When I was in Chaing Rai, I stayed at the Bamboo House. I paid some Thai guy behind the counter my 250 BHT for the night. Since I had been paying one night at a time, I didn't think I needed a receipt. Wrong! Always get a receipt - even if you pay a night at a time. If you give them cash, get a receipt. Turns out that guy didn't even work there. Fortunately, the management let it slide rather than having me pay again. Had they demanded I pay again, I'd have paid then left immediately.
Aside from a friendly Ozzy lady who was traveling with her Thai boyfriend, there wasn't a lot to keep me there. The room was OK though the mattress was literally the hardest one I had ever had. I had to check to see if it was actually a mattress. I thought they had taken boards and covered them with sheets. I was wrong - it was just a remarkably hard mattress.
After spending either a few days or a week (I'm not even sure) in Chaing Rei, I felt that I'd had enough of the town. Although I've still got three weeks left on my visa for Thailand, I am bored with it and anxious to get to a country that will let me teach or even volunteer without deporting me.
As to my pack, I think the keefta is going to have to go. I realize that a big square of light, airy cotton has a multitude of different uses but I'm not going to wear it in it's normal mode in this part of the world. It would make me stand out even more than I already do. I'm also going to see if I can get my Egyptian made (poorly made) pants altered to actually fit. If I can't, I will dump those as well. Probably in Lao. Whenever your pack is too heavy or too full, dump clothing. I've heard that everywhere.
The only bad thing about perpetually switching cities is that I am continually a stranger wherever I go. True that in America I was considered stranger than a good chunk of the population - but not so here. My weirdness doesn't hit close to the level of edgy giggling playing with a razor blade and a hooker that some of the American's get here. Their brain pan gets blown apart by Asia and somewhere is a disconnect. Since I was already a bit crazed, I think I'm immune to this shattered reality.
So, I decided that I would leave Chaing Rei and press on to Chaing Khong. I told myself that if it was sucky, I could always go back. I think this was self delusional because I hate to backtrack.
So, I headed over to the bus station. The bus leaves every hour, on the hour. Naturally, I arrived at 9:05 AM.
Fortunately I discovered you need to be at, and preferably on the bus, at least a half hour before it is scheduled to leave. Yes, you can get by without it but you won't get to choose your seat. If your party has multiple people in it, you'll get spread throughout the bus. I got a nice seat in the back behind an iron bar near the door. When the bus was in motion, I could spread my legs out - when people needed to get in and out suck them back in. I found it interesting that the door to the bus stayed open the entire trip. From the looks of the ancient bindings upon it, the door may not have been closed for years.
The bus ride was about three or three and a half hours.
Due to the amount of time I've spent on buses, airplanes, trains and other modes of transport, I've made the 'Logan list' for these. It is the approximate amount of time I can travel on it and how I feel about it.
Four hours or less: Short trip, no big deal. No special precautions other than going to the bathroom ahead of time.
Seven hours or less: Medium trip. Bring a big bottle of water and some packaged munchies. Make sure electronics (walkman) is fully charged.
Ten hours or less: Long trip. Bring plenty of shit.
Over ten hours: A surrealistic death march in which Jim Morrison will make several appearances and sing 'The End' two me at least once. Bring all the shit you can carry. Despair as there is no hope.
Note that I've never done anything like the 'trans Siberian railway' but I'm not certain what the appeal is. I don't like having to speak Russian that much either.
After a fairly short trip, we reached Chaing Khong. This is a one horse (which has been replaced with a Tuk Tuk) town. It literally has one road - the rest are glorified alleys. The town is so small (how small is it?) that it only has one 7-11. I kept looking for the other 49 but couldn't find them. I consider that very un-Thai like.
When I first got here, I ignored the mass of 'here's our fixed price, rich foreign devils' tuk tuks and just started walking. A European from an undetermined country thought I knew where I was going and asked me about it.
I told him that I had glimpsed a map when I first got off of the bus that seemed to indicate the river was East of us. Despite the visible road we were on heading south, I could spot in the distance a gentle turn to the east. Therefore, I told him, I would follow the road in hopes of finding the river and thence lodgings near the river. I wasn't sure if the map I had seen was accurate however as it was made by Thais. None of the Thai's I've ever confronted with a map (even should that map be in Thai as well as English) seemed to know how to read it. The Thais don't seem to know how to use maps - therefore it stands to reason they may not know how to make them either. This theory has been backed up numerous times by the remarkably shitty maps, I told him, that I have gotten everywhere in Thailand. I believe, I continued to expound, that this problem has been long overlooked by the Thais - not knowing how to make nor use maps - as the Thais seem quite happy where they are without all of the bother of navigating somewhere new.
After a long, steady look the European nodded and moved off to find his own way. I didn't see him after that. Ironically, I was right on several facts. Despite the map I had seen upon arrival being wrong, I did manage to find the Mekong river.
Aside from the single 7-11, about 500m from that is the 'go to Lao' place. A dishonest Tuk Tuk driver tried to convince me that it was two hours between 7-11 and there but since I had just walked from there, I started laughing. He rode off to go find a different ferang (foreigner) to cheat. The tuk-tuk's all charge about 30 BHT for what in any other town would be a 5-10 BHT ride because this is the place a lot of foreigners come. The foreigners don't come to stay - they come to go into Lao then back with a renewed visa. A whole industry has sprung up over this strange government bureaucracy.
