Tag Archives: Bangkok

First Batch of Thailand Photos!

Bangkok on Flickr

Alright, so it’s finally happening, this is quite the week!

In addition to launching my new ChicagoNow blog: Focal Points. I’m getting started on my Thailand photos! I was able to get through 26 photos from my first day in Bangkok.

Hopefully I’ll be posting more daily until I’ve cranked them all out. Thailand, and my Tokyo blog entry are my #1 priorities for this blog in the next few weeks. I’m planning on going back and retroactively adding photos to the existing entries, like so. After that I’ve got a host of other things I cannot wait to share with you folks as well!

Thanks for your patience and I hope you enjoy.

Bangkok Part 1 on Flickr

4 Hours in Malaysia / 26 Hours in Tokyo – Part 1

After leaving Bangkok I landed in Kuala Lumpur for a 4 hour layover. Just long enough to get bored to tears in an airport but not long enough to leave said airport.

I wandered around they duty free shops for a bit and decided to get a bite to eat at the Malaysian noodle place called Nööödles. I got the “beef balls and herbs soup” and a coke for what equated to around $7, not half bad. After that I stumbled onto the airport Starbucks which had a free open WiFi connection… Sweet! Only problem though? No way to charge my devices.. Kuala Lumpur is the only stop on my trip that doesn’t use the standard US two prong wall socket and I didn’t bring my adaptor kit with me. Luckily enough there was an electronics store right below where I was able to pick up one of those little adaptor switch boxes for around $10.

I did have a momentary nerd out moment in there however. They had TONS of Japanese video games for sale and all sorts of bizarre bootleg devices. This was the kind of stuff that 10 year old me dreamed of. I got really really excited at the idea of buying something to bring home and play… Then I remembered that this isn’t the days of old where you could get a cartridge adaptor for your NES and just play Japanese games, the whole industry has switched to optical media which simply won’t play without modding your systems, which thanks to the DMCA is illegal in the USA and with companies like Microsoft blocks you from getting online. Damn. Stupid regions. Stupid DMCA. Stupid Microsoft.

After I got over my heartbreak on this I went back to Starbucks, plugged in and I was off and running! (Note: the iPad’s battery would have no doubt made it fine through my flight to Tokyo, but I knew I was going to use it heavily in the next day so I wanted to start off with a fresh full charge.

I arrived at the Narita airport and wandered around a bit, taking a moment to use the bathroom, clean myself up and change into jeans. It’s 84 degrees here, a huge break compared to the sweltering heat and humidity of Thailand, I’m excited to be wearing jeans again.

I took a bus to the downtown Tokyo Train station which took about an hour but I figured would be a good starting point. From there I began to wander some more, I immediately was able to figure out which direction I was walking from the placement of the sun and when I noticed that I laughed out loud. The boy scouts would be proud. I’m extremely grateful for my iPhone right now as none of the streets are obviously labeled, that said I think I’d be doing okay as there are a lot of maps placed throughout the city which denote where you are. Navigation is all based on neighborhoods and landmarks, and it’s surprisingly clear for someone who doesn’t read a word of Japanese.

First thing on my agenda: find the Apple store. I accomplished this very quickly. Now I know you probably laughed at that and might have even muttered “nerd” but there is a method to my madness. Apple is very selective in the placement of their stores, they are usually in upscale, popular/trendy areas so they can immediately give you an idea of a good place to check out, on top of that they offer free wifi, accessible power outlets, clean bathrooms and friendly multi-lingual staff.

That choice paid off big time immediately I was able to find a guy who had moved here from Estonia who was able to give me a brief run-through of Tokyo basics. First thing he told me, enjoy the free WiFi because I won’t find much of it elsewhere. Not even Starbucks offers it apparently and McDonald’s does but only to Nintendo DS users… great. I also found out the post office here doesn’t sell stamps… weird. I’ve yet to mail out my postcards so that is priority #2.

Christine’s father was able to get me a great hotel rate for tonight so I’ll be staying at the Sheraton, this goes against my usual traveling rules, but I could use a clean bed and shower. Unfortunately I can’t check in until 2 so it I’ve got some time to kill.

I’ve heard a few suggestions / requests of things to do for tonight which I’m excited to start tackling as soon as I’ve put my bags down. I’m still open for more though so hit me up in the comments or on Twitter. More later!

Always an Adventure – Thailand Part 9

Yesterday was relatively low key, Christine had some errands to run and I was desperately crazing cheese and gross American foods so we split up. I wound up hanging out at Pizza Hut eating mediocre pizza and drinking unlimited free refills of Pepsi and Christine wound up meeting me there. Word of Saturday’s violence in Bangkok started to trickle in and people started to be a bit concerned. The prime minister was on TV issuing a statement but people’s opinions are mixed. The situation actually seems to get more tense by the day, both sides want something without a compromise, it would appear the only way it’s going to end is with further bloodshed. Thankfully in Nakhon Sawan it was of little local concern.

After pizza Christine took me out to the park on her motorcycle. We relaxed for a bit and she taught me how to drive it, I found it to be surprisingly simple and very fun. I’m definitely going to look into it further when I return to the states. After that we went and relaxed by the pond, we bought a bag of rice balls and fed the GIANT fish who live in the pond, watching and laughing as the jumped and splashed over each other for each piece.

