One night in Bangkok

A cockroach watched me eat my dinner.  It was khao pat, from a stall in front of the Hua Lamphong railway station, at 10:30 pm on a Tuesday night.

I just arrived in Bangkok and several things about the city strike me as different from the last time I was here, now more than two years ago.

The city seems grubbier, on the whole.  Billboards bigger than ones I have ever seen line an ultra-modern 8-lane expressway.  Perhaps it’s only because my perceptions have changed.  The smell of sewage and human waste is something I associate with my time in sub-Saharan Africa; not Southeast Asia.  I don’t actually recall having seen a roach in the last 2 years, and while I struggled to recall if I had ever seen one in my house in Vientiane, I suddenly had a very vivid memory of finding one in my tea thermos, which I then summarily filled with several cups of bleach.

I have a very strong aversion to roaches.  Yet, unfortunately, I have had to learn not to shriek and run for cover when one comes into sight, against my natural inclinations.   But the roaches of Thailand and Laos are nothing compared to the ones covering the walls of the latrine I had to use during my in-country training in Comé, Benin.  But, I digress.

Lying here in this tiny room, I remember how awesome being in Southeast Asia is.  If only I were here simply for leisure.  My data gathering hangs over my head like an ominous cloud.

Ticker would hate everything about this place.  The heat, the humidity, the dirty plastic cup I took my fork out of to eat my rice prepared in a thoroughly unhygienic manner.   The water pressure of the shower which can only be compared to a flaccid drizzle.  The thin foam mattress, the audible footsteps outside.

But hey, I love it.  I feel right at home here, and it feels so good to be back.

Tomorrow I catch the train to Nong Khai, then a bus to Vientiane.  But first… shopping in Bangkok!  Hooray!

 

Advertisements

back in vientiane

Hooray!  I’m finally home!

After spending a few days in Bangkok I was so happy to get on the night train back to Laos.  Now I have Amanda and Vanessa staying with me, so I don’t actually have much time to relax.

My trip to Australia was so much fun!  I did a lot of really amazing things.  It’s really beautiful there, and everyone is really fit and sporty.

My first experience arriving back in Asia was to take the bus to Khao San rd to find a cheap guest house.  I found one, at 1 in the morning, and tried to sleep.  This was impossible because there was msuic blaring everywhere.  I finally dozed off for a few hours to be woken up again by loud music at 7 in the morning.   I decided I had to leave – and when I left to find a new guesthouse, walking down the street at 8 in the morning, a drunk tourist stumbled into the middle of the road, and started taking his shirt off.  In the process, he spilled his drink all over me, vodka and redbull or something.  It was pretty awful, and just one of the reasons I am not a fan of Bangkok.

The entire neighborhood of Banglamphu is full of people like that.  Dudes walking around with out their shirts on – I saw some guy who had obviously just gotten a huge tattoo of buddha on his chest. Like wh the hell goes to Asia and thinks to himself -” I’ve got it!  I’m in a developing country, I’ll get a giant commemorative tattoo of buddha on my chest! “.  It’s like the guy who went to Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Phenom Pehn, and tubing in Vang Vieng, and then said “Yeah, I’ve pretty  muh done Asia.”.  He didn’t bother going China or Japan or any of those other less important places in Asia.

Anyway, I think I have more to write about Australia, but I have to go eat lunch now.

It’s really cold in Laos right now, we are all freezing to death.  It was 10 C on the train from Bangkok!!  I could see my breath while I was trying to sleep!

hello from ho chi minh

Holy shit.  Ho Chi Minh City is a chaotic frenzied mass of motorcycles, all perpetually honking.

Anyway, I shall write more about Vietnam later.  First a quick summary of my travels for far:

After a grumpy start at the Vientiane Talat Sao bus station, when at 9 in the morning the lady told me I couldn’t buy a ticket for the 4 pm bus to Udon Thani, and I missed my bus to the University.  After waiting an hour for the next bus to the University, which never showed up, at 10:15 I called my boss and told him “I give up on the bus.  See you in Vietnam!”, then I went home and sulked.  At 12 pm I rode my bike back to the bus station and bought the ticket for the 4 pm bus, 22,000 kip (about $3).  Then at 3:30 I went back again to actually get back on the bus.

