Zombies and Gibbons. Day One – The Journey to Thailand 2016

The ride to Auckland airport went well. Reasonably nice weather, good music and the fine company of my two closest friends, Carol the Awesome and Peter the Great. The only thing spoiling it was the fact that I had no idea if my plane tickets were real. This is the first time I’ve ever ordered plane tickets online, and I had great trepidation as to whether the durned things were actually real! Once I got checked in though, to my great relief the trip became a reality – I was off to Thailand!!

The checking in process seemed to go very fast, and as per tradition, I had forgotten to empty my water bottle and got hauled aside by Customs. ‘Twas a short trip indeed for that bottle. Who knows where it lives now. Continue reading

Thailand 2013 (3) The Mad Inventor’s Toasting Machine and the Train Journey that Wasn’t

Gosh I'm tired. Think I'll go have a nice quiet snooze beside the railway track...

Gosh I’m tired. Think I’ll go have a nice quiet snooze beside the railway track…

I love that even moderately-priced hotels have idiosyncrasies galore in Asia. When going to the hawng nam (toilet) in the lobby of our hotel, I had to physically pick up the sliding door and heft it across the doorway before locking it with one of those safety chains that are often used on people’s front doors. In the breakfast room, they have a fascinating toaster that looks like it’s out of a mad inventor’s workshop. Your bread goes up a conveyor belt, is toasted under hot elements, then the toaster spits your toast back out the bottom. Unless it doesn’t, in which case you are required to perform delicate surgery with a pair of long metal tongs, potentially receiving a free new hairstyle courtesy of the hotel. Service plus around here…  Continue reading

Thailand 2013 (2) City Cats and Condensed Milk by Marcel Marceau

I'm little, but I'm loud and I've only just started on you...

I’m little, but I’m loud and I’ve only just started on you…

Continuing from my previous email, where we had just got to bed in our hotel in Bangkok.

 Breakfast was a buffet that came with the price of our room. I chose a harmless little number that turned out to be really hot curry. Who would do that  to someone without at least planting a skull and crossbones flag beside it? Sadists!! Thankfully there were several sorts of pastries to compensate for the singeing of my tastebuds. Sadly, they didn’t have condensed milk to pour over them, like they did last year. And you try to explain ‘condensed milk’ to someone that doesn’t speak english – no amount of miming covers it, so I just gave up and scoffed them dry. At least they soaked up the curry. 

Continue reading

2009 Thailand #2: Train to Chiang Mai and the Scary Bed Lady

The scene of the almost-crime. The swerving hotel driveway upon which our rickshaw driver tried to tip us.

The scene of the almost-crime. The swerving hotel driveway upon which our rickshaw driver tried to tip us.

We’re now in Chiang Mai, having landed this morning after a 14 hour train ride. Just to revisit yesterday’s email, the guy in the speeding bullet tuk tuk was very unhappy with us because I had bartered his price down so much, then he found out that we were staying at an expensive hotel. That’s why he drove like a madman – a) to try and scare us (and possibly fling us out) and b) to get rid of us as fast as possible. His fast driving combined with his illegal driving manoeuvres (how in the heck do you spell that word?) had traffic police blowing their whistles at him like crazy, but he just ignored them and carried on.That combined with the railway line scenario (complete with traffic piling up behind us, beeping their horns like mad ‘cos they were now stuck on the tracks, the train barping it’s horn and the barrier bells nutting off,) made us feel like we’d just been thrown into the middle of a Jackie Chan movie. We’re still wondering if the police caught our speeding tuk tuk man on the way back and gave him a ticket. Continue reading

2009 Thailand #1: So Far, So Crazy

Good ol' Kao San Road culture.

Good ol’ Kao San Road culture.

