Sunday, October 31, 2010

Me Day

No pictures from today!

At around 10:30am this morning, I finally got out of bed and showered. I decided to splurge one last time and ordered a Western, in-room breakfast. I watched tv and putzed around on my computer. After breakfast, I packed and searched the room to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything, and then I was off. Honestly, I didn’t leave the hotel until around 1pm, and I took a cab to Khao San Road. I took a cab because there’s no direct sky train or subway to that area, and I didn’t have the energy to figure out the buses. My taxi driver was pretty cool and ran an honest meter, and he dropped me at a hostel he recommended. I have no idea if he got commissions for dropping folks there, but it helped me out, so I was happy!

I checked into Rambuttri Village Inn for 600 baht a night (about $20USD) for my own room with AC and a bathroom. I dropped off my stuff and then wandered the area, stopping first at a 7-11 to get a cold bottle of water and a SIM card for my cell phone.

I bought a Motorola phone from a guy off of Craig’s List a few days before I flew out of the US and just haven’t gotten around to getting the SIM card until now. The guy who sold it to me didn’t include the US SIM card and didn’t unlock the phone, but it turned out not to be a problem. For around 500 baht ($13USD), I got a SIM card, about an hour of call time and I got the phone unlocked by someone. Woo! I now have a cell phone! My Thai number is 0860760807, which I think includes the country code.

Since I had to wait for my room to get cleaned at the hostel, and I had to wait for the guy to unlock my phone,, I went to get lunch at Sawasdee House, which is the place I’m going to meet some couchsurfers tonight for a weekly get-together and Halloween party. I had some chicken, curry and rice, people-watched and read a book on my iPod touch. It was really fun seeing backpackers stagger down the road in front of the restaurant, and to watch the absolutely variety of people eating around me. I couldn’t even name all the nationalities, but there were all kinds of people: party boys, cool kids, loners, girls with dredds, guys with aviator glasses, people with glazed looks in their eyes and other talking animatedly about where they’d been or where they were going.

I didn’t get into any conversations, needing some quiet me-time to soak it all in. I’m reading “The Count of Monte Cristo” on my iPod, and that was nice to get back to a familiar story.

After lunch, I went and got my unlocked cell phone (which is really just for emergencies and to contact couchsurfing hosts, etc) and then headed back to the hostel. I got my room key and have just been relaxing in my room, catching up on my blog postings and just… being.

Here are a couple things I’ve been meaning to mention in this blog, but just haven’t gotten around to until now. It’s a hodgepodge of thoughts with no real common theme except, perhaps, travel.

1. The weather. The day we arrived in Bangkok, Jan, Jeff and I were completely destroyed by the hot humidity. It felt like a wet blanket settled on us each time we went outside and for me, it was a real energy-sucker. Our first two nights we were all three awakened by thundering rainstorms and lots of lightning. The day Jan left, though, Thursday, something broke in the weather pattern, and now the humidity seems to have lowered permanently. It’s still hot, but not as unbearable, and sometimes it gets into the high seventies, which is a nice relief. Jeff and I both commented incredulously on how nice it was several times in the past few days. I hope it stays this way!

2. “Suffer lonesome living in the forest.” That was my fortune from my visit to Ayutthaya and this phrase sticks in my mind. It’s funny, because right now that is how I feel. Jan left, Jeff left, and now I’m back to my solo travel. When I ventured off on my own in South Korea, I was excited and felt good about being on my own. This morning, however, I was fighting off fear and loneliness and a bit of self-doubt. Why am I traveling solo around the world? Will I really be ok? There are so many things to be afraid of: robbery, violence, getting lost, rape, etc. All of this started to press in on me; had really started pressing in last night, really. I can’t say that I’m completely rid of it yet, but I am hoping these feelings will go by the wayside as I forge ahead. Deep down, I know that I can do it, and that I’ll have a great time, but it’s pretty hard going from having a constant companion to being completely alone and, my own fault, having no plan. Luckily, today has gone well so far and I credit that partly to allowing myself to have a slow, no-sight-seeing, no expectation kind of day, with my only goals finding a bed and getting a SIM Card accomplished really easily.

3. Time to get my mindset back on being frugal. Not to say I haven’t done well so far, but traveling with Jeff and Jan was a different kind of travel than I plan to do on my own. Not better, not worse, just different. It’s difficult when I know I’ll be on the road for a year, and travel with people going home in a few days. Jan and Jeff were both more than generous, paying for the hotel rooms and taxis and some of the more expensive stuff, but knowing that you’re on a different budget than others can be stressful, especially while traveling. And in the past week I’ve fallen back into the “oh, it’s just a few extra dollars” mindset, which I need to shed if I want my travels to last. Also, it’s a challenge I want to meet, to be able to travel as a backpacker for an extended amount of time. I realize that this isn’t defined anywhere, but I guess I want to rough it and enjoy roughing it. Coming from two weeks of nice hotels and nice restaurants, though, that experience is harder to “want” now, although I think I’ll ease back in quickly.

4. Plans for the immediate future. I am going to hang around Khao San road for two days and then take an overnight train or bus on Nov 2 to Chiang Mai, where I have a confirmed host through couchsurfing. Hopefully I’ll meet up with the Aussies I met at the Blue Elephant, and I would love to go to an elephant sanctuary. I would also really like to go to the Mekong River Valley and explore some of the villages there. I have a flight to Hanoi, though, on Nov 10, and my visa for Vietnam is only for the month of November, so I don’t want to delay that flight. Some other considerations have come up, too: Indonesia has recently experienced three natural disasters, so I’m not sure that I’ll be going to Bali as planned. Right now, I’m thinking that I’ll go to Chiang Mai, couchsurf for three nights, either do a program at an elephant sanctuary OR find a trip to the Mekong River Valley, and then head back to Bangkok on Nov 9, to make my 6:55am flight on Nov 10. Then I’ll take twenty days to explore Vietnam, generally heading south via train or bus, and cross the Cambodian border on Nov 30th. I’ll take some time to cross Cambodia, visiting Phnom Pen and Angkor Wat, and then overland back into Thailand. At that point, it will be at least a week or so into December. Instead of taking a train from Bangkok to Singapore as originally planned, I may just enjoy my time at Thailand beaches, slowly overlanding south. I need to find out the fare to New Zealand from either Bangkok, Singapore or maybe Kuala Lumpur or Phuket, and pick the cheapest fare to make it to Dunedin, New Zealand, by New Year’s eve.

5. Malaria pills: To take or not to take?! I haven’t decided yet.

6. What to Wear: I’m sure you’ve heard of the political unrest in Thailand, and even I, who rarely keeps up with politics around the world, knew that there were two main factions that seemed to be highlighted in the protests and sometimes violent uprisings: the red shirts and the yellow shirts. It was highlighted to us  - I can’t remember now by who or what – that we should not wear strong red or yellow colors, and even orange should be avoided. We were all fairly careful, but one morning I just threw on a shirt and headed down to meet Surin for one of our tours. He stared at me and then shook his finger, saying, “Not to wear red. Please to change.” Jeff, Jan and I looked at my shirt and then blanched: it was, indeed, more red than anything else, and we just hadn’t paid any attention. I went directly upstairs and changed. Since then I always check myself in the mirror to make sure I’m not “declaring” for one faction or another with my clothing. For the most part, I haven’t seen much of either color around Bangkok, with just a few exceptions that don’t seem to have been politically motivated. It’s something else, though, that reminds me that I’m indeed in a foreign country with some pretty serious political happenings.


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