At 4:00 we left Vientiane, about 30 minutes later we arrived at the Friendship Bridge.  After 2 HOURS of standing in lines, we were finally in Thailand, and then another 45 minutes to Udon Thani.  In Udon Thani I went to the “Ruangsoupraeth” VIP Bus company and bought a ticket for the 9:30 pm bus to Bangkok, 443 Thai Baht (about 15 dollars).  Then I went to the mall and ate KFC, 100 baht ($3), which was really exciting.  At 9:00 I went back to the bus station, got on the bus, and while some science-fiction horror movie starring The Rock dubbed in Thai played, I tried to sleep.  Actually the bus was quite comfortable, but I always have nightmares the driver is falling asleep and we are about to careen off the highway so sleeping on night busses is alwasy a challenge for me. Anyway, at 6:00 am we rolled into Bangkok.  This was the first time I had ever been to Bangkok, even though it’s only a $15 bus ride away…

I argued with a tuk-tuk driver for about 10 minutes and convinced him to take me to a guesthouse my friend Dani recommended for 140 Baht (about $4).  Bangkok traffic, even at 6 in the morning, is also pretty horrendous.

I went to this guesthouse, and asked if I could have a room for 6 hours.  Anyway, to make a long story short, the woman was an asshole, she ripped me off, and I highly do not recommend Tavee guesthouse in Thewet, Bangkok.  Anyway, after paying too much because I was exhausted, I fell asleep for 2 hours, then found a tuk-tuk who I told to take me to “Pratunam market”, where I have heard all the cheap shit is.  An hour later (yes, Bangkok traffic is horrendous) we pulled up in front of PLATINUM shopping center.  At that point I didn’t want to be on the road or in a tuk-tuk any longer so I got out. It turned out Platinum is like heaven, actually.  Shoe and handbag and clothing heaven, all reasonably priced, and no need to bargain for 20 minutes per item!

After dropping a few thousand baht, I went back to the guesthouse to get a bite to eat and grab my bag before heading to the airport for my flight to HCMC.  As I was walking past a cafe around noon (11pm Chicago time), I noticed a bunch of people with their eyes glued to CNN.  Obama was giving a speech.  Until that point I had completely forgotten about the election, since I sent in my absentee ballot months ago.  As I stumbled to take off my shoes to walk into the cafe I said “Did he win !??! Did he win !??!”.  I got a very bland “Yes.” in response.  “Hooray!!  Hooray!” I shouted.  Then everyone looked at me strangely.  I guess they had had more time to digest the news and we’re as excitable as me.  Anyway I just put my shoes back on and ran away from all the un-excited people.

I got my bag, and after listening to the lady at the gueshouse try and convince me for 10 minutes to take a taxi to the aiport for 450 baht ($15), and refusing to tell me where to take a bus from, I finally just left and decided to take a tuk-tuk to Khao San rd where I was pretty sure some bus or van to the airport must leave from.  I arrived, bought my ticket at a little kiosk for 130 baht, plus 20 for the tuk tuk ($5), and arrived at the aiport around 2:15, checked in for my 3:55 flight, and then hit the duty free shops.  I probably should have just spent the $400 to fly directly from Vientiane to HCMC, considering the loads of cash I am dropping on the way, but at least I get more than crappy airline food as a souvenir.

I arrived in HCMC around 5:30, and a lovely young lady from the University of Vietnam was waiting for me to escort me to my hotel.  However, due to the aforementioned chaotic frenzied traffic in this city, it actually took over 1 hour of mostly stop-and-go traffic to get to the hotel from the airport.

This hotel has more than it’s fare share of funny anecdotes, mostly due to the extreme lack of English comprehension of any staff member here, and my zero knowledge of the vietnamese language. I have to write a paper right now but I will share them later.

en route, encore.

I’m writing from the airport in Bangkok, where I have a 6 hour layover. Too short to go into the city, too long to be tolerable. The flight from Chicago to LA was miserable, however the 17 hours from LA to Bangkok actually went by quickly and “smooth as silk”, like Thai Airways claims. The people here area all so friendly! and cute, and small, and light brown. I”m kind of smelly and need a shower… so far it’s been 30 hours en route, just a few more to go.

When I was re-reading Drs. Dorner & Gorman’s article on the plane from Chicago to LA, I felt particularly inspired by their description of how most contemporary works on Information Literacy define IL as merely a set of technical skills. They neglect to discuss:

the social construction and cultural authority of knowledge
the political economies of knowledge ownership and control
the development of local communities’ and cultures’ capacities to critique and construct knowledge

I know this type of language might come across as erudite academic nonsense, but I got a little excited. This stuff fascinates me! I love it that I can study the cultural aspects of knowledge acquisition.