Tuesday, August 07, 2007

One Night In Bangkok...

Get Thai'd!? You're talking to a tourist
Whose every move's among the purest
I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me

- "One Night In Bangkok" by Murray Head

Bangkok Skyline

Bangkok Skyline

After my second wedding to Anna, after meeting all of my new family, after touring half of Vietnam, after weeks of being on the road and lost in translation, it was time to come home.

Anna and I had completely different itineraries for both ways. She dropped me off at that airport with her parents and I was off to Thailand for my layover. Since my brother lives in Thailand and I had 12 hours, I decided to make a visit. I actually would have liked to stay longer had I the time.

Only having one night in Bangkok, I figured a walk in the market place would be best. My brother Kris and his girlfriend took me out to a restaurant and then we hit the open market. It was only seconds before I saw my first authentic Thai He/She. And then I saw another...and then another. Hm, there are real girls here, too, right?

In addition to gender confused individuals, keep an eye out for ethically confused folk as well. Pickpocketing is so bad, they have signs up everywhere to protect the overly trusting tourists.


We looked around at the small shops for a while. All of that walking made us feel the need for a nice foot massage. Massage shops are a plenty and very affordable. And many are respectable. We found a place that just specializes in feet to ensure that everything stays where it is supposed to.

Having a full stomach and relaxed feet and empty wallet, we figured it was time to head home. The local taxi drivers all tried to get us to come to them. They all have unique open air taxis.

Tourist Taxi

Tourist Taxi

This taxi is really only for the tourists. There are regular car taxis as well. They have air conditioning. They are better sheltered from rain. They are more comfortable and they even cost less to ride. You pay for the quaint ride. No thanks.

After a nice shower and sleep in Kris's apartment, I took the real taxi back to the airport to officially end my Asian trip for 2007. Nothing makes you more tired than travel. I had to start work the morning after I arrived home. I felt like I needed a vacation from my vacation.

Next year, marriage number 3 to Anna, this time in the Philippines. I better start blogging about it now so this time I can post it at a reasonable time...

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Dang, Da Nang...

My last stop was in Da Nang. We drove there from Hoi An. The thrust of tourism for Da Nang is a hill top pagoda with other statues and temples. We were not prepared for the hike that ensued. In the pic below you can see how far we hiked. We started down where the cars are, and stopped for the first time when I took this pic.

A big 'ole rock.

After some over priced and probably recycled water, we kept on exploring the mountain top. We had to get a pic with this elegant buddah with a stomach that rivals even mine. It is said that for some reason if you rub the belly button of this dude, you get good luck. Unfortunately, you don't get hand sanitizer when you are finished.

And yet Anna won't even look at my belly for good luck!

Around every corner was a pagoda or statue of some kind. This one was huge!

In this pic you can't sense the magnitude of this sculpture.

Along the main path was an off-shoot to Heaven's Gate. You have to crawl through a cave and through holes to get to the actual top of the mountain.

The entrance to Heaven...yes, it's the stairway...

The whole way they kept telling me that I couldn't do it. That I was too big. That I had better stay below. They apparently had never heard of American Willpower. Not only did I get up there no problem, but I out performed them all. I was springing back down as sure footed as a mountain goat, only slowing down to give Anna a helping hand. How big do they really think I am...?

Anyway, fat stereotypes aside, we had a pleasurable visit. Like any trip somewhere, after you've seen a dozen pagodas and buddahs, you are about ready to move on to something new. We hiked down and made our way to the van that was to take us back to the train station.

As we got to the train station we were eager to be home already. Once they let us board the train we got on and waited to leave. Due to some travel agency mess up, we didn't get our own car with the beds. We were on seats that were reminiscent of airplane welfare section. I knew it'd be a long and uncomfortable 18 hour trip.

But sure enough, something went wrong again. Being completely lost in Vietnamese, the fast paced argument between Anna's dad and the random stranger shaking tickets in his face only confused me. And I was even more confused when I was told to grab my stuff and get off the train. Just as we got off, the train then left us standing there. The travel agency also booked us on the train for the wrong day!

We were stuck in Da Nang with no hotel or transportation for at least 24 hours. The travel agency offered us no help. There was a hotel next door to the train station so we went there first. They negotiated a price while I sat in the lounge. After we were all squared away, I grabbed my stuff and followed Anna to the elevator where more confusing Vietnamese arguing took place.

I came to find out that this time they argued about me. Since I was an American, they wanted to charge all of us - Anna's parents, herself and me - the full American rate, which was considerably more expensive. We told them what they could do with their "American Rate."

Anna's dad hopped on a scooter, gave the guy a few Dong, and in an hour returned with a hotel reserved and paid for in advance so they couldn't raise the price when they saw my skin pigmentation.

The next day we were on the lovely train again. The less than luxurious seats were waiting for us. After the previous day's events, we were glad just to have that.

The ride back had much of same beautiful scenery. I got to see plenty of it, as I was seated by the window and never got up once the whole 18 hours. If you saw the floor, walls, doors and especially the toilets, you would move as little as possible too.

Ironic typo

This must be the "plush" toilet they talk about.

At least they delivered food.

Yet another experience in train food gambling. I hear locals bet on what parasites they get from the food for fun.

I ate sparingly as I didn't have a spare immune system. By the end of the ride the four of us had swollen legs. Our feet looked like dough rising out of our of shoes. I don't think I was ever so glad to be back in our hotel room in Hanoi.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Hoi An, Ahoy...!

We drove from Hue to Hoi An in a few hours. Along the way I saw many buildings that were still in shambles from the war.

War-torn Homes

Sure, a fixer-uper. But there's a great PTA in this neighborhood.

The whole time I kept on thinking of what kind of communist slogan they could use to justify such neglect. How about, "Try communism! Let us do nothing for you too!"

We got into Hoi An just as the sun was going down. Since we were to leave Hoi An the next morning, this meant that we once again were going to get short changed by our tour agency.

Thanks to our previous griping, we did get a night time walking tour of the village. After about three minutes I knew what the local specialty was.


Hoi An is a very old town and has kept much of it's old charm. I especially liked the street signs with TLC carved into each one.
Street Sign

I may not know where I am still, but at least I know that I'm somewhere.

After more walking, sweating and feeling like Danny Devito's gym socks, we got to take some well deserved rest sipping some juice that I cannot identify by the sign.

Since I can't read the sign, I pointed to the longest name insuring I'd get the most for my money.

After that we had no energy left and nowhere else to go if we did. We retreated to our hotel ready for a day in Da Nang.