The train left on time and that was when the bugs came parading out. A few mosquitoes and a few cockroaches. Guess they followed us from Vietnam. We had bought a can of raid for this scenario, so Amy pulled it out and started to spray away. Although the spray did work, this was our first faux pas of the trip as it really upset the local next to us. He immediately starting coughing, called the waitress over to complain, then told the conductor and a policeman to complain. Everyone he told was laughing, both at us for spraying bugs and at him for being such an angry old man. We received dirty looks well past the 20 minutes that the spray smelled. I was hoping not to get my throat slit in the middle of the night, but the rest of the ride was uneventful, that is except for the cockroach that walked by my face in the middle of the night. I immediately flicked her off my bed toward the local as I am a one woman kind of guy (I guess a two woman guy if you count Hannah).
The conductor woke up everyone at 6 (I was awake hoping no more bugs were using my mouth as a home), which continued our streak of waking up too early for being on vacation. The train arrived around 8am the next morning. We proceeded to the official taxi line hoping to take a cab the short distance to Amy's family friend’s apartment. A few nights before, Amy arranged for us to stay at her mother’s friend’s brother’s apartment, who is in Bangkok as an expat. Russ and Judy Hippe were very nice to take two strangers into their home who were bleary eyed from constantly waking up early and hadn’t had a real shower since before playing in the jungle. Anyway, I show the policeman at the front of the taxi line the Hippe’s address on Langsuan Road, he tells the driver, we get a nod, and in we go. I should have known immediately when the driver offered to use the meter that we were in for a scam. Typically the drivers like to negotiate prices as they get more than the meter would cost.
We start to drive and we get to a highway. Amy and I look at each other as we thought we would have a short 5 minute drive. The driver collects 45 baht from me for the toll. We start to head away from the city, so Amy and I pull out a map to see where we are, the driver sees this and then takes another highway towards the tall buildings. Ok, maybe we are going in the right direction, then we take a third highway to the middle of nowhere. Thirty minutes later he pulls over on a dirt road and tells us that we are at Langsuan Road. I look at the street sign and it says LaSalle, so not sure what he is doing, we pull out the map, so him where we want to go, which is very close to the train station. He gets all upset and starts blaming the policeman who told him Langsan Road instead of Langsuan. Regardless, neither sounds like LaSalle, where we currently were, plus why would two foreigners with backpacks want to go to the middle of nowhere? He willingly agrees to take us back (to make more money), so another 45 baht toll, plus now we are in rush hour traffic, and we finally arrive an hour and a half later, paying 450 baht in total. Guess we finally got scammed by a Bangkok taxi driver. We knew we wouldn’t win this fight, so we just paid (what is $15 at the end of the day) and bid him goodbye.
We arrive at the apartment and Judy is there waiting for us with open arms, a very welcoming sight. She gives us a tour of their fabulous penthouse apartment on a lovely street in Bangkok. We see our guest room, the shower, and the a/c. I tell her that this is the nicest hotel we have stayed in over the last 2 months, and Judy exclaims "the cheapest too." Too bad we are only here for one night. Judy also takes out a map and tells us of all the great places to see within walking distance. But first we head to the U.S. embassy as Amy is running out of pages in her passport. We get there right at 11:15, when the embassy is out from lunch between 11 and 1. So instead we go out looking for lunch. Distances aren’t far in Bangkok, but with the heat and humidity, it is tough to walk a half a mile. We get to one of the supermalls and decide to stop for lunch. Bangkok is known for their supermalls which are typically 7 floors big with thousands of stores. They usually have good food options as well and we ended up in the Central at the Food Mart which is like an upscale food court with options for any genre of food you can imagine. I decide to grab some dim sum as I am going through dumpling withdrawal and we take it easy enjoying the a/c until it is time to go back to the embassy.
The embassy is now open from 1 to 2 before it closes to the public. We only have one day in Bangkok, so hopefully we can get everything done in this hour. We wait in a few lines (back and forth a few times between the main reception and the cashier) and finally get additional pages added to her passport taken care of with 5 minutes to spare until 2pm. Amy should be ok until her passport expires in 2017, and I now my money belt just doubled in thickness. After, we decide to take the BTS, which is an above ground subway similar to the 'L’ in Chicago, the 2 stops to some more supermalls. The humidity was just too great to walk and I enjoy trying public transportation in new cities.
We have a small shopping list for the supermalls (a second pair of shorts for Amy – only one pair is getting difficult, more memory cards for the camera, a shipping company to send a box back home). The first supermall we go to is a bit on the pricey side with mostly designer stores. We walk around and find a UPS. They ask if we want air or boat, which our typical answer is whatever is cheapest. They lady weighs our package and tells us that it would be $60 to ship to the states. We tell her this is too much, to which she says we could spend $40, but it would take 3 months. Apparently she wasn’t listening when we said whatever was cheapest. I asked if there was another option, but in the end we passed since $40 for 3 months seemed a bit ridiculous.
We went to the next mall which consisted of a lot of trendy stores. Again, nothing for us. So finally we made it to the last mall, MDK, which is known for all of their copy items and negotiating. We finally find the right mall for us. There was a shipping store in this mall where we were able to ship our package for $27 (but I am pretty sure we will get home before it does). We also made it to the 4th floor which was covered with electronic stores and stalls.
We went from one stall to another negotiating for memory cards and finally crossed that off the list. Lastly we went to a flower shop to get a gift Russ and Judy for letting us stay there. Amy couldn’t find any shorts, so we were not completely successful. Apparently you have to wear a size 2 or less in Thailand to be able to shop here. Judy told us stories of other expat friends of hers not even being allowed into stores because the store owners fear their sizes.
It was starting to get late, so we went back to the apartment to meet up with Judy and she asks what kind of food we would like for dinner. We tell her we don’t care and she asks if Mexican is alright (she must have been reading our blog). There is this little Mexican restaurant that she and Russ have been going to every week for the last 5 years. Sounds great to us! We start to head out at 6:45 in hopes to catch the BTS to the restaurant and meet up with Russ at 7. But the second we start to leave, the rain comes pouring down. Based on my two day experience, there is no drizzling in Bangkok, it really comes down. At least it usually stops after an hour or so. We decided to take a taxi instead of the BTS, but when it rains the taxi drivers turn off their meters and double their price. Even then it is hard to find a taxi. We wait 30 minutes with no luck, but the rain finally stops, so we take the BTS.
We arrive at the restaurant already 2 drinks behind Russ, so the rest of us try to catch up quickly. We order some delicious fajitas and red snapper enchiladas that were fantastic and talk about living in Bangkok as an expat and traveling around SE Asia for the next few hours. Russ and Judy couldn’t have been better hosts and even ask if we want to continue the conversation at another bar or during a foot massage. We are too exhausted and still had to plan our day tomorrow, so we head back to their place. I managed to do just enough research to know that we will miss the ferry to Koh Tao the next day and booked a room in Chumphon before falling asleep for the night while Amy finished up a few loads of laundry in the Hippe’s lovely apartment.
As we walked up to the overnight train in Chiang Mai to Bangkok, I looked into the window and noticed seats. This made me nervous as I though we booked in the sleeper cabin. Well we did get sleeper cabin seats, but the train was a bit older. So instead of 4 beds in a berth, the whole train was completely open and there were 2 beds on either side with an aisle in the middle. I guess this would be good as Amy and could have more privacy and the beds looked bigger. We had a local older Thai gentleman across the aisle, which is somewhat unusual on these trains, typically it is all foreigners. We were hoping to get a chance to speak with him, but he did not know English.