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Monday, October 31, 2011

JOURNEY TO CHAING REI

THEFT FOLLOWUP

I checked with Dave of Canterbury Tales and he assured me the police had indeed not been there. I can't help but feel they are trying to send me a message. [TJ if you don't get this one you'll kick yourself.]



TRIVIA

For those who have read about the flooding in Bangkok (and noted that yeah, I'm in Thailand) here are two interesting trivia points for you. First, it is now the beginning of the 'dry season'. Who'd have guessed? Second, in Thailand, the sewage and the drainage ditches are *the same open things*. This is why you get such 'remarkable' smells. So when you see people waving in the camera in the floods, you know what they are actually standing in.



NARRATIVE

I reached the bus station to get a ticket to Chaing Mei at about nine in the morning. Lines of solider ants of people waited to get their tickets confronted me. I queued up and did the slow relentless march toward the ticket window with the rest. For extremely slow zombies, the ticket givers had their pace about right in service speed. Because they felt I'd made my way through the line rather too quickly, I wasn't permitted to board a bus until I had served my time in the gulag of an additional two hours of waiting. The other buses had miraculously filled - or if they weren't they bloody were now. Being bed ridden for the last three days I rather felt as put upon as Lazarus who - after being resurrected was told "Right - back into the fields and get toiling. You've been laying around for the last three days anyway so it's time to make it up you lazy shit." That's possibly why people don't come back from the dead more often. I'd have been happy to stay in Chaing Mei for another few days but there was a rather loud music place not far from where I was staying. The volume was loud enough that those fortunate enough to have been entombed would be yelling 'cut the bloody ruckus!' Rather than just change lodging, I decided to change cities altogether. [Note that Chaing Mei and Chaing Rei are pretty darned similar and neither IMO is that much niftier or worse than the other. Over all, if you've seen one, you've seen the other. I suppose that's why their names are so close.]

The road between Chaing Mei and Chaing Rei is a lovely smooth, well made and maintained road. The only place you can routinely find roads like this are car commercials for high end sports cars with excellent maneuverability. The problem with actual roads as opposed to the ones 'as seen on TV' is invariably that you have to share them with other drivers. The roads passed through a series of hills - perhaps steep by Thai standards but not that steep when compared to places like the Rocky Mountains. Buses (like the one I was on) would slow to my walking pace when going up some of the hills and semis would inexplicably lose control and wreck when going down the hills. We passed the carcass of one with humans dotted on top of it like ants climbing a large turd. We passed some lovely rain forest and such on the way. I was delighted to be in a somewhat air conditioned bus to observe it rather than rubbing my arm and fresh blisters on my machete hand and bitching about the insects crossing through it.

The bus itself was from the decades before smoking was banned in the buses. Screw holes sat accusingly looking at us like eye sockets where the ashtrays had been unceremoniously removed. Well, perhaps there was a short ceremony.

As we traveled, I began to wonder what sort of vendetta the driver of the bus had against his vehicle. I had never heard the gears ground so savagely. Later, at a stop, I noticed he wore a small badge that read 'trainee'. This caused a bit of panic on my part as there was literally nobody I had seen who was the 'trainer'.

We had one stop an hour into the three and a half hour trip. The older Thai who was sitting next to me noticed that I was the only one standing in the direct sunlight at the stop - others had taken refuge beneath the awnings of the shops. "Aren't you hot?" he inquired. "I am a fat farang (foreigner). Of course I am hot." I replied. "The trick is to not mind that you are hot." I smiled at him, baffling him. In my thoughts were all of those poor bastards who were going to be digging their way out of snow and whining incessantly about the cold now and for months to come. [If you whine about either the cold or heat, move. If you whine about both, stop being such a baby.]

So, I made it to Chaing Rei. It looks suspiciously like Chaing Mei but without the moat. I discovered they have rooms for rent within walking distance to the bus station - though I will have to try to figure out where I left the bus station. This will make exfiltration easier when it is time to move on.

According to expats I accosted while scouting for a guest house, the bulk of them are close to a temple (Wat) known as "Jed Yod".

The only good thing about being sick for three or four days is that during that time, I ate very fucking little. I noticed that it caused my stomach to shrink a little more to where I couldn't even eat a small Thai meal in it's entirety. I suppose that's a positive thing. My physique tells me I've eaten enough complete meals.

My thoughts on Chaing Rei - meh, it's another place pretty much exactly like Chaing Mei. Apparently, there is suppose to be a lot of 'good hiking' and such around it. You know what? There is NO 'good hiking' - not for Logan. Walking around in the town for hours is more my speed. Nature and shit is fine but from a distance. I'm not a woodsman and have no delusions otherwise. Yes, I do know four or five different ways to start a fire - more with a cigarette lighter. Sure, I can build a temporary shelter, signal fire and all of that stuff. But I am not in good physical condition and don't really enjoy that stuff. So, although I am convinced of my ability to survive one or even two hours in 'the wilderness', I'm not really fascinated by trying it. I like people and they tend to live in herds we call cities or towns.

For the last couple days I wandered around for four to eight hours a day on foot looking for medicines as the package Bert sent never arrived and seems that it may never arrive. Disappointing.

After spending about five minutes doing some research into Chiang Khong, it seems that the most interesting thing there is - preparing for getting into Laos. I'm going to do some more research but as of now, my thought is that the two day river ride along the Mekong into Laos seems like an interesting way to get there. In Laos, they have an extremely low amount of money you can pull out of an ATM at one time. Since I get charged a fairly high amount of money to use the ATM by my evil bank, I try to limit the withdraws I do. Hence, I will need to pull out the money I will be spending in Laos before I cross the border to save on fees. I'm disliking carrying that much cash but I don't really see a way around it. I probably won't spend more than a month there (I believe their visa is only for a month anyway) before going into Vietnam. While in Laos, I will see if I can volunteer to help out teaching to see if I like it or if it makes me want to slit my wrists.



MOVIE REVIEW

Thor. 5/10. Interesting mixture of science and superstition. Plus, there were a couple of actually funny scenes dealing with Thor's big arrival onto Earth. It would have gotten higher but it had way too much drama. Favorite quote: (Bad guy while grinning maniacally) "Is it madness? Is it? Is it? Is it? Is it?" [My response would have been along the lines of "You kind of answered your own question there, bub."]


Green Lantern. 6/10. Sometimes, one movie can really mess up another for you. The jet scene at the beginning was bringing back Topper Harley's PCS (parental conflict syndrome or whatever it was called) from the movie Hot Shots. The two movies were almost playing side by side in my head with Richard Nixon saying things like "I am not a crook!" in my ear. The first part with Ryan in it was 'meh'. I did like the aliens mucking about prior to that though. Eventually, though, the movie picked up. I'd call it a decent superhero movie with some loose threads for a sequel.



DEATH OF MYPODCAST.COM

From an e-mail I received: "We must regretfully inform you that effective December 1, 2011, MyPodcast.com will cease all operations. Due to the current business climate, our current revenues can no longer cover the operational costs associated with hosting and serving the large amount of podcasts avialable on the site...."

Gosh, I am glad that I discontinued using this site after the first time it went tits up and trashed most of my data. It now appears to be quietly dying due to their inability to figure out how to make money off of the internet. Along with most other people.



LOGAN HEALTH

I haven't been doing anything on purpose to try to get healthier (as my documented frequent bouts of drinking will attest - but it is an homage to Papa) yet have still lost some weight. Eating better quality of food and walking for hours does seem to have an effect.

Anyway, I'm down to 120 KG. That's about 88% of what I'd started at.

Nifty. If it affects my height and my gut remains proportional, I will be sad but grow a long beard, carry a battle axe and call myself a dwarf.

As to my other health problems, yes, still there but not expected to go away through exercise. No, I don't want to talk about them. Yes, I know I am in your prayers. I can feel you trying to use your God-Powers on my like small angry whips.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

On your Thai bus ticket is the number of the bus. There is also a large, easy to spot number on the side of every bus. Sadly, the number on the side of the bus is not always what the 'bus number' currently is. Sometimes, they put an A4 sized piece of paper in the window with the new 'bus number' on it. Why, because it is Thailand! Obviously, changing the number in the computer to match the actual bus would be too tricky.

If your name is not Pete H. and you need to find your room again but have forgotten where it is, having it close to some sort of named landmark or temple is a handy way to find it. If your name is Pete H., you simply remember where it is and can find it easily.



COSTS

Tuk-Tuk to the bus station, 80 BHT. (Note, this was a really high price but it was door to door service.)

Bus from Chaing Mei to Chaing Rei, 125 BHT.

Ice cream, single scoop at bus stop, 10 BHT.

Bathroom at bus stop, 3 BHT (though I just slapped down a 5 BHT coin because I felt like being a 'big spender').

Soda, at bus stop, 17 BHT.

Laundry service, ranges between 25 BHT and 40 BHT per kilo. This is washed, dried and folded.

Chaing Mei room with fan (as opposed to AC), 250 BHT - for AC, 350 BHT. Decent room, two single beds. (Note that I have absconded with various other furniture to get myself a chair and writing desk.) I did find fan rooms for 200 BHT as well, but they looked less secure and a bit more grim.

Banana smoothie, 25 BHT - good enough that you'll want two.