After a very long flight, several wines (maybe one too many, but I only did that to help me sleep – honest!), and approximately four hours after we lost all feeling in our backsides, we got to Bangkok. Cripes that’s a big airport! We really wanted to pinch one of the golf-carts the staff drive around in there, but being deported immediately would not have fitted in with our plans, so we walked and used the Jetsons-style moving footpaths instead. Continue reading

Dedicated to Thai Roosters

One morning in Bangkok, we were up quite early thanks to the enthusiasm of at least seven roosters on the other side of the Wat wall. I discovered that I had written a poem about them in my sleep. It goes like this:

Oh cockerels, how keen are thee
To outcrow those who whisper not
Methinks the contest prize should be
A hatchet sharp and boiling pot.

I don’t do mornings…

India – The 2008 Leg #1

Getting to Delhi was as interesting as usual. From Auckland I sat next to a Nepali girl. She was a real sweety. She had no problem leaning against me and at one stage rested on me to have a sleep for a while. I was reminded of the Indian translation of personal space (reasonably non-existant). Someone kept farting on the plane – I wasn’t sure if it was her or the guy next door or what the story was. Pungeant neighbour in very small space. Oh goody.

Great to eat Thai food again. I had pretty much double of everything they offered us. Once again I ended up eating pork while sitting next to a vegetarian. Life is cruel sometimes.

They put me on the Executive Floor at the hotel in Bangkok. The only difference I could see between that and the normal room I get was a hair dryer. I couldn’t sleep until midnight and woke up at about 6a.m. I raided the coffee tray and went down to the poolside to wallow in the luxury of sitting still for a few minutes and chatted with a man who is a Government Official. He is a Personal Analyzer. Whatever that means. He’s about to retire and he and his wife want to buy a house in NZ. I told him the average price there and he didn’t even blink. “That’s okay, I have plenty of money. They have no children. I did consider putting myself up for adoption for a minute there.

Naturally I went shopping here. Since it’s my third time here I know what places to make a beeline for so that saved me a lot of time. Which I needed to use to close my backpack up again. Two bottles of Drambuie take up a lot of room and also weigh a lot. But it meant I could buy some Malibu at the Bangkok airport, so it was worth the bother. All the way to Delhi I had fingers crossed that I could get through with that much alcohol. As a cunning backup plan I had a few $US in my pocket. Amazing what a well-oiled palm will do to cause sudden blindness in an official round these parts. The plane to Delhi made alarming squeaking noises, but when I looked around nobody else seemed to be panicking. I go by the theory that if the staff are looking concerned perhaps it’s time to be alarmed. Otherwise, just ask for another gin or brandy.

At the Delhi airport, once again I was once of the first off the plane and through Customs and last to get my luggage. I was getting a bit concerned, especially when the conveyor belt stopped and alarms went off and signs flashed something about luggage rules. “Oh no”, I thought, “they’ve found my Drambuie”. But then it started again and my luggage wasn’t on it. I whiled away the time chatting with a Christian lady who inadvertently found herself in a debate on Buddhism versus Christianity. Well, she started it!

Off she went eventually, still insisting that I invite Jesus into my heart or else I won’t get entered into God’s admission book, bless her, but I think she felt a little disillusioned about seeing me stand in that particular line one day. Won’t she get a shock if I turn up?

So, I was the last person standing at the conveyor belt. It turned out that my luggage was under somebody else’s huge flat parcel, and there was no chalked cross on it nor were any officials ganging up to converge on me, so the Drambuie and the Malibu got through. Yes!

Paul and Ernie and Leisa were outside to meet me and we all piled into the smallest taxi we’ve ever been in. A guy who looked about fifteen years old got into the driver’s seat, which promptly collapsed backwards onto Ernie, and off we drove into the Delhi traffic with Ernie holding our youthful driver’s seat together. We drove around for a full two hours because this young guy couldn’t speak a word of English, nor could he read Hindi and every time he stopped for directions (about six times, complete with u-turns in Indian traffic, which is a scary thing even when you’re going in the right direction), didn’t actually listen to them and drove off again before the guys he asked had actually finished talking to him! The car kept stalling and we were all wondering if we’d end up pushing our taxi along the highway, and when he did get it going he couldn’t get it into gear for ages. Meanwhile, we have cars, scooters, buses and trucks beeping and veering around us and we’re starting to resign ourselves to a possibly early and likely very messy sort of a death. However, off we’d go again eventually and drive along in 2nd gear until the next u-turn. He got stopped at one stage by Police who gave him a breath test – by that I mean the policeman told the driver to breathe onto his (the policeman’s) palm and the policeman smelled it.

