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I've taken Thailand Trips [actually SE Asia trips] just about every year, since 2006...
I "blogged" about the earlier ones via emails sent weekly back to a dozen or so people in Canada.
Since these were emails, they were often written in the present tense...
Luckily enough, I still had many pictures and all the emails I'd sent.
I am in the Seoul airport at present. I left Edmonton about 6:40 am on Wednesday, Feb 15 and arrived in Seoul, S. Korea, at 6:00 pm, Feb 16. I seem to have lost about a day and a half somewhere!
The International Date Line will do that.
My first leg was from Edmonton to Seattle Washington. There was a long layover before my next flight... to Seoul South Korea.
I flew Asiana airlines and was very pleased with the comfort and service. I had 3 seats to myself and was able to stretch out and snooze for quite some time. I never did figure out the sound, movies and games, so I read (big surprise, right?).
The food was OK. NOTE: I said the food was OK... NOT "for an airline, the food was OK".
I was reminded of what we used to get on Wardair flights. For any non-Canadian, under the age of 60, that last sentence likely makes no sense whatsoever.
The stewardesses were almost fluent in English, and I almost understood what they were saying. Luckily, there were 4 phrases we agreed on, early in the trip:
I have a 24 hour stopover in Seoul, and the airline put me up in a hotel.
I made a slight mistake in that I stayed in a hotel near the Seoul airport, when I could have gone to downtown Seoul. There was not much to do or see at the new city named "The Airport Town Center"... and YES that was in English.
Plus it was unbelievably cold. My poor ears got semi-frozen within a few blocks walk.
My the hotel was interesting. Very nicely done (quite new).
It's called Tourist Hotel June, once again completely in English.
When I entered my room, a motion-sensor light came on. I took off my shoes and put on the slippers waiting in the small "foyer".
Then I noticed a FIRE Zone box on the wall and wondered what it was all about.
I proceeded into the room and looked for light switches. NADA! There were some relay switches that I tried, but they didn't work.
Then the motion-sensor light went out, and I had to leave the room, go to the foyer, which activated the light, then back to the main room and bathroom looking for a way to turn on the lights.
I repeated that sequence about 15 times (20 minutes or so) with no luck with the lights, tv or air conditioning. Not that I needed air.
At last, I decided to swallow my pride and go back to the main desk to ask for help.
As I was putting on my shoes I noticed that the FIRE zone box actually said FREE ZONE, and underneath, in very small letters were the words INSERT KEY.
The key had a wooden (?) attachment that fit in a slot in the FREE ZONE
doo-hickey-thingy. THAT activated the lights.
What a smart idea. You know where your key is, and you can't leave lights on when you leave.
I arrived quite late at night (Friday) at the Don Muang Airport.
I was greeted by a college professor whom I'd met whilst she was on a study tour of NAIT. She, her nephew and a friend found me at the airport, and drove me through night-time Bangkok.
First stop was to get some Thai food... a spicy soup recommended by my friends.
My taste buds are just as burned off as theirs. In fact, only two of us (including moi) could finish the soup.
but O! it was tasty soup, noodles and fish balls.
For those of you whose minds tend to wander, I'd like to point out that THIS example of fish balls is in a spherical shape... the result of mincing first, then some machinations with (I presume) something like a melon baller.
WHATEVER! It was very tasty.
Sometime after midnight, I was escorted to my new home, the Markman Mansion.
My friend had scouted out hotels in the Siam Square section of Bangkok (it sounded exotic when I read about it).
Most were too pricey to suit her, so she found me a room in the Markman Mansion for 600 baht (which is about $18) per night.
My room (larger than that in Korea) has air conditioning, an exhaust fan, TV, a frig, a shower and a regular toilet.
There is actually HOT water in the shower, although the pressure is somewhat minuscule.
I slept really well...