Sweet and sour chicken, decent - 50 or 60 BHT.

Hamburger with cheese on it and fries (not great) - 100 BHT.



PHILOSOPHY

For all of the people in Occupy Wall Street (etc), remember the quote of the famous philosopher Seymour Skinner: "There is no justice like angry mob justice!"



VIDEOS 4 U
[Warning: These videos may cause you to urinate onto your pants or worse, onto someone else's pants.]

Thai Safety

Can They?

Rain Man

New Product Review (this one may be endorsed by TJ - stay tuned...)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

CHAING MAI

NARRATIVE

So, after getting robbed (see last blogs exciting episode) it was time to board a plane to Chaing Mai. Literally, the next day. It was kind of sad that I didn't get to hear the expats sit around and say 'well, that sucks' but I never have anyone slip me a hundred dollar bill and say "There you go buddy". Nobody I know has the cash to do that. Hell, if they did it would still take an amazing amount of people to break even on the deal.

So, I got onto Air Asia.

Now, something that I knew is when you have flooding it tends to knock out overland traffic. This leaves either air traffic or the burrow under the earth in giant drill like machines traffic. Since we haven't developed giant drills (so far as I know...) it's pretty much just air traffic. People who think that because there are areas of flooding you can take a boat cross country are widely regarded as being exceptionally dim and ignored.

Hence, just air traffic.

If you have only one way to travel, logic says that way will rapidly fill up.

It is amazing how many people don't bother to think about this and then whine they've been sitting around the airport for days waiting on a plane.

I did think about this and got my ticket a couple weeks in advance. I dislike being pinned down to a schedule but Tonto thought I'd like Chaing Mai and so I bought a ticket.

Good things and bad things about Air Asia. It seems much cheaper when you look at the basic cost of the ticket but then they hit you for all of the extras they can. Would you like to reserve a seat? More money for that. Would you like to check a piece of luggage? More money for that. Would you like a drink on the flight? Yet more money. Anything they can get more money out of you for they do. The plane ticket becomes only moderately cheaper than the other airlines. Be forewarned says I.

On the cramped plane, the passengers were amused because all of the vents that normally gave just the refill of air were sprouting more steam and fog than I've seen fog machines kick out. It was pretty cool, actually. When I say 'cramped' I mean that my knees were literally resting on the seat in front of me. Given how tall I've seen Asians getting these days (I attribute that to their eating American fast food with hormones in the meat) they may have to think about re-sizing their seats in fifty to one hundred years when they finally replace the planes they are using.)

Naturally, we had on the plane the one set of parents who brought on a fussy, crying baby. It made me wonder 'if there was a flight or series of flights you could book that ensured that nobody under age 15 or so was on it, would you pay an extra $20? Some people wouldn't, others would be outraged by the implications but I suspect that a lot of people would be happy to fork over the extra cash not to have to listen to some other kid wail the whole flight.

Although it was only an hour and a half flight, I couldn't help but notice that the first class seating was completely filled. I spent a fair bit of time wondering what kind of idiot shells out a lot of extra money for a first class ticket for so brief of flight. I mean, I can understand it if you are going to be crossing the Atlantic or something and you're stuck on the flight for eight or more hours but for an hour and a half? Kind of strange. I will stick it in either my 'desperate to get on a flight and all of the other seats were full' or the 'more money than sense' bucket.

The flight itself was without incident though upon claiming my baggage from the conveyor belt, it appeared mentally handicapped monkeys had attempted to break into it. This made me wonder whether the baggage handlers had decided a poor backpackers luggage might be worth a go or if the TSA had forgotten their equipment to open the TSA authorized locks I used on the baggage. Either way, it didn't seem they penetrated in far. Well, about as far as the large bag of foul, dirty clothing I'd conveniently left on top. I consider it a test for 'how bad do you want to search this bag?' The answer was clearly 'not that bad you foul person'.

When arriving at a new destination, I find it wise to stick to three simple rules:

1. Write down the names and addresses of some hostels/hotels from Hostelworld.com (or a similar website). These are useful for those odd times when you are completely fucked and can't find a place to stay.

2. Don't arrive drunk or tipsy. In fact, I don't recommend drinking at all until you've been in the new place (new town, city or country) long enough to get a feel for the place. I've always been baffled at the people who get quietly hammered before going somewhere and arrive completely out of it. Are they attempting to increase their difficulty and personal risk?

3. Never, ever arrive at night. Whether you are going to a new country/city/NERO camp ground, whatever, don't arrive after sundown. Things tend to look different and it always increases your personal risk. Some less ethical places may also wish to raise their room rates (or bargain harder) if you look really worn out and just need a quiet night of sleep.

And when I arrived at Chaing Mai, I broke all three of those rules.

The plane landed probably an hour or less before sundown. Considering I had awoke at 9AM and was lucky enough to have Tonto break with tradition (and the Vampire Code) and go out during the daytime to give me a lift via his motorcycle to the bus station, I'm thinking I could not have reasonably started any earlier. So, I was stuck arriving just before sundown.

After checking around the airport (and snagging a free map of the town) I discovered there seemed to be no regular buses between the airport and Chaing Mai. The taxi drivers had a pretty sweet deal and had set themselves up to get 125 BHT for people wanting to go into town.

As those who have read this blog before (or traveled before) know if you wander away from airports and railway stations, the price of taxis and such falls quite a bit. You pay a premium for convenience. After being cramped into any vehicle for any length of time, I am usually quite happy to walk for awhile, even if it means dragging my pack along.

So, I started walking.

Since I had heard from the airport staff that it was a twenty minute ride into Chaing Mai, I was keeping a lookout for other vehicles that could take me there. As I was following the signs that pointed to Chaing Mai, I spotted a 'baht bus' driver who motioned me over. I was wary of talking to the driver because usually those who drive the baht buses have even worse English than the taxi drivers (read as none) and they usually attempt to get large sums of money out of you.

I showed him on the map I'd gotten from the airport where I wanted to go. Chaing Mai, like many other cities, has an 'old district'. In Chaing Mai, it is clearly marked by the moat which is set out in a big square around it. I figured that was pretty much the old town border and made it clear in a series of gunts and pointing to the map that I wanted to go there. The driver kept saying something that was probably a place. As it is often useful in dealing with people who don't speak English fluently, I developed a sudden case of deafness and incomprehension about that place but instead kept vaguely gesturing at the map. A price of 30 BHT was agreed upon and off we went. The driver even stopped to pick up someone else on the way which I regarded as a good sign. You see, in the back of every baht bus are several push buttons. These all go to a bell in the driver's cabin.

As we were driving along, I carefully dug out the 30 BHT from my cash and put that into a separate pocket. It is always important to keep your money you are to pay a driver ready and away from the large tempting wad. Best for them not to get any bright ideas.

The trick a lot of people don't know about baht buses is that when you get off you need to pay the driver then rapidly walk the direction from which you just came while going completely deaf. Mind you, I don't think it is a good idea to cheat the driver but if they get it into their heads to try to cheat you, your actions have narrowed down to 'abandon vehicle to chase down the foreigner to get another fifty cents' or whatever notion has entered their heads. Usually, they will just yell either in Thai or English that is so bad as to be incomprehensible. Should you stop or hesitate or go back then you will have a problem. Walk until you go around a corner. If one wants to get out of the vehicle and chase me down to demand more money, we can have a negotiation then to see how much more he will get paid - but I have not yet had any that have gone beyond the half-hearted yelling stage.

So, I pushed the button to ring the bell in the cabin. The driver pulled over, not knowing who had pushed the bell. I grabbed my pack, put it on while getting out paid him his 30 BHT and walked quickly away. His face clearly said "Well, shit".

I had run the bell when we first went past the moat reasoning that I was now in the town center and could manage for myself. I wasn't interested in going to whatever hotel/night club/massage parlor he had dreamed up to take me to and get a kickback from. He had driven me less far than agreed and been paid in full. He didn't have a lot of opportunity to object. And he still had another passenger. And I was gone.

My guess is that he went on.

As I was wandering around - after nightfall - looking for a place to stay while lugging the pack around and I got into a conversation with an elderly expat named Mike who said "I know the place, get on." So, he gave me a lift to a street that had about ten places. Most were too expensive for me (500 BHT), one was cheap but had huge holes in the floor boards and was very scary (200 BHT) but eventually I found one for 250 BHT that was a bit grim.

I dropped my pack then went to the bar Mike hangs out at to visit with him.

After a couple large beers that gave me a mild buzz as I hadn't eaten for awhile, it was time to go out to find food.

So I was wandering with a mild buzz through the streets at night. Finding the canals along which they were selling food was no problem but finding my way back proved to be impossible. I ended up wandering around till I found a group of Thais. One got me on the back of his scooter and eventually dropping me off at where I was staying. Very kind of him!

That is my heroic tale of how I stupidly violated all three rules yet lived to tell about it.

My thoughts on Chaing Mai are thus- unlike Pattaya where all of the foreigners (well most of them) were there for a bit of the ole in and out here you've got the couples in (shudder) matching colored clothing and such. The people are a bit friendlier here than in a town where the only reason foreigners show up is to fuck their women. It's a more relaxed attitude here. Whereas in Pattaya you can find stuff starting to close at 3AM, here things start to close at 10AM.

