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Chapter 1: Bangkok

                             

                               

Part-A:  Finding the nest

“I hope that is just cough syrup” I thought as I watched, from backseat of the taxi cab, the driver take gulps from a small bottle. He would keep it inside his jacket after every gulp, which made it look suspicious. It was 2 am and since the roads were empty, we were speeding away without any problems. It was drizzling outside and the Bangkok skyline in the distance, which occasionally glowed due to the thunder, looked spooky.

The driver put on some Thai music and started singing along. I didn’t know whether to smile, clap or sing along, so I decided to just look out the window and curse myself on booking a flight that landed in Bangkok this late at night.

Minutes passed by, as we entered the Siam area and soon enough, we reached my hostel, Lub D Bangkok. As I carried my rucksack up to the door of the hostel, I took a quick glance backwards at the taxi cab, and saw the driver standing there, in the rain, looking at me.

He gestured with his hand. He wanted me to keep going. I guess, he just wanted to make sure I had no problems checking in. I smiled and went inside the glass doors. A young girl greeted me and asked if I already have a booking. I showed her the booking confirmation and passport.

“304A. 2nd floor.” She said, handing me an electromagnetic card, which was the key to the room.

I looked out the glass doors and saw the driver still standing there. I showed him the card and gave him a thumbs up.

The girl behind the counter chuckled.

“I don’t know why he is still standing there in the rain.” I said.

“He either wants some tip or wants to take you sightseeing tomorrow.” She said, still smiling.

“Or maybe he is just drunk and wants me to drive him home.”

I made my way into my room on the second floor. It was a nice clean dorm with two bunk beds. Thankfully, I was alone in the room. I quickly put my bag in the steel almirah, took out some clean clothes and went for a quick shower.

It was 3 am, by the time I got freshened up and decided to head back downstairs and look for some food.

A few hundred meters down the road, right next to the sky walk leading to the National Stadium MTR, was Marina HK, a restaurant which served all sorts of Thai and Chinese delicacies, and most importantly, it was open 24 hours. I walked along the side walk, dodging the big rats that dwell in the drains by day and hunt for food  at night.

“One chicken noodle soup and a coke.” I placed my order. The Thai waitress quickly noted down the order and left.

The restaurant was quite big, and well maintained. There was a TV on the wall that was showing some Thai music videos. To my left was the juice bar, which served everything from carrot to tomato juices.

To my right, there was a table where three locals were sitting, chatting loudly, occasionally bursting out in laughter. Their table was full of half eaten plates of food. Even though, there were wearing bandanas and had tattoos, they didn’t seem threatening. Hell, they looked pretty friendly. Still, to play it safe, I decided to not make any eye contact with them. After all, it’s Bangkok.

 I got up early the next day, thanks to my new roommate. It was 6.30 am. I shift to the side and fell asleep again without even looking at him.

By 10 am, I was ready to go out and have my breakfast. I read the name tag on the bed next to mine. His name was Damien and the bed was booked till the next day. I couldn’t see him anywhere, but I did see a Robert Downey Junior Autobiography on his bed. “What a loser!” I thought.

Outside, there was chaos. Buses, cars, trucks, bikes, all honking at the same time, sidewalks were crowded with hawkers, and street food vendors. Right next to our hostel was a convenience store and right next to the store was a small, old restaurant ran by a lady in her late 40s and her daughter.

I took a seat facing the road outside, and ordered a pad thai and some coffee. One can easily go to the Mc Donald’s near the MBK mall, a few hundred meters away from where I sat, but I have had enough burgers and French fries on this trip already.

Recommendations

  1. A dorm bed in Lub D Bangkok costs 550 Bahts on weekdays and 600 Bahts on weekends. The beds can be booked online at www.booking.com or the hostel’s website. The hostel hosts parties for the guests from time to time. The hostel also has a mini theatre and a small collection of books, of all genres, for their guests.
  2. Marina HK is not only open 24 hours but also serves a wide variety of food at extremely good prices.
  3. Staying at the Siam area is good only if you do not intend to venture out late in the night, as there are not many options within walking distance after 1.00 am. However, you can always hail a cab and head to other parts of the city.
  4. Evenings at Siam are enjoyable. Street markets, malls, food, drinks and entertainment. One can also check out Sukhumvit, Nana, Asok areas for similar stuff.

 

Part B- Seeing Bangkok

After breakfast, which cost me just 40 Bahts, I crossed the road and caught a red bus, thanks to a very friendly local, to China town. It cost me just 3 Bahts and the lady conductor smiled at me when she realised a foreigner has boarded her bus.

China town was busy. There were street vendors selling dried fishes, tropical fruits, Chinese jewelleries, electronic goods and clothes. Every shop had a different smell, some good, and some just plain out nasty.  The Chinese street food, which included fish, chicken, frogs, seemed exciting too. I roamed from street to street, stopping for a drink every now and then at the numerous 7-11s in the area, to escape the sticky humidity. Few blocks away was a narrow passage which was crowded with shops selling every day to day items like vegetables, groceries etc. There were people haggling the prices with the shopkeepers. This felt like the real China town.

Back at Siam square, there was another place that I really wanted to visit. It was the Jim Thompson’s house. You can find out more about him and his life here  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Thompson_%28designer%29). It is a beautiful property with lush gardens with a variety of plants. The house is made of wood, and we visited the rooms where Mr. Thompson used to live. The guides, dressed in white traditional Thai dresses, told us about his likes, his dislikes, his achievements, and why he chose to live in Thailand. The thing that interested me the most, however, were the various theories about his disappearance. 

The rest of the day was spent in the air conditioned malls of MBK, Siam Paragon and Siam World, including a very enjoyable visit to the Ocean World. It was 7.00 pm when I decided to go back to the hostel and take a shower.

“Hello, I am Damian.” He was standing near his bed, digging through his bag for something. He was a short guy with a headful of curly  orange hair.

“Hi,I am Arpan. Where are you from?”

“Spain. You?”

“India.”

During the course of the conversation he told me how it was his first day in Asia and he has already been scammed by more than 340 Euros that day by the notorious tuk tuk drivers.

“I want to do some diving.” He told me, in his thick Spanish accent, when I asked him why he chose to visit Thailand. He was leaving for Ko Tao early next morning.

“Are you going out?” He asked me when I came back from my shower.

“Yeah… I am going out to eat. Want to come?”

“Do you know any good place around?”

“I don’t, but I know the Food Hall at Siam Paragon is pretty nice. There is also a decent place called Marina HK right down this street.”

He quickly put on a shirt and few minutes later we were strolling down the busy sidewalks of the Siam Square. It was around 9 pm and there were make shift shops selling clothes, cosmetics and accessories.

I watched as Damien bought a few pirated DVDs. He was overcharged, mainly because he didn’t bargain.

“You know you should try and bargain a bit here.” I told him as he joined me with a packet full of DVDs. The lady selling some Thai street food asked us to move along. We were blocking the others.

“I know I should but I don’t know how to. I have never done it in my life.”

We crossed the road and entered the Siam Paragon Food Hall. I bought a food card and recharged it with 500 Bahts.

“This one is on me.” I said when he tried to pay the cashier.

“The beer is on me then.” He said with a smile.

We roamed around the food counters looking at different choices. The Siam Paragon Food Hall offers a variety of cuisines from all over the world. It is definitely the place to be in Bangkok if you are hungry.

I ended up buying some ramen with shrimps, and he chose to have some Thai beef noodles.

“So, how long are you here.. In Thailand?” I asked him. Next to our table sat a group of locals, in their formals. They seemed to be in a hurry to finish up with the food. 

“Three weeks. I took some time off from work to come here. My friends came here last year and they loved it.” He took a quick spoonful from his plate and continued, “How long will you be here in Bangkok?”

“I don’t know exactly. But I have tickets to Phuket after five days. I want to visit Pattaya before leaving though.”

During the meal, we decided to head to the Walking Street in Sukhumvit, located near the Asok train station. The street was about 250 meters long and it was filled with sleazy looking Go-Go bars with pink neon lights and clichéd names. There were girls outside each bar, wearing a lot of make up, and weird dresses, and being extra friendly to bring in more and more customers. Every now and then you would see some Indian salesman trying to sell you some counterfeit watches.

We decided to sit outside the bar and ordered a couple of Chang Beers. Some football match was being shown on the television set near the counter. Damien seemed to be a football fan because he wasn’t even blinking. Next to our table sat three aged white guys. Two of them were talking to each other while the third seemed more interested in the girl outside our bar. A couple of minutes later, he called her over and bought her a drink.

“What are you doing tomorrow?” Damien asked me. We were on the train back to our hostel.

“I am going to check in at some Khao San Road hotel and visit the Royal Palace and the Reclining Buddha.”

“Royal Palace is beautiful. Are you travelling alone or someone will join you soon?”

I wondered if I should answer this question truthfully. I mean, I don’t even know this guy.

“My friends might join me in Phuket.” I lied. I was travelling alone. I wondered if I was being overly cautious.

A station came and a middle aged guy rushed in and took the seat next to mine. He was sweating and breathing heavily. He quickly plugged in his ipod and closed his eyes. I guess he could feel the cold hard stares from all the other passengers.

That night while we were sitting in the lobby of the hostel, watching TV, Damien decided that he will postpone his trip to Ko Tao and come with me to Pattaya. We decided to spend the next day in Khao San Road, doing nothing. He needed to take some time off from getting scammed.

Recommendations:

  1. Apart from the places mentioned above, one can also head out on day drips to Ayuthaya or Hua Hin.
  2. Tour agents often have half day tours of floating markets which can be quite interesting for a traveller.
  3. If you are an animal lover, try checking out Bangkok Safari Park which is a bit outside the city but very enjoyable. Another good option is to visit the Dushit Zoo, where you can see the animals up close.

