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Monday, January 23, 2012

KHAO SAN ROAD

NARRATIVE

THB = Thailand Baht. At the time of writing, about 30 THB = 1 USD, aka $1.

Google maps said six hours. With the frequent stops and the Thai-Cambodian border, it was twelve hours from Siem Reap to Bangkok. We switched buses (well, transport) three times that I recall. Fortunately, I shared a lot of the journey with some fun folk from a lot of different countries. It's always a pity when you know you won't be running into those people again.

Upon arrival in Bangkok, I discovered it was Chinese New Years. I have no clue what that has to do with Thailand, but it means that places have filled up and the prices have probably been jacked up a bit as well. Since that was working against me, I checked into a moderately despicable room for 450 TBH a night. It did have AC and turned out to be slightly more comfortable than it looked. After a quiet and rather sucky meal, I wandered around the same backpacker area as I was in last time I was here. I didn't highly regard it the first time I was here but had the option to escape quickly and took it.

My mission for this time was to get to the Indian Embassy and secure my wonderful ten year multi entry visa. No, I never get tired of being completely wrong all the time.

The next morning, I woke up before the alarm went off and set out to get to the Indian Embassy. The tuk tuk driver assured me it would be 400 TBH to get there. Since I was assuming he was lying, I nodded and smiled. He did tell me there was a place closer than the Thai Embassy where I could get the visa. Again, I assumed he was lying but was curious as to how it would play out. He wanted 100 TBH for a round trip to this place. I told him that I didn't believe they would be able to help me get the special visa I needed. He assured me they could. I stared at him. He told me that if they couldn't, he'd only charge me 20 TBH and just leave me there so I could catch a cab to the embassy since it was too far to go by tuk tuk.

After he had dropped me off, I had checked and paid my 20 TBH I caught a cab to the Indian Embassy. 100 TBH later, I had been dropped at the wrong address but it was within a half a kilometer so I just walked there. The place you want to get the visas is called the 'Glass House'. It is a high rise away from the embassy. There I was told that the biggest visa I could possibly get was a six month two entry visa for 3230 TBH. He had actually quoted it 1000 TBH less than I ended up getting charged but there wasn't anything I could do.

Maybe I will be able to wrangle a ten year visa when I get there. Maybe I will hate India and not need a ten year visa. I simply don't know. It is frustrating.

The misquoting man then gave me an option. I could either pay them 200 TBH to give me the forms to get my visa (which they then type into the computer) or he would be happy to give me soft, inaccurate and misleading directions to a nearby internet cafe where I could save myself 200 TBH. I looked at the huge line quickly forming up behind me. I pondered the non-functioning Indian web page I had just checked out three days ago. I felt a rising feeling of dread within me. I told him I would be delighted to pay the 200 TBH.

I was allowed into the hallowed halls of the visa processing area. But first, I was commanded to turn off my cell phone. "I have no cell phone." This brought looks of confusion and skepticism. Eventually, I asked if they had a cell phone I could borrow to turn off. I was allowed into the hallowed halls of the visa processing area.

Here, it was demanded that I give up two pictures of myself. But not just any two pictures of myself - they had to be passport photos with either a white or a blue background. I had no idea what the background was so I fumbled them out. White! Joy. First thing that went right today.

They processed my paperwork as well as ignored several angry people who had tried to use their webpage from an internet cafe only to discover it didn't work and they were now forced to pay 200 TBH. I ignored them to.

The nice lady at the embassy suggested I get my plane ticket for the second.

The Indian Embassy is located in a district called 'Sukhumvit'. It's where all the pricey and expensive shit is. Like embassies. They also have access to a rather slick system called the 'sky train'. This is the cheap way to get around Bangkok fast. Note that this sky train has absolutely no connection to the backpacker area. You can't get there from here. I suspect that was deliberate. It would be nice to get my passport while hauling my pack then get right on the sky train from the embassy and get straight to the airport. That sort of 'cracker jack' timing is hard to do in the states. Here, I don't think it would be possible. So, I'll just make multiple trips and like it.

After getting a receipt for my passport as well as a copy to show to any interested government officials, I left the Embassy and headed back (110 TBH). I had a driver who claimed he didn't have change for 120, I told him to wait there and I went and got change. Yes, it's a nominal amount but it is irritating.

After getting back, I checked around for a better room and found one for 400 TBH. It looks pretty grim but it does have working wifi and en suite bathroom. Air conditioning also - of a sort. I can't adjust it but it seems OK for now.

Despite the room costing a few dollars (well, $3) more than I want to pay and it being fairly dingy, I might just end up staying here for the next ten nights. It has wifi and an external lock on the door. In other words, I can use a padlock for additional security. That makes me feel better about security.

I've done some research on Bangkok and there isn't really a whole lot I'm wanting to see here. It's got a lot of chrome, glass and sky scrapers. Meh. It does give me a lot of area to wander about through though so I might do that. Maybe see if I can get more familiar with the various transportation systems within the city. Pretty low budget stuff as opposed to the normal reasons people come here - whores and booze. Women shooting darts out of their clitoris into balloons, donkey shows. That sort of thing. I don't have either the money or interest for that sort of thing.

I am very happy that this place has wifi, however. Delhi will be a huge challenge to tackle especially on my budget.

AirAsia again appeared to be the cheapest option to fly there. If you ever need airline tickets, always check with their prices. Be advised that they add huge charges to the initial quote. My initial quote was $76. After all of the other mandatory charges, the price had doubled. But, that will still get me into India. Once I am in New Delhi, I can also see about options for extending the visa or just finding a way of getting the ten year visa aside from being in my 'home country' and asking for it. Yeah, I put 'home country' in quotes. Home is where you chain your backpack.

All that I really need to do right now is to find an internet cafe where I can print off my e-ticket confirmation. That way, if my visa is not ready on the promised date of the first, I will have something to wave while I whine to attempt to speed up bureaucracy. Don't know if it will work, but props help.



KHAO SAN ROAD

From what I've read, it's suppose to be pronounced 'cow' but all of the tourists are now mispronouncing it as 'chao' which apparently means 'island'. It is an island of tourism. The area I am in surrounds a temple I've been told is named "La Bootai". I believe his may be showing the French influence and translated mean "The Booty". Coincidence? I think not.



HOW MUCH DOES IT REALLY COST?

On wikitravel, they often have ranges for places to stay. "100-550". Ignore the lower number, it is usually imaginary. Or they have one room like that which has been permanently rented out. Or that was the price years ago. Just realize it is imaginary and if someone changes it, they may change it back.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

In Thailand, older cab drivers tend to try to rip you off less than young ones. I'm not sure why, but that seems to be the way of it.

Beware of traveling in January. Even though the nation you are in might not be the one technically celebrating the new year, their hotels might be full of people who don't know any better.



COSTS

Pineapple shake, 20 TBH (Note: Shakes are blended fruit and ice. No ice cream.)
Chicken pad Thai, 50 TBH
Little can of cold coffee from 7-11, 13 TBH

2 comments:

  1. It looks like the 10-year visa is "on discretion of the Indian consulate", but the 5-year looks more accessible. Although they are all "multiple entry" visas, so you can stay for 6 months then have to leave for 2 months. (Tourist Visa.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. If it works anything like the Thai visa, it is theoretically possible to stay for six, leave for a period (I'd have to check on what - it could be two months or just a quick border cross) then re-enter for six, etc. My plan is to check with the embassy when I actually get my passport in my hand. If the person working the counter knows. If not, I'll talk to the guys when I enter the country.

    ReplyDelete

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