TravelPod meetup on Khao San Road!

Trip Start Oct 02, 2008
Trip End Oct 12, 2008

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Saturday, October 4, 2008

Today I woke up early, at about 6:30, I don't know why. I go around trying to get my survey sheets printed out for the TravelPod meetup tonight. That was an ordeal. They had the wrong version of Word, so it didn't work until like an hour, and then the lady didn't know how to photocopy on double sided paper. After about an hour doing that, I went to breakfast. Wow, they had a ton of stuff. The fruit was not very good, except for this lichee type thing. I ate a bunch of Asian looking food, an omlette and some crazy delicious juices.

I talk with Keith for a little bit on Skype (it's the only thing that works on my computer) and then I try and make reservations for the party tonight. About 20 people are supposed to come, so I'm pretty excited about that. I have to meet Aor in a few hours at the Burger King on Khao San Road, so I decide to see how close I can get by walking. It doesn't look that far on the map, but I know I'm probably wrong. I take off in the exact wrong direction, and about five minutes into my walk, it starts to rain. There had been all kinds of lightning that I could see from my window earlier, but I thought that maybe this was something normal. So I end up standing under an overhang for about 15 minutes while the rain dies down. I walk on what I think is the main road for a while, until it comes to a sort of T. Trusting my instincts, I turn left, and end up in a terrible shanty town. People are eking their living in the outskirts of the city by selling street food, and a small number of shacks are sprinkled along the road, selling a small selection of cheap clothing and other miscellaneous stuff. I even see some guy just peeing into a pile of garbage at the side of the road. I am in complete disbelief, I turn my head and pretend I didn't see him, but he either doesn't notice, or knows I did and doesn't care. I can't believe that anyone could tolerate life in these situations, underneath the shadow of the skytrain and all of Bangkok's sky-high freeways. Later Aor tells me that they are probably former ruralites, who have come to the city with too much false hope, dreaming of a better life. It's terrible, and my brain immediately wants to fix the situation. But what can I do, as a single person? I decide (maybe for my own well being) that really the best thing is to just spend money and hope that some of these people receive the trickle down benefits themselves. I don't know, is there a better answer than that? As I'm walking, at least 10 tuk tuk and motorcycle taxi drivers stop and offer me a ride. I have this conversation 10 times:

"Where you go?"
"Oh, nowhere really."
"I give you a ride."
"Oh, no thank you I like walking."
".... (long pause) Where you go?"
"Nowhere, I just like walking."
"I take you there!"
"No thank you."

Until the driver gives up and just leaves. They are more persistent than you would imagine.

I get lost any number of times, asking people where I am on the map. They look at it like it's plotting my course on a distant planet. Later, I find out from Christina, that maps "don't work" in Thailand. I'm not really sure where I was walking at all, what seemed like a simple "straight" walk to Khao San Rd. shoves me into a maze of stalls full of designer knockoffs, cheap silk, and any number of knicknack emporiums. At one point, I see the intersection I think I should be travelling straight through, but I have to make a detour, because what used to be the pedestrian crossing has been blocked by overzealous vendors, competing for valuable space. The food stalls here, in contrast with the ones I saw in the outskirts of the city, smell amazing. The scent of padthai and barbecuing kebabs is everywhere. What I guess is fresh squeezed juice, and "Japanese crepes" are also sold at about every 20 paces.

Finally I figure out exactly where I am, the streets are usually not labelled, so I have to ask everyone that looks friendly and that looks like they might speak English which street I am on. They usually reply with something that sounds like "Pamajamathama" to my ears. Finally, I find something I can work with "Rama I Rd." Thank freaking GOD. I was walking in approximately the right direction after all. A nice lady who is dressed in probably authentic designer clothes, asks me where I'm going.

"Oh, Khao San Rd., eventually." I look at my watch, oh crap! I'm meeting Aor in 30 minutes! The next person that asks me to drive them somewhere, I'm saying yes, I don't care if it's on an elephant, I'm taking it. I'm still about 2/3 of the way there, so I don't even know if 30 minutes is enough time to get there. Wouldn't you know it, another tuk tuk driver asks me if I need a ride. Earlier I had told Keith that I refuse to ride in a tuk tuk. He bet me that before the end of the day, I will probably end up in one. Funny how your values change when you're getting desperate.

