It was the best of times, it was the worst of time

Trip Start Jun 10, 2009
Trip End Sep 07, 2009

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Where I stayed
The overnight train to Trang

Flag of Thailand  ,
Sunday, June 21, 2009

After having decided to go ahead and leave Bangkok the night before, my goal for today was two-fold: buy a ticket on the night train south from Bangkok to Trang and mail the gifts I had bought the day before back to the States, both to have it done and free up some space in my pack so I could go back to carrying just one bag. With that in mind, I sat out on what turned out to be a typically Jeremy escapade.

I headed for what would be my first river taxi, a very cheap and easy way of getting around certain areas of Bangkok (obviously, the ones near the river). The post office was right near a pier, and the train station not too far of a walk from that, so I figured it would be the best way to get there. However, I couldn't find the pier nearest where I was staying (what a surprise!), so I, once again, kept on walking, and eventually found one. After sitting there waiting for a boat for at least 15 minutes, after one finally came a woman came and told me the pier was not a public one, and I should go down to the next one.

When I did reach the next one, the differences were obvious, but since it had been my first time I hadn't known at the first pier I went to. I got on a boat, and let me say, it was one of my favorite experiences in Bangkok. You get a cool breeze and a nice view of everything on the river, from buildings and temples on the banks to all the boats going back and forth, and to top it off you're going where you want. It was quite enjoyable. I got off where I needed and headed to the post office. I couldn't find it for a little while, until I realized I was probably right next to it: there was a big government-looking building behind a gate, but all the signs were in Thai, so I don't know if that was even it or not. I had read somewhere most government buildings open at 8:30, and it being 8:20, I sat to wait. While I waited, I asked a passing Thai man, who luckily spoke English, where the post office was, and he told me it was closed because it was a Buddhist holy day. Again, typical.

I walked to the station and my day got quite a bit better: I was able to easily purchase a ticket to Trang on the 5:05 train that evening. It was quite a lovely slip of paper. Finally I could escape the congestion, the traffic, the getting lost and walking forever when trying to get anywhere! I left happily, heading back to the pier so I could get back to the guesthouse, pack and get out before noon, which was when I would have had to pay for part of the room. That's when I met Doug and her sister.

Doug (not pronounced anything like the English-language male name) was a Thai woman who struck up a conversation with me as we walked. It turned out she teaches Thai in Phuket, and when she found out I was going to be studying to teach English there, she was excited. She invited me to go with her and her sister on a tour of Bangkok Noi, an area across the river from central Bangkok that has people living a more traditional Thai lifestyle. I still had a couple hours before noon, so I agreed, and she paid for a taxi to a pier so that we could, I thought, take a ferry to the other side of the river.

Instead, we got in a longboat, which is what it sounds like. You can hire them for tours all up and down the river. OK, I thought, that works too. So we had an ejoyable time cruising through canals on the other side of the river,  looking at Thai houses on stilts and a floating market. At one point we even fed a ton of fish some "lucky bread". It was a good time, until we got back onto the river and the pilots told us it was going to cost 4,500 baht each.

I think I might have actually gasped when they said that; I know I had to ask again to make sure I heard right. That's about $135. I learned there is just one price to rent the boat, which is split among the passengers. With a full load of 16 people, it's not horrible, but with three, it was crazy, especially for a backpacker keeping to a budget of the utmost cheapest. I was just struck. Thankfully (I guess?), I only had about 2,000 baht on me (more than I normally carry since I had just changed some money), and after pedtering me a bit, the pilots took that when I told them it was all I had. It was probably because I looked like I had been slapped when told the price. Two-thousands a big step down from 4,500, but it's still about $60, a sum I would never pay for some mere boating tour.

After I was dropped off, I felt horrible (mentally; thankfully physical ills have not beset me ... yet) and had only 40 minutes to get back and get out of my room, so I waited for another boat to take me to the pier I needed. After 10 minutes and no boat in sight, I decided to hoof it, and made it back with about 10 minutes to spare. I think I was actually a couple minutes past noon when I checked out, but it was fine. By then, I was so exhausted and ina  bad mood and had two bags to carry, so I broke down: I ate at Burger King, needing somewhere I could sit in airconditioning and eat cheap (although most places are cheap, a lot don't have air-con).

I had a soda for the first time since arriving in Bangkok, and wow: was it delicious. It was like I had forgotten how to taste until then. The burger and fries I could take or leave, especially since they were hot, the last thing I wanted right then, but the Orange Fanta ... my only regret is they didn't give free refills. I instead bought a water and a heavenly ice cream cone that only cost 10 baht. I can't describe how refreshing the soda and ice cream were. I just sat and relaxed in the air conditioning and read a book for a little while, and it really picked

I got on the train that evening and felt a huge sense of relief as it pulled away. I was leaving Bangkok! There were things I enjoyed, but I think it was overall a mistake to start my trip there with no plan or direction. Acting on a goal (heading to Phuket over several days) gave me a much calmer feeling than the hectic energy of being listless in Bangkok. The train down was fine, and when I disembarked the next morning around 9, I was in Trang.
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