The pricing here is as advertised - pretty close with some things a bit cheaper.



PURCHASING A NEW COMPUTER

I decided to write about this because it's not the kind of thing many people will ever get an opportunity to do here.

After shopping around to get what I figured would be the best deal for my money (ie looking for the cheapest workable computer) I eventually found one I decided upon. In the US, when you want a computer they simply have you ring it up, try to sell you the additional warranties and so forth. This is not how it works here.

I'm really not sure why but they don't preload windows or any operating system onto the computer. I understand that some people might want different operating systems but if you always kept a percentage of your stock preloaded, that would expedite things greatly. That thought may have never crossed their minds.

Along with a couple other customers we got to sit around for the two hours it takes to load an operating system. After about ten minutes I told the guy "I want to go wander around for awhile. I'll leave you 1000 BHT deposit so you know I'll come back." He agreed that worked for him so I went off and came back when it was done.

The operating system and such seems to have been loaded professionally. Maybe they didn't get rid of all of the extras and tweak it nicely as Bert would have done but I simply can't afford to fly Bert out to look at my computer and the Thai mail system has shown me that 'never' is a frequent option in when you'll get your package.

Within Thailand, there appear to exist no legal copies of the software. Hence, you have to turn your notifications for useful stuff like anti-virus from Microsoft off. Bit distressing. But, if I ever need my OS reloaded, they said it would cost 100 BHT from any place I went - aside from where I bought it who would be happy to do it for free.



SAMSUNG FIGHT TO THE DEATH

One of the things the thieves (the recent batch) had stolen was my cord that connects my old Samsung MP3 player to the PC. I did some wandering around to try to find a new one. Eventually, I was told there was a Samsung store. And a huge one at that. Excellent. They should have it...

Right.

So I went there and took a number while I waited for other people to get served. Eventually, my number was up and the lady they assigned me to apparently spoke the best English out of all of her co-workers.

I could not understand what the hell she was trying to say, nor could she understand me.

Thailand has an amazingly huge problem with English.

No problem. Unless I am dealing with someone excessively stupid, I am excellent at getting my ideas across through charades.

She didn't get that I wanted a cord.

Really.

I showed her another cord which I had bought to show her what a cord looks like. She immediately wanted to take it so that she could examine it and tell me they did not carry it. I declined and returned it to my bag.

She tried to tell me they had no cords. I showed her the logo on the back of the MP3 player and showed her how it matched the much larger logo behind her on the wall.

She attempted to get people on the phone who claimed to speak English well.

They did not.

Although it was a serious loss of face thing, I returned the phone to her and said "They not speak English."

Eventually, thoughts of the last half hour of conversation seemed to think into her head. I could see a light bulb go on.

"Data cable?" she said.

"Wait - you don't know 'cord' but you know 'data cable'? Seriously?"

She then called up a picture of it on the computer and showed it to me. Surprise! Samsung stocks Samsung parts.

I assured her it is indeed what I wanted, could she fetch one from the back room? No, must get it from Bangkok. Two weeks.

Two weeks?

Flooding, she explained.

I bid her good day and left. I don't know what country I'll be in within two weeks much less if I'll still be here.

Fucking 'data cable'.

In a bit of irony, the cord I had bought earlier from a third party ended up working though we couldn't make it work at the shop on his computer. Weird.



WHAT IS LOGAN DOING NOW?

Due to trying to save a dollar (actually a bit less) at the wrong time, Logan badly fucked up and is sitting at his hotel room. I've been sick for the last 30 or so hours with stomach pains and explosive diarrhea. Fortunately, I went to a Thai pharmacist who spoke zero English but I got to understand what I wanted (I bet she could figure out a fucking cord) and got something to take care of the Hershey squirts. So now I'm just sitting around with a painful stomach. When a fat man's stomach is in pain, you must remember that is a significant percentage of the fat man - hence, most of him is in pain. So I am sitting and waiting. Fortunately, I am in enough pain that I am not hungry so I'm saving a few dollars on food. Yippie.



LAO THOUGHTS

A lot of people I've spoken with have said that Lao is more expensive than Thailand. I will have to make plans to move quickly through there should this actually be the case.

From where I am currently (Chaing Mai) it is about 2-3 hours to the Lao border.



VIETNAM THOUGHTS

In addition to being able to make a wonderful documentary detailing the private anguished life of someone being haunted by Vietnam flashbacks who isn't old enough to have ever been in that particular war, I've heard that English teachers there can make $1200 per month. To me, that is an exciting amount of money and more than enough to live comfortably there. I will be looking into it when I get there to see if it is indeed possible.

I'm going to have to do more research on Vietnam visas. There seems to be some disagreement among the old timers whether I need one before I arrive or not.



PHILOSOPHY

I was just talking about the secret of writing with a nice lady named Sally from Oz. I'm going to put my thoughts down because it may be of interest to someone else.

Disclaimer: If I was a world class author, chances are you'd be reading this out of a book you paid twenty dollars (US) for. So, be happy I'm not there. I'm not going to claim all of this stuff is 100% right - but I've heard it from plenty of published authors, read about it in tons of 'how to write shit' books and experienced it on my own. I have yet to encounter someone with a contrary philosophy that has written anything and had it published.

Writing is all about two things - desire and discipline.

Desire: Everything you've wanted with every breath in your body you usually have gotten. If you haven't, you either didn't want it bad enough or just plain suck. In general, when someone wants something to the point of single minded focus, they get it. Most people don't desire anything that much and have what they actually desire. Sadly, in many cases that would be 'not much'.

Discipline: I've talked to plenty of 'wannabe authors' and they said they 'write when the mood hits them'. None of them have yet to make any contribution to the literary world that I've seen. It is the people who shut off everything - and I mean everything (even your cell phone that you keep on 'just for emergencies') for two or more hours a day to write that get things made. It is the people who have nothing at all going on in their brain but start writing anyway for hours that have the best chances of getting something usable out there. The people who say "I just don't know what to write about" should be forced to wear t-shirts that say "Whiny and undisciplined' till they start writing regularly. Writing isn't something that you pass like dump but a writer is something you become over time. Not everyone will like what you write. Yes, it is amazing but there are people out there who do not read this blog fanatically. But if you write all of the time, you are a writer. You may be a poor writer - as I am - but I can still say "Yes, I'm a writer" because I do it every day, seven days a week. Poorly, some would say, but I am still doing it.



DIFFERENT VEHICLES

I was trying to remember all of the different vehicles I've traveled on. Admittedly, some are basically the same vehicle with different names (marshrutka and mini bus) but often they have a different feel so I'm writing them down separately.

Marshrutka
Ocean freight carrier
Motorcycle
Scooter
Bus
Minibus
Jeep
Truck
Jet
Dolmush
Baht bus
Tuk-Tuk

Hum. What else?



TRAVELER'S TIPS

Assume that someone will come into your room and try to take your backpack and any valuables they can. I'm thinking that unless you have a very sturdy safe, hiding stuff may be better. The problem is that in a room there are only limited places to hide things unless you've brought along duct tape and such. Unfortunately, the places things are hidden must be weighed against accessibility. If you can't get to them easily, you'll get lazy with hiding them.

People who say 'well, you should just carry all of your money on you' obviously have never been mugged or pick pocketed. In hot climates, wearing the money belt will be very uncomfortable and it will quickly smell worse than ass.


Buy extra security pouches. I haven't seen them while traveling though I'm sure I could find some in Western Europe.


If you are ever wanting to come to Thailand to stay for a long time - or if you think there is a possibility you may stay for a long time - fight like hell to get the triple entry visa. They have them. They are not that much more expensive (so I hear) than the single entry ones. Having this will allow you to extend your visa three times (at one month each) as opposed to less. As I'm personally fairly ambivalent on Thailand, I won't be working to extend my visa.


Always get a business card - preferably one in English and one in the language of the country - of the place you are staying. This will be invaluable at answering the question 'where the fuck is my hotel?'


In my limited experience with thieves, they don't seem much interested in flash/thumb drives. My guess is that they have a low resale value. Back up your stuff onto them and keep some in your bag! Also, have some large empty ones handy in case you find someone who has some stuff you'd like to copy. Remember, if an empty thumb drive is sitting back in your room it is doing you no good!



PRICES

Small locks to replace the one TSA approved lock that was destroyed by Air Asia's clumsy attempts to break into my luggage to inspect it, 120 BHT each.

New netbook, 8453 BHT. Fucking ouch. Despite this being new, you can't get legal copies of the software.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

ROBBED...AGAIN...

NARRATIVE

I've always got lots of stuff to write about when I switch locations. Unfortunately, I've rather a bit more to write about this time.

I got burgled.

When I say burgled, I'm talking about proper burglary. Nothing like "oh, I left out some stuff and the cleaning staff took it" - nothing like that. Imagine my surprise when I went home and discovered my laptop was missing. I must confess that my first thought was 'Who the hell borrowed my laptop?' I guess that speaks volumes to me about just how trusting I have become. Pity.

I did my own version of the CSI thing and pieced together what happened. I won't bore you with all of the conversations and such I had with various people but instead merely give you what I believe to be the facts.