"How much to Khao San Rd.?"
"80 baht."
"What, really? It's close though."
"80 baht."

Eighty baht is about 2.50 or so, so it's a good deal for my overpriced Ottawa standards, but I had been led to believe that this place was cheaper than that. I know that tuk tuk drivers usually rip you off (according to them) so I get in the tuk tuk anyway of course. He snakes the little rickety golf cart-like vehicle in BETWEEN lanes of traffic, sometimes cutting off tiny speeding motorcycles and other taxi drivers. You wouldn't believe it, but at this point, I was not in fear for my life. I had experienced traffic like this before, in Mexico City. It's amazing how developing countries on opposite sides of the world can be so similar. Oh and did I mention this is a J-walkers' paradise? So many times, I have just crossed at any point in the road, wherever traffic is slowing due to bottlenecks. Even if the traffic is not so slow, drivers always slow down or at least show they are aware of you by swerving out of the way with a little friendly tap on the horn. Ha. I'm quite the aficiando of J-walking, so I felt right at home, even downright comfortable with this feeling of pedestrian empowerment.

I get to the Burger King on Khao San Rd., and Aor is there to meet me a few minutes later. Her husband told her that foreigners like to be on time, so she said she did her best to get there. Someone even called her right at 3 p.m. and she was afraid it was me (it wasn't). I was about to, but then I couldn't figure out how to use the payphone. Funny how stereotypes are played out, sometimes even in the most unstereotypical (at least I like to think) kind of people.

The lady on the phone at the restaurant kind of hung up on me, so I didn't know if she actually understood the reservation I made today. Aor asked her in Thai, and she said yes, she remembered, of course. The restaurant was a little bit difficult to find, back in behind some buildings, in a leafy courtyard.

We went to Silk restaurant after that, ordered some salads, and a jug of Singha beer, and just chilled out, watching all the hippies and foreigners walk up and down the street. Aor is really interested in the online travel business, even starting up her own social bookmarking website, So we have been chatting pretty frequently up to tonight's meetup. It was nice, almost like meeting an old friend. I have a giant bag full of TravelPod t-shirts and notebooks on my back, so I'm grateful to put it down for a while. Soon, we decide to go do some tourist stuff, look at the things for sale, and perhaps buy something. I need some sandals so I buy some imitation Birkenstocks. (They are already starting to smell *eyeroll*, you get what you pay for)

I look around for some stuff to buy people back home, but I can't make up my mind. It's all just a bunch of crap amongst the novelty t-shirts being sold around here anyway. Suddenly I see a store full of shiny things. Necklaces, earrings and stuff. Lots of it looks really nice, but ah, I'm just not sure what people will like. I'm going marketing tomorrow, so at least I got a good idea of the kind of stuff they sell here.

We get to the restaurant early, and I start stressing about whether someone will show up or not. I decide that if I can fill one table of 10, at least, I'll be happy. About 15 people manage to make it. It's really exciting, because only two people showed up to the last meetup. I dole out the new t shirts and thank everyone coming. I think everybody has a pretty good time. So that makes me happy.

After the meal, people go out to find a place that is selling alcohol under the table. Tomorrow is an election, so most venues will not sell any drinks to anyone for any reason. Aor offered me and Christina a ride home tonight, so it's too irresistible to turn down. While drinking ill-gotten alcoholic beverages is just my kind of fun, I reluctantly have to turn the offer down. Louis is picking me up early in the morning for a tour anyway.

Aor has a beautiful car, just like a limo, wow, and she drops me off in grand style at the hotel. I wave goodbye to everybody and take a shower, heading straight to bed, with a crazy full day behind me, looking forward to the next one.
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gildo on

Whew! I'm exhausted just reading your adventure for the day.

starlagurl on

There's no stopping me, keep reading, it gets crazier!

mmbcross on

Now you seem to be back on track!

starlagurl on

Re: Food!
Hehehe, yeah food yummy yum yum.

travelmonster on

Sounds like you had great fun

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