Anyway, we finally got to Paharganj by way of a pure miracle and the help of a rickshaw driver who decided to follow us and make sure the guy didn’t take us to Haryana, which was apparently his first intention, and our free and unasked-for tour of Delhi was at last over. The tour was topped off nicely by the sight of an elephant walking down the Main Bazaar, and even though Ernie, Leisa and I had been squashed together in a sauna disguised as a taxi for two hours, they were rather pleased that they had seen parts of Delhi that they may not otherwise have seen. I was just relieved to have feeling back in my legs and my Drambuie to sup on shortly.

Welcome to India.

2005 #1: In Which I Experience Another Country For The First Time Ever

Well, I made it to Bangkok. The plane ride was very, very long, but fascinating. I had a great seat by the window, just in front of the wing and I made total use of it. Sort of like a goldfish in a bowl without water. I didn’t quite realise how squishy the seating situation is on planes, and it was definitely one of those times when I was grateful for being vertically challenged. Actually, I felt a little sorry for the guy sitting next to me on the plane. He was vegan and they kept feeding me pork. I had to wonder what he was thinking about that.

Bangkok airport is enormous and I realised when I got there that I didn’t have a clue what to do next. I just kept asking people and gradually fumbled through it all. It took a while to find the person who was meeting me and the ride back to the hotel was slightly alarming, but I was generally too tired to care.

I checked into my hotel at about 11.30 last night, had an interesting and frustrating time with the chap at the front desk, resisted strangling him (rather proud of that) and finally found my room after going to 3 wrong floors. I thought I was on the 3rd floor but it turned out I was on the 16th. I’m so glad I don’t have a problem with heights.

A bit of a learning curve with the room “key”, which is an electronic card. It let me in, I turned on the lights, dropped everything and the lights went out. After a bit of fumbling and dropping of a few unwholesome french words, I finally realised I had to leave the card in a slot by the door if I wanted to use anything.

The shower was pathetic, but it was wet, so in I went. Afterwards, of course everything was closed in the hotel, so I felt it was a justified moment to open my bottle of duty-free Malibu and do some quality control on it. Fortunately a little Thai Airways glass had found its way into my bag somehow, so I put it to good use. After being folded up into a little pile on an airplane seat for 12.something hours, it felt pretty*fabulous to stretch out on the poolside lounger and relax and let it sink in that I was actually in another country. Wow! After a while, I braved the lifts again, actually found my room the first time and crashed out on the very hard bed.

This morning I watched daylight arise – no, not a beautiful tropical sunrise in an exotic location, just daylight arriving in an unspecific and ordinary way – and wandered off to see the world around me. There are shops galore in the 2 bottom stories of this place, plus stalls everywhere outside. Thank God they have bridges slung in the air for pedestrians to walk across or else I doubt I wouldn’t have lived long enough to have lunch. It’s Sunday here and most of Bangkok appears to be out shopping or selling. Nobody’s really hassled me though and I certainly don’t feel in any kind of danger, even down the little alleyways, etc.

I did have some Thai lunch – something-dori chicken. I chose not to look too hard at the meat before they cooked it. Nor at the strange-looking creatures in glass cases on the counters. It was a very nice meal and I thoroughly enjoyed it and it’s been an hour now and I’m still okay. *I’m now off to see what else I can see – reluctantly, as this is an air-conditioned cybercafe. A little later I shall fling myself upon the mercy of a taxi-driver and see if I can get back to airport alive. I’ll be spending 4 hours or so there before taking off to Delhi. That’s only 4 hours away by plane, thank goodness, and I’ll be in Delhi late tonight.

Okay, I’m out of here. Wish me luck.