A fairly scruffy individual of an undetermined European ethnic group checked into the guest house. The Thai lady asked him for his passport as is common and he said that he would retrieve it from his baggage and get it to her later. Although out of kindness the proprietors of various hostels and guesthouses allow the person to come back later with the required identification, it turned out to be a mistake that cost me - and only me - about $1500 of my paltry funds.

Obviously, this guy never saw the lady again. But, I would like to point out she was sure to get the money for his single night of stay. She did not suffer any loss in this case.

According to other witnesses the person was joined by a confederate (meaning accomplice, not some guy in a gray uniform who claimed the south would rise again) and they entered the building. They were spotted both going in and coming out with backpacks on and seen to ride away. People witnessing it had no idea they had looted all of the rooms in which people were not there. It was only me that was out taking as is my habit my 'daily constitutional' - a couple hours of fairly strenuous walking. Well, it's strenuous for me anyway. [Yes, if it had been a NERO event, I could have called 'targeting' but I really have no idea what happened here.]

The physical evidence left was at first somewhat confusing but in the fine tradition of the Heroic Cthulhu group I strung it together. The thieves had left their room door open with all of the lights on. The room key - as well as a long screwdriver - was left on the bed.

All of the other rooms were either unrented or had their occupants within the room. Hence, they made their way to my room. I'm not sure how they bypassed the lock. Having read or seen too many spy novels those with me looked in earnest at the lock for the tell tale scratches at the keyhole. As I've read books on lockpicking - and even picked a few myself (though I claim no expertise at this) I know that more scratches are left on the outer surface of the lock by those using the key rather than by those who are picking the lock. The lock may have even been forced open by the screwdriver as it is of cheap construction like much in Thailand.

Within, my laptop was easily accessible as I had become too trusting in having my own room as well as judiciously keeping the door stoutly locked, and even chained when I was within. Stealing the laptop off of the small table I had borrowed was no more difficult than picking it up.

There was then the matter of the wardrobe. Sadly, mine did not lead to Narnia (I did check) but within it was a safe within which I kept my passport, credit cards, money and so on. The bike lock I had looped several times around the handles of the wardrobe to deter entry presented little problem to the thieves as they simply popped one of the handles off.

The safe presented more difficulty but I'm afraid not much. It was inconceivable to the owners (and even some drunken tosspot I'd met at a bar) that anyone could break into the wall safe but I figured out how they did it.

It was all due to discovering a small washer lying on top of the refrigerator.

I don't have a lot of things and so it is very easy to keep fairly organized. When I first went into the room, the washer caught my eye and raised questions. I added to my list of questions why someone should choose to take the shelving I had removed from inside the refrigerator and place it within the wardrobe.

It was because they wanted to move the wardrobe.

To get into the safe, they simply shifted the flimsy wardrobe so that they could access the bolts in the back which secured the safe to the back wall of the wardrobe - rather than to anything solid as I had hoped. After unscrewing the safe, they took it from the wardrobe and inserted something like the long bladed screwdriver into the hole to use it to reset the code by depressing the 'reset the code' button located within the safe. They then opened the safe and took what they wanted.

Here it gets a bit odd.

They did not steal my passport nor even my two credit (well, debit) cards which would have put me into a very hard way indeed. They didn't even bother with my medicine which is nice not to have to shell out money to replace. Unfortunately, they did get the 'data cable' for my MP3 player which told me that would need replacing as soon as the battery wore down. They did also miss my Kindel. I was happy about this. Although the thieves took two cartons of cigarettes, they left me one. I am not really sure why but I'm guessing their 'loot bag' was full.

Instead, they took my emergency money (two hundred euros and two hundred dollars) as well as my money I had recently withdrawn to live on for a couple of weeks (five hundred dollars in baht).

A pretty good haul for a couple of 'scruffy guys' - but I must give props to their skills at getting in to the wardrobe.

I immediately told both Dave (the rentor) and Treavor (the building owner) of the theft. Important note for travelers - if you get robbed anywhere, the most you will get from the person you are renting from is sympathy. Maybe a free beer but that's it. I've talked to a lot of people who believe the building owners should have to take more responsibility for thefts which occur at their premises but I have yet to encounter any that have figured out a way to do that and not lose their own shirts.

Several Americans I spoke with immediately suggested suing the owner. It is interesting how this is our snap answer to problems in America. My thought is 'What country do you think you are in? I have doubts it would work in America and here? Good luck, buddy." No, I don't think that the fault lies with anyone but myself. I should have checked out things more closely. I thought that the defenses were good enough there but clearly, I was mistaken.

Unfortunately, I did listen to people when they said I should file a police report. Honestly, unless you have insurance or something that will pay you back should you file a police report you are only wasting your time on a vague hope. I have doubts that the police here could solve a murder crime, much less be bothered with a simple theft. Also, what is their motivation to solve it? After spending a few hours of my time waiting in different lines and talking to Thais whose grasp of English bordered on the dangerously negligent, I eventually got shown to a man who spoke fairly good English. After again summarizing for him what happened I said "So, we have a screwdriver that probably has several sets of clean prints on it, numerous witnesses and there is probably also some video of the thieves. It's pretty much an open and shut case." The cop looked at me with bored eyes and said "You go window two now."

I am not even kidding.

I spoke to one of the foreigners given the volunteer work of 'Tourist Police'. The official line is that these guys help make a smooth interface between the normal police and tourists. Personally, I think it is because the cops English is horrible and they don't seem motivated to improve it. But I digress. I was speaking to one of the Tourist Police and I said hey, the cops have my initial statement. I don't think anything will come of continuing to sit in various lines and such. Can I just leave it with them and if they want additional information they can contact me? I was told "This is your way of thinking - not the Thai way. Time means nothing here." Well, no, I was thinking of the expedient professional way but I can see there is a difference.

There were some characters in the police station as well. A banged up Russian couple who had gotten t-boned on their moped by a drunk guy on a motorcycle who was going way too fast, a French guy and his Thai wife/girlfriend/etc who had absolutely no control over their daughter who was running around with no pants on and only a short shirt because she wanted to go pee, etc. There were also foreigners attempting to explain the concept of a middle name to uncomprehending police officers (I am not kidding).

Keep in mind that it is pretty disorderly in the police station. While you are waiting to make your statement to one cop, other cops will come in and want to talk to him, sometimes bringing along people who (surprise) will que jump in front of you.

Avoid the police stations. The words 'glacial' and 'inept' both come to mind.

I spoke to a couple Thais about the police and they agreed that you have to go down to the police station to file the report because the cops don't bother to show up if you just call them.

Again, unless you need a crime report to show your insurance company, don't bother.

That is my tale about how - for the second time in a mere seven months - I got robbed. For my first forty six years on the planet, nothing (other than friends stealing books but that is not unexpected) and then boom, boom!

It reminds me of the book "Coping With Loss" I saw on an episode of the Simpsons.

For good news - the last airport I went through my bag only weighed 17.3 KG. Joy.


Up next - 'Flight to Chaing Mai'!



TRAVELERS TIPS

Try to wrench any safe off of the wall. If the owner of the place objects - or if you think you can do it - don't trust the safe!

Always back up your data onto flash (aka thumb) drives which you can easily carry with you. Or hide in your room. Anticipate your computer getting stolen.



MOVIE REVIEWS

From the movie 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind': Chuck Barris: "When you are young, your potential is infinite. You might do anything, really. You might be Einstein. You might be DiMaggio. Then you get to an age where what you might be gives way to what you have been. You weren't Einstein. You weren't anything. That's a bad moment."

Unfortunately, the rest of the movie was fucking boring. I made it only up to fifteen minutes into it. It's a pity because I do like Sam Rockwell as an actor.

Because I didn't make it through this movie, it gets the standard 3/10.



PHILOSOPHY

People who say money can't buy you happiness obviously didn't know what to buy.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

LOOKING FOR MORE INTERESTING SHOWS

TV SHOW REVIEW - WALKING DEAD

TJ strongly urged me to watch this despite my hatred of both 'zombie' and 'vampire' shows. So it is on his head. The only 'zombie' type movie I've seen recently that's been worth a shit is Zombieland. I think it was mainly the rules and comedy I liked in that. Note that part two may come about in 2013. I will check that out then.

It appears they have hit several things that have been done to death in this series though I hope it gets better as I go. [8.8 on IMDB? Hell, it must get better! Or standards are lacking...]

*Guy wakes up in the hospital and (big surprise) the rest of the area/planet/universe has gone to shit. Despite this, things like water and some electricity are still working. Apparently, we can fire all those people who work at those places as they are totally unneeded. Despite the world going to shit and everyone dying, somehow this asshole laying totally unprotected in a hospital room was overlooked.

*Little girl zombies. Sure, kids are creepy - especially British children whose eyes shine blue if you shine a direct light on them at night. I had gotten this off of the Simpsons - though when I said it to an older British gentleman, he just nodded. Hence, I figure it's true. Anyway, they like to have little kid zombies figuring it to be creepy - and they like to have them killed to show that 'there is no border they won't cross' - including violence to children. Whoopie. Been done to death, if you'll forgive the pun. Saw it (I shit you not) in the opening scene.