 

Part C- Khao San Road, Wat Pho, Scams and Chang Beer…and Fake IDs

 “Check this out.” Damien told me, handing me a piece of paper. I unfolded the paper to find some indecipherable Thai characters written on it.

“What is this?”

“That’s how we will get to Khao San Road without spending thousands of Euros.” He chuckled. Deep down I had a feeling he wasn’t actually joking.

So, we checked out from our hostel , got on the train to Saphan Taksin station, took a boat through the Chao Phraya river, walked for a bit to reach the 200 meter road, filled on both sides with shops, pubs and restaurants, more famously known as Khao San Road.

“Do you care to make a donation?” said a bald white guy, dressed like a monk. He apparently renamed himself as Sanjay and worked for the Iscon Temple, in India.

“I live in India.  I will contribute when I go back home.”

Sanjay looked a bit disappointed and then left after a polite goodbye.

“That’s the one, right next to the 7-11.” Damien said pointing out our hotel, Khao San Palace Inn.

After a smooth check-in, we decided to go up to the rooftop pool and restaurant for some drinks. The pool was small but quite clean. After a quick drink, I decided to go sightseeing and Damien decided to hang back at the poolside and chill.

After looking at the Bangkok map I decided to walk to Wat Pho. Royal Palace and Wat Arun didn’t seem far off either. It was pretty hot, so I decided to buy some water for the road.

“Do you want a suit?”  A middle aged Indian guy said. Then he glanced down at my feet and saw my slippers. “Dude, you need some shoes too!”  He looked like a tout, maybe even a scammer. I shook my head and kept on walking.

As I was crossing the road to the Grand Palace complex, a local waved at me from a distance. I stopped as he walked briskly towards me. He was short, looked middle aged and was wearing a purple shirt.

“Hi. How are you?” He asked me. He had a round face and a very friendly smile. “Are you from Malaysia?”

“No. I am from India.”

“Oh! You look Malaysian. My friend lives in India. Where are you going now?”

“Wat Pho and Royal Palace.”

He quickly glanced at his watch and said, “Royal Palace is not open now. And the afternoon ceremony is going on in Wat Pho. Closed for visitors.”

I knew where he was going, thanks to my pre-trip research about Bangkok.

“I’ll get you a tuk-tuk and he will take you to see the big Buddha, bigger than Wat Pho. For just 20 Bahts!”

“No thanks, I guess I’ll just wait for Wat Pho to open.” I walked away.

Surprisingly, Wat Pho was open and after buying a ticket, 100 Bahts including a bottle of water, I entered the temple. The reclining Buddha was long, golden, and intricately carved. The atmosphere inside the complex wasn’t exactly serene, thanks to the visitors who were clicking away pictures on their flash-cams, but I felt the holy-ness in the air, if I can call it that. There were small metal pots where visitors were donating one Baht coins. The trick was to have enough of those coins to donate in every one of the pots. Overall, I loved Wat Pho. I sat at the foot of the entrance for a while, sipping on my bottle of water, taking it all in.

I came to know about Wat Pho in “The Beach”, when in the first scene the lead character, played by Leonardo Di Caprio was shown standing near the Reclining Buddha.  Actually that movie was responsible in a lot of ways for my trip to Thailand, and for my stay in Khao San Road that night. Khao San Road was where Caprio met the French couple and also found the map to “The Beach”.

Not far away from the Wat Pho is the Grand Palace. The huge complex is dotted with buildings, which were once ministries, meeting rooms etc. Roaming around from room to room, each with its splendid designs and decorations was great fun.

Just a short boat ride away was Wat Arun. The only thing that I found exciting about the temple apart from the amazing view of the river is the climb up to the top of the central tower. The steps are narrow and small and it is quite scary trying to get up there. But once you do get up there, it is a sweet feeling, and I am not just talking about the view from up there. It is quite satisfying to stand on top of the tower and watch the others have a hard time climbing to the top.

It was dark by the time I got back to the hotel. As I made my way to the reception to complain about the faulty cable, I quickly glanced at Damien’s Room. It was locked.

After a painfully conversation with the receptionist, who seemed more interested in reading her book than listening to my problems, I took a seat at one of the many food stands on the Khao San Road and asked for pad thai and a big bottle Singha Beer. There were three small plastic tables laid out on the sidewalk and apart from mine, only one of the other two was occupied by a group of guys.They had long curly hair, incredibly colourful t-shirts and baggy pants. Apart from a few words once in a while, there were mostly silent. Judging from the number of beer bottles, and empty plates in the vicinity of their table, it seemed that they had been here for a while. Once in a while someone will enter the 7-11 adjacent our table, and the air conditioned air would cool us off for a second or two.

“Cheap fake IDs?”

The offer sounded interesting. I looked around. A small Thai guy, maybe in his teens, dressed in blue jeans and a bright red shirt brought out  a folder with all sorts of Ids. I did a quick scan and there were fake American Driving Licenses, Student Ids, Passports, a lot of other similar stuff. They looked pretty real.

“Very cheap for you my friend. How many you want?”

“How much?”

“Come to my shop. We talk. Can’t sell here.”

“Why?”

 “Asshole.” He said pointing to the owner of my food stall.

“Well, how far is your shop?”

“No shop my friend. I stand over there.” He was pointing towards a pirated DVD stand.

“Fine, I’ll be over there in a bit. But you have to give me a good price.”

I quickly finished up my food and paid my bills. The whole road of Khao San was lit up. There were more shops than I had seen in the morning. Live music was being played in many of the pubs, there were lots of people in the shops, all of them tourists and travellers, and  the weather was a lot better.

Sure enough, the guy was standing near the shop. He took me to the side of the shop where it was a bit more secluded. “What you want?”

“What do you have?” He handed me the whole catalogue of Ids. I thought it would be cool to have a Freelance Journalist Id, it may get me to places where normal people can’t go. I also picked a Student ID.

“What college?” He asked.

“I can pick any college?”

He smiled and nodded. “Yes!”

“Oxford.” I don’t settle for anything less than the best when it comes to fake Ids.

He asked for a couple of passport size pictures and asked me to write my name and other details on a piece of paper.

“So, how much for two?”

“500 Bahts.”

“No!” I was not spending 500 Bahts for some silly Ids.

“How much you pay?”

“100 Bahts.”

He laughed. “For one?” He was trying to make me look crazy.

“For two.” I said. He laughed harder.

“Can’t do my friend. Look at these Ids. They look real. No one will know they are fake.”

“Yes, they look nice but I won’t pay more than 100 bucks for both.”

“100 Dollars?”

“100 Bahts. Nice try dude.”

This went on for about 10 minutes, before we decided on the final price. 180 Bahts for two Ids. He asked me to come after an hour to collect them.

“Pay now. I give your Ids in an hour. ”

“No, I pay when you give me my Ids.”

“No. You pay now and I go and make your Ids. Ok?” He was looking a bit frustrated now. I have been negotiating about everything. “What if don’t come back. What will I do with your Ids?”

“Why would I run away? That is my hotel right there. And what if you run away with my money? You don’t  even have a shop.”

“Fine. 150 bahts now. Rest later.”

This went on for a while and finally I ended up paying 100 Bahts upfront. He didn’t look very happy with me bargaining so much but it had to be done.

 “Make it look real.” I told him before he dashed off to the back of the DVD shop. I saw him handing over my details to another guy. It was 8.30 p.m. and I decided to go look for a ride to Pattaya the next morning. I thought Damien and I were going there together but he was nowhere to be seen.

 

I walked down the road past the small guys wearing red suits and Turkish hats, handing out fliers to some party. I am sure it was just another Khao San Road scam, or maybe not. I wasn’t handed a flier. I walked past a small ill-lit narrow staircase, right beside the massage parlours where old white ladies were getting foot massages. You could hear some really nice live guitars being played. I saw the sign. Rooftop Cafe.

I slowly and steadily got up the stairs and took a seat at the corner and ordered a drink. the whole place was actually just a rooftop with a lot of tables and chairs and a makeshift bar. You could order food too, just that they will run to the nearest restaurant and get it for you.  There was a small platform and  on that platform was a stool where a white guy, maybe in his early thirties, was playing a guitar and singing some popular hippie songs. The weather was great and the easy atmosphere of the place really felt relaxing. Every now and then, a guest will go up and try their hand at the strings. The chaos of Khao San Road, which was just downstairs, seemed far away.

“Finally.. Where the hell have you been?” Damien said as he grabbed a seat and clumsily sat next to me, almost knocking my beer off the table. I would have offered him some, but he already had a bottle in his hand.

“I have been back since evening. Didn’t see you anywhere.. What were you? What did you do all day?”.

“Oh.. I made a couple of friends, and they are taking us to a club tonight. I hung out with them all day right here in Khao San Road. This place is amazing. Wish I came here earlier. None of that Siam bullshit.”

“We are going to Pattaya tomorrow aren’t we?” I was confused. “Don’t tell me you changed your mind. Khao San Road isn’t the real Thailand. It’s down south.”

“Well, I heard Pattaya is just one big Khao San Road. If you want to go south, let’s go south. But until the time comes, I would like to stay right here.” 

Some Thai guy walked by our table and silently mouthed something to us. I couldn’t figure it out.

“Selling weed.” Damien announced with the confidence of a scholar.

It was 12.30 am by the time we were done with the place. I was sleepy and wanted to start early tomorrow for Pattaya.

“I am going back to my room. If you want to go to Pattaya be ready by 6 am.”

“You’re fucking kidding me? We are going to the club, man. Let’s get something to eat.” Damien was drunk and furious. “I owe you one buddy for bringing me to this place.”

“Wouldn’t you rather be in Ko Tao?” It was late but still everything was lit up, the music was still on, the booze was flowing. It was pretty festival-y.

“I rather have another round of beer… and some food. Let’s go there!” He was pointing towards a sports bar and it was stuffed with people.

“You know what, I will meet you there. I’ll just go to my room and take care of a few things.”

“Alright, see you in a bit.” Damien said as he walked into the sports bar.