I travelled by tuk-tuk to a dock, with my Thai friend at 9 a.m. this morning. (More on tuk tuks later). There we grabbed a long-tail boat and had a 90 minute trip along the Chao Phraya River, disgusting backwaters, and canals that intersect Bangkok all over.
Mansions side-by-side with falling-into-the-water hovels.
"How did this happen?" I hear you saying.
I thought you'd never ask me. I was at Wat Pho, the largest temple complex in Bangkok, and had a one hour massage, with heated herbs, for $12.
There is a famous massage school run by the temple and the students
and otherwise ply their trade on unsuspecting "clients" who are wandering through the temple grounds.
It was actually reasonably relaxing and I feel very good.
The herbs, however, heated to an excruciatingly hot temperature, and applied all over my exposed body left a yellow residue that took some scrubbing in the aforementioned shower to remove.
Ay yes... tuk-tuks.
These are (I think) motorcycles converted to carry 2 to 4 passengers under a canopy of sorts, but with open sides. Dirty, smoky, noisy, uncomfortable... BUT very maneuverable and cheap.
Anyway, the tuk tuk ride ($3 for 1/2 hour trip to the dock... ) was exciting. Just what I need... more A. Fib. at my age.
Although I didn't see a lot of special touristy things today, I had an incredibly full day and my senses are overwhelmed with the different life.
I'm on my own, tomorrow... but I can handle it!
On Monday, I'll visit travel shops and arrange some tours.
My guide, "Air" is her nickname, had to work on her thesis proposal, and thus I was on my own for Sunday.
I spent more time retracing steps, getting unlost
Luckily I had a business card from my hotel, with a map on the back...
and tuk-tuk and taxi drivers got me home safely.
On one of Sunday's adventures, I went to THE large shopping centre
(the West Edmonton Mall of Thailand, I gather).
I walked there (1/2 hour through the rain and heat... poor me...
I had to have a beer when I got there...
However upon arriving a "security guard" (so he said) told me the centre was closed until 1 pm and I should hop into his friend's taxi and go to the OTHER good shopping centre.
If I'd been the "normal" farang (thai word for foreigner) sucker, I'd have ended up at a massage parlor that was actually a brothel.
BUT NOT ME, O! NO!
I ended up at the priciest diamond and gold "shopping centre" in Bangkok.
So who was the bigger sucker, me for going, or the "security guard" for thinking I was going to buy?
Anyway, I was severely annoyed. And I voiced that to a sweet young lady who was going to be my personal guide to diamonds etc.
When she heard my whine, she was actually embarrassed that someone would do that to me. She found a limo/bus that was taking a bunch of RICH types back to the other shopping center and wangled me a free ride there.
So that worked out OK. And I finally got my beer.
I decided to take the overhead train back to my hotel... well close to my hotel. I got off and wandered hither and yon...
I finally gave in, hailed a taxi and went back to the hotel.
Then I walked straight up that street, over a pedestrian walkway and down a street to an immense open -air set of restaurants, where I had... pad thai and 2 beer.
I managed to get directly home from there and went to bed.
Thus endeth Sunday.
On Monday, I had agreed to go over my friends PhD Thesis proposal which she had to give in English.
She and another lady PhD candidate turned up about 9:30 am and I corrected their PowerPoint presentations, then harassed them about their English.
Their ability to rattle off organic chemical complex compounds (with horrendously multi-syllabic parts) is phenomenal, but they can't say "went" correctly.
They don't see the need of sounding out ending consonants, so I was hammering them about that.
Plus how to pronounce words with "v" in them.
Mind you, they pronounced "valence" correctly. Anything to do with science they had down cold.
We spent about 8 hours doing that.
And I booked myself a tour or 2 or 3... first spending a day at the old capitol city, Ayutthaya seeing hundreds of ruined temples...
THEN a 3 day hike through the Thai Jungle...
THEN a boat trip down the Mekong river... to someplace in Laos...
I must learn the name of the place where the tour abandons me... I should let my family know where to find me.