*The hero starts out as bumbling and stupid. I can see that in some of the places I've been ad with different sorts of professions other than a cop. Even the most stupid cop - when confronted with something strange and possibly dangerous would say - get dressed and put on shoes and get some sort of weapon (preferably a gun) before going exploring. The hero in this seemed to rely on his hospital gown as adequate protection. Hell, I'd have gone with a fucking toga made out of the bed sheet if I was really hard up. For his light source, a single book of matches. Here I was only 19 minutes into the first episode and I was rooting for the zombies against such a lame dude. They have lots of emergency flashlights and such around. If they didn't want him to have one, having him do a frenzied look for emergency supplies and finding nothing but an empty box would have told me 'at least he's trying' as opposed to 'what a douchebag'.

*Rather than go through an obviously empty hospital looking for supplies that would aid him (something some of us do even in hospitals that have staff in them...) his first thought is 'there is obviously some danger outside - I've been given sufficient warning and foreshadowing - lets get out there! Douchebag.

*If some fast spreading zombie mojo is in the air, why do these idiots head for high population areas?

*They also had the 'over the top racist guy'. Me? I'd have just stuck a bullet into his head rather than listen to his shit. Redemption? I'd feel better about myself popping a cap in him than working to redeem that individual.

Now, to be fair, half way through the second episode (yes, I did make it that far - I am shocked as well) they did have one innovative thing.

*Zombies figure out who to attack by their sense of smell. [I would have tried doing something when there were few zombies around - like attacking one to see if it responded since I smell like a zombie.]

I could only make it halfway through the second episode before hitting the 'delete' button. Just too fucking painful for me. For myself, I desire a protagonist who isn't an idiot. To follow the stories of some people that don't get killed through wanton stupidity. Have some humor. For this crowd, I kept thinking "Holy fuck - how did they survive this long?"

Sure, this might have had some good ideas in it for a game, but I'm going to let someone else go through the onerous duty of watching this crap to dig through the series for the.



LOGAN'S TOP FIVE TV SHOWS AND WHY

Leverage - clever people doing clever things.

Castle - I'm a fan of Nathan Fillion from Firefly/Serenity

Lie to Me - I think this one may have been cancelled, but I liked it a lot.

Dr Who - Been a fan of this show for years, since the '80's.

Burn Notice - Clever people doing clever things but what really makes this a great show is the voice over in which the main character explains his actions to the audience.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

MOVIE AND BOOK REVIEWS

MOVIE REVIEWS

"Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe"

I thought this was an actual movie as opposed to something on TV [turned out to be a 'made for TV movie...] so I gave it a movie review. If you like seeing Bruce Campbell, you'll probably like it. To me, it felt flat. I think one of the best things about Burn Notice is the voice over the main character does to explain what he is doing from time to time. In this show, the plot was pretty predictable. 5/10, just because I like 'Burn Notice'.


True Grit

By the time this got halfway done, I was bored out of my mind and decided I'd rather just sit quietly instead of continuing to watch it. 3/10 - my standard rating for movies I turn off part way through. Note, they can get lower ratings if I am either forced to watch them or have wasted more of my time on them for some reason.


Hangover 2

Quote: Mr Chow: "That little monkey snorting coke with me all night. Jerk me off while I watch Drew make fuck with lady-boy." (Note, the quote they have on IMDB is wrong.)

That's the best quote of the movie.

Over all, much longer to do the 'set up' and yeah - it's basically the same story - again. But they did make back what they spent on the movie on opening weekend and a whole lot more after that. So, they win.

As with the last movie, the credits are good for a laugh - be sure to watch them.

Will they make a third movie? The amount of money they made off this one says 'hell yes' though it will be hard to come up with a good reason for everyone to again lose their memories. I give this movie a 5/10.


Yes Man

It's a comedy movie with an interesting premise. A man must say 'yes' to everything for a year or bad shit happens to him. It has a few chuckles along the way and I did enjoy seeing Zooey in another movie - though the poor girl doesn't seem to land any big box office smash movies. I much preferred her in Hitchhiker's but remember her from the New Guy. There was a couple good chuckles in 'Yes Man' though the establishing stuff (loser with avoidance issues and a dull life) seemed to wear on a bit long for me. I'll give it a 6/10.



SLICE OF LIFE - ONE TOO FAR

So I was sitting around talking with some British expats and one of them detailed out his latest 'sexual challenge' of getting several prostitutes to wear paper bags on their head while he had sex with them. We had a good laugh and then I suggested one step further that instead of a paper bag he use a gorilla mask. There was general laughter all around then more as a different expat suggested inappropriate use of not one but two more bananas. There was more laughter until I pushed it just a bit too far and suggested instead of the gorilla mask a Margaret Thatcher mask. The laughter died immediately. One said "There isn't enough Viagra in the world, mate." Another said "That's pretty sick, Logan." Oh, what makes me push it just one further? Sigh.



MORAL CODE

So, I'm sitting around the sex capital of Thailand and I mention to someone that I haven't been in many bars here. He asked if they were against my moral code. I responded "If any of my friends heard you ask that question, they'd laugh themselves silly. They know I don't have any morals."

It is interesting as I sit in what is regarded as the sex capital of Thailand (a country known well for 'sex tourism') that brief relationships here are not my weakness. Getting awesome food and drink cheaply is. I guess it is not a huge surprise to those that know me well.



DEADLY FISH

Thanks to Tonto for this story.



BOOK REVIEW

Hounded by Kevin Hearne, Hexed, Hammered

At last I have found a book that I really enjoyed. I was listening to the audio version of the book and enjoyed the narrator. As to the story itself, I liked it. To my mind, it has several things which are reminiscent of the Dresden Files books: a main character you'd be happy to buy a pint of beer for, a cast of interesting minor characters and various mythologies that come to life. I also like that it is modern day 'urban fantasy' with plenty of the 'nerdish' references that make me happy.

The downside is that the villains seem a bit undeveloped to me. Also, it is irritating that the author has only thus far written three books with a fourth on the way.

This series has three books out with a fourth on the way that I am aware of. All of the first three have also been done in audio format.

I give the first book a 9/10 rating. I listened to it almost straight through.

The second book is much as the first - it was another 'page turner', also a 9/10.

Third, ditto. Thus far it is pretty much one long book. Screw it, the whole thing gets a 9/10. I'd like to find more books like this.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

JADED AND CYNICAL PAY OFF

Dave, my landlord. Shown here giving a traditional American greeting. This is a good guy to get to know and do business with. Seriously, he's OK.



QUESTION AND ANSWER

A buddy of mine asked me how much alcohol was here and this is my answer:

In Thailand in general, I don't know. In Pattaya and Bangkok, it's pretty free wheeling. If you want to buy booze from bars, they're generally open from say 10AM till 1-3AM, depending on where you go. If you want to buy it from a store, you can't buy it after midnight unless you are purchasing a large quantity (6 liters?). Booze is pretty easy to get. As for costs - in a bar, a beer is generally 50 BHT to 100+ BHT (again, depending on where you go, toward the low end is about what you'd pay for it in a store - beer is not really 'cheap' here - generally $2, $3+ from a bar. Hard alcohol has a huge range. I am drinking cheap rum that is about 300 BHT ($10) per bottle. For labels you'd know, it ranges from 600 BHT ($20) to 1000 BHT ($30ish). Compared to food, alcohol is crazy expensive. For example, I had a decent meal of red curry chicken with rice (that filled me up though if my internal stomach was the size when I'd left the states, two would have been OK) for 35 BHT (a bit over $1). If I had a beer with it, it would have more than doubled the meal price. Keep in mind that this is the general ranges. If you go to - oh, lets call them 'specialty bars' you can pay a lot more for a beer. However, getting something like tea or coffee at a bar is generally around 25 BHT. So two coffees = 1 beer.



NARRATIVE

I went to a restaurant on the recommendation of the owner of the building, a nice gent named Trevor. I had asked for something under 150 BHT and said that I was interested in steak. [I didn't know it at the time but here you get what you pay for - and buying it from even a grocery store you'd pay more than that here.] My landlord assured me that the place I wanted to go to is called "18 Coins". The danger in asking people who aren't really concerned about money the price of things is that 'about' is a pretty vague thing. It turned out to be 299 BHT for a steak but by the time I got there, I was worked up for it and decided to give it a try anyway. Usually, the beef in this country is absolute rubbish. I've been told that due to the heat, they can't raise cows (except up north) so instead raise the less tasty buffalo. So, I tried out the ribeye and the cheapest drink on the menu which turned out to be a pot of tea for 65 BHT. Compared to western prices, this place is about 1/3 or 1/4th the price I'd expect to pay in the states though it is 10x more expensive than where I normally go. (Steak dinner with pot of tea, 365 BHT or so). A note on service - although it is better than the extraordinarily bad Czech service (pretty much every country is) the English of the staff is so bad they can't tell you what the vegetable of the day is.

I am normally wary of expensive restaurants. Aside from the whole "Logan is poor" thing, if you are in a cheap restaurant you can spit out (like a child) anything you don't like and just order more food. Doesn't work out so well with an expensive meal. I must say however that meal was the best I'd had in Thailand. The onion rings, potatoes, everything. I accidentally even ate a couple of the vegetables of the day in my mad rush to get at the edible food.



HYGIENE

This is very much the climate to wear sandals in. You really want to leave them outside of the door however as sometimes you end up wading through sewage and such. They get smelly.

