I made it to Thailand. Not without a few mixups, but alas, I am here.
How it all started.
On the 23rd I made my way to Vancouver from Shawnigan Lake, Vancouver Island a day before my flight so that I wouldn’t be in panic mode the day of the flight. I stayed with a friend of mine, Shawna and her sister Mandy and her cat Francis, who so kindly let me crash there for the night before I made the big flip. I arrived early to get some Thai Baht from the exchange (a smart move). I had decided the week before to not come over earlier and get my Thai travel Visa to extend the first leg of my stay in Thailand to 60 days, so I was able to rest and prepare a few more days with the folks, which I think was a good move. It will force me to get out of the country every 30 days.
The next day I was up and at em in great time for my 1430 hrs flight, said goodbye to my friend and was about to meet another friend for a coffee on South Granville when I decided to look at my flight time. I was prepared, I had printed it all out a few weeks prior.
enter absolute horror
For some reason I had it stuck in my head that I was flying out at 1430 (arrival time), and not the proper departure time of 1100. So instead of being on my way to the airport 4.5 hrs in advance, I was actually 30 minutes away from takeoff. After sitting down and triple checking my error – in absolute horror I must add, realization andf panic began to set in. I knew as well as the next taxi driver how long it would take to get to YVR airport from where I was, yet I still hailed a taxi and asked him to: “kindly get me the hell to the airport as quickly as possible. Jesus this isn’t good.”
I arrived at the airport 10 minutes prior to liftoff. Of course the nice taxi driver (after asking me why such a nice man like myself made such a large error) reassured me that the gates close 30 minutes prior to takeoff and I had zero chance of making my flight.
By this time I had calmed down considerably and walked as quickly as I could to the front desk kiosk and asked the kind attendant if I had any chance to make the flight. That is when the truth of it all finally hit home and I made my way over to the airline help desk to discuss matters. There was another flight the next day that I bought and paid for.
My friend Tracy, whom I had planned to meet for coffee (before the situation) had to also make her way to the airport, so she came and picked me up from the airport with her friend (laughing a bit at me) and we debriefed over lunch. A great human to make me smile and forget my blunder.
No More 17 hr Layover
So, the good news of having to re-book my flight for the next day was that I no longer had a 17 hr layover in Kunming and instead had a 1 hr layover in Shanghai and arrived in Bangkok at 2130 hrs instead of 1430 hrs on the 26th.
A royal screw-up of the upmost degree. The shock has worn off now, but the shame still exists.
My first flight was 13 hrs from Vancouver to Shanghai, and 4 hrs from Shanghai to Bangkok. It turned out to actually be pretty good because when I arrived I had red eyes and was ready to crash in the bed. Thankfully the cab driver at the airport was majorly awesome and phoned the place where I was going (and still am) asking directions and I think this ensured that somebody would be awaiting my arrival, too. Very kind people.
My flight was rather grueling itself though. First off, I think something to do with the cabin pressure/air condition gave me a pretty quick headache. I’ve been trying to read up about it, so maybe it’s just that I have a few decades of ear wax building up inside my ear? or something more clinical happening, but regardless, it gets pretty bad. Like, woozy and splitting headache kind of bad. I don’t know why I even wait and see if it will go away, but I do, so I sat through that for a while and finally took a couple Tylenol and a miracle did happen – brain happy again. There was a quick spell of those cold shivers that makes you feel like something horrible is going to happen like faint or throw up, but I breathed deeply and it quickly passed, and the rest of my flight was very peaceful, drifting between sleep and movies. I read for the first few hours, but once the headache set in, it was pretty near impossible. Plus, for some reason when I have headphones on my headaches seem to kind of go away (hence my suspicion with something inside my ear being the root cause).
I’m in Bangkok!
I woke up at around 6 or so, and everything seemed to be ok! It’s amazing, translating so far in such weird circumstances and waking up in the morning and being OK. On my flight I watched a few movies about old times a few houndred years ago and it’s so crazy for me thinking about how today we can get here there and everywhere without even batting an eye at the distance really. Imagine being a person who traveled back when horses were the speed at which things went. A journey like I’m doing now would take… years almost to just get here.