I knew I wasn’t coming back out that night. I just felt rude saying no to him. Khao San Road is enjoyable, I’ll give it that but I didn’t want to spend another day here. I wanted to see a beach, and Pattaya is the nearest one.

————————————————————————————————————————————–

Bang! Bang! Bang!

It was 2.00 am and I was deep in my sleep.

“Yo! Open up… Are you with a girl or something?” Bang! Bang! Bang!

I didn’t know this guy for two days and he was already being a pain in the ass. Needless to say, it was Damien banging on my door.

I got up, put on a t-shirt, and washed my face, as the banging got louder and faster.

I opened the door to see Damien standing there with a girl. She was not very tall, wore glasses and looked a bit Asian.

“What the fuck, man! I was waiting for you at the bar…”  Damien was standing on her side, almost leaning on her.

“I fell asleep.” I told him truthfully.

“Really.. you came to your room and boom, you fell asleep.” Damien said as he pushed me aside to enter my room. The girl followed him in. I again did the math in my head recalculate how many days I’ve known Damien. “Your TV doesn’t work!” Damien shouted.

“What do you want, man!” I asked as nicely I could. Part of me wanted to throw him out and punch him in the face, the other part knew, me getting my ass kicked by a drunken Spaniard wasn’t the solution.

“We are going to The Club.” The girl said, as Damien was busy fixing my TV. “Hi,I am Nes. We met Damien earlier today.”

“Hi, I am.. “

“Arpan from India. I know you from all the curses Damien was hurling at you all the way to your room.”

“Fucking wear some decent party clothes and lets goooooooooooo!” Damien was clearly very drunk.

“I don’t have party clothes.” I never really bought any party clothes in my life. Always showed up in casuals. I guess this wasn’t one of those parties.

“It’s okay.. wear whatever you want…just hurry up” Nes said.

I quickly got into something clean and comfortable and soon, we were out of the hotel.

As we were walking down the road, which was a lot quieter now, someone called us from the other side of the road. It seemed like he was coming towards me.

“I knew you would run away. You owe me 100 Bahts.” It was the guy with the fake IDs. I totally forgot about him.

“Not 100, 80… Where are my Ids”

“No..100 Bahts. You owe me 100 Bahts for 2 Ids.”

It was late and I didn’t want to get into another argument. So I gave him the money and he handed me an envelope with the Ids. I checked them, they looked good.

“Whoaaa… I want one of those..” Damien said as he looked at my Oxford students identity card.

“Come tomorrow. Today shop closed.” The little guy left.

“Are you sure he is going to be okay tonight at the club?” I asked Nes. Damien didn’t look very together.

“I don’t know. But the place isn’t far away from here. We will find out soon.” She laughed.

Nes was from Singapore. She was travelling here in Thailand with some of her friends, whom we were going to meet at the club.

The Club was right in the middle of the Khao San Road. It had a big board with a pink neon light on the outside. The door of the club was being guarded by five or six big Thai men. We could hear the thumping music being played inside from entrance. We entered the club and immediately I was introduced with four of Nes’s friends, all of them boys. I forgot their names as soon as I heard them. I watched as they hit the dance floor. Me and Damien ordered a couple of beers. He gave the bartender a 1000 baht note. The bartender gave him change for a hundred. Damien looked confused. I was sure he was thinking whether he really gave that 1000 baht note or was that just a drunken haze.

“We would need another 900 Bahts. We gave you a 1000.” I said to the bartender when I was sure Damien wouldn’t be able to figure it out on his own.

“Take it later after you guys are done.” The bartender said. The DJ was great. On the other side of the dance floor, I could see a couple of girls dancing with tubes of fluorescent lights.

“Give me my money now.” Damien shouted. “And no we do not want a tuk tuk, so don’t even ask.” He laughed as we left the counter. Clearly, he was having a lot of fun.

“Listen, I need to talk to you.” He said pulling me aside. We took a seat on a very questionable couch. Questionable in the sense that I could see a couple making out on a similar couch on the other side of the room.  

“What?”

“I’m in for Pattaya but not that early.” Damien said, shaking his head like crazy.

“Then?”

He stretched his legs out a bit, and as he did a guy bumped on it and almost fell. “Jesus Christ. Watch it.” The guy said as he continued up to the bar.

“Then when?” I asked again. I was not sure if I really wanted to go with him but still I wanted to know, whether he wanted to go with me.

“Twelve-ish”

“Okay. Sounds good.” It didn’t but I could easily get ready before twelve and leave, if I didn’t want to go with him.

Nes asked us if we wanted to join them on the floor. Damien was too drunk to dance and I acted being drunk.

“She has a boyfriend.” Damien was pointing towards Nes. “I thought I had a shot but…” Before he could finish his sentence he realised he was out of beer. I watched as he stumbled off to the counter and bought a couple of bottles.

“Where did you meet her?” I asked him. I watched him take a couple of big gulps from the bottle.

“Hotel pool side. She looked hot. Rest of her friends…naaah… But she..Man!”

  “Ask her out. Who knows.” Nes and her friends were now up on the platform with the DJ. Damien was looking at them too.

“I asked her out for pad thai…” He started laughing. “She said, she was on a diet.”

“So?”

He put his arms around my shoulders, and almost whispered. “Look at her, man. She doesn’t need to be on a diet.” I had to agree. She didn’t seem fat, in anyway whatsoever.

Beer bottles were filling up our table and at some point, I think Damien brought us some vodka. I am not sure. I remember watching a Sikh guy. He was wearing a white turban.

“I’m sure that’s special turban.” Damien said, as he killed another Chang beer. “I bet he is from India.”

No shit.

“Do the Bhangra” I shouted. Thankfully, my voice was lost somewhere in the music and noise. Damien laughed, even though I didn’t think he knew what bhangra was.

One of Nes’s friends came and told us that they were leaving. I was too drunk to react. Everything was in extra slow motion. I saw Damien’s hand go up. I half prayed that he wouldn’t show his middle finger to him. He waved his hand.

“Goodbye. We will see you tomorrow.”

They were gone by the time he ended the sentence.

I vaguely remember going back to my hotel. It must have been early morning.

“Good night. Thanks for taking me to the club.” Who knew I would actually end up having a great time. I didn’t.

Damien threw in a hug and almost fell when he let go. “See you in the morning.” He said as he walked across to his room. I opened the door of my room, and saw the TV remote lying on the floor. I kicked it and entered.

“They better fix my TV or I’ll…”

I threw up in the bathroom and passed out.

Recommendations

  1. Khao San Road, sadly, doesn’t have a train station. If you do not want to spend time following the route that we followed, I suggest taking a metered cab.
  2. Lot of scammers in Khao San Road. However, if you think straight, you are unlikely a
  3. Khao San Palace Inn has recently hiked its prices. They also charge a 500 Baht security fee. They offer baggage storing services as well.

 

——————————————————————————————————————————-

Part D:    Leaving Bangkok

It was 11.30 am, when I got up. Someone was knocking on my door.

I looked around to see a note slipping through the gap between the door and the floor.

“12 pm checkout time. Better hurry or you’ll have to pay for another day. I’m downstairs at the internet cafe. Meet me.”

I quickly freshened up and by the time I was ready to leave it was 12.10pm. Not bad, I thought. I looked around for him in the lobby as I was checking out, but I couldn’t see him.

I asked the receptionist, if it was okay to leave my bag at the counter for a while. She nodded.

I rushed to the internet cafe. He was sitting on one of the computers with a can of iced tea.

“We go to the Southern Bus Terminal for our bus.” He said before I could even say hello.

“Cool. Are you ready to leave?”

“I want breakfast first. Your treat.”

We carried our bags to the small cafe next to our hotel and took a seat on one of the tables outside.  It was bright and sunny, but the humidity seemed a bit low. Khao San Road was still sleeping. Most of the shops were closed or were just opening up. Every now and then, you would see a couple of travellers walking around, looking for their hotels or finding one. I watched one old lady setting up her tee-shirt shop.

“Banana pancake and coffee for me” He placed his order. The waitress looked at me.

“Do you have noodles?”

“This is Thailand. Of course they have noodles.” Damien butted in. The waitress smiled.

“Chicken noodles and a coke. Make the noodles spicy.” The waitress took down the order and walked away.

“Coke? First thing in the morning?”

“Shut up. This is how I roll.” I joked. I hated Thai coffee.

“Last night was fun. Let’s do it again tonight in Pattaya.”

“I need to sleep. Did you meet Nes?”

“We will sleep in the bus and in the hotel. I read up about the Walking Street of Pattaya.”

“Whatever. Did you meet your friends?” I repeated.

“Yes. I met Nes when I was checking out. Said goodbye for the both of us.”

Our food came and we started eating. Either the food was super delicious or we were very hungry, maybe both, but no one spoke. We just ate.

“So, how do we go to the Southern Bus Terminal?” I asked. I needed to take a breather from the noodles.

“We fly.” He said, still eating. One could probably near the noise of the steel knife and fork hitting the china plate all the way in Southern Bus Terminal.

 “We get off at the Victory Monument station and take a moto cab.” He said once he was done with the pancakes.

We picked up our bags, were off to Pattaya.

Recommendations

  1.  Khao San Road is filled with fake tourist desks. So try not to book anything from there. Use the internet to double check what you are being told by the touts.
  2. Lots of travellers visit Khao San every day. Not all of them are friendly. Stay away from drugs and dealers. Contact the tourist police in the event of any problems. They have a booth right outside the road, near the post office.
  3. Lots of food options in Khao San Road. Try them all.

Follow my boot prints to Pattaya by clicking here:

http://goodoldboots.com/2012/08/pattaya-where-the-freakshow-never-ends/

 

 

The Bus Ride!

