Tuk Tuk your shirt in, cuz you're in for a ride
Trip Start Jul 25, 2009
41Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Green Guest House
After months of planning to do this excursion, I finally arrived. For some reason, I was really paranoid about the normal things: plane crashing and burning upon arrival (for this is a developing country), me getting my things ripped off, baggage disappearing, getting mugged, getting lost, getting into trouble with the law, on and on...
Well, I did get ripped off, but that's just a constant thing about SEA (Southeast Asia).
Everyone is constantly trying to get your money. Understandably so, though. I don't know many facts about Southeast Asia, but you can see the differences in country upon crossing the border, as well as once you step outside the city
My trip was long. I used most of my vacation time to go on this 19-day stint. Regrettably, much of my time was spent travelling. But one thing I noticed once I got going, was that once you start moving, you have a hard time stopping. I caught myself almost wishing, 'Please, let this already 10-hour boat ride last a little longer...'.
This was not due to it being a pleasant boat-ride (as my next entry on Cambodia will describe...), but rather, once you get going, it's easy. You got your direction, and you're heading there. No decisions need to be made beyond how you'll spend your time waiting. But once you get there, it's a battle against tuk-tuk drivers, people who claim to know the best guest house in town, where it's impossibly cheap, clean, and nearby. In reality, you end up going for a bit of a ride with them, visiting relatives' stores, plastic-bottled black-market gas stops, and any number of spontaneous decisions that any driver but a metered-taxy-driver would give reign to.
And beyond this, there's still finding a place to stay, securing your things, and then getting a bite to eat
One thing I'm glad I didn't do was book accomodations. This is for several reasons. Unless it's a well-known resort, and expensive to boot, most places in SEA don't honor accomodations. Your money never made it, your name has gone missing, etc. Aside from this, you really, really want to see the room before you get there. One place we booked in advance before going to Koh Phi Phi, had reviews that were downright scary...but as I will explain later, these were simply unfounded.
I do have a short story before I turn in tonight. I was 30 minutes into Thailand, when I got ripped off for the first time. My cab driver, knowing that I was not yet accustomed to Baht, set a flat-rate with me to get to Khao-san Road, the backpacker/tourist district of Bangkok.
On the way, he kept sniffing his nose and laughing at nonsense. He was hyper, and he kept up his fast-fire English with me the whole way. Eventually, and predicatably, the conversation turned dirty pretty quickly. Man, he got kicks out of me. It went from 'baby' in Thai, to 'fuck elephant'. Forgive the profanity, but my introduction into Thailand and its taxi drivers was an experience I won't forget easily. Giggling along with him, he dumped me on Khao-san, unloading my luggage while simultaneously taking in two more tourists
I wandered a bit, visiting a few guest houses, including the hard-to-find recommended house from Lonely Planet. If I may say a few words on that: living by a guidebook is no way to travel. But, it does have its uses. It's got some great maps, good advice and suggestions for what to do.
Yet, nothing beats using your own head. You get so much more out of being clueless, lost, and forced to stay on your toes in a place that could be dangerous if you're not careful. Call me reckless, but I tried my best to move to a dark corner anytime I popped out my Lonely Planet guidebook. It was just embarassing for me. It's different using a map while hiking in the mountains of Japan; you don't want to commit cultural suicide. But the same could be said of those who take guided foreigner-friendly tours, guide-book nosers and sex-tourists.
Anyways, I'm freezing, unaccustomed to this weather after spending almost 20 days in 25-degree-plus weather. This is a short entry with but a couple photos to wet your appetite.
I will have time this weekend to give it a good go.