The first day here I met with a friend of mine, Alex, who I first met in Darmstadt, Germany in 2012 when I went there to do research on thin film solar cells at TUD. Her and her friend have been on the road for 3 months already, hopping around Europe and now half way to their final destination of New Zealand and Australia. It was really nice to see her on that first day here, really has made me feel like I’m not such a stranger in a strange land here. We wandered around Siam district for a bit and made our way to a night market to end the night.
That night market though, what a market. For a while I wasn’t sure if it was actually a night market or a prostitute market. We waded our way through the girls dressed in school girl uniforms galore chaos to find all the stalls though, which was pretty neat to walk through of course. As funny as it does sound, markets all seem to be the same around the world more or less. The big ones anyways. Cell phone cases, t-shirts, wallets, sunglasses, backpacks, and penis pendants.
Needless to say, when I arrived back at my place near 2200 hrs I was exhausted and fell right to sleep after a quick shower.
The next day I made my way back to a phone store to buy a SIM card with a data plan (this means internet anywhere I go) – this time with my passport. Apparently for most things here you need a passport to do the transaction, which I didn’t know the day before when I tried. Necessary for big things anyways. Food, not so much. I got my SIM card and I feel like life just got about 10,000 times easier trying to translate myself around the city (anybody who’s traveled knows the pain of trying to find WiFi hotspots), but this could also just be the nerd in me excited at such technology things.
I spent the rest of the day hanging out with a friend from Vancouver, Donovan, who’s a passionate street photographer. We first went to get a scooter for him, which I rode around on the back of for the rest of the day. He lived here for half a year last year driving a motorcycle and is an experienced motorcycler in Canada but I was still a bit nervous sitting on the back and subject to somebody else’s skill (this is hard for me sometimes to not be a little stressed about). But we had a great day. He drove me all over Chinatown mostly. We parked the scooter and got off and walked around a lot, both of us walking the streets taking photographs of all the interesting things we saw.
This is the first time with my 100% manual camera that I’ve been shooting street photography. It’s fast work that gives you no second chances usually, especially the way I do it. I walk – mostly wander – and am weaving and bobbing in here and over there to put my camera in the right angle positions to capture that frame I’m looking for. The trick for me though is that I don’t have auto-focus at all – 100% manual. Donovan gave me a great tip: just leave the focal range at a set position and wait for the subject to get into the range and take the photograph – I have it set to around 1 meter. This takes a bit getting used to and requires me to get right in close, but nothing like a good photography challenge for me!
Guyasuka Café & Hostel
This morning I’m sitting at the Guyasuka Café & Hostel, where I will be for the next few days. This is the first time I’ve sat here in the morning and the staff here are really friendly. I am pretty sure I’m the only one that stays here and I have the top floor all to myself. I’ll most likely extend my stay here as it’s pretty reasonable priced and I’m enjoying Bangkok alot. So much to see and I haven’t even gone to see the Golden Buddha or temples. They brought me food as I’m sitting here – these little fried things made of coconut, green onion, and corn (oil I think). They were almost like little fried eggs. So good. I asked for more. They also brought bananas, a few slices of mango, and some other fruit I do not know (maybe passion fruit?). So kind of them. Coffee also sounds nice..
They asked me if I wanted the AC on, but I shook my head and said it didn’t matter. However, I should have said ‘yes please I’m dying here’ because I’m sweating and just sitting here as I type this. I can feel beads of sweat running down my back. They did come and turn on a fan that is now making a large racket and I’m afraid is going to take off on me.
Most places around have AC when you walk inside, including the skytrain. That’s pretty nice but I keep feeling it can’t be that good for the body to go from such heat then into such cold. Like a brain freeze or something.
Today I will meet up with Donovan again, and see what kind of stuff we can photograph.
Until next time!