New country = new adventures

Trip Start Feb 28, 2012
Trip End Nov 22, 2012

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Friday, June 8, 2012

A huge hello and lots of love to you all from me.... i have just set off on the train from Bangkok to Vientianne,the capital of Laos. 
As planned i have spent 2 days here to organise a few things all in time for this overnight sleeper train (8pm -9:15am) To Nong Khai right on the Thai side of the Loas border where you take a separate train to blah de da and then a taxi or shuttle train in to Vientianne arriving about 10am on 8th June 2012 which i just so happen to have timed for the start of Euro 2012!! Sleeper trains are pretty good; if you haven't had the pleasure then let me give you an insight (skip to next paragraph if the insight doesnt appeal!). Its basically a huge train of about 20 or so big carriages which comprise of normal seats on the bottom, which fold up to convert in to a bed later on, and the upped bunks are, well, bunk beds! beds like what the lower seats will fold in to later. You get a curtain to draw on, a little pouch for storage and this hard cold angular mega thin staircase to your bed, the latter being the main reason the upper bunk is cheaper than the lower probbaly cos if you have to go to the loo in the night, if the trip to the loo alone doesnt fully wake you up then the ice cold of the stairs or thin sharp edges on your bare feet certainly will!! I'm in 2nd class which is as low as you can go for a sleeper, otherwise its 3rd class which is just a seat. I've been on a few of these now and generally your just hoping you don't get a group of roudy travellers or a snorer near you!!
Initially i was gonna go up to Laos a little later but looked set to miss Spain v Italy (potential classic) and Rep Ireland v Croatia (likely bore draw) but i was losing more sleep over the possibility of missing what could be one of the tournoi's greatest games so i rejigged (after my initial jig) and found i could get here for the first game even...
So i came to bangkok for some medical supplies which BKK is good for, to buy some clothes, well at least a pair of thin jeans for this colder climate and for the odd smart night out (wearing shorts and a flip flopfor nightlife isn't always the best look and can lead to fights in bus shelters). I also came to possibly see a doctor about the itching bed bugs situation. As it turns out i have found, by chance, that it isn't bed bugs (massive relief but also a godsend in that from now having researched it i am checking every new room for signs before i agree to stay)....the reason i thought it was bed bugs was that it only came on at nigth time, well mainly, but a few nights ago there was a powercut and so i had no fan before sleeping so when i went to bed i read and listened to some music which is when it would usually start but this night it didnt and i got to sleep OK and slept great until waking up early morning when the power came on which started the fan and the big light came on (that always makes me think Peter Kay!)  which woke me but as i tried to get back off after a bit i started itching. 

Next day i pondered this strange event and like Sherlock Holmes in a moment of inspiration and clarity, i concluded that the fan was likely to be a factor in the itching. I realise that air blowing on me wouldnt cause itching but it was contibuting to the itchyness and an underlying condition which made me think it was either still a skin condition i had picked up and the blowing air aggrevated it or possibly that it was the wash powder i was using that was on my clothes still, therefore on my skin and for some reason not giving me too much jip in the day but at night, with the air from the fan, it was making my pores feel like a sober George Best.... this all seems like a long shot i know but it is possible especially since the wash powder i use is a bio one and i take as much time rinsing my clothes as i do remembering peoples birthdays lately so it is possible. So with this in mind i decided to avoid the cost of seeing a doctor esp since after this discovery i tried sleeping with the fan on a low setting, just enough to keep cool to be able to sleep, and i was OK. So my plan is to arrive in Vietianne and buy some non bio powder and then get everything washed at a good laundry and see how that goes and if there is still a problem i will see a doctor there as its then likely to be a skin condition.
Oh, before i continue, something i want to tell you about, one of those things i always forgot to add but remember when back here in Thailand. You may remember me saying that to say hello here you say "sawad De Krap" or for thankyou Kawp kun Krap"... well the Krap bit is only what a man says at the end of pretty much any sentence, its to be polite and if you dont add it, it can sound quite rude or is maybe not used if you are dissattisfied or angry maybe... Now when Thai's say it they kinda half say the 'p' at the end and sometimes it can just sound like 'Kra' or sometimes the full on 'krap' but when i say it its a full on krap and took some getting used to saying. Anyway, what i know i didn't update you on is that after getting better with the language and seeing others talk either in person or on TV, i realised that not only do you say 'krap' at the end of your own sentence but also when you are listening to someone else you should say 'krap' in acknowledgement of what they are saying. Now in the western world we might use a facial expression, use a 'hmmm', a nod or even various verbal choices but in Asia the only way to acknowledge what someone is saying is to say 'krap'. 

