OK, I’m guilty. I’ve been neglecting 2 Bags and a Pack. Not intentionally, though. It’s just that now that I’m at least temporarily-permanently residing in Batam, Indonesia, there hasn’t been much to write about. Plus, I have been busy trying to start up a new company in Batam, have totally redesigned my aimlink.com corporate site, and also created a new website/blog as part of my new business venture (batamexpat.com).
But 2 Bags will be hitting the road once again in three weeks, and even though it will be a short trip of six days, I will guarantee readers some great photography, and possibly a good story or two.
The trip is to Bangkok, Thailand, to meet up with a good friend, Jack, who is traveling from his rocky mountain retreat in Arizona to experience Asia for the first time. He doesn’t like me giving too much detail about his activities (maybe the CIA is watching, I don’t know) but when you sidekick with me you had better expect some publicity. After all, that’s what I do – write and photograph.
Jack is a super salesman who moved his life to Jaco, Costa Rica, about 10 years ago. He built and managed two under-the-taxman’s-radar restaurants in Jaco. The second one was called Adventure Dining, and built on the mountain range overlooking the west coast of Costa Rica.
Jaco is where we met, after I moved there from a one-month experiment in Quepos, about an hour south of Jaco. I, too, had come to Costa Rica to live the good life in retirement. Of course, neither one of us was ready for retirement, although three years after I left to start my world travels, Jack decided to relocate back to the U.S. He and his dog, Rio (also from Jaco) live alone in a remodeled mobile home in the craggy desert of Arizona. Burros and rattlesnakes are their companions.
My stories of Southeast Asia, however, apparently are getting him off his rear side and out of his box to make a trip to Batam to see what all the fuss is about. But first, we will join up in Bangkok, which, given our history, promises to be a helluva ride. I still remember our full-of-excitement visa run to Nicaragua with a smile.
Our itinerary includes six days in the heart of Bangkok, in a condominium tower right on the main river in downtown (it’s flood season so hope that will not be a problem). We have what I would consider an expensive 3-bedroom condo, fully equipped, including balconies overlooking the city. Jack likes to go upscale, me not so much, but what the heck!
I have been to Bangkok three times. Once was a few years ago, just passing through, on my way to Chiang Mai in the interior. Twice I went there on R&R when I was fighting in Vietnam. Those two trips, one taken alone and the second with an Army buddy, were certainly enlightening and fun. It was really my first experience with Asian culture, as my stay in Vietnam actually offered me very little contact with the inhabitants.
I remember bringing a small film camera (digital was a long way from being invented) and took quite a few photos, mostly forgettable unless you are a family member. This time I will be loaded with my Nikon and two zoom lenses, and plenty more experience.
There will be too much to do in Bangkok in six days. The temples are extraordinary, the markets are colorful, the city is a mass of humanity, and the nightlife (oh, the nightlife) is to die for.
Last time I was there I rented a car and driver for a week for $30. Drivers get $40-50 a day now. I don’t remember what I paid for a hotel room but it certainly was far cheaper than the condo we have reserved. But the airfare for me was cheap ($170) and the food will be inexpensive – but delicious (if you stay away from the chilis).
Once we’re done terrorizing Bangkok (maybe I shouldn’t use that phrase in a Google-CIA search world), we will return to Batam, where Jack expects to spend a week before flying back to Bangkok, where he may venture further to Pattaya or fly back home. During his visit to Batam, we will go to all the usual places (for me) so he can “feel” the lifestyle. Bangkok is a Disneyland, Batam is more real.
I’m sure there will be a few stories to tell (to Jack’s embarrassment) from Batam, as well. And since he will be staying in an apartment right next to mine in the heart of the entertainment district (kampung bule). some of those stories and photos could be interesting, if not culturally relevant.
And to add further embarrassment to my friend (I warned you, Jack), I’ve added a few pictures (below) of him from Costa Rica, and one recent selfie, where he is wearing the ear buds I had mailed to him to carry over the Pacific for me. Good times a-coming!