According to tradition, after a woman gives birth she stays in her home for 40 days of quarantine for her and her baby.



MEDICAL

In hot, wet environments, it is best not to wrap wounds as it apparently creates a breeding ground for bacteria and infection will set in. Keep your wounds clean and disinfected. Old hands around here suggest alcohol (sterilizer rather than drinking though they do suggest that as well) and iodine.



BOOK REVIEW

"Private Dancer" by Stephen Leather

I had finished reading another book, "Money Number One" and asked the expat community what they suggested next. Next up, this book. I feel it is a good idea to check out things the expat community recommends - they've been around for awhile and usually have an idea of how things work.

Some might call me too jaded but reading this book was like watching a slow motion train wreck for me. There are vast cultural differences in Thailand that westerners just don't get. For example, in Thai culture a husband can have a wife that works as a hooker and be fine with that. He may not even have a job and live a life of comparative luxury while she earns her money on her back. He is not her pimp but someone she takes care of. And that's OK - it's their culture.

The problem comes when tourists here don't realize that the money is all the girls are after. Sure, they could go make ten times less at a factory doing hard work but the money is better here and the work - well, lying down on the job is often required rather than punished.

This is the story about some guy who goes over to write travel stuff about Thailand (and it's cooking) and falls in love with a 'bar girl' (prostitute). He spends more money on her than I will see for a long time and gets upset because (gasp) she's already married.

He then decides to get revenge.

Revenge is not really a good thing to get in Thailand because it causes the person/people you've gotten revenge on to lose a serious amount of 'face'. And they will eventually be back to get revenge. With friends. And weapons.

That is something I don't understand personally is why you can 'get back your face' by killing or beating someone even if you 'lost face' due to doing something stupid and getting called on it. I'll probably figure it out later. Not from doing anything that will cause someone to 'lose face', mind you - but I am planning on making more of a study of this as we don't really have anything quite like it in the western world.

I managed to read the book all the way through to it's depressing ending and footnotes on people's lives.

Over all, if people you meet don't consider you a jaded and cynical bastard you should probably be reading this book. Doubly so if you are 'idealistic'. Note that this only goes for people who plan on visiting or moving to Thailand. Overall, the book was a pretty smooth and fast read. I'd give it five out of ten stars.



COSTS

Normal cheap (Thai food) place, 35-40 BHT. I'd recommend avoiding beef and 'crunchy pork' - both are rubbish. Chicken is your best bet.



VIDEOS

The Wat

Saturday, October 8, 2011

THE EMBASSY


"Look, Tonto! Someone is reading the blog!"
"Weird, kimosabe."



INSANE RAMBLINGS

Pattaya is a place of hedonism. In the USA, they charge 'sin tax' for many things. Here, it is all sinful therefore all good. If you think it would be an aid to your health to have a daily half hour back rub for a couple dollars, it is available. If your libido needs a work out, it may cost you thirty dollars but that too can be done. The thing that keeps many people from getting to investigate this Disney Land of the depraved is their lack of funds to get there. Few have been blessed with the buckets of money or trust fund that the truly rich have. Those who get lucky in the lottery squander it in their insanity driven spending rampage often ending up worse than where they started. I am personally not worried about growing decadent because I always was decadent. My funds have kept me from exploring the limits of this decadency, otherwise who knows to what I might sink? Certainly to firing a midget out of a cannon into a bowl of pudding for my amusement but who knows what other sick twisted depraved things I might indulge? A pack of Oreo cookies and a bottle of rum are as far as my finances can stretch.

I've seen so many people write about things on Facebook they want changed. Different issues they feel need to be amended. I feel sorry for the people that write these things. They are so powerless that their only medium to paint their life is on Facebook status that few will ultimately read and less will care about. Fortunately, it is easy to block out these people in an attempt to grab some of the gristle of the meat of information.

After discovering that the train ride was 14 hours and nearly as much as the plane ticket, I bought a plane ticket to go up north in Thailand, out of the capital of sex. I'm wanting to get somewhere a little cheaper (that still has internet - I am addicted) and sit around for awhile. Maybe see some temples. But I've got till the 27th before I roll out of here. Till then, I am in this cum soaked pit of vice. I shall leave behind the disease ridden mercenaries of profit.



MORE PAGES

So, I went to get more pages inserted into my passport. It's valid for a long time yet and I figured 'might as well get the pages now - otherwise, I'll be sitting around busy in some other place and won't want to take the time to do it but I'll have to'.

Last night, I was a victim of my insomnia so getting up at the correct time wasn't really a problem. Getting up a couple hours before the time I thought I'd need to get up was. I ended up splitting the difference and getting up an hour before I thought I'd need to.

That turned out perhaps to have been fortunate - I'm really not sure.

I stopped by the local 7-11 for breakfast and got one of their 40 BHT microwave specials and a couple cans of coffee. With this in tow, I caught a 60 BHT motorcyle taxi to the bus station. I didn't bother trying to negotiate with the brigands as speed was more important than saving 10 BHT and getting threatened with physical violence later.

At the bus station, I got a ticket to Bangkok for about 113 BHT. The bus left almost immediately which was nice. Normally, they have bus seat numbers assigned to the passengers on the ticket but I swapped seats with another guy so I could chat with an Englishman I met in the bus station. It turned out this was no acceptable on this bus. It was the most fascist bus I'd ever been on. Talking in a normal tone of voice to someone right next to you was unacceptable and we got shushed. I know that normally I talk in a booming voice but even the Englishman was shocked we got shushed. So, I read my book on 'Culture Shock' to learn more about various cultures within South East Asia. It was interesting but I was enjoying our conversation till I got shushed.

Eventually, we arrived in Bangkok and went our separate ways. The gentleman I was talking to convinced me that getting off the bus before it reached the bus station was a good idea and would allow me access to the skyway (a suspended train). Normally, I get fucked when I try this sort of thing but this time I didn't. I did however encounter the rush hour of Bangkok. If someone had brought up the concept of a 'bangkok sandwich' before, I would have had a totally different picture in my head than what was going on in the train. It is a lot like I imagine Japan to be but without the 'pushers'.



Most embassy's blend into the native surroundings a bit. They look like genial old buildings where people would go to work for the establishment. Not any of the American embassies I've seen on my trip. They look like bunkers surrounded by 'don't fucking even think about scaling this wall, asshole' spikes and razor wire. Thick, bullet proof glass and armored plating are standard accessories. Sure, we may be one of the more warlike countries in the world right now, but it looks like we can wage war from the embassy!

There was an old Gene Hackman film called 'Target'. In this, Gene Hackman's character through a bit of bullshitting is able to worm his way into the embassy to see people 'who matter'. In the 'Bourne Identity', Matt Damon's character runs amok in an American embassy. Brothers and sisters, I am here to tell you, that isn't able to happen without some explosives and a lot of fire power. Here is how the American embassies I've seen work at all. In broad brush strokes, here is how they are laid out (especially for any gamers out there who need this information):

First, the embassy may either be on or near a major street. I've not encountered one in a quiet residential neighborhood or anything like that. Always a big street nearby. I suspect this is for the easier 'get away' value. [Note, in Bangkok, you want the Phloen Chit exit from the sky train, 10 minute talk without turns, find out the direction you should travel when you get there. Note, this is much different than what I was told...]

When you get close to it, you will see lots and lots of the spiky bits, barbed wire and razor wire as a kind discouragement for those wishing to climb in to see what Americans look like.

Surrounding the embassy - day and night - guards from the native population of where ever the embassy is located. If it is in Bosnia, Bosnians are outside guarding it. They have various assault rifles, pistols and other assorted goodies. No 'heavy weapons'. All have standard 'cop accessories' (radio for calling back up, cell phones, handcuffs, mace, etc). Their alertness level varies by the country they are in but it is usually fairly good. They know if any embassy is attacked, chances are pretty fair it will be the American Embassy rather than say, the Malta Embassy down the road.

To get inside the building, they have to buzz you in. They usually let one person in at a time, unless they are an obvious couple - talking male and female here. Sorry to my gay friends, one of you might have to wait. I'm sure there is plenty of sexist stuff so if two girls are together then they may get let in at the same time but I'd guess there is say a fifty fifty chance of two guys getting split up going in.

When you get inside of the first chamber, it is a big bullet proof glass room. Keep in mind, when I say 'bullet proof' I am using the common nomenclature. 'Bullet resistant' is much more accurate. You can get through any kind of 'bullet resistant' glass with the right kind of bullets propelled by the correct kind of assault rifle. Against pistols (though possibly not certain hand cannons) it is pretty 'proof'.

Inside of the first chamber, you have roughly ten or twelve guards. About three guys are involved in processing you through. The rest are just paid to keep an eye on stuff in general. I've noticed that some keep an eye on the street even if the person in the building is doing something that would attract normal people's attention. You have a very nice view of right in front of the embassy through the wall of windows. I'm not sure if 'bullet resistant' windows would stop the 'car full of explosives' but it is my guess the guards are looking out for this. They seem fairly watchful, though it is a mind numbingly dull job so it is my suspicion the people who are hired naturally look crafty and watchful even when they are half asleep.

Although I couldn't see them from my angle, I am sure there are several 'big red buttons' which can be pushed that will alert the other guards...



