Friday, April 25, 2008

the summit of glorious anonymity

The signs here in Bangkok crack me up. A couple have ended with "we're welcome." One "decayed" door "beg my pardon" for not working. My favorite so far:

Why would anyone take the stairs when the escalator can deliver you to the summit of glorious anonymity.

I don't know either. It was in front of a tailor.

But wait, wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. The story left off at leaving KL to head to the Perhentian Islands. Well, I got to the Perhentians eventually, and on the ferry from the mainland to the small island (1 hour, $9), met Rachel. The ferry was a picturesque morning ride, by the way.

Rachel'd be my travel-mate during the Perhentian stay, along with the pair of Amelies I met at the restaurant. Here's Amelie d'Orleans laughing at Amelie de Paris yelling at me:

That photo really wasn't worth putting up, but I already did. Anyway, my place was pretty minimal (and that fan only works when they have electricity, which is from 6:30pm 'til midnight). The squat toilets are down the path, as is the "shower."

But here's the view from my porch:

And I just stepped onto the beach:

I'm actually not one for lying on the beach, but I do love the animals you find near islands. I didn't take underwater photos, 'cause the last time I took electronics on a dive I needed to get a new phone. But there were lots of lizards.

Big giant lizards

Pretty medium-sized lizards

Courting little lizards (that's the male claiming his lady)

Sand crabs - so hard to get a photo; they're so skittish! (and justifies that ill opinion / that makes thee startle / at me...)


Spiders the size of my palm!

On the other side of the island, there was a jetty being built. The workers were 16-23 year old village kids from the mainland.

I walked out and said hi, and they were about to take a swim. "Join us" says one in broken English, so in I go. It was a blast. I'm the first Westerner Sabri's ever swam with. The view was gorgeous. You could see schools of little fish, and two baby marlin were chasing them. And the sunset? Just perfect.

There was also an adorable French kid I found. He didn't understand that my French is awful, so I'd talk to him and then he'd fire back in hundred-mile-an-hour francaise. I didn't catch a word, but was he cute.

Though the island wasn't always fun and games. It was 104 degrees during the day and ridiculously buggy in the evening and you can see how hard and discrete the rain was. I took this photo after that rain passed over us:

Okay, here's where the story gets pretty neat. Leaving Perhentian. I want to head up to Bangkok, so let's do this. How do I get there? No idea. Better set the alarm early.

Here's a trick: if you're supposed to get off a bus at Khota Baru (wherever that is), even if you know the stop you're at is something else, ask the driver if it's Khota Baru. Do this twice. Then, when you get to Khota Baru, the driver will be sure to let you know.

Water taxi - 5 min - $0.70
"Ferry" - 50 min - $9.80
Bus to Khota Baru - 2 hours - $1.30
Bus to Rantau Panjang - 1 hour - $1.30
Walk across Malaysia/Thai border
Bike sidecar to train station - 15 min - $3 (I overpaid. Oh well.)

Okay, now I'm in Thailand (booyah!), it's 1:30pm, and I'm soaking and gross because it poured on us in the water taxi and ferry, and the ride was super splashy. So I'm soaked in salt water and fresh water. But I'm in Thailand. And I'm feeling mighty proud/confident. I know, kinda cheesy, but it's true. Okay, train station.

"A ticket to Bangkok."
"Computer no working, come back half hour."
--do dee do--
"Ticket to Bangkok."
"Only 3rd class left."
"How much?"
"290 baht" ($10)
"How long?"
"17 hour"

17 hours in 3rd class and I'm soaking wet and kinda miserable, but damnit, I'm getting to Bangkok. So it's about 2pm, but somehow the 11:30am to Bangkok is still in the station, so I'm gonna jump on board. Um, there are military everywhere. Somewhere between an Israeli airport and GIs in Iraq. I mean 30-50% of the people in the station are wearing camos and boots and kevlar and stuff. Woah. I'd love to have photos of the scene, but the military weren't so keen on posing. (Seriously, one saw my camera and had me put it away.)

I get on the train, but these military are kinda creeping me out. Every time the train stops, food vendors hop on and walk the aisles, but so do trios of military: all kevlar and helmets, one with a radio, two with guns as big as my leg. These trios keep patroling. I see a Westerner in the next car.
"Hey man, kinda heavy military presence, huh?"
"Well, we're in a war zone."

So I (accidentally?) traveled through Thailand's south-east provinces, where Militant Islamic seperatists are trying to make their own state. I know Mom and Pop are gonna poo bricks, but that was kinda neat. I lived.

I chatted with the guy a bit. He's from Holland. I'm from America. "Oh yeah? Who won Pennsylvania?" Why are foreigners more connected to our politics than half of us? Why am I in a 3rd class car through a war zone with salty wet clothes? Where's my bag? Still locked to the railing. Good.

Got into Bangkok station, still damp and salty from the ocean and rain (it's been over a day!), in desperate need of a shower, and having eaten only a granola bar in the last day. Taxi! Take me to Khao San road, please. He speaks no English. He tries to sell me the buddha hanging from his rear view. Here, Khoa San road. Okay, out I go. Doesn't look very touristy. Long story short, some helpful elderly shopkeeper ladies and I play a long game of charades and map-pointing, and it turns out I'm on something that sounds just like Khoa San road. Long sigh...

Another taxi, and can it be? Valhalla! The first hostel I find, $12 a night. I could shop around, but I don't even care. A cold shower never felt so good. My meal? Ambrosia! The air conditioning in this internet cafe? Perfect!

I feel like a million bucks! The summit of glorious anonymity! Jake flag: planted!


crash-dev said...

Damn that 17 hour bus ride...pace yourself man, you are gonna get tired.

If you feel like blowing money on a great view head to Sirroco , then again, you are probably over budget already so I'd pass on that.

Instead, I'd grab a Chang on KoSahn and eat some banana pancakes.

It's Klenk by the way..

Jake Cooper said...

I kinda like moving quick, but I think I'm gonna spend a few days here in Kanchanaburi. Sirroco looks pretty... big. The Bangkok stop was just a stopover on the way to Kanchanaburi; I'll be back later.

Dude, Chang is good stuff, and the banana pancakes are alright, but how about the mangoes and sticky rice? For what, 80 cents? I'll take ten, thanks.

Cubs are rocking it.

Jeanne said...

those little lizards sure are cute, but that spider would freak me out. it reminds me of that time joshua found a crab in our place in costa rica and decided to smash it with the garbage can.

the pics look beautiful and i'm glad you're hanging out with other travelers- it's part of the fun of traveling on your own!