Most of the decent rooms seem to be 300-500 BHT. At the suggestion of John the Canadian, I got one in a place literally next door to the 7-11 called the 'Green Inn'. He talked in glowing terms about sitting near the window and watching the Mekong River. Well, you can see it standing from a window but that's about it. The place is a dump. After humping up five flights of stairs to the claustrophobic room with next to zero security I was pretty disinterested. At this price in western or even central Europe, this would be a perma-booked gem but in Thailand it is a 'what the fuck' type of room. I'm thinking my gear will have to be on extreme lock down (in pack and I will find something to chain the pack to) while I am out getting food. When I asked John the Canadian about the rooms he began to fill in other missing details - like he just used it to crash in, there was a girl, etc. Why the fuck I ever listen to other tourists and don't just find my own shit is an ongoing mystery to me. It's my own fault - they're just trying to help.
While out exploring on my own, I did find a much nicer room for only 250 BHT but there was no internet access within the room itself. I wanted that simply because I don't know how much internet I will find in Lao.
All I need to do is to get a bunch of money out of the ATM and find an exchange office to convert it all to dollars since Lao is pretty backward on their ATM's. Other than that, my big goal is to sit around and hopefully not get (and pop) blisters on my feet. I'm thinking if I sit around for a day or two I will be able to get back to hiking. Since it is too hot for sneakers and socks and since I walk in things that can only politely be called 'interesting', I prefer not to have any open wounds on my feet.
My rough plan is to head to Lao, find expat community. See what the actual deal (not the one on the internet which is almost always bullshit) is with teaching English. If possible, teach even if it is volunteering so that I can try it out and see what I think of it. After that, move on to either Vietnam or Cambodia.
I have heard a lot about teaching English in China. I'd need to apply to that ahead of time just to get in the country. To apply ahead of time, I'd need the TEFL certificate - which I am not planning on getting until I see if I like teaching or not. Fuck spending money I don't have to.
TV SHOW REVIEWS
Misfits - this reminds me a lot of Heroes ("Save the cheerleader, save the world.") For me, the first season of Heroes was a great watch. Matt L. and I would sit around discussing what would be in the next exciting episode and such. The second season was as exciting as discovering someone had taken a shit on your pillow. I don't know why it went so steeply downhill in the second season but we both dropped it like payments on a car that had been stolen.
So, the first season of Misfits is interesting though not 'oh my God I can't wait to see what happens in the next episode or I think I'm going to fucking die' interesting. For the first three or four episodes, I felt zero empathy or sympathy for any of the characters. The mains are comprised of the black athlete (almost redundant these days), the smart ass, the creepy fucker, the girl you want to fuck and the tough gutter chick (a chev). I didn't like any of them and found myself rooting for the bad guys. The characters seem to be mostly acting out of various emotions and don't seem to have much in the way of common sense - but stupidity seems to make for better drama.
Midway through the first season the characters start to grow on you a bit. You find yourself a bit more tolerant of the stupid shit they do and less hoping they'll be maimed.
As a final note, this does emphasize some of the differences between British TV and American TV. You get to see tits, a girl giving a blowjob to a plastic bottle, etc. Unfortunately, it is only half the package. You don't get to see any brilliant gas explosions with body parts slapping people as they fly out streaming entrails. It is a bit disappointing but the Brits in their backwards thinking believe sex to be a perfectly natural act and have no problems showing it within some limits. They don't realize that the natural state of men is to be hitting other men (and women and possibly children and pets) with heavy, weighted clubs or blowing them up in cheerful red and gold explosions. Those poor, backward savages.
After seeing two seasons of this show, I'd summarize it as "What happens when stupid and fairly inept people get super powers which vary in degrees from wow to fairly useless." (Yes, I think the sex one is pretty bad unless you are a serial rapist.)
Halfway into the first season, I'd rate misfits a 6/10 - there is some decent humor in there.
Terra Nova. One thing I thought was very funny about this show is that the commander of the base is the same guy who was the commander of the base in the movie Avatar. When he was doing the orientation talk, I kept waiting for him to have this scene:
Commander Taylor: "And so welcome to Terra Nova... Oh - and just one other thing. If you see any seven or eight foot tall humanoids..."
"Shoot to fucking kill..."
So many good scenes missed...
Captain America. 3/10. Seriously, the lamest super hero ever. They went for the 'weird science' thing and combined in technologies from several different decades. It was a bit meh. As a super hero, Captain America struck me as a bit dull compared to someone like say Nightshade. The movie was dull too, I couldn't even be bothered to finish it.
Another Earth. 3/10. A stupid girl causes a fatal traffic accident by going at super sonic speeds in her car and striking a parked car because she is staring at something that will be around later. She then goes to jail, probably for involuntary man slaughter, criminal negligence, reckless driving and hopefully, sheer stupidity. Rather than the logical step that the military (and a much beleaguered NASA would jump at the chance of exploring a whole new 'class M' planet, it becomes a trip you can win on the internet. There are a whole lot of artistic scenes with the girl staring into the sky, drawn by this new planet with violins and shit playing. After twenty fucking minutes into the movie, she was just working up the gumption to enter this contest. I began to fast forward. It didn't appear to get any better nor did they ever leave earth. How the fuck did this get a 7.1 on IMDB?
Always get a receipt - even if you pay a night at a time. If you give them cash, get a receipt.