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Sunday, November 1, 2015

FIFTY BAHT

BECAUSE FUCK VIETNAM

No Facebook allowing sonsabitches!

But seriously - not even interested in going back.  After listening to a half dozen stories from various tourists who got mugged (as in 'I have a knife - give me your shit') I'm thinking 'yeah - nothing I am even interested in seeing there'.

But Logan, they have Pho!  For those who don't know, Pho is pretty much the only famous food they seem to have in Vietnam.  It's thick noodled soup.  Whoopie fucking do!

It will never look this good.

No.  Not interested at this time in going back.  Perhaps in the future but for now it is all about attempting to defeat my base desires to save money.  Excuse me while I take another sip of my overpriced beer then have a cigarette.  Obviously, defeating these 'base desires' is an ongoing process.  And they have almond M&M's at the 7-11.  Which doesn't fucking help things.

At least they don't have them in cheap kilo bags here or I'd be done.

After spending a couple weeks in a place most tourists spend a couple days in - usually drunk - it was time to move on.  Though my horrible stomach problems (gosh that sounds nicer than reality) had cleared up, my conjunctivitis hadn't and I started wondering if heading back to Thailand might help.  Forgetting for a minute that I'd initially gotten it in Thailand.

Not a picture I took but it does summarize Laos for me.  Drunken white people on inter-tubes.   If they were more drunk and maybe there was a dead body floating down steam in the background, it would be more accurate.

Because I was feeling a bit bored, I decided to ramp up the difficulty on myself a bit and cross the border 'as the locals do'.

It was cheap though a bit confusing and takes more time.

I'd taken the luxury VIP bus (VIP in name only) to Vientiane.  Rather than take the large tuk tuks which were piling ten or a dozen bewildered tourists at a time on - and charging them 50,000 to 80,000 kip each, I wandered around the neighborhood of the bus station for awhile to see what was there.

Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

It's kind of funny how old west ghost towns have better architecture and building skills than a lot of the places I currently live.  In this picture, we show a tumble weed.  Which they should import to the area near the bus station and just have it blow around to show how desolate the place is.

It is pretty much a desolate no man's land.  Not as bad as the 38th parallel but pretty ugly.  I did manage to find one hotel but they wanted 120,000 kip per night.  Given the remoteness of the location, I thought the price was pretty outrageous.  After getting my fill of wandering around with all my earthly possessions weighing me down, I wandered back to the bus station and checked it out.

Eventually I came across a clean nice (gift from your friends in Japan!  Forget about history, please!) bus which could take me on the same journey as the tourists had for 50,000 to 80,000 for 5000 kip.

Nearly free.

In fact, the bus driver told me that it could take me to Thailand.

Not quite right, but it turned out to be close enough.

Keep in mind that nobody spoke any English.  This was mostly hand signs and a little phone translation.  It seems that Thai doesn't translate well on the phone.  If you translate something into Thai then that back into English it is completely incomprehensible.  Not sure what's up with their language or the translation.

The bus driver kindly stopped the bus in the center of town and directed me to some other buses.  Ticket for this one was 6000 kip and it took me to 'Friendship Bridge'.

Completely uninspiring architecture

 I converted my remaining kip into baht, paid my 50 baht 'overtime' bribe and was checked out of Laos.

No foot traffic is permitted on Friendship bridge - despite the sidewalks.  My guess is so that people get to spend money on the 50 baht bus that takes you the short distance over to the Thai border.  It would be a long walk with all of the gear so I didn't begrudge the bus.

On the Thai side, the only hiccup was I kept insisting I would be staying at an address in Thailand while showing the border guard a Laos business card.  Eventually, the guard got it into his head that I was an idiot.  Eventually, I dug up the correct card.  I don't think they really give a shit about where you are going to be staying but it is more that 'every box must be filled out'.  My guess is that sometime in the past they had an 'incident' (like with the trains and booze - see early blog entries).  They seem very reactionary in Thailand.  Incident, new rules.  Kind of like the USA but with less self serving evil initially.  See also the TSA.

It's all about the money.

 Another 50 baht (they like that number) tuk tuk ride from the border to the not as close as I'd hoped train station and I was off.

Not really - more of buy a ticket, sit and wait.

At first, the man behind the counter wanted to sell me a third class ticket - for about 50 baht.  After traveling as many hours as I had, I knew better.  They didn't have any first class (non-existent) so I picked up a second class ticket for 140 baht.  Aside from more comfort, you also have a much higher chance of sitting with or near people who speak English.  They can tell you many wonderful things including 'this is your stop'.

Needless to say, it was bloody easy to get back to a hotel (50 baht - really) that I had the business card for once I again reached Khon Kaen.

It's kind of sad I didn't have a bunch of 50 baht notes on me.

I'm pondering the idea of figuring out what train stops would be on my way to Siem Reap (Mexican food!) and just hitting those as I go.

Now that's pretty jaded.  I'm just going to a town to eat food that is foreign to it.  And don't forget their margaritas...



TRAVELER'S TIPS

When traveling to Thailand, get an address of a hotel.  The full address.  Be sure to write it down on the forms you have to fill out when entering the country.  It doesn't matter if you will be actually staying there, have ever stayed there or if it even exists - so long as it looks authentic.  Forms like to have every box filled out.


As we've covered before, you want to carry a notebook.  I would go so far as to say 'if you're not carrying a notebook and a pen, you are fucking up badly'.  Jotting down interesting things, writing your memoirs, having someone write the name of a place in the local language to make it easy to show to the non-English speaking cab driver and so on.  The notebook is also super handy for storing business cards, small maps, business cards, etc.  Just be sure to take out these things before handing it to a local to read or they will inevitably dump all of that stuff out.  Regardless of how carefully you try to hand it to them, they will take it by a corner and give it a quick shake.  I've no idea why.  Just keep all of your lose papers in a bundle so you can quickly remove them.  Notebook - small hardback, no spiral.  Trust me.


If you want to travel like a local, the trick is you have to slow down.  Take some time to just sit down and watch how things function.  Spend time wandering around.  You can save a ton of money if you do that.  Most people don't.  They are tired, cranky, in a hurry or just lazy.  Nothing wrong with that but if you want to save money you have to figure out what the 'local track' is and hop on to that instead of the more expensive - but faster, more convenient and a bit more English spoken - tourist track.



LAOS CUSTOMS

While I was sitting around drinking with some Laos guys, I asked why there were no 'public displays of affection' - even between married couples.

The reason they gave is that in Laos (and possibly northern Thailand, not sure on this) there is no 'try before you buy' - IE premarital sex.  So, everyone is apparently 'setting an example for the kiddies'.

Looking at it from the filters of the USA culture, this is baffling in a lot of aspects.  First, in the USA they have a long tradition of teaching 'do as I say, not as I do'.  Also, in the USA a good example would probably not override most teen hormones.

Interesting and confusing to me.




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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 |

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