Day 67: Alone No More, Reunited w/Jeff

Trip Start May 20, 2008
Trip End Aug 19, 2008

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Monday, July 28, 2008

After sleeping in and squandering much of the morning dawdling around in the hostel (which is quite nice and new), I disembarked for some random exploration. It was already 11am and I had to leave for the airport by 2:30 (takes an hour to get there and the bus is infrequent), so I didn't get far, but I did manage to see one local temple and bus it to and fro the main tourist drag (Khao San Rd.) Khao San was a bit of a wasteland, but the temple was quite nice. Bangkok has a gloriously air-conditioned, brand spanking new "Sky Train" (elevated subway) system that makes getting around most of the city's modern areas quick and convenient, this helped me in my slight rush. After the temple, I cleaned up a bit and took up position at the bus stop waiting for the airport express bus. It supposedly runs every 45min, but the one other guy waiting said he'd been there a full hour. After a further half hour, the bus finally arrived. The driver was a hysterical little man and a joke filled three-way chitchat erupted between the other guy, the driver, and me. We came upon a traffic jam which made me worry I would be late for my airport rendezvous, but to my surprise the bus swerved off the main road and took the arse-backwards route to the expressway. The other rider inquired what this would mean for passengers waiting farther down the jammed up main road:

"Aww it okAY, big twaffic jam, I never get to dem anyway."

Sucked for the now abandoned future passengers but was great for us, hee. We bypassed the traffic and got to the airport ahead of schedule. One neat thing about Bangkok roads: You know that website that gives you a real-time graphic of all the traffic jams in LA, coloring streets green yellow or red depending on the jam level? There are electronic displays above many of the intersections here that have those exact same color coded traffic maps, letting drivers immediately know how crowded all the surrounding roads are and adjust their route accordingly.

Once at the airport, some nervousness set in. I'd messaged Jeff saying I'd meet him at his baggage claim, but forgot that non-passengers aren't allowed into international baggage claims because of customs and whatnot. I was forced to wait behind a barricade hidden amongst a half billion other people at the far edge of the arrivals area, and the airport is huge and not helpful to the chances of a random bump-in. I checked the arrivals board, his plane landed about 20min early, so there was a minute chance he was already floating around here somewhere. I glanced around and trotted the long length of the terminal, no luck. After about ten minutes I found what appeared to be the only door passengers were passing through from customs, plowed my way into the front row of the barricade crowd, and began waiting. He'd probably already passed through by now, but I thought it best to just stick around and watch the passengers go by for a bit just in case. This was a pretty central location; there was a decent chance he'd pass back through if he went looking for me.

A half hour passed, forty minutes, a full hour... Oh noes! Due too only scattershot messages between us during his busy Taiwan internship, we didn't really set up an alternative meet-up plan should something go wrong in the airport. I'd emailed him the hostel info but didn't get a response, so I wasn't sure if he even knew where we were staying. Worry set in. Also worrisome was the solid chance he fell in such love with Taiwan that he just decided to miss his flight and stay there forever. The clock struck 5, almost an hour and a half since the posted arrival time, and I went to Improvised Plan B: Page him. I had the info desk announce Jeff's name (minus the silent P, to avoid confusion) over the loudspeaker and instruct him to come to X location, waited a further 10 minutes... no Jeff...

...Then two unknown arms suddenly wrapped themselves around me. I turned my head, and whallah! Jrrrreefff! He said he walked right by me and triple checked with the info desk people when they pointed towards me, because I was unrecognizable at first glance with my new Nepal-inflicted skin & bones look. Latest weight is 61 kilos. Jeff's weight is 64. I'm officially skinnier than Jeff, which is not good. I've upped my 7-11 banana cake intake from one to four a day in hopes of fattening up a bit. The local food here is rougher than I thought it would be though, it's spicy as hell no matter how mild you tell them to cook it, and isn't usually smothered in that delicious peanut sauce common in American Thai restaurants. It might just be because we've been eating from budget food stalls, we'll see how the sit-down restaurants are.

Anyways... yeah, we caught up, road the bus to the hostel, settled in, discussed what to do, and decided to stroll through the notorious red light district before heading off to Siam Square Mall for a long awaited treat. The red light district was about as creepy, funny, and overwhelming as one would imagine it to be. There were tourist families with kids strolling in and out, poking around the adjacent market, so things weren't that naughty though. Following this walk, we got dinner in the mall's food court and laughed along with by the chef/cashier. These Thais love to smile and laugh, I'm sure he was just joking around but it's hard to tell if they're just having fun or laughing at you. I don't know what the dish I ordered was called, but it was diced chicken curry wrapped in Indian-style flatbread and quite tasty, plus some fried bean curry chunks. After dinner, rather than checking out any legendary Bangkok nightlife, seeing any landmarks or sights, or touring around, we engaged in one of life's simple pleasures: a good night out at the movies. In this case, it was "The Dark Knight" in Siam Square's IMAX. I held off seeing it until I got to a city that actually had an IMAX, and boy was that worth the wait. Believe the hype, this is the greatest superhero movie in recent memory.

Time to go, & off to CAMBODIA!! tomorrow.

---Vital Signs---
Hygiene = Decent
Tuk-Tuk Rides = 1
Scams Dodged = More today than in the entire past week combined
Jeffs = 1
Monkeys = None since Indonesia
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