"I often give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it." Alice in Wonderland
Monday, May 17, 2010
The Great Indonesian Adventure and one expensive Suckering (Days 1-2, respectively)
So, turns out that when you leave for two weeks, a lot of things can pile up! Like, a lot of things! So, bloggy buddys, you may have to wait for the intricate details of what I've now begun to refer to as "The Great Indonesian Adventure!" to come in daily increments. I also realize that's not an original title at all, but I'm going to blame jet-lag (still suffering from... phew... it's like 4am in Bangkok right now and I FEEL like it's 4am... soooo tipsy) for my lack of creativity. Give me a few days and perhaps the "The Great Indonesian Adventure" will morph into something more clever... then again... maybe not.
First, I WILL tell you this. 24 hours on a plane is sorta intense. I guess we weren't on a plane for 24 hours strait - but we were in the air for that long at various points; broken up by a lay-over here and there. Announcement: Thailand's far away everyone! Very far away. We began "The Fantastical Foreign Fiasco" (better? mmmm... noooo), in Salt Lake City airpot (naturally) catching our first flight to Seattle. We were bright eyed and bushy tailed! Ready and willing to begin what we KNEW would be a fantastic 2 weeks!We had a 3 hour lay-over in Seattle in which I tried to take some good mental pictures of this city I've never visited and have always wanted to. Someday Seattle. Someday. But as for today, you are merely a means to an end. Alas. We boarded our international flight via Korean Air (of which I will sing praises throughout the remainder of my descriptions of the "Incredible Indonesian Adventure") for an 11 hour ride to South Korea. Honestly, long plane rides SEEM like they might suck out your soul and very well COULD suck out your soul IF you are not prepared. I, my friends, was prepared. I had two books ready for the reading; Anthem by Ayn Rand ( My first Ayn Rand and it was brilliant I tell you! I finished it the first handful of hours and subsequently LONGED to find someone to discuss it with, "Excuse me sir? Yes, will you read this and then let me know when you are done so we can discuss it? Thanks... ... ... what part are you on now? Now?") and The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. MaartenTroost (which I rather identified with as I continued to read it throughout the trip... and I highly recommend it. Hilarious.), a fully charged I-pod for the listening, a newly acquired sleep mask and Advil PM for the snoozing, and of course, a line-up of movies awaiting me on the plane via a little screen on the back of the seat in front of me (of which I watched Lovely Bones (fail), The Fantastic Mr. Fox (success!) and half of New Moon (shut up)). That flight wasn't not only 'not bad' but almost good! Here enters my first praises of Korean Air. What service! What food! What hot towels! What bean buns! What nice big individual blankets and personal pillows! Truly, this airline KNOWS how to fly internationally. I felt they did everything in their power to make what could've been a life-sucking plane ride for 11 hours, something almost pleasent! Oh and the meal? Excellent! Yes, you are thinking "she must be a little jet-lag loopy if she just called airplane food excellent" and though you may be right about the loopy, I am serious about the food. I had myself a little Korean dish of something or other and was quite impressed with the enjoyable flavors. Flavors! It had flavors! Go ahead, call me a liar to my face... I know the truth. And the truth lies with the excellence of Korean Air (you better believe I'm writing them a letter... Dear Korean Air, Come to America and teach us the right things. Sincerely Yours, Andrea).
We landed in South Korea and had to make a run for it to catch our 5 hour flight (this was soul-sucking) to Bangkok. We had been delayed about an hour in Seattle, and thus making our connection to Bangkok hang precariously on the line. We made it though (rounding the corner at the final boarding call) and since the flight was fairly vacant, I proceeded to stretch out across a couple seats and snooze the whole time; once again, avoiding the soul-sucking effects of long international plane rides. Plus, it was Korean Air again, which is an excellent airline! Have I mentioned that yet? Well, if not, might I recommend Korean Air should you ever be in a "Korean Air" part of the world? Excellent airline. Here we are with our souls in tact after landing in Bangkok... finally...
(Maybe we do look a little "soul-sucked")
Landing in Bangkok, we disembarked and were immediatly struck with swaths of moist air. They call it "humidity" in them parts and it made the Aveeno moisturizer I'd totted along from the US obsolete for the rest of the trip. Naturally, because of the 'civil unrest' issue Bangkok had been experiencing not 2 weeks prior to our departure, we booked a hotel about 30 minutes from the city center just to be on the safe side. How smart of us. I was a little nervous about 'blind-booking' a cheap hotel in Bangkok, not knowing what exactly we could expect for $20 a night (in the end being the most expensive place we stayed... wha?!?!). Well the Silver Gold hotel did not disappoint (see below), and I felt we got our trip off to a nice start with a decent hotel (encompassing both the silver and gold) and hitting the sack at midnight; a tummy full of Korean Air food (which is really good by the way...). Not bad at all I'd say. Newope.
The next morning we planned to spend in Bangkok. One day in Bangkok ("One night in Bangkok!") having heard from several Bangkok visited veterans that one day was PLENTY of time to visit this exotic Indonesian Captiol of Thailand. Turns out... they were plenty right. We got a lot done, but didn't feel rushed or that we "squeezed" anything in. It was the perfect amount of time.... one day. See picture documentation below:
Behold! The Silver Gold Hotel, Bangkok Thailand. Not bad, right? Not bad at all. Though, it was our first experience with the tubless, curtainless, pretty much you just spray down the whole room while you're at it, shower. It's just you, the shower head, and a drain in the floor. May or may not have soaked our toilet paper... but only once. We adapted quickly.