...in the event anything happens which causes the guards to become uncomfortable.


This area contains the metal detector. You have to dump all of your stuff into a box that goes beep when it passes through the metal detector. You have to check in all electronics stuff and leave it at the desk with them. Everything. USB sticks, walkmans, cameras, etc. Anything and everything electronic. I'm not kidding. They go through anything you want to bring in very closely indeed.

And then they use the wand on you.



No, not that wand. This wand:



Now, the guards who are inside - also natives of whatever land you are in. Their English is usually fairly rudimentary though they always seem to have the one guy whose English is 'decent' or better. Of course, they can always pick up the phone and call someone if necessary. When I was in Bosnia and had a question on the horrible registering with the police they put me through on the phone to someone - but it was still not an American citizen. If Americans do work at some of these embassies, they are well hidden.

I'm not sure if this room has a cool 'lockdown' mode where big metal plates come out of no where and seal you in, but I doubt it. I think the doors just probably lock. The room is pretty large but not so large that gunshots in there wouldn't deafen you and explosions wouldn't cause your ears to bleed.

After pleasing the guards and proving to them that you are absolutely no threat, you are directed to go through the next door. Note that there are several staff only doors but there are guards posted at them so wandering through them without a bit of the ole ultra violence isn't an option.



In the American Embassy in Bangkok, you now get a brief wander through a fenced in path (with the 'fuck off spikes' on the top of the fence) to another part of the building - or perhaps another building. They have a coffee shop (90 BHT for what I got which was a surprisingly good frapachino) then inside to a waiting room and several counters. The counters separate the people working behind them from the customers with nice thick bullet resistant glass. There is enough room under them to pass documents and money. No grenades. In this country (Thailand), there were a few Americans working behind the glass as well as Thais.

That's about all I got to see of the inner workings of the US Embassy in Thailand.

Before going, I had talked to British expats and got their horror stories about how their embassy had taken their documents and money then told them 'come back tomorrow'. I even had a fake 'please hurry the fuck up' story prepared. I had casually asked when giving over my passport and money 'will I be able to get this back today? I've got to fly out of here tonight.' The guy said "That won't be a problem - we'll have it done in an hour, maybe less." To my shock, I was able to have one cigarette (in the designated smoking area) and my coffee and just barely get that finished before I was called. Since it was an American who gave it to me, I spoke to him in American English. "Holy fuck, that was fucking fast!" "No problem." he responded, pleased.

So, I've got my passport.

The night before going to the embassy, I had made an appointment on line thinking it was vital to do so. I was even told it was important as well. After seeing the way they were doing business and such, I'm thinking the appointment setting is just a way of trying to divide up what times people actually come in. I don't think they would care or notice if you had an appointment or not.

The expats back at the bookshop were surprised to see me back so soon. They thought I would have had ten pages added to my passport. For the 2542 BHT ($82) charged, I'd have been pissed if they just added ten pages. The normal 'extra pages' gives 24 more pages - however I found a check box on the form I was given to fill out that would give me 48 extra pages if I checked it. Since I am an aspiring 'weltenbumbler' (globetrotter) I checked the box. My passport looks like a fucking book now.

Most countries have a stamp that fills a fifth or a sixth of a page. Some countries are small and rotten so they attempt to look more grand by having a page sized passport stamp to try to fill up your passport quicker. Also, if you get tourist visas for countries like Thailand, you have to get a big stamp. If/when I fill up this passport, I'll have to request a new one. Hopefully, I will try to remember to try to get it padded out with the extra pages on principle alone. Just counting completely blank pages, 56. It has plenty of room for reasonably sized passport stamps as well. This should be enough passport to last me till it expires in 2019. One year from Cyberpunk time!

Unfortunately, after getting my passport back and returning to Pattaya, my fun was not yet over...

Egad!



PHILOSOPHY

I've heard a lot of people say things like "Money doesn't bring you happiness." I always like to ask them "Have you ever been over the top rich before?" The response is always in the negative. I then say "Although you may have heard about some schmuck that it didn't bring happiness to, for all you know it would make you completely happy. So, you really don't know. You are just opening up your mouth and spewing shit. Instead of making lame excuses as to why you are not rich, accept the fact you are poor and too unmotivated to get rich even in 'the land of opportunity' where we churn out more millionaires than any other land." When they say "What about you?" (as this is the only place they've got left to go) I say "I am not the one spouting shit! I know sitting on a pile of money will make me happy but I am too stupid to figure out something clever to make it so I'm wandering around the globe instead, bitch!" Sadly, the conversation usually stalls out around here.



BACKPACKERS INSURANCE

Some expats had mentioned 'backpackers insurance' to me.
a) main backpacker must be under age 35. Apparently, I am too old to backpack.
b) must be a resident of the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc.
c) their 'extended coverage' is 18 months. Apparently, doing this for the 'rest of your life' isn't really something they want to insure.
d) it does cover things I classify as silly/dangerous like bungee jumping. I know that if I tried bungee jumping, I'd be a wet smear somewhere. Gravity has just been waiting for a chance to get a crack at me.



MOVIE REVIEW

Tucker and Dale vs Evil. The first fifteen minutes is the dull build up time. After that, there was a couple of laugh out loud at death and violence minutes. It was OK but not something I'd watch again. I'd give it a solid 5/10.



NOTE TO SELF

GTFO before mid November or get an extension.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

When I was in Egypt, I met up with some nice folks from New Zealand named Aaron & Tasha - a husband and wife traveling around. They were new to traveling. Although I consider myself pretty new to it, I have been doing it for a few months now. I asked them to write down things they learned from observing how I did things in Egypt. Note - stuff I do changes in different countries/regions. I would not do some of the stuff I do in Egypt in say Thailand as it would probably get me beaten up. I asked them to write down their thoughts and this is their list. [Reprinting it here as maybe it will be useful to someone else as well. My comments are in brackets.]

Ok, what we learned.
-The value of how to break a 200 pound note for a 3 pound bottle of water. You definitely need those small notes to avoid getting ripped. [Always go to a big store to do this, not when it first opens. In America (and perhaps other countries) you get change in the register to start your day off with. In many countries, this is an alien concept to them. Also, these folks love to ask you if you have exact change. The answer is always 'Nope!'. Remember, this ruse doesn't work so well if you had to dig through small bills to get to the big bill you handed them - that will piss them off. Prepare ahead of time by taking the big bill out of your 'wad' and putting it by itself in your pocket before going into the store.]
- It is ok to sometimes be an asshole (but not all the time). [If you don't have good people skills and/or can't read people, avoid this one.]
- When asked "Do you know how much it costs?" answer "Yes, I do know how much that costs and its way less than you say it is". [If you find out the price ahead of time, you can bargain. Otherwise, you're just guessing. If you walk up to someone holding a couple bills and you say "I'll give you this for that" your position is much strengthened. They may be led to (incorrectly) think you make this sort of deal successfully all the time.]
-There are no submarines that can take you from Luxor to Aswan. [A crying shame it is.]
-Take your pants completely off when you go to a squatty toilet (I used this advice in Dubai). [Or you risk taking a dump in your own pants.]
-That we don't have to wait for the private driver we paid to finish his tea and sheesha. [If you hire someone for the day, for the entire day they are on your dime. You must remember they are also hoping a nice tip may be at the end of it. You have to set the pace of events YOU are comfortable with.]
-Pickpockets carry only one scarf that they try to sell and dress in western clothes. Real scarf salesmen have many and dress Egyptian. [Read wikitravel prior to going to any country to see which scams are going on there. If you want to be really well informed, just take a day or two and read scams from lots of different countries to get familiar with them.]
-Dress like a local. [There is a reason locals dress like they do. Also, it helps with blending in and perhaps giving the wrong impression that you've been there long enough to 'go native'.]
-Complement the names of their children. [What kind of heartless bastard doesn't like talking about his children? Read How to Win Friends and Influence People many times. Note, the actual book, not the wiki page you lazy people.]
-It is good to start having fun during barter sessions. [Always have fun bartering. If it stops being fun or you start to get angry, walk away without another word or look no matter what. If they drop their offer to ten cents, don't stop, slow down or turn around. It's a trick anyway.]
-Enjoy your trip, don't let them beat you. [I believe he is talking about touts. They are a constant irritant.]
-Have fun with the hustlers. Tease them a little but do it intellegently, it helps to keep your temper under control. [See 'barter' above.]



TRAVELER'S LORE

Gossip about different countries, on teaching English:

Vietnam: Need a degree, they are hungry to learn English. Very cheap to live there, easy to get an extended visa.

Cambodia: Very relaxed, anything goes - including for teaching.

Taiwan: The Chinese claim it but it is a neutral country. A degree is required to teach but their is a huge underground teaching market. Check in Tai Pai, the capital, where the expat community hangs out. Center of the city. 30/60 day visa. Welcoming of Americans as we sell them arms (guns). Not hugely expensive.



COSTS

To go into four or five different Ripley's exhibits, 1100+ BHT. I decided I wanted my money more than they did - so I kept it.
But I did get a free pic of the plane stuck in the building. If this was America, they would bitch about how insensitive it was with 9/11 having happened, etc. Here, people say "Look - a plane stuck in a building - cool." If my finances were looking stronger I'd have gone but right now is 'sit and play on my computer or read a book' time.