After that we went to a small bar simply named “Cups” to meet her friends Jon and Tom. It was Jon’s last night in town for a while so we kicked back and had a few beers. A few locals that the group knew joined us and we discussed the political situation in more depth and the general consensus seemed to be that both sides of the argument have a ton of merit but are equally wrong in their actions. Unfortunately there isn’t a third active side, the average Thai citizen would rather just ignore it and live their lives. Jon and Christine pumped me for information about the recently passed American health care reform bill, they both are deeply concerned that they may be expected to purchase American health care while living abroad or face steep fines. I admitted that I honestly don’t know how it will affect them if at all.

After hearing about my first drive of a cycle Jon offered to let me try out his. While Christine has a cute little Honda Wave, Jon has something a little more akin to a Harley. Christine had a good laugh when Jon made me get off the cycle when I asked what a “clutch” was and he refused to let me try again. Apparently I’m a freak because I never learned to drive a manual transmission car. How was I to know?

Anyway from there we called it an early night so I could wake early in the morning for Bangkok to fly to Kuala Lumpur and then Tokyo.

We got up the next morning, I showered, packed up and Christine gave me directions to get back to Bangkok, what to say to Taxi drivers etc. News reports on BBC International seemed to convey even more tension in Bangkok, making me glad I was heading down to the city early for my 4pm flight.

We said our goodbyes and soon from there I caught a motorbike to a bus station, only problem… Wrong one. The language barrier soon became unsurmountable as I tried over and over to explain to my driver where we were supposed to go, eventually I was forced to give up and call for Christine’s assistance, she came and met me at the station as she also had to head south, we luckily found one bus that was going to hit both of our stops and caught it together. It was a 3 hour ride down to Rangsit and traffic was heavy, as we got closer to Bangkok you could see military road blocks where they were randomly pulling people out of cars for interrogation. Not a pleasant sight. Christine got out at Ahuttaya to pick up her Kindle which she had left in the hostel a few days before and I had another 30 min until I arrived at Rangsit. From there I caught a Taxi and head back to Bangkok airport completely avoiding the downtown area and boarding my flight out of the country.

I had a great stay in Thailand but now I’m on to my next adventure: 27 hours in Tokyo! Dear readers my agenda is pretty open. Ever been to Tokyo? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know what I should do.

State of No Big Deal – Thailand Part 4

Kanchanaburi on Flickr

I recieved some emails of concern so I thought I’d address this head on:

Yesterday a state of emergency was declared in Bangkok due to the ongoing Red Shirt nonviolent political protests. The group is looking to dissolve the parliment and install their leader who had previously been deposed by the Yellow Shirts a few years back. That is pretty much all I know. While we were there Bangkok was hustling and bustling with people, among them were many of these “Red Shirts” who had set up tents with signs and loud blaring speakers. For the most part they kept to themselves at their worst they blocked up traffic on their motorbikes.

Either way we got out of there yesterday. Not because of this situation at all but because we wanted to do other things. I’ll be back in Bangkok on Tuesday briefly to fly out to Tokyo and neither Christine nor I are really worried. They primarilly do this stuff on the weekend to disrupt tourism to hurt the economy and put pressure on te government. We don’t expect it to impact Monday as well.

Anyway, we’re having breakfast and then off to see the elephants. More later!

Arrival / Night 1 – Thailand Part 2

Bangkok on Flickr

So I managed to get some wifi in Hong Kong briefly which is how I was able to post the first entry. So far I haven’t been able to get any service on a Thai network with data using my iPhone. Turns out if I turn off 3G it works fine.

Anyway enough of the Internet woes. I landed around 10:30am and wandered around the airport for a while before finding Christine. We then caught a bus and went to Khao San in Bangkok to find a hostel for the day.

I’m extremely happy to not be on a plane. The travel here was a combined over 20 hours and 5 different airplane meals, I never want to eat something with a tin foil lid ever again.

I made pretty good use of the time though. I did a lot of reading, a lot of writing and rewatched most of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia season 1. It’s crazy but I have very, very quickly fallen head over heels in love with my iPad, the battery life is insane.

Anyway Christine suggested we check out the market but apparently it’s only open on the weekends so we took a Tuk Tuk (Thai go-kart / cab) to the skytrain in an attempt to check out a photo gallery. After a good hour of wondering we discovered that the gallery was also closed so we decided to settle down at a bar outside and throw back a couple of beers. I made a point to try all three of the major national beers; Singha, Cheng and Leo. All three are pretty basic lagers nothing especially great about any of them. I prefer Chang, Christine prefers Singha.

Our Tuk Tuk driver made us stop off at a tailor, he apparently gets a commission so we agreed to humor him and spend a few minutes in there. Well it turned out I got talked into buying some custom fitted shirts. The fact of the matter though it really was a steal I basically paid $200 for three fitted shirts of my own custom styling and fitting and a supurb pair of slacks. I really do need good dress clothes and the price and quality was beyond reasonable. They had them cut, fitted and delivered to our hostel in just a few hours. That’s pretty unbeatable service.

We are now hanging out in Khao San in a bar with an excellent cover band made up of Thai nationals that do frighteningly good versions of American and British pop songs. The place is swarming with Britons who go crazy at every Oasis song, but I can’t really blame them either, I totally nerded out for the Nirvana covers myself so who am I to judge?