Now the women have it lucky because they say 'kar' but poor me has to say 'krap' and not just at the end of a conversation, you say it at the end of every sentence to show you understand, follow or agree. I have seen conversations and guys replying, pretty much every few seconds saying 'krap'. So somones chuntering along and the guy listening is just going.. 'Krap...Krap...Krap...Krap' which obviously sounds funny to you and me but imagine what i sound like when i am saying it!? Luckily i dont have conversations that long but when i do and i understand what they are saying i have to do it! Believe it or not i am getting quite used to it but imagine you chatting to me and all through the conversation i am just looking at you and saying "Krap...Krap...Krap!" - you wouldnt be too happy about it would you!! Just another one of those odd things out here which somewhow blends its way in to normaility...
OK, so what do i have to tell you, well i did promise to get more photo's and get back to capturing the bizarreness of South East Asia so thats what i have been doing. So, camera in hand and on show photos i see my first exhibit: exhibit A: the weird and wonderful world of Thai coaches. I mentioned these in my first time in Thailand but failed to get a picture. The coach companies here must be run by funky Thai art students because they are all designed in these teenage themed crazy styles ranging from an AC/DC coaches from Hell to a Cuddly fluff mobile with angel wings?! each company has its own personal highly detailed paint job that most graffiti artists would be proud of but they are also fully decorated both inside and out with design to match. Point in case for the picture i have, which isn't the best and currently my camera is on its way out as its exposure settings randomly chooses extremely high now most of the time and for this shot as over exposed the teddy bears all tightly packed in and forming a row on the front of the top window of this angel delight of a coach. You might get the jist from this picture but i solemly swear, when back in Thailand, i will get some good pics of more of these bad boys!
Just broke off as the girl sat opposite decided to have her bed made up; she got on earlier and just had a vacant look of 'oh great, i got a phalang' on her face.... so sneakily she told the carriage superviser and he just asked me to move so he can make the beds so now i am up in my bunk with my large Chang beer, laptop and listening to some nice St Germain Lounge music whilst updating you all....nice;)
OK, next pic, ha ha.... oh yeah - never seen anything like this and now seeing it for the first time it seems even more bizarre at the choice of image used...! OK, i best explain... well, on route on the massive bus journey from Sihanoukville, Cambodia to Bangkok i was sat in the front seat; ha, a story in itself; quickly!: remember back in cambodia i got a long mini bus from Cambodia to Vietnam and when i got on i had to sit at the front of the bus on seats that were turned to face the rest of the people on the bus?! Well after that, a guy got on and sat in the vacant front seat next to the driver and i swore that i would always try get that from seat in future...well we all got to the border at Koh Kon and switched to seperate mini buses and all these old euro guys all got on first and crammed in the back so when i got there and could almost see the sweat and odour creeping out the minivan, i said, in front of all of them (who were waiting for me) to the driver "can i take the front seat" and he said "ohhh, its a prized seat, do you have a tip" so i said "yeah, sure, no problem" and just jumped in the front; as roomy as a penthouse flat, air con tastic and with a great view for the whole trip and no sweaty Swede pressed up against me like the others in the back! well, strike me down with a feather you could hear the tumbleweeds rolling through the back of the minibus; a Jeremy Kyle based chat session on Euro Backpacking turned in to deadly silence and i could feel the knives, couteau's,cossacks and any other foreign words for swords and knives all jabbing in my back..! I loved it. By the way, to the drivers and everyone in the backs added frustration, i only tipped the driver $1!!

