Travel troubles, real and imagined

Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
Trip End Jun 15, 2012

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Saturday, February 4, 2012

Six modes of transportation, trying to sleep on a whipping caboose, shouting matches with grouchy bus ladies, and learning I am married to Bridget Bardot. 

Today was a day of waiting and the unending frustration of travel. We had to check out of our Bangkok hotel but our train wouldn't leave until evening. So we requested a late checkout, leaving us five hours to wait in the hotel lobby. Estela and I went to the Post office to mail a big box home, then I went for a workout and a shower in the large gym area while the kids played around on the computer and around the lobby, then I went downtown to get a new MacBook Pro computer I have had my eye on for a little while. That took three modes of transportation, not including walking a mile in a crowded mall (ugh).
When it was time to go we loaded up all our stuff and grabbed two taxis to the train station. We had a quick meal there and waited for the train. This would be our first experience on a sleeper train and we were a bit apprehensive about it. We were in the caboose. I didn't understand the properties of motion that a caboose had until late that night. I had never considered the different parts of a train and the different ways a single train can move with regards to where on the train you are located. On a boat it makes a lot of difference, but I had always assumed that all parts of a train are equal. Actually, I'm not sure I had ever considered it at all.

We sat down and ordered dinner and I got a beer. The train started filling up and soon every seat was taken, at least in our area, and I got an upper deck mate, who looked like he had seen his share of hard living. He was obviously European but I could not discern where he was from or understand a word he was saying, except that he was speaking some form of English. His speech reminded me of Brad Pitt's character in Snatch. He had three large cans of beer inside a plastic bag and we sat sort of looking at each other, he with his weary look of jaded complacency and I with my look of enthusiastic traveler, sort of like Squidward and Spongebob. He spoke fluent Thai and had a long pony tail, so I took him for an aging expat hippy who didn't want to know who I was or where I was from. I gave him the same courtesy. He spent most of his time in the bar car so we really didn't have much time to get to know each other. It was just as well. A guy across the aisle was a chipper British kid traveling with his mates on a six month tour of the far east. He was more in my camp travel-wise, and we had a good time yapping about travel.  

When we rolled away from the station we got dinner delivered to us at our compartment and then the compartment guy put together our beds. Since we were at the tail end of the train, I felt like I was a flee trying to sleep at the end of a dog's wagging tail. I slept not a wink.
When my compartment mate got up at 5:00 to get off the train, there was a torrential downpour going on outside. I was in a half dozed state thinking how lucky I was that I still had three more hours to go before having to step out into that hell. Soon I was up and looking around, watching the countryside bump by as the sun peaked through the distant skud of low-lying clouds. The weather was improving by the minute. As we disembarked at Serat Thani, the weather had gone from boiling to baking and we walked down the platform in a slow early morning simmer. At our appointed bus stop, we found a completely full bus with a full baggage compartment and a crew that was very obviously ready to get rolling. Estela went inside the bus to check the seat count, as we would be on that bus for three hours. She counted four seats, and came outside and told us that there were not enough, as one of us would have to stand. She got into a shouting match with the bus driver and the crazy lady who was supposed to manage the bus trip, and was told that she would have to wait for another bus. When I asked when the next bus would come, they told me that there was only that one. This marked the low point in our day.

As it turned out, the bus we should have gotten on only went to the main bus station in Serat Thani, not all the way to Krabi. Oh how much simpler life would have been if they had only told us that. So we got on a local bus, windows open and stuffed with locals, and stopping every 200 feet to pick up some more. Nobody seemed to get off. When we got to the station we were herded onto a big a/c bus and within twenty minutes we were on the road. This bus was half full, which allowed us all to stretch out or read or watch movies on our computers. We found some time to snooze. At Krabi three hours later the bus dropped us off at a lonely bus station way outside of town, and Estela immediately recognized it as a decoy, one of those stations that is so far from town that the transport possibilities are limited to one, and the price doesn't matter because you have to take it, or walk in the searing tropical heat. It seemed inevitable that we would be shaken down by a typical tourist scam.

But we weren't scammed. The driver charged us a very modest amount and we all climbed into the back of a utility truck with fifteen other people, packs stacked on the roof. We had an engaging conversation with some young guys from Sweden who were on a six week trip through Asia. A French lady told Estela that she was the spitting image of Bridget Bardot. Estela didn't know who Bridget Bardot was, so I told her it was a compliment, and she thanked the lady. The truck dropped us off at the hotel we had reserved at, but the day of bad scams had one more in its claw.When we went to check into the hotel, they told us they were overbooked, but that we had been upgraded to the hotel next door. Estela flew off the handle because she had read so may times on the web that this is typical with this booking site, especially in Thailand. I told her to reserve judgment until after we saw the room.

The lady next door took us to one of the rooms, and we were very impressed. They had indeed upgraded us because the room was magnificent, with a huge bathtub in a private front enclosed patio, a big screen TV, a large desk for study or computer work and everything else a luxury room should have. It included one of the best hotel breakfasts we have ever had, which was more than we deserved. We liked it so much, in fact, that we asked to book a second and third night, and they told us that they could not give it to us for the same price, as we got a very special deal for the first night ($60). I stood and negotiated with the booking lady for a little while and we settled for $75/night, which still seemed like one hell of a steal to me. But it was nowhere near the beach.

I have gotten used to travel days, and just let them come and go as they will, not worrying too much about what will happen around the next corner. The internet will scare the hell out of you when you see all the trouble other travelers have had, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will happen to you. Travel days are days to endure, to get some reading done and nothing more. You will sweat, you will lug heavy things for long distances, you will deal with cranky kids, a crabby spouse. I try to keep a level head as much as possible, realizing I have the tendency to fly off the handle myself, so I have to be extra vigilant to control my own tempestuous nature. These are the days that make or break you, and show your true nature to those around you.

 As Mark Twain said, “I have known great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
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Derek godfrey on

Fantastic post! You write so well.
While reading it felt like I was with you for the day. Can't wait to see you guys when you get back home. Have a beer for me. Always wanted to go to Thailand. On my bucket list.
Hello from California

Chris on

Greg, Say hello to Matt! I tooooo, really enjoy following along, your words, phrasing, overall descriptions, etc. What a blast you must be having, Livin a dream! You deserve it. I sense a book is on the way. I'm curious what kind of a PreJob Brief Matt would have for: 1) a single guy coming to visit him there, and 2) a Married couple coming to visit him there? O well, keep on keeping on dude!

Shanell on

Fun and entertaining. But I must say, I DID know the "caboose" of a train like moving object does have most force and motion. And I know this from riding rides at theme parks such as Disneyland. Hey, it's not a bad thing learning the nature of physics, no matter WHERE it is. Knowledge is power period. And speaking of the travel buddy whom you couldn't understand, being the movie buff I am, Brad Pitt's accent in Snatch is referred to as "Pikey" which actually is more the gypsy lifestyle in the UK, but also referred to as a type of language, like Cockney English. I would LOVE to speak to someone with that type of accent. I would analyze it and try to speak it myself. Anyway, very fun. Say hi to Bridget. Keep your spirits up and anytime you need a method of lifting your spirits, just think "I could be at San Onofre right now"...need I say more? Alright have fun!

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