Our air conditioned minibus, carrying ten people, most of whom were fast asleep, was speeding through the narrow roads of Bavet. With miles of rice fields on both sides, occasionally dotted with small ponds where few people would be sitting with makeshift fishing poles, the journey can get pretty boring within minutes. Having crossed into Cambodia from Saigon around an hour back, we resigned to the fact that the land border crossing process at the Bavet border may well be the most exciting thing to happen that day.

The strange stone carved monster bird statues outside every establishment to scare off evil spirits, the curves at the corners of the roofs that give a touch of royalty to even the most humble homes, the incomprehensible dialect, the dusty roads and the seemingly endless green fields, screamed out the fact that we have finally entered Cambodia.

It was late-afternoon and like most of my fellow passengers, I was drifting in and out of sleep, not out of tiredness, but out of boredom. Every now and then, I would check my watch to see how much longer do we have to travel. We were heading to Phnom Penh and as per my calculations, we were a good four hours away. And that’s not counting the time we would waste on the unscheduled stops at the local markets and tour desks, which were clearly aimed at scamming us. There have been a couple of stops already on the Vietnamese side, and it was only a matter of time before it happens again on this side of the border.

The silence in the minibus was broken by the irritating sound of a plastic bag being opened from the seats in front of mine.

“Onion Rings?” The man seating in front of me said to his mate seated next to him, in his heavily accented English. If I had to guess, I would say he was from one of the small European countries, like Lativa or Estonia.

“Naa! I’m not feeling well.” His friend said. He sounded like a native English speaker. Maybe British. His voice seemed tired and heavy. “I need to get some sleep.”

“Yeah, Vietnam is tough.”

“It’s not ‘Nam. It’s the fish I had last night.”

“Ooh..Yeah… Fish!… Mad spices! Didn’t you get it out of your system?”

“Yeah, I did. I almost passed out puking last night. Woke up today to find the whole room smelling like half digested rotten fish… Man, I was lucky to get my security deposit back.”

Soon, the second man dozed off again, the first man finished off his onion rings and the bus was silent again.

An hour or so later, the bus stopped. We woke up to realize that there was a restaurant outside. Clearly, it was another pathetic attempt to scam us. Few of the passengers got out for some fresh air and to stretch their legs. The rest continued sleeping.

The restaurant was located in the middle of nowhere. The restaurant was basically a temporary structure supported by iron poles and had a large aluminum sheet for roof. Inside, there were four tables with six plastic chairs each. It was located on the highway that led to Phnom Penh. There was nothing on either side of the highway except trees, shrubs and vast open fields.

“Do you have Coke?” I asked the waitress.

She brought out a chilled can of Coke and handed it to be with a big smile on her face.

“Malaysia?” She asked.

“No, India” I replied, handing her a $1 bill. It’s weird that Cambodians prefer to use American Dollars than their own Riels.

She brought the palms of her hands together, bowed a bit and greeted me, “Namaste”

Back on the bus, everyone seemed a lot more refreshed. People were eating, chatting and taking pictures. Overall, it seemed that we really needed this break. As I went back to my seat with my can of coke, I heard the sick guy telling his friend to bring him some chewing gum.

“Dude, all they have is spiders, cockroaches and bugs.. Chewing on those won’t make you feel any better. Trust me on that!”

“Gosh… Do they really eat those things?”

This question made me think. I haven’t actually seen Cambodians, or Thais eating these bugs and cockroaches. Never. It is always tourists trying out these insects, with scary expressions on their faces, under the illusion that they are immersing in the local culture.

What if it is just another tourist scam!

What if the Cambodians are like “Eww… Can’t believe they paid us to eat that. Let’s see what else we can feed these idiots.”

Few minutes later, the bus started moving and soon, we were speeding down the highway. Every now and then we would see sign boards telling us how far we were from the capital.

We passed this small village where we saw children playing football, and riding bicycles. The adults were working on the fields or just sitting around on plastic chairs outside their huts. They seemed normal in every way.

It is hard to imagine that Pol Pot was also from this country. He is the guy who thought killing millions of his fellow countrymen, many of them doctors, teachers etc. and starting a new Cambodia from year zero was a good idea. Did he confuse real life and real people with some video game where he can just start all over again by pressing the reset button? Who the hell put him in-charge?

Every now and then the bus would stop and some villager would get up. A teenager wearing a shabby AC-DC t-shirt sat beside me. He gave me a wide smile as he put his bag in the overhead space and took his seat. I wanted to ask him about the Khmer Rouge and the Angkor Wat, but I didn’t think he would understand me.

It was getting dark and it seemed we were driving through a forest. The road was narrow and uneven. It was dark inside the bus and all we could hear was the chatter of the other passengers.

Yes, it was frustrating and I couldn’t wait to get to my hotel, have a nice cold shower and a change of clothes. I thought about the time when I booked the hotel online. Dara Reang Sey was one of the premier hotels in the sea front area and according to the website, it had French décor, air conditioning, LCD TV, mini bar, a private balcony and a restaurant downstairs. I thought about the food that I will order once I was done with my shower. Chicken noodles, french fries, and a coke. Or maybe some beer. And some chicken nuggets.

Yes, definitely chicken nuggets.

I day dreamed about sitting on a road side table at the restaurant, as motorbikes and cars zoomed around. The waiter bringing me my food and finally, me stretching my legs and being comfortable. And then maybe calling it an early night, and heading to my room and falling asleep watching a movie.

I closed my eyes and thought about all the places I will be visiting the next day. The Killing Fields, the Genocide Museum, the National Museum, Wat Phnom, The Central Market, Phnom Penh night market. They all looked so interesting on the web.

“Stop the bus. Please stop the bus!” The European guy called out to the driver. The bus screeched to a halt. Everyone looked around. The sick guy hurriedly got off the bus. I looked out the window and saw him puke. The European guy handed him a bottle of water which he splashed on his face repeatedly. We were in the middle of the forest and apart from us, there was no sign of life anywhere close. It was dark and creepy. I looked at my watch. Damn, we should have been there by now.

The sick guy slowly made his way back to his seat.

“Are you okay? Do you need some medicine?”  The elderly Chinese man sitting in the front seat enquired in his low nasal voice. He could have been Japanese or Korean.

The sick guy shook his head, probably too sick to speak.

“He had some. Didn’t help.” His European friend replied.

As the bus started moving again, I asked the Cambodian sitting next to me how long will it take to reach Phnom Penh. He shook his head and smiled. Clearly he didn’t understand a word. I looked around for anything that symbolized Phnom Penh.

I showed him the bus ticket. It was bilingual. English and Khmer. He smiled again when he saw the ticket. I waited for a response but he still had a blank smile on his face. I showed him the ticket again and pointed to the Khmer alphabets written underneath the destination column. Still nothing. Nothing except that smile.

It seemed hopeless, so I plugged in my iPod and decided to just wait it out. The darkness outside took the shapes of silhouettes of the trees and hills. Inside the bus, it seemed the air conditioner was turned all the way up.

“How much longer till we get there?” The sick man asked in his weak voice.

“Won’t be long. It is about 15 kilometers from the village. Last time around we managed Phnom Penh in half an hour. But, we were on our bikes.”  His friend said.

I looked at my watch and did the maths in my head.

“We must be just round the corner to Phnom Penh.” I thought. It had been about 25 minutes since we left the village.

I looked in the back seat where few of the Cambodians were sitting. There was a big guy who had a thunderous laugh. Every time he laughed, the sound echoed around the bus thanks to the sealed windows. He was sitting with a man half his size, talking loudly in Khmer.

“Can you please keep it down.” The sick guy asked the big guy.

The big guy didn’t notice, partially because it was dark and partially because he was in the midst of some very entertaining conversation with his partner.

“Sir! Keep it down please. My friend isn’t feeling well and he needs to rest.” The European guy called out to the big guy.

Still, the big guy didn’t notice.

The Cambodian guy sitting to my side said something to the big guy in Khmer. The big guy looked at him and then shifted his gaze to the European.

“What?” The Big guy said. He had a deep, heavy, and loud voice.

“Keep it down please. He is not well.” The European guy said, pointing at his friend.

“Then take him to the doctor.” Clearly the big guy wasn’t happy about being asked to keep it down. “We are not being loud!” Ironically the last bit was said pretty loudly. I wondered if the guy was drunk.

The European guy was about to reply when the sick guy tapped on his arm and he sat back down.

The lights of the bus were turned on and the bus conductor rushed in from the front, sat beside the big guy, and talked to him. Few minutes later he came to the seat where the sick guy and his friend were sitting and told them that we will be arriving in Phnom Penh in a couple of minutes.

The lights went off again, and the “couple of minutes” turned into ten minutes. Then fifteen. We were on the outskirts of the city. Along the highway we passed gas stations, small huts and shops. There were a lot more people around.

I got off my seat, and carefully made my way to the front where the conductor was sitting.

“How do I get to the sea front?”

“Huh?” I guess I caught him off guard. He was busy with his cell phone.

“My hotel is in the sea front area. How do I get there?”

I saw his forehead cringing up as he thought about it. A few seconds later, he looked up and told me that he will drop me a few blocks away from the sea front.

“Which hotel are you staying?” He asked. In the white light of his cell phone, his teeth seemed to sparkle. It looked creepy.

“Dara Reang Sey”

“Oh…Dara! I will drop you off near Street 13. It’s five minutes walk from there.”

“Okay. Thanks!”

As I turned around to go back, I saw him move. I looked closely in the darkness to realize that he was holding out his hand. I shook his hand and thanked him again.

“Did you ask how much longer it’s going to take?” The European guy asked me as I passed him.

“Umm… Soon!”. I wanted to say “Don’t hold your breath” but I didn’t have the energy to be sarcastic.

I quickly put my iPod and my book inside my bag. I was excited because we were in Phnom Penh, finally. Looked out the window to see, bright lights, cars, people, and markets.

The bus stopped near a small market. I looked up from my seat to see if this was my stop. It wasn’t. The Chinese group got off. One of the ladies took a quick picture of the inside of the bus before she descended down the stairs.