But anyway, back to the photo, exhibit B; on route we were behind a small truck for a bit and i happened to notice there was something on the mudflaps of the back wheels, an image of someones face, the same on both sides and at first glance it looked like a large picture of Jesus.. OK, bizarre i though but at this stage not worthy of a photo, i mean, i had never seen this kind of custom artwork before but thinking it was Jesus i just thought it was a religeous nut and in his faith he decided to have these made up to show over drivers the way of the lord; the current way being highway 5 to Bangkok.... but, and its a big but, as i looked closer i said to myself "hang on a minute"..."thats not Jesus"......That's Serpico!!!! Holy gay Al Pacino 70's film charachters, this guy has had Serpico tatooed on both mud flaps! (i know...theres a gag there...and no doubt it's in the guys glove box waiting  for the next not quite straight hitchhiker this guy picks up!! Ha, even i liked that one...)... i know what your thinking now; Lee.. i see why you then thought it worthy of a photo, i mean, how many times in one lifetime do you see someone with a Serpico prints on his mudflaps - hmmm, just realised half of you are probably wondering what or who Serpico is?! Well, he's a character in a 70's film played by Al Pacino with big hair and a beard like Jeesy Creesy and his character is a gay new york cop. So you can see why its such a bizarre choice, i mean Al Pacino maybe, at a push, but to choose Serpico specifically..?! Its a bold statement and i am guessing this guy has never even set foot in a closet before... btw, hopefully you can zoom in on the photo to see this, i think if you click on an image in this blog it then lets you zoom in; just look inbetween the 2 huge cracks in my minivans windscreen to find them! I don't know..cracks, mudflaps, Serpico.... its all too easy.
So back to today; i bought all my bits but it cost more than expected and after all the lack of sleep, itching travel and my big arguement with Elton John in  a cafe i was feelin a touch down and felt i needed to pick myself up a bit... before i tell you i should explain the arguement i suppose... when i got to Bangkok i decided to get my supplies first which cost about 70 quid more than i thought but i lugged all my gear round Bangkok trying to find Boots, yes Boots! (photo exhibit E!) i got a tuk tuk to the train station, bought my ticket for today and then tried to find a hotel nearby and saw an internet cafe which i thought id use to find a hotel but next door was a cafe and this guy (Elton John) asked me to come in.. i say Elton John but he looked nothing like him, it was a simple reference to his lack of masculinity, but anyway i said i needed the net and he said no problem, if i spent 100 Bhat (2 quid) i could use their wifi to which i replied i only wanted a drink and said if i got a coffee and a lemon juice (70 Bhat) would that be OK, to which twinkle toes replied "no problem". Anyway, i sat down, using the net and he brought my drinks, but with coffee whitener for milk so i told him i wanted fresh milk so he went off and brought a small jar of milk. As you do i smelt the milk but it smelt very strange but i tried it anywway but the coffee tasted terrible, like the milk was off so i told him and he brought over the milk he had used: a tin of Carnation milk which said on the front "For cooking and home bakery"! I told him and pointed out thats why it tasted so wrong but he said he always used that and no one complained and i just said " no you don't and i am not paying for it" and continued on the net..anyway, about an hour later! i went to pay and he asked for the full amount but i said i was only paying for the lemon juice (40 bhat), well, Tweedle Dee went crazy.. hands on hips, having none of it but before i could even reply, out pops tweedle dum, this guys brother for definate, i mean you'd swear there could only be one of this guy but out pops another and then tweedle mum pops out too! a grey haired version of the Fratellis mom from the Goonies! all going mad so i just thought, this is way too much, for 60p i'd rather just pay after this day and get out which i did but only after many course words from both about hanbags at dawn....
So yeah, that night i was mulling over the overspending and fact my camera needed replacing too but had earlier thought that a good idea would be to ask my dear mother (who i love very much by the way) to DHL courier my iphone over to me in Vientianne as i will be there for a month and so will my brother Jon and Nicole and so i could have an address to get stuff sent to. The iphone would not only be a camera but also a phone (obviously) and an internet source too! So i could sell my laptop, DVD drive, cables and also lose my bulky camera dock too - genius, but also i could return some of the stuff i bought from Boots and get my mum to buy them in UK cheaper and include them in the package and after searching online found i could save about 70-80 quid... bigger genius. So i decided next day i would take some stuff back, make a good saving and just enjoy the day, not worry about not spending, eat whatever and just have a good day out checking out bangkok so thats what i did...
That day was today and i had a great day. The only thing i wanted to buy was a pair of jeans but i ended up buying some great gear. In Siam square there are loads of little indoor markets with loads of artists, local designers and traders of all kinds but some great shops with personalised clothing and and at great prices so throughout the day i spent the whole 70 quid; i got coffee's, cakes, bought my Dolce & Gabbana copy jeans but also got some great shorts, t-shirts, a large bottle of original Caroline Hererra 212 for a tenner! and also... a McDonalds! I saw it and just thought, yeah, i could just have a Big Mac meal! so i did - well, kind of, when i got to the desk i saw they had a samurai Pork Burger so i tried that instead! which finally leads to your next photo description: Ronald McDonald in Asia and like all good branding ideas should do, he has customised himself to be welcoming you in with the traditional hands clasped in front of your chest... love it.
Next up for all you car lovers is an ultra cool old style jag, right from the UK too (see the masked number plate) but come on, check out those colours...!
Next up i stopped in a cafe and had a Chocacino (choccy cappachino) and a mousse cake. Check out the design that went in to the chocacino..! And the drink came with some biscuits shaped as letters and you can see i managed to spell out my mood but the coffee and cake was just the pick me up i needed!
Back to you car lovers... on my way home in the tuk tuk infront i see a brand new Nissan Skyline GT in Matt Black.... nice.
From technology at its most modern to the crappiest looking aircon machine i have seen yet but what makes this stand out that bit more, other than the nailed on chipboard front, is the sign at the top, which you may not be able to see, but which says 'Scientific Air Cleaner...
Next is Bangkok Lumaphong train station just before i got the sleepr train, a very old but cool, large dome style station. the next two image are of the sleeper train inside and a close up of the other bunk which is where i am right now and about to sign off by saying good night god bless, or is it jesus bless, or Serpico maybe... who ever it is he blesses you and leaves me to finish my chang beer and try learn some Laos before i get to the place itself...
Love to you all
Ronald McDonald...x

PS... a big hello, good luck and to a new and exciting time for my cousin Jess who has moved to Boston, USA for a high flying new job... chuffed and excited for you and can't wait to hear all about it. x
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Delly on

How on earth you saw those mudflaps I do not know hahah, very funny story bro! Also love how Ronnie has been adapted to Asia with the respectful hand position haha, so funny how big corporate companies adapt to local markets!

Well it's the England game this eve, so I know you'll be watching, fingers and everything crossed huh!!! Love you xx hug xx

Carrie on

Helloooooooooo Sherlock

So much mouthwatering choccie food ......... much better than the last mottley array of dishes ....... your trip seems to be always interspersed with a hotchpotch of gastronomic delicacies.

Glad you sorting the itchynitchy out. Serpico ...... hmmmmm ......... there's a memory.

Love and hugs
Mum xxxxx

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