I got a flight to the next place I'm going to check out, Chiang Mai, after I am done with this strange pussy palace of Pattaya. I had bought the ticket from Air Asia because it initially looked cheap. I'm not sure if it still is compared to other airlines but I got caught up in the process and so I wanted to list out what they did on their website as a warning to others. All prices in BHT.

Basic ticket: 1386. This is the price that made me say 'look how cheap that is!' Then, we get the mandatory add ons.

Fees and taxes: 225
Medium sized bag: 300
Advanced seat reservation: 70
Insurance: 86
Processing fee 96

Total cost, 2163.

Although it is still 'cheap', a bunch of shit got added on raising the price substantially. Beware when you compare!




VIDEOS

Glitter man

Long Walk Home

Thursday, October 6, 2011

VISA INFORMATION AND MOVIE REVIEWS

NARRATIVE

There are good points and bad points about getting things from the expats that hang out in any given area. The good things include insider information, common language, depth of knowledge. The bad things include machine gun delivery style and differences of opinion leading to contradictory information.

One of the things I learned from the expats is that the reason people often seek to join the police force is to make money through extortion or blackmail. If you call them out, it will cost you. In this country, it is 'guilty till proven can bribe well'. On the upside, if you have a lot of money and influential contacts, you can do as you please.

I've been taught that Pattaya has many pros and cons. This description may also be broadly applied to many who work with the tourist population as well.


Some of the other things I've learned from the expats include:

In Cambodia, Allen Dillon cigarettes are actually 'Galouise Blondes'.

If you need any information about visas, go to Soy 6 (the 'short timers' street, and within the Queen Victoria Pub/restaurant is a lady named 'Pa'. She knows a lot about these things. I did indeed go to see her and she told me some information I have put in the section labeled 'visas' below.

To find out more about Pattaya, go to the websites Pattaya Secrets and Pattaya Addicts. Although these websites look fine, I am thinking that my leisure activities at this time mostly involve watching movies. I am pretty sure I will be sick of Pattaya by the 26th when I no longer have a place to stay and will start hopping around the country to see more of it before my visa expires.

Hands down, the best Thai food is at the Lenke Restaurant. [I've no idea where that is but I will eventually find out.]

Thailand would be Disneyland is Minnie Mouse offered blow jobs for cash.

What I learned from a combination of the expat community and Pa is that living in a major city (the capital) of Cambodia (or even one of their beach resort places) is even cheaper than living here in Thailand and getting a long term visa is pretty easy.

Some other city named Pukette is even more expensive than Pattaya.



VISA INFORMATION (read this - really)

If you are coming to Thailand, you want a double entry visa. Really. Fight for it if you might want to stay longer than the normal time. If you have a multiple entry visa, you can do the 'visa run' for a sixty day extension as opposed to the thirty day extension. Or something like that. Multiple entry better - get it. When I go to Cambodia if I am going to get a visa to come back to Thailand then I will be applying for a 'double entry tourist visa'. Actually, that sounds vaguely dirty as well. According to the internet, the reason for this is you can only extend a single entry once, a double entry twice.

Thailand - visa extension for 30 days costs 1900 BHT ($63) or if you want Pa to do it (see above) it is 2600 BHT ($86).

Cambodia is one of the easiest countries for a long stay visa. A one year visa is 10,000 BHT ($333) - you just go to immigration to get it. Now, getting into Cambodia is a bit shaky. Apparently, the cost for the 'hi welcome to Cambodia' visa is suppose to be $20 but the guards tack on their bribe - which can be whatever they want. And they apparently do like it in USD. Hence, when I go there, I am going to take a $20 and two $10's in different pockets (if I remember to) so that I can give the bribe and (if that doesn't work) a bigger bribe. Or end up negotiating if I have to. Best not to severely irritate the nice man with the automatic weapon though. After you get into the country past the corrupt border guards you go to the capital city to immigration and pay them money for the extended version. For me, the 30 day one will tell me 'do I want to stay here for any length of time?' If I can stand it, a year in the capital (or wandering around the country) might be just the thing for building up my still depleted finances.

Laos has short (30 day) visas only for 1700 BHT.

Although it use to be free, apparently the US government is starting its own shake down if you want extra pages in your passport. This formerly free service is now $82 and something I will need to stop by a US embassy (probably in Bangkok) to do soon.



THAI CUSTOMS

Swearing is more offensive in the Thai culture than in most.



YOUTUBE STRANGENESS

Thanks to Tonto for this. [Logan's note: No, I don't think it's real because the AK47 has kickback. The little chimp has a small body mass. Plus, the noise and such would have freaked it the fuck out. But it is entertaining to watch.]

And, for those who love the movie "The Princess Bride", check out this gem.



MOVIE REVIEWS

"Hanna". For some reason, this is movie number 82 on IMDB. I guess we're a bit desperate for good entertainment. Well, that would explain why so many people read the blog, I suppose. Anyway, unlike IMDB who gives this movie a 7/10, I'm giving it a 5/10. Although there were some good action scenes, a lot of it just dragged and dragged. The action scenes weren't quite worth all of the dragging. Also, there are a lot of strange inconsistencies in the movie. The bad guy having way too much rein from the agency, the father apparently swimming his way quickly from the article circle to Germany, etc. I understand that they did this all to keep us from having to sit through the tedious bits but it felt like there were still way too many left. I did have some flashbacks of River Tam on the fighting but this character wasn't as interesting. Combined with the little girl from "Kick Ass" (and God knows how many other movies with this theme in I've missed), I am beginning to wonder what is up with all of the young women warriors out there? I'm thinking it's in movies because the actuality of it does not exist or is such an anomaly that it pretty much doesn't exist.

It does feel as though they left the door open for a sequel but I'm not really sure where they would take it and the actress in the lead role seems to have a lot of other projects going on. If this was just the introduction to something that will get better, that would be nice. Otherwise, you'll flush 90 minutes to see 5 minutes of decent action.


"Your Highness". This is another of the 'we talk in American English' and try to make it a modern film. I'm a bit surprised that Jack Black wasn't drafted into this as he is often stuck in shitty movies like this. 3/10 - I couldn't get past much of it, even though I am glad that Zooey is still getting work. I just hope she gets better work in the future.


"The Adjustment Bureau". I do like Matt Damon in movies. I wish he was i more that I liked. Anyway, in this movie, the bad guys reminded me a bit of the ones from 'Dark City'. Probably as a result of the hats. During the 1930's, they paid people to go out and walk around in hats. Watch any old news reel and you'll get to see that. Since then, those sort of hats have fallen out of fashion. Probably because they are a pain in the ass and require things like 'hat boxes' and that doesn't fit in with our busy life styles. You know, if I could do foot notes in this blog, all of that kind of rambling shit would be in them. On the movie itself, interesting premise. There are parts of this movie that do stretch the credulity level. I can accept that there is a shadowy network that goes around adjusting reality. I can accept they can go through various doors and end up in places that have nothing to do with the room that would normally lie beyond. What I can't believe is when the main female role told the hero that - although she hadn't seen him in three years that this well adjusted, funny, adventurous and attractive lady was still single. That got a 'no way!' from me. Also as an interesting bit of trivia, although Emily Blunt played the lead female role, she isn't listed on the first page of IMDB's cast for the movie. You have to go into 'list the guy who got the coffee' list of cast. Someone really hates her ass. It had some pretty dull parts and made me bored. I managed to get to a predictable ending so it gets one more star than the 'I turned this shit off part way through' movies. 4/10.


Where the Buffalo Roam. Gosh, you can tell what I'm spending a lot of my time in Thailand doing, can't you. No, it's not drugs and hookers. If you've seen "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, you've already seen better insanity. He does a better job of trashing the hotel room, it doesn't look like Bill Murray in a Hunter costume, the lawyer looks more criminally insane, etc. The special effects are better even. I couldn't make it through 'Where the Buffalo Roam'. 3/10.



PRICES

The usual cost for a shirt to get done is 10 BHT. I negotiated it down to big items for 5 BHT, small for 3 BHT. Rather than try to keep track of what is big and what is small, we agreed to set the price for each piece at 4 BHT. Since I am huge compared to the laundry lady, I figure this is a good price for me as all of my laundry will look big. So, I paid 400 BHT for 100 pieces. [Note, I don't have that much laundry - I turn it in for cleaning as needed. It is about 5 cycles of laundry, more than I'll probably be here for so she'll make some extra.]

Mini golf, per person, 150 BHT. [Not a popular activity in Pattaya as we had the course to ourselves. Literally.]

Shitty rum, 275 BHT, but it does have alcohol.

DVD movie, 100 BHT. [From some people, you can get two movies per DVD still at 100 BHT total but most of the time it is one. These are for people that have never heard of downloads.]

Guava juice, 20 BHT

Decent Thai meal at a 'locals' place, 35-55 BHT.

Decent (not great) Mexican food, with beer, 315 BHT. Clearly, my 'big meal' for the day. And tomorrow. I do miss me some Mexican food but the stuff in the US (well, the good stuff there) absolutely blows away anything overseas. Clearly, Mexicans need to fill up other parts of the world so I can get some Mexican food whenever I want it.



MOVIES

Logan's place!

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster

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