Wednesday, 5 July 2017

To Parts Unknown. Hong Kong to Bangkok

Jet-Lag is hitting hard.  So hard that by 3 am I've returned from the 7/11 around the corner with a bottle of wine, a pack of cigarettes, and 2 cups of yogurt.   No point tossing from side to side; I might as well be productive.  

After all: Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kanada anymore !

Grandma is doing well when I call her at 3:15 (quarter after noon in Vancouver), and I revel in completing yesterday's blog post.

I've been gone from home for not much more than 24 hours. And I'm ECSTATIC.  Is that ALL it takes?  OK, maybe the bottle of wine I bought at 7-11 helps, LOL

WATCH THIS 2:35 minute Video ;-)

I've been gone for barely more than 24 hours and my mind is swinging from the chandelier again !  I'm going to step foot into a new country today

Around 4 am it seems to be raining outside ....

.... but by 5:30 am the city is flaunting its beauty.
Looking at these pictures, please remember that it is a MOIST 28 degrees Celsius out there.  It's perfect.  You sweat, but not a single joint dares raise its voice to complain of pain.  NOTHING !  


I'm back from my ritualistic walk to the waterfront through Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Park. I mingle with the old folks engaged in their morning Tai Chi and Sword play.  It's a ritual and I wouldn't miss it ;-)

This is the first time that I join the crowd circling the park counter-clockwise and flab and swing my arms as well with only a tiny left-over feeling of self-awareness.   When in Rome .....

Apropos temperature:  Notice the sweat running down my forehead? LOVE IT !  Also note the relaxed posture:  I just did a stretch right next to the harbour, LOL.

Sun Yat-sen staring at high-rises

7 am is approaching.  This is the time when the hotel provides something to nibble on.  I hesitate to call it breakfast. It consists of a few cookies.  After I take 2 out of the total of 10 cookies I already feel guilty, LOL   But it's about time.  Because the bottle of wine I bought at 3 am is almost empty !.   But the Americano that comes with it is first class.

I'm also glad that I bought my return ticket a few days ago from Bangkok to Manila to Vancouver because apparently getting a Visa on Arrival in Thailand seems to be highly dependent on being able to show an airplane ticket OUT of Thailand.  We'll see how that plays out ;-)

7:50 Time to check out,
another high-rise being built with bamboo sticks

 take the morning Ding-Ding to Central ....
I was lucky to ride in an old wooden one instead of one of the new aluminum trams

... and then the Airport Express.

Out of habit, I walk into Terminal 1 at the airport, but my flight today leaves from Terminal 2.  Something new.  Air Asia seems to be the Ryan Air of the East. When I check in I ask the counter clerk to change my preassigned window seat to an aisle seat and she informs me that I would have to pay money for that change.  I do NOT think so, LOL, it's only a 2.5 hour flight after all.  But that is a bad sign for on-board service.

Immigration and Security have minimal line-ups here in Terminal 2, so that at 9:45 I finally got today's breakfast in the form of a spicy pork Ramen and a glass of Asahi Super Dry.

  Not bad but not as fabulously spicy as the one at Incheon Airport in Seoul.  Now THAT one lit the fires of hell in my stomach.  Loved it!

 One hour to kill until lift-off.  I walk over to the gate.  There is no plane there 40 minutes before the scheduled departure time but there is a sign: Passengers are not allowed to consume their own food or beverage while on board.   Aha  Not quite brilliant service, but then Air Asia tickets are DIRT-CHEAP so that is ok.  And with any luck, I'll be sleeping through the whole flight; I'm starting to notice my 3 am rising time after only 3.5 hours of sleep.

My Thai Air Asia ride

I sleep for one hour of the 2.5 hour flight.  So I get a chance to take some pictures from my window seat:
Muddy River.  Could that be the Mekong?

My first glimpse of Thailand. Industrialized !

The first thing I see on the way to passport control is a smoking booth. 
Praise Thailand !

Next is a FX booth.  About 150 HK$, 200 CAD$, and 58 US$ get pushed over the counter and converted to about 7000 Baht.

I walk into the direction of the Visa on Arrival counter, which Wikipedia stated 2 weeks ago I would need.   After paying 300 Baht for passport pictures (I had realized I didn't have any only yesterday ;-), the guy who runs the photo booth inquires about my nationality and after seeing my German passport tells me I don't need a visa and can just line up at the immigration counters.  Strange but true; they let me in ;-)

When I connect to the airport Wifi I learn that TinTin, my second favourite alive cat, was eaten by a coyote yesterday close to Kingsway and Boundary in Vancouver.  He was old and he had been getting scrawny lately, so he was close to being tortured to death by old age.  Not much of a relief, but it helps a little.  I'll miss you TinTin !

Taking the local public transit bus is not quite that easy though.  After quite a bit of walking in the heat I locate a bus stop.  And I even find the right bus, # 59.  But when I try to pay the driver, the fare collector (same system as in Hanoi) inquires where I'm going and after I say Bangkok informs me that I should have taken the bus into the opposite direction (Oh, yes, Thailand drives on the left side of the road ).  So they let me out at the next stop without charge, and after 5 minutes a #59 going in the other direction stops for me even though I'm not even sitting at a bus stop where #59 is supposed to stop.  23 Baht buys me a ride into the centre of town.  

the smiling ticket-vendor

And it takes TWO hours.  It's not the distance; it's the crazy traffic on the second half of the trip.

When I get to the hotel (Guest-house style and FABULOUS with free coffee, croissants, muffins, oranges, bananas, etc), I finally get to check how much a Thai Baht is worth and how much I've spent on the various things:

Passport photos:  300 Baht = CAD$ 11.50

Carton of Winston Cigarettes: 700 Baht = CAD$ 26.50
Room per night:  1000 Baht = CAD$ 38
bottle of water:   7 Baht = CAD$ 0.27
2 hour bus ride:   23 Baht =  CAD$ 0.88

Add to that the near-sauna-like temperatures and I'm sure that I'm going to LIKE it here, LOL.

After a quick shower and a bit of sink laundry (hey, I have a smoking balcony with a railing perfect for drying clothes ;-), I renew for another night.  I do have some work to do and I think I like this guesthouse, so I'll stay here at least 4 nights.

Can it be coincidence that there are two cats in the house that like me right away?  One if the exact same colour of TinTin and it tries to come into my room. I'm not sure of the exact breed but given that I'm in Thailand, Siamese Cat might not be far from the truth, LOL.

Time to hit the streets.  I want some wine, LOL.  The owner directs me to 7-Eleven.  The first one only has beer.  I've had Singha before, so I get some Chang Classic.  Yummy.  On the way back on the other side of the canal I run into another 7-Eleven and they have wine. A bottle of red for less than CAD$ 12.  Expensive for around here but less than half the price in Hong Kong.

7 pm. It's getting DARK outside !   WTF?  I guess that's what you get for being so close to the equator, LOL.

8pm.  That's it.  Enough awake time.

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