The flash brightened up the entire bus for a second.

“Fuck!” The sick guy growled. What a loser!

The bus started again. The Cambodian guy sitting to my side gave me a smile. I guess he could sense my excitement.

“This is my first time in Phnom Penh.” I tried one last time to communicate with him.

He looked at me with an expression that made me assume that he was translating that sentence in Khmer. And then he smiled again.

“Stay away from the tuk tuks!” A deep voice came from the back seat. It was the big guy with the thunderous laugh.

“Okay.” I said and smiled.

“How many days are you planning to stay here” He asked. He didn’t seem unfriendly at all.

“Five days.”

The bus stopped all of a sudden, as we all swayed to the front. We were stuck in traffic.

“Huh?”

“Five days.” I repeated.

“Okay. You are from India. Yes?”

“Yes.”

“Ahhh…. Taj Mahal.. Bollywood… Kamasutra.” And he laughed.

The European guy looked back for a second before returning to whatever it is he was doing on his iPad.

“Where in India do you live?” He asked.

“Delhi.”

“Aah.. My friend lives in Choonee…”

“Chennai?”

“What?”

I wanted to end the conversation and look at the city outside, so I just smiled and nodded.

“Dara…” The conductor called out. He was sitting next to the driver, as the bus slowly made its way through the narrow city streets.

As I quickly picked up my bag, I heard the deep voice again.

“Bye, Shah Rukh Khan!”

I thought for a second, and said.

“Bye, Pol Pot.” I didn’t know any other Cambodian personality. As the bus filled up with that ridiculously loud laughter again, I guiltily passed the sick guy’s seat one last time that evening.

Soon, the bus stopped and I got to my hotel, passing through the narrow streets lined with bars and shops.

After a nice long cold shower and a change of clothes, I made my way downstairs through the elegant marble staircase and took my seat in one of the tables outside, facing the street. It was fifteen minutes past ten at night and the street was getting quieter by the minute.

“Spicy chicken noodles, and a Carlsberg please.”

The waitress took down my order and brought me the drink.

“The noodles will be ready in ten minutes. Do you want something else to eat for now?”

“Do you have chicken nuggets?”

“Sorry, Sir. We don’t have Chicken nuggets. We have fried chicken. Would you like to have some of that?”

“No thanks. I guess I’ll just have the noodles. Can you please make it spicy?”

“Sure. Anything else?”

“No, that’s it. Thanks.”

As I gulped down the magic potion, I realized that all the characters I met during the trip will almost certainly never assemble together again. All of us were brought together by a series of life events, just for a few hours. All of our lives intertwined for a brief while during this bus ride from Saigon to Phnom Penh.

If all of us were to sit down one day and write a book about our lives, what are the chances that this bus ride will even be mentioned?

Even if it is mentioned in a small section somewhere in Chapter 10321, how will each of us be mentioned in our stories? What if the guy whom I referred to as the sick guy, goes on to become the UFC Champion someday? In my book, he will always be the sick guy. What if the Big Cambodian goes on to find a cure for cancer? Will I even recognize him, when I read about his achievements in the newspaper?

No.

In my book, he will always be the guy who called me Shah Rukh Khan and in his book, I will be the Indian jackass who called him Pol Pot.

I ordered some more of that potion to continue this chain of thoughts.

So, what is the point of all these interactions? I mean seriously, what difference it would make if instead of trying to talk to the Cambodian teenager, I just sat quietly the entire trip? What difference would it make if I slept through the entire bus ride?

We have these seemingly pointless interactions every day. In a pub, at work, in a bus…

The truth is, in these line of thoughts, it doesn’t make a difference.

But it will make your book a lot more interesting.

An Evening stroll

I locked the main gate of my ground floor apartment and made my way out through the narrow brick laden path of my little front garden, to the neighbourhood street. It is another cloudy Saturday evening in Salt Lake City, Kolkata.  Every Saturday for the past 6 months, I have been visiting the nearby departmental store, Big Bazaar to buy some food, and utilities for the week to come.

At the end of the block, there is a small family run clinic located on the ground floor of an old two storey house. Today, five people were sitting on the steel airport style chairs in the open air waiting hall. A little kid wearing a Ben-10 T Shirt, sitting with his mother, who was busy talking on her cell phone, an old man with a cane in his hand reading a copy of India Today magazine, and a couple who, judging from their facial expressions, are having a very serious discussion. Walking past the clinic and taking a right, I played a little game in my head called “Guess the Disease”.

Few yards to the right of the clinic, is the neighbourhood park. Surrounded by a brick wall, five feet high, the park is also home to the community hall, which today seemed to be empty. In the park, I could see an old man dressed in white checked shirt and black trousers, sitting on one of the wooden benches and talking to a teenager, who had a guilty look on his face. On the other end of the park, few kids were playing cricket. They were extra chirpy today, maybe because it was Saturday and they did not have to worry about school for the next couple of days.

Right outside the park entrance, I saw a couple of cycle rickshaw drivers, chatting about politics, and smoking beedis. They seemed happy. Their well defined calve muscles reminded me that I really needed to renew my gym membership.  I whipped out my cell phone and went straight to the “Tasks” screen and typed in “Gym Membership”. Scrolled down.  Next field was “Priority”. I thought for a second about the crazy Gym instructor, his irritating and bossy ways, then glanced again at the rickshaw driver’s calves. Finally, I selected “Low” and saved.

Few feet away, my lanky landlady, dressed in a green saree, was coming home with her eight year old kid. We gave each other a cursory nod and continued in our respective ways. We still cannot look eye to eye after the whole “dead fish” episode. (She asked me to take care of her two fishes when she went on a vacation, few weeks ago. I forgot to feed them for a few days and they starved to death.)

To my left, is a brown two storey house with a couple of Maruti cars parked in the drive way. It is weird that even after six months of staying in this neighbourhood, I have not seen a living soul in this house, but somehow their cars always looked clean and their flower pots always seemed adequately watered.

Few feet down the road is Agnes, the local Chinese fast food place, owned and run by real Chinese expats. The shop kept a few tables on the side walk for its customers. Many a times, when my friends come to visit, I bring them here for lunch or dinner.

Today, the vicinity of the shop smelled like fried chicken. I gave a quick nod to the owner, who is in his late 70s, dressed today in a sleeveless red Manchester United jersey, sporting a tattoo of a humming bird on his right upper arm, which I think he liked showing off. Even though, the owner and I do not know each other’s names, but since I am a regular customer here, we do know each other by face, (Still not regular enough to get some special discounts however). Today, there is a group of three men in their formals, most probably in their early 30s, sitting in one of the tables. Two of them were talking something about interest rates, and the third guy was fiddling on his blackberry. I cursed them a bit, in my head because they made me think about Monday.

Few minutes later I reached the main crossing, from where I took a left to the main road. Dodging the noisy auto rickshaws and hundred different varieties of cars, I crossed the busy main road. If you are a classic video game lover, crossing this road is a bit like playing “Crossing the Fire Line”. Except the stakes are much higher.

As I walked towards the Big Bazaar, I took a quick glance at the show timings of the local movie hall, Kulraj Broadway. Three queues were formed in front of the ticket counters, each with around seven people. I judged them all for deciding to watch the silly, boring movies on show.

The whole area was filled with food stalls, selling chicken rolls, kebabs and all the popular deep fried delicacies. There were ice cream trolleys, cotton candies machines and drinks all around. Kids were running around, the road side seating spaces of the eating joints were filled with people of all ages. At one of the tables, three young guys were having drinks and sharing a large pizza. Every now and then they would break into a loud laughing spree. They were clearly having an awesome time.

On any other day, I would have taken a seat, ordered my favourite drink and watched the game. Tonight it was a bit too noisy for my liking. Weekends usually were. Also, my favourite team wasn’t doing well, and I had better things to do than watching them suck.

Right next to the box office is a small bakery named French Loaf. Entering through the fancy glass doors, I was hit by the heavy air conditioning of the place.  With wooden tables, shelves full of baked goodies, baskets of bread, and some foreign music, most probably French, the whole place had a rusty European village feel to it. I picked up a loaf of sweet bread and a couple of chocolate cup cakes.

Right in front of me, at the payment counter, stood a heavy man with a white beard which was long enough to dangle down his throat. He looked old, and cheerful. He had pink cheeks, big kind eyes, and lines of wrinkles on his forehead. With his fading orange baggy pants and shabby red shirt, he looked like a man with an artistic inclination, like a poet, struggling to make his living in a world obsessed with rockstars.

Or maybe he was just a Sadhu (Saint) who had a sudden craving for chocolate chip cookies.

Or maybe. Just maybe. Santa Claus was in town tonight, sporting a new look!

10 Things I love about Bangkok


10 Things I love about Bangkok

 1.       Spicy chicken noodle soup:

 

From the street food stalls of China Town to the fancy food courts of swanky Bangkok malls, Spicy chicken noodle soup is available everywhere. One spoonful of this delicious dish will make your taste buds dance. Different exotic Thai spices, glass noodles, small pieces of chicken, some green vegetables, and a bit of lemon are the ingredients that I have been able to figure out. Needless to say, a lot more probably goes into this dish, but who cares, I am not a chef. I am one of those guys who pay 50 Bahts for a bowl, and remain happy the rest of the day.

 2.       Wat Pho

 

I first looked up Wat Pho when I saw the image of the Reclining Buddha in “The Beach”. I don’t know whether it was Leonardo’s voice in the background, the Wat’s magnificent golden colour, or just the fact that I have never seen Buddha lying down (it reminded me of the way I like to watch TV), but I made it a point to visit Wat Pho the moment I touch down in Bangkok. And I did. 7 times. There is something magical about this Wat. Even though, it has now become a popular tourist destination due to which it is almost always crowded, for me visiting this Wat has always been a nice serene experience.

