time and treasure on other things than a year-long trip. Travel is very uncomfortable. Human nature seeks a sense of belonging to a place. All cultures have homes. And humans like to accumulate stuff. Long-term travel rubs human nature the wrong way in at least these two areas. So I think that my interlocutors are really quite satisfied to spend their resources on homes and cars and friends and family. All good things, just different than travel. The second part of this question (“how did you manage it?”) is a bit easier to answer. It is just about priorities. It takes a good-sized stash of cash to do such a trip. This is neither easy nor trivial. We have been setting aside since our kids were toddlers, 10+ years ago. While we have lived well, we drove old cars that we bought used. We have not landscaped our house. Both parents have worked, even when it might have been more fulfilling to have one be stay-at-home. I believe most of my associates could do such a trip if they made it a priority. There is nothing heroic in our ability to do this.And there is nothing wrong with those who choose different priorities. That is what makes this a most interesting world in which to live. Everyone has different goals in life, creating all the different people and societies that can make travel fun and interesting.
  • “How do you plan such a trip?” Pretty much the same way you climb a mountain: one step at a time. Against the best advice of people who know better than us, we have planned our trip in some detail. We have all the transit legs planned and tickets purchased, as much as possible. While major airlines let you ticket 330 days in advance, some smaller airlines only ticket 6 months out. Indian trains allow booking 120 days before travel, and buses in South America generally do two months of advance sales. So when we depart next week, we will have all the transits planned up to arrival in Morocco next March, with the exception of some bus and plane segments in South America. The other area where we have planned in excruciating detail is our lodging. Some have suggested that it is great to travel without much in the way of plans. This gives you flexibility to go and see and do things that you learn about during the trip. We decided to take a different approach. We are staying in each place for more time (generally 1-3 weeks) to enable spontaneous exploration, but every night is booked through April. And the remaining nights will get booked over the next couple of months. We have convinced ourselves that all this planning is good because it lets us experience where we are instead of spending the whole year in a struggle to find accommodation and transport. We will see how it goes. The area we have not planned is the activities we will enjoy. That is where we have enabled ourselves to see what happens in each place and go with the flow.
  • “How much does it cost?” While lots of people want to ask us this question, few are actually brave enough to do so. In the spirit of beating around the bush, I will leave this unanswered for now. We have a budget that approximates the price of three middling new cars, but it will be more interesting to see how we live with it. We are starting out in Asia which seems relatively inexpensive. Later we spend the Christmas holidays in Cape Town, at the other end of the expense spectrum. In general, the monthly budget is about one third lodging, one third food, and one third ground transportation and activities.
  • “When are you coming home?” This one has a non-satisfying answer of “sometime next June.” You can only get airline tickets 330 days before the flight. That means that we cannot buy our homebound flights until about August of this year. We are leaving home with no specific, concrete plans to return. Sounds ominous when you say it that way, no?

Yesterday (Friday) was Susan’s last day at her school. She is a high school teacher. On Monday, we leave home. Lots to do and only two days to complete it.

Back to packing we go.

Two more days!!

Two more days!! (and two exclamation marks, too!!)

Are you done packing?
We are leaving in two days! But we still have a lot to do. So no.
Is it hard to handle the fact that you will be away from home for a year?
Not that much, I mean, we don’t even know when we will come back, because the airlines only let people book tickets 330 days in advance so we won’t know anything until sometime in August.
How do you fit everything in boxes?
We don’t, but we make it seem like we do. So many people say stuff like they packed all their stuff in boxes that wasn’t furniture, but that isn’t true, most of the stuff we don’t pack ends up right alongside the stuff we do pack, but we won’t pack everything, like the stuff too big for boxes.
Oh………Well bye for now.
 

June 1 (Rabbit rabbit!)

Aah!
We leave in 20 days! Wasn’t it just Christmas??? Wow. Someone emailed me today and said “20 more days until your trip!!!” I knew it was June as of today, but I had forgotten– okay, not forgotten, but it had slipped my mind– that we leave so soon. We still have so much to do. How can we get it all done? Ciao!