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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

2 comments:

  1. http://wikitravel.org/en/Scam

    http://thepiratebay.org/torrent/4234918/

    I am downloading Logan's Run ATM

    ReplyDelete
  2. While for legal reasons we cannot endorse any downloading of torrents, we can endorse that movie. Although this Logan only waddles.

    ReplyDelete

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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