 3.       Siam Paragon Food Court

There is nothing more satisfying after a day of sightseeing than having the food that your heart desires. Incidentally, desires of the heart can be quite unpredictable (sometimes even creepy), but if I had to put my money on a place where we will have the best chance of finding the food that we want, I’ll put my money on Siam Paragon Food Court. Located on the ground floor of the super swanky Siam Paragon Mall, it has the widest range of cuisines I have seen under one roof. It doesn’t matter whether you want Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Pakistani, European, Fast Food, or just good old Thai, they have it all. With ample sitting area and a friendly vibe, it is almost impossible to not fall in love with this place.

 4.       Playing Video Games with the locals in MBK Mall

Located on the 3rd Floor of the Mall, there is a small video game parlour where you can play the latest Xbox and Playstation Games and challenge the locals. Earlier, I used to think playing video games while in Bangkok was a waste of time. I mean you can play video games at home. But that perception changed recently when I decided to enter the parlour on a rainy Thursday evening. There is nothing more enjoyable than beating an 8 year old Thai kid in a game that he loves. As I beat his character, John Cena, into a bloody pulp with his parents and little sister looking on with horrified expressions on their faces, I felt ashamed. Ashamed of the fact that I didn’t visit this place on my previous trips to Bangkok.

 5.       Chang Beer and Live Music at Khao San Road

 

There are quite a few places in and around the Khao San Road, each with its own identity and character, where you can just sit back, knock down a few bottles of Chang Beer, while listening to some soothing live music played by the in-house band, and give yourself some much deserved break from the chaos and madness of Bangkok. My personal favourite place is the Rooftop Cafe located right in the middle of Khao San Road. As the name suggests, this place is located on the rooftop of one of the shops. It is not hard to find. Just stroll around in the Khao San Road anytime after 8 P.M.  and if you hear some classic Bryan Adams music coming from the roof of one of the shops, you are at the right place. Just find the narrow iron staircase which is big enough to fit just one person at a time, find a nice seat, and order some Chang Beer and Pad Thai, and relax!

 6.       The Bangkok Podcast

 

Hosted by Tony and Greg, this show is about the issues that a farang deals with while living in Thailand. There have been shows with inputs on the Thai Language, information about transportation, scams, culture, etc. They have also been interviewing some really interesting people from all backgrounds and industries, from time to time. The chemistry between the hosts and the choice of topics are probably the reasons why I find myself downloading the show on my iPod whenever I get a chance. The show was temporarily put on hold when Tony moved to Japan but now the show is back on air again. For more details just visit www.bangkokpodcast.com

 7.       Respecting The King

 

I don’t know his accomplishments. I am not even sure whether the constitution gives him any real decision making power. But, the Thais seem really happy with their King. In the times when overthrowing the people in power is in fashion, I love the fact there is a small country which still adores and respects its King. 

 8.       Staying at Lub D Bangkok and Getting to know the world

 

Located next to the National Stadium Station, Lub D Bangkok is consistently been voted among the top hostels in Asia. Equipped with all the amenities that a visitor might need, coupled with clean toilets, bathrooms and super amazing staff, it made me extend my stay here over and over again. Here, you can share your room with people from around the world, share experiences and listen to their stories. Till now, I have stayed with Germans, South Africans, Cambodians, Chinese, British, Spanish, Americans and of course, Thais. My trip to Bangkok is incomplete if I do not spend a night at the Lub D.

9.       Visiting the pet section of Chatuchak Market

 

Ever since I heard that there is an entire section of the Chatuchak market dedicated to pets, all sorts of crazy ideas of bringing some animal back home were doing rounds in my head. From squirrels to guinea pigs, puppies to small rats, Chatuchak market has it all. You would see lines of shops with cute puppies, kittens various other animals and birds in small cages, ready to be sold and shipped to any part of the world. Of course, they charge extra for shipping.

 10.   People Watching:

 Be it outside a small street food stall, or in front of a tacky Go-Go bar, the best way to spend an evening in Bangkok is to grab your favourite drink, get a good seat, and just look around. You will be surprised at how relaxing and fun this can turn out to be. (I have tried this in Sukhumvit, Khao San, Siam and Nana. It is fun everywhere!). It gets a bit more interesting when a lady boy from the nearby Go-Go bar joins you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Survival Guide to Delhi

Its 1 am and I walk into my hotel in Kuta (Bali) with a bottle of Bintang in my hand. I see the receptionist sitting on the couch with this Australian guy, in the midst of some really engaging conversation. I say a drunken “hi” to them and head towards my room. The receptionist calls and tells me that his Australian friend just landed in Bali from Thailand. I don’t know why he told me that, I guess because I too landed in Bali after spending some time in Thailand. He tells the Aussie that I am from India. The Aussie nodded and during the course of the conversation, he told me all about how horrible the Delhi leg of his India trip was. Fake travel agents, horrible hotels, irritating beggars, and lots more. Surprisingly, it’s not just the Aussie, browse through the Delhi page of wikitravel or any other travel website, and you will find that there is a big section just about the imperfections of my city.  I am tired of seeing naive travellers standing in the middle of a busy street with dusty scooters, Maruti cars and rickshaws whizzing by, with a map on their hands, overwhelmed by the noise, chaos and heat, trying to figure out where they are and where they want to go, while taxi drivers, beggars and scammers of all ages try different ways to lure them into their traps.

The aim of this article is not to scare you but to educate you about the risks and help you mitigate them. Here is the survival guide to the seemingly mean, but extremely lovable and enjoyable Delhi. My City.

Where to Stay

Anyone looking for cheap accommodation while in Delhi usually makes a beeline for Paharganj, Delhi’s answer to Bangkok’s Khao San Road. Packed with hotels to suit every wallet size, this place has grown in popularity over the years because of its proximity to the Railway Station, shops to cater to your every need and food to suit every tongue and stomach. Even though extremely convenient, considering the number of shady hotels mushrooming around the area, it might not be the worst idea to spend a tad more and staying in the Southern part of the city. Having lived in Delhi for over 20 years, I know for a fact that South Delhi is much safer than the rest of the city in terms of tourist scams and thefts. It is also a lot less touristy and way more professional. So, next time you are browsing through the hotels of Delhi, give the hotels in Defence Colony, East of Kailash, Safdarjung Enclave, South Extension and Jor Bagh another look.

How to go around

Two Words. Delhi Metro. With its wide network, be sure that no matter where you are in Delhi, you are never too far away from a Metro Station. With its air conditioned coaches, convenient operating hours, reasonable prices, and separate coach for the ladies, it is not only the most comfortable, but also one of the safest ways to travel while in Delhi.

Now, if for whatever reasons, you still prefer hiring a cab or an auto rickshaw, make sure the driver understands exactly where you want to go (your foreign accent may confuse them at times). Always insist on using the meter or if you know how far your destination is, settle on a price before commencing the journey. A trick that has worked for me in the past while hiring cabs is avoiding the overly aggressive taxi drivers and hiring the seemingly honest ones from the road, which seem to be on the go. Remember, when a taxi driver quotes a price to a foreigner, divide the price by 4 and the result is usually the actual price. In Delhi, there is no shame in bargaining, it’s actually expected!

Where and What to Eat

Delhi is famous for its street food, however it may be a bit too much for the western stomach to digest on the very first day. However, if you feel like testing yourself, try visiting the markets of Old Delhi and Chandni Chowk for some super delicious chaats, pakoras, momos, paranthas, Chinese food (with an Indian twist) and a lot more. If you are looking for something a bit more classy, head to the restaurants of South Extension, and Connaught Place. Moti Mahal and Pind Baluchi are two of the leading Indian Restaurant chains and are famous for their authentic Indian and Mughlai cuisine. (Make sure you try their butter chicken and tandoor delicacies). If you are not a fan of the Indian cuisine, no need to worry. There are plenty of western delicacies on the menus of most medium and high end restaurants. Also, there are a lot of international fast food joints dotted across the city at your disposal.

 

For the Ladies

If there is one thing I hate about my city, it would be the way it treats its ladies. It is not easy to be a female visitor and not be the centre of attention while doing even the most mundane things. Incidents of foreigners getting drugged and taken advantage of aren’t rare. Always try to be aware of your surroundings and it is always a good idea to avoid the overly friendly. Wearing full length clothes in the scorching heat of Delhi may not be comfortable, but it will certainly help in not attracting undue attention.

Interacting with the locals

Interacting with the locals is one of the major learning points about the culture, history and lifestyle of any city. In Delhi too, locals especially youngsters will love to talk to a foreigner, and guide them in any way they can but like in any other city, there is a small percentage of people who would try their best to get some easy money out of you.  The trick is to identify them and ignore them. So, when a friendly stranger offers to drop you off at your hotel, ask yourself, would you go around asking people that when you are in your hometown? Is that normal behaviour? If the answer to that question is no, its probably a good idea to decline that offer, with a smile if possible, and move on. The same goes for people offering you drinks, or prasads (temple offerings), or anything else. 

Dealing with the beggars

Picture this, you are sitting in your cab on the way to India Gate or Qutub Minar, with the latest bollywood songs playing in the background, going through the lonely planet guide book, learning a bit more about the history of the place or maybe you are just looking out the window and taking pictures of the cows sitting on the road (it’s not rare to spot an elephant or a camel on the road either). A kid comes up to your window and asks for some money. Looking at his dirty, torn clothes and the sad expressions on his young face, you feel a bit sorry for him instantly. You reach into your pocket and give him some money. AND BOOM! Out of nowhere, your cab is surrounded by 10-15 kids all with the same dirty, torn clothes. All of them asking for money to buy food. See, right there when you gave money to the first kid, you made the biggest mistake that most travellers make. If you had just said no to him (or just looked away), his friends wouldn’t have raided your cab. When you give money to a beggar especially a kid, you are encouraging to him keep begging. I am not asking you to be heartless, but if you really want to help the needy, take some time off and donate to an NGO. They will use the funds to get these kids educated, so that they can leave the roads and live a better life.