That sweaty little river bug is me! Let me tell you about those sunglasses, they lasted the ENTIRE two weeks (see: Andrea notoriously loses and or breaks sunglasses frequently... vacation increasing that likelihood immensely). Well, they lasted until our Halong Bay trip in Vietnam when not a day before we were supposed to fly home they may have slipped from my head right into the ocean, sinking into the void. Ahem. Anyway! This is me on our river boat tour of Bangkok Thailand! The only way to tour Bangkok, Thailand.
The Goldon Buddah. Hey you! Turn this way! Look over here! He's shy...
Approaching the floating market in our boat. Easily my favorite part of our day in Bangkok. They cook the food on their boats and then hand it up to the servers on the pier. It's pretty awesome. Oh and the smells! Delicious smells! Kinda how Korean Air smelled when they were preparing good food.
Me and the Floating Market. Still a sweatball but no longer a bug!
Our first $3 Pad Thai meal in Bangkok at the floating market. Excellent!
Namiste. The Temple of Dawn. The details on this temple are incredible. What a beautiful edifice right in Bangkok! Simply perfect! (Also, do you like how my dress kinda matches the etched flowers around me? Totally planned that (not)).
Up Up Up we go, precious! My legs were shaking the whole time. Turns out, I'm a little adverse to heights. And this thing had some serious height. Phew. Gave me the jimmy legs!
Can't get enough of the Temple of Dawn. Just lovely.
Temples make one pensive, right? On the Roof-tops of Bangkok. What a sight!
The Hall of Buddahs in a Buddhist temple. That's not an official name or anything, but it makes sense. It's a hall, and there are many Buddahs. THUS!
One of many Buddist Temples.
Of course there are many tales to tell of our first day in Bangkok and mucho more pictures that were taken. I tired to summarize as best I could. The river tour was fantastic and the food even better! It rained a bit while we were there which kept the temperature very moderate and rather refreshing. There are plenty of temples to see and a plethora of outdoor markets to weave through. They have anything and everything at the outdoor markets, from food to jewlery, "wooden" elephants, clothes, dresses, shoes, trincets and trappings... everything. And all "fo special price, lady! I make special price fo you! You want Tuk-Tuk, lady?"
However, we actually did get completely suckered once our first day at a seafood restaurant our very obliging Tuk-Tuk (this is a Tuk Tuk) driver recommended. We quickly learned that most Tuk-Tuk drivers have deals with particular establishments. If they bring tourists to their establishment and the tourist buys something, then the Tuk-Tuk gets a cut. Well, one particularly smooth Tuk-Tuk driver took us two an-hungerd Americans to this seafood restaurant that seemed just bells and whistles initially. We picked out our own fish (note... us thinking the price as 300 baht total (about $10US) NOT 300 baht/gram... yeeeeah, our eye for detail greatly increased after that), and then asked if we wanted our salad, soup, and rice served before the fish? Well here in America, a lot of these little 'side items' COME with the entry, right? Most of them. So here we are, enjoying our delicious meal and recounting the happy events of the day, congratulating ourselves on navigating this extremely foreign bit of the world with savvy and smarts, when our check arrives. And wow... super check it is. Our mental conversion calculators still a little rusty, Terilyn gave the dude her credit card to pay for the food before we fully computed what the cost actually was... oh ya know... 2800baht (read $100 US!)
"Wait wait wait!" I said, when the dude returned with the receipt, "You tricked us! This wasn't listed! There was no menu! You totally suckered us into paying these ridiculous prices we wouldn't even pay in AMERICA!" (The Thai people (vendors mainly) are very smart in figuring out "American prices" and inflating their prices to match... very clever) Well, dude acted like he didn't know what I was saying, which I knew FULL WELL he understood EVERY word I was saying. But alas, the damage was done. The card was run. And we were suckers for the day. Luckily, all OTHER meals we had were about $4-$5 apiece and we consoled ourselves with the knowledge that if we had been in Italy (which by the way, will be my next vacation spot), we couldn't get away with paying less than $10 per meal most likley - thus our 'sucker money' would be made up throughout the trip. I guess you have to suffer at least one 'suckering' on your trip to an extremely remote foreign country or your basically... well... un-American, right? And who are we to be un-American? No one. As further revenge, I didn't tell the Tuk Tuk driver how much we paid, because then he'd know what percentage to expect and not get suckered himself. I said "We paid too much and YOU suckered us into coming here so I'll be damned if I'm going to let you get a reward from it!" Well... I thought that... what I really said is "We paid enough, my friend, and we're not happy. Not happy at all." I definitely didn't tell him the amount. He should suffer too! Vengence was mine!!.. ... ish.
To further assuage our pride, we did end up purchasing tailor made suits for a STEAL of a deal (thank you Thailand for finally living up to the dream) which helped make up for the Great Tuk-Tuk Suckering, amongst many other super bargains and general cheapery of travel. I only got suckered once more after that... ;) And it wasn't as pricey... more lame. But that story for another day!
I took a picture of the million dollar meal. See what getting swindled in Bangkok for $100/meal will get you!
And that was Days 1-2 of our great adventure. It seems like we did alot because we did ALOT! Which ended up being the theme through the entire trip. Turns out there are a lot of hours in a day and a lot can be done within one day with those hours. Makes you reflect on how much time you really do waste watching LOST each week. Alright, not true. LOST isn't a waste of time.
Stay tuned for more "Excursions of the Orient" (getting better!) in the following days. We've got Phi Phi Island to explore, a monkey to taunt, a bus ride from hell to muddle through, intestinal bacteria to battle, and Australians to love. A lot happens in 2 weeks...