Travel Bookings

This is a scam prone area, so say no to booking anything from the hundreds of travel shops opening up in the hotels, market places, near  famous landmarks etc. I know that not all of them are dishonest, but it’s not worth spending thousands of Rupees, booking a flight and reaching the airport to find the ticket is a fake. Same with Rail and Bus travel. So, book your flights through reliable websites like Yatra.com, Make my trip, Cleartrip, or just book it from the airlines website (lots of internet cafes in the city, in case you don’t have internet in your hotel), book your rail tickets through irctc.com, which is the website of the Indian Railways. And if you want a bus, just show up at Kashmere Gate ISBT or Anand Vihar ISBT and book your ticket from the designated counter (Both these places have their very own Metro Station).

Escaping the Heat

Delhi weather is a bit extreme on both ends. Winter starts from October and lasts till January. Wearing a jacket and woollen socks and having a bit of hot chai (tea) every now and then will get you through the winter.

Summer starts from May and lasts almost till August, with occasional showers. Wear sun glasses and a hat, drink lots of water, use sunscreen lotions and avoid the outdoors in the afternoon. That’s the best you can do.

Terrorist threats

I don’t mean to scare you but, if the media is to be believed, Delhi is under constant terrorist threats. Even though, no major incident has happened in the recent past, every now and then you would see some new terrorist outfit issuing threats to carry out attacks in the city. Maybe most of it is just media hype, but who knows. So, its best to trust the efficient Delhi Police and Indian Intelligence Agencies and not let it get to your head. Best case scenario, Nothing happens, Worst Case Scenario, you end up on the latest Banged up Abroad episode. Just imagine you are in Gotham city and Batman will save you if anything happens. (Seriously, I am not trying to scare off you guys).

And finally, shopping

We, Delhites, pride ourselves on the fact that you can find anything in our city. It’s a bit hard for me to write this section because I am not much of a shopper, but if you are a backpacker and want some cheap clothes or souvenirs, these are the two places I would recommend.

  1. a.      Palika Bazar: Located conveniently near the posh shopping complexes of Connaught Place, Palika Bazar is actually an underground market selling everything from electronics, to DVDs(pirated and originals) and Blu ray discs of the latest movies, Indian and Western, Clothes, Cosmetics, books etc. Bargain your ass off!
  2. b.      Sarojini Nagar Market and South Extension: Located in South Delhi, these are the places where the locals shop.  A lot less touristy and a lot more authentic than Palika bazaar, you can find almost anything you want in these markets. South extension is a bit fancier, with quite a few outlets of big brands but still it hasn’t lost its desi feel.

There are a lot of shopping malls and high end boutiques with major brand names all over the city, that can cater to the needs of people with different tastes and preferences. Credit and Debit Cards are widely accepted and credit card scams don’t pose a big risk, but still, try using cash whenever you can (Lots of ATMs around). All in All, I think you will be impressed with what Delhi has to offer.

Delhi is a big city and like any big city, it’s not easy on the first timers. Hell, it’s not easy on its locals. But that’s the adventure. And trust me, if you manage to deal with the beggars and the scammers, you will realise Delhi is a bit like grandma, always happy to see you, always up for a conversation, and always ready to give you a hug!

The dark side of Pattaya

 

I spent most of my stay in Pattaya hanging out in bars and pubs in the evenings and going out on day trips in the morning… I had been to the Crocodile farm, the tiger zoo, and the Alcazar cabaret show… I have also been hanging out in the beach for a couple of days, just reading a book and eating sea food… I guess what I am trying to say is that I have had a nice, and relaxing stay in Pattaya till then… and what was synonymous with the phrase nice and relaxing was that I didn’t really step out of my comfort zone.. One night while I was having my dinner at one of the beachside restaurants, I realised the cold hard fact…Pattaya seemed a lot like home, ..safe.. I needed to do something different… something a bit more Thai…

The next day, as I left the comforts of my hotel, I decided to make a quick stop at the nearby tour desk and see if there was something a bit more different that I could do that day… but, nope… the tours were filled with the same old tourist crap…. cabaret shows, zoos, museums, amusement parks, temples and stuff like that… hopelessly, I bought a ticket to that evening’s Tiffany show, which is the rival cabaret show of the Alcazar… (in hindsight though, there are more or less the same..)

I reached the beach, took my seat and sat there for a couple of hours… it was hot as hell, Thailand usually is in June… It was around lunch time when I got up and went to the nearby 7-11 to grab a bottle of water, some food and more importantly, some air conditioning… I wanted to get back to my seat quickly because I didn’t want some 80 year old White guy hogging the seat with his 22 year old Thai escort… 4 days into my stay and I was already getting sick of these old men…

As I stepped out of the shop with my shrimp flavoured chips and a bottle of coke, something on the nearby wall caught my eye… It was the pamphlet of some Muay Thai event that night… Thai and Non-Thai Fighters will be in action… but the event was scheduled to start at 8 pm at Fairtex stadium.. I didn’t know where or how far Fairtex stadium was.. I went back into the shop and asked where the stadium was.. it was 25 kms away.. So, I stood there sipping on my coke and doing the math in my head… it went something like this…

“the event is scheduled to start at 8 pm… but this is Thailand, so probably the event will end up starting at 9pm.. now if the stadium is 25 kms away, it will probably take me half an hour by a moto cab to reach there.. lets say there is a queue for the tickets.. 15 mins for that… another 15 mins for finding the perfect seat and getting a bottle of beer… so, I need to leave at 7.30 pm… but wait, I bought a ticket to the Tiffany’s show… it ends at 8pm… so, maybe I should leave the Tiffany’s Show 30 mins early… but what if the show is awesome! And I sure as hell don’t want to be rude to the lady boys… Muay thai or Cabaret… Muay Thai is a manly sport, a true Thai experience, and will be a lot of fun.. but Tiffany’s has music, involves me sitting in an air conditioned auditorium, I have already bought tickets to the show and I secretly love the cabaret! yeeaaaahh…. fuck Muay Thai”

So, that evening I went back to the hotel, to take a shower before heading to the Tiffany’s … the pick up was supposed to arrive in 30 mins.. So , I took a nice long shower and changed into something clean and non sandy.. but 30 mins went by and the pick up didn’t arrive…

40 mins… nothing

The show was supposed to start in 15 minutes and I was already starting to sweat again…. I should have been in the auditorium by now… I decided to quickly go to the travel desk… a new person was sitting at the desk… seemed to be Russian because she was reading a book in which the alphabets seemed to be inverted… I told her my situation, and showed her my ticket… She was “haa-alarmed”…  Apparently the guy who booked the ticket in the morning forgot to book me a pickup… I told her to either arrange something in the next 5 minutes, or give me my money back… She said she can do neither… WTF! Worst travel desk ever…

I told her in my angry tone that I want to see the show from the beginning and clearly, I cannot make it in time tonight.. She called her supervisor and told him in an alien language how an Indian was bugging her over getting late for a cabaret show (I know I should be embarrassed about that)… I spoke to the supervisor and it was the guy who booked my ticket… He told me that he was sorry for the whole mix up and offered me tickets for the next day’s show.. I was a bit let down, but I agreed… So, I got my new tickets to the next days show and I was promised that the pick up will arrive at my hotel 30 minutes before the show.. (It didn’t… but thats another story)..

So, now that it was clear that I wasn’t going to the Tiffany’s, I decided to hire a moto cab for Fairtex Stadium.. So, we zoomed through the tiny little beachfront roads  and reached the Fairtex in 20 minutes… cost me 50 Bahts… but the driver got a cut out of my ticket price from the stadium… and yes, these people sell unreasonably expensive tickets to the foreigners.. the ticket cost me 1200 bahts…

I went into the arena and took ring side seats… I had my own little table.. and a waiter came instantly to give me a complementary bottle of water.. I looked around, the stands were packed with Thais… shouting at the top of their voices… betting! It was hot and I was sure the humidity wasn’t doing them any favours… they were sweating but they didn’t care.. all they cared about was to make the perfect bet and there was only one way of doing that… SHOUT! I didn’t really understand how the whole betting scene worked, but it seemed to be an organised mayhem.. So, I decided to sit back on my comfortable seat, stretch my legs on the small table and pantomimed the waiter for a bottle of Chang Beer… Ahh…I was Mr Burns for a night.. Excellent!

A big strong western guy was sitting at the next seat with his Thai escort… next to him sat a big European group of 4-5 people…(how did I know they were Europeans? They looked lost!) On the cheap seats next to the Thais sat a couple of white guys, taking pictures… On the far end, there was another white guy, sitting alone.. why do I remember him? He looked a bit like Leonardo di Caprio.. at least from my seat he did…

The loud bagpipe music started and the first two fighters entered the ring.. they were two kids… Boring! Second fight. Another kid fight! I looked at my watch, it was 10.30 pm… I could have been at the walking street having a Chang Beer watching a ping pong show or listening to some live music… 3rd fight… even worse, a girl fight… 4th fight.. a little girl fight…(are you kidding me?).. eventhough, these girls and kids were fighting as per the Muay Thai techniques, I really didn’t give a shit… I came to see a real fight… I wanted to see faces getting smashed, bones getting fractured.. I wanted to see blood…. I sure as hell didn’t spend my 1200 bahts to watch two little girls, who probably go to school with Hello Kitty lunch boxes, fight…

Then business started picking up.. 5th fight was between a Finnish guy and a Thai…needless to say, the Finnish guy got his ass whooped… Nice! 6th Fight- An Arab and a Thai.. the Arab guy’s coach threw in the towel because he hurt his leg in the middle of a round.. The Arab was pissed.. the whole event was evoking strong reactions from the people sitting in the stands… the noise was deafening.

So, it was 2.30 am by the time the event ended… and I had serious doubts on whether I will get some transport back to my hotel especially because, the Fairtex was located in a sleepy little corner of the city. I asked a Thai and he told me to check near the bus stop some 200 meters away… it was dark and there was no one else around… most of the people brought their own transport, and it seemed like I was the only guy in a shitty situation… So, I walked for a while through the dark alley and reached the main road and asked one guy where I can get transport… luckily he guided me to the right direction and I found a couple of moto taxis waiting… hired one for double the price I paid before and we zoomed off… Man, if you thought Pattaya was creepy during day time, it does not any better at 3 in the morning… the roads were empty.. the 7-11s seemed to be the only things that were  awake… I didn’t know which part of town this was but I never thought Pattaya ever slept… but apparently it did.. Then, we drove into the weirdest street I have ever been to … loud music, pink neon lights and people. Gay People.. surrounded by pubs with weird gay names, the whole street seemed like a male version of the famous walking street.. there were guys dressed in weird costumes roaming around the street trying to get people into their show.. All of it was a huge cultural shock for me because I have never ever seen gays in their element.. It was weird… thankfully, we drove off the streets within a few seconds and we were back to seeing big hotels, 7-11s, pubs and restaurants…

We reached the beach road within a few minutes and I was dropped off at a pub near my hotel and I went back to my hotel after catching a quick bite, and a drink… As I entered my hotel, the receptionist looked me and asked

“Walking Street?”

“No, Fairtex”

“What?”

“Muay Thai”

“Ooooh.. you want to order massage?”

“No!”

Disappointed, he went back to whatever it was he was doing on his laptop…

So, even though Muay Thai didn’t turn out to be all that I hoped it would be, it turned out to be a nice enjoyable evening…. I left two days later after getting sick of disgusting 90 year old white men roaming around with girls one-fourth their age… Fucking Farangs!

 

Bali, Indonesia

There is a reason why I am writing after so long… I didn’t know how I can put in words the place that opened a whole new world to me… Even though I don’t know where I should start to describe this beautiful island, I will give it my best shot.. and just in case you didn’t know which place I am talking about, let me clear it out, I am talking about Bali… Your Bali experience will start when you land at the Denpasar Airport.. with the ocean (i think) in the background, the airport itself seems like a great picnic spot… get out of the front gate and you will be surrounded by cab drivers, each promising you the best price…

Kuta

If you are heading to Kuta, you are certainly in for a ride… I headed straight to the Poppies lane which is known for its cheap accommodations… Even though, it is recommended that you book the first night before landing in Bali, I didn’t do so…Remember, most of the good, cheap hotels and hostels don’t have their websites yet… so, booking them online isn’t really an option.. I just took a stroll in the Poppies lane 1 and chose this nice resort named Ayu Beach Resort (even though the place was nice, I think the word “resort” was used loosely.) The Australian Restaurant situated just outside the resort is a great place to watch some good movies while having some delicious food and beer…. The Lonely Planet approved Masa Inn is located a few feet away from the resort… even though they have listed it under budget accommodation, Masa Inn rooms tariffs are almost triple the tariffs of the Ayu Beach resort. The Kuta Beach is probably the most commercialised beach in Indonesia. Surrounded by small eateries and shops alongwith The Hard Rock Cafe, Mc Donalds, shopping malls and various other big brands, Kuta has something to offer to everyone… had some real nice sea food at one of the Japanese Restaurants near the Kritika Plaza.. best shrimp dumplings I have ever had (literally melted in my mouth)….. Also, head to Made’s Warung for some solid Balinese and Indonesian cuisine.. aaahhhhhhhh! If you are looking for some music and dance, head to one of the many bars on Legion Street… the most popular are The Bounty, Paddy’s and the Engine… If you follow the news, I am sure you might have come across the news of bombings in Bali.. there is a memorial dedicated to the people who lost their lives… make sure you visit and pay tribute…

Ubud

Ubud is referred to as the real Bali… and I will not be if it actually is…. don’t get me wrong, Kuta is nice and super fun, but it isn’t that different from say, Pattaya or Phuket… but Ubud is just magical… it takes about 2 hours to arrive in Kuta via minibus.. I stayed with an Indonesian family… and got the opportunity to see how the Indonesians go about their business… Ubud has a lot of art galleries and museums… Ubud is peaceful and has a small town feel to it with its rice fields and brick roads… but what impressed me the most about Ubud is the food…. Man! I never knew a small place like Ubud can pack in so much varieties of food… I still remember each and every meal I had in Ubud… Loved it all.. Unlike Kuta, Ubud falls asleep quite early… so, don’t be surprised if you find deserted streets at 10pm.. Even though there isn’t a whole lot of things to do in Ubud, the lazy lifestyle, calmness and serenity gets to you..

Things to do in Bali

a. Learn to surf at Kuta Beach and then head to Nusa Dua beach to play with the big boys and big waves

b. Visit the Kintamani volcano and Lake Batur.. Magical!

c. Stay with an Indonesian family in Ubud and learn a few Indonesian words..

d. Visit the Bali Safari and Marine Park and hold a baby Orangutan

e. EAT! DRINK! And REPEAT!

Things to Avoid

a. Drug Trafficking- Carries a death penalty

b. Magic Mushrooms

c. Do not disrespect the local… its the land of Eat, Pray and Love!

So, in short.. Bali is just awesome.. Be it the party scene of Kuta, the killer waves of Nusa Dua, the natural beauty of Ulu Watu or the simple living of Ubud, there is a new facet of Bali waiting for you at every corner… and if you are like me, you will start loving Bali in the most homosexual way possible..

Railay, Southern Thailand

Railay or Rai Leh is one of the most beautiful places I have been to. Surrounded by mountains and high cliffs on the sides, one can spend hours at the beach and not get bored…. there are three popular beaches in Raileh.. the Railay East, Railay West, and the Phra Nang Beach… needless to say, all three beaches are great but if you have to choose one, choose Phra Nang… it looks breathtaking with the high cliffs and crystal clear water…you can also rock climb at the Phra Nang  beach…on the way to the beach there is a lagoon which is one of the must sees…yes, it is a short climb but you dont need to be an experienced climber to get there…

Now, the nightlife… there are a string of bars and restaurants near the Railay East Beach… the Last Bar is the hands down favourite with the travelers because of the great ambiance and live music… also there is a nice Indian place named the Utopia where apart from delicious food you can be a part of a whole range of nighttime entertainments like movies, snooker, and video games and stuff like that… Also the Walking Street nearby is home to a great restaurant and pub…

As far as accommodation is concerned, Railay has something to offer to travelers of every wallet size… I stayed at the Diamond Cave resort, costs about 600 Bahts and offers good clean rooms with Air conditioning, private balcony and bathrooms, TV and a big bed…Wifi is available at the lobby and is free of charge.

How to Get There

there are direct ferry services from both Phuket, Phi Phi Island, Krabi and Ao Nang…

For a detailed account of my stay at Railay, kindly visit the travel journal section… Thank you!

The Final Blog

 

 

Live from The Dringlefun Intergalactic Headquarters

So, the trip has ended and destination scouting for the next trip is about to begin… but before that, there are a few things that remains to be stated…. surprising, I know!

For those who are travelling to Thailand or Indonesia for the first time here are a few pointers…

a. For Thailand

i)Thou shall Avoid tuk tuks like the plague: so much has been written about the notorious tuk tuks of Thailand, yet still so many travellers are scammed by them.. use the BTS or MRT, in Bangkok or hire a taxi… the pink ones are mostly honest… if you must hire a tuk tuk, make sure that you fix the price beforehand and ensure that the driver understands exactly where you want to go.. for Phuket and Northern Thailand, just have use your brain and be on the guard while dealing with them… Consider renting a bike for a day…

ii) If an Offer is too good to  be true, it probably is... sightseeing in Bangkok for 10 Bahts?! offers like these have scams written all over them… if you accept offers like these, expect to spend a whole lot of time shopping for jewellery and shit, at crappy stores

iii)Thou shall always use the safe deposit boxes: Losing your travel documents or cards will ruin not only your mood, but also your whole vacation… be safe and use the safe deposit boxes to store your valuables..

iv) Thou shall choose your hotel carefully... when booking a hotel dont just look at the price and the facilities…make sure that the location is good… read the reviews of fellow travelers on websites like travel fish, trip advisor and ofcourse, lonely planet…

v) Most importantly, thou shall never ever argue with a Thai… just always know that they are always right… there is no shame in apologising and walking away from an argument in a foreign land…. having said that, make sure any serious incident is report to the tourist police who are just incredible…

b. For Indonesia

i)  Thou shall not use or carry drugs… it carries a death penalty..

ii) Thou shall stay away from the magic mushrooms… I know the name sounds tempting, but if found high on the mushrooms, you might be heading to the slammer for a couple of years atleast

iii) Thou will always be respectful: Indonesians are mellow and quiet by nature.. do not misbehave or disrespect…

Now, there are a few regrets that I have had on this trip…make sure you include the following in your itinerary when you visit these places:

a. Climb Kintamani Volcano… various tour groups organise trips from Kuta and Ubud to trek all the way to the top…costs about Rp600000 and the trek usually starts at around 2 am and lasts about 4 hours, depending on your speed

b. Visit Bangkok safari park…its receiving great reviews from travellers all over…

c. Have some Arak in Indonesia… recommended by a local, I really regret not having this..

d. Rock climb at Railay.. Phra Nang beach has some rock climbing opportunities…

And now for some of the must dos…

a. Hold a hairy little Orangutan in the Bali Safari and Marine Park

b. Have buffet lunch at any of the restaurants overlooking the Kintamani volcano and lake Batur

c. Swim your ass off at the Phra Nang Beach at Railay….just remember to use sunscreen when you can…

d. Shop till you drop at the Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok.. its a 2 mins walk away from the Mo Chit station…

e. Visit the Kuta beach in the evening… if you are lucky you may just catch the sunset ceremony at the beach…

Thank you for following my blogs… be happy and keep travelling!

Live Long and Prosper \\ //

 

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