After two mostly sleepless nights worried about the trip, I finally headed off to Bangkok today to visit the U.S. Embassy. As previously reported, I need to get an income affidavit for my 1-year visa process. I have an 8:30 appointment at the Embassy in the morning.
Traveling with just my backpack this trip and managed to stuff slacks, three shirts, socks, belt, underwear, laptop and associated gear, flip-flops, toiletries, water bottle into it and was ready to go at 9:30. I did forget my iShuffle so will have to do without music in my ears as I walk around.
The songtoew dropped me off across the street from the minivan loading site and, as luck or good timing would have it, there was a minivan waiting to go. The one-way fare is 180 baht ($6), but the only room they have for luggage is the seating area. So you either have to put your bag in your lap or between your feet, or pay a full fare for your luggage to have it’s own seat. Two of the seats did end up being purchased for luggage. My backpack sat between my very crunched up legs.
The van carried 13 passengers and the driver, and there was even less space than today’s airplanes provide. It’s about a 3-hour trip so I was prepared to be uncomfortable for awhile. A Thai woman sat next to me and a young American sat on my left in a single seat. Four young Canadians, two men and two women, boarded last and three had to be squeezed into the back seat with their luggage. Two of them are visiting the other two, who are teachers working in China. The American is working as an intern in Bangkok but attends American University classes both in Bangkok and Hua Hin, so he commutes twice weekly. He lived in Hua Hin for 6 months previously.
I have to say that I’m finding myself the one in these situations who begins conversations, same as in Hua Hin. And I’m the reticent one. But I opened them all up for some chatter. The girl living in China made sure everyone know she has a small bladder and that we needed to make a pit stop on the way. The American and I assured her they would stop somewhere.
Well, we did stop after about 45 minutes, but it was to drop off a passenger and add another one. Then there was another stop and another exchange of one passenger on and off. She was off the van right away on the first stop and had to walk off somewhere to pay 5 baht for a toilet. I was hoping the delay wouldn’t cause me problems.
In addition to being crowded, the ride was bumpy and the driver had a habit of easing off and pressing down on the gas pedal every second or two. It had the effect of us stopping and starting every two seconds while we were going 60 mph. Very annoying.
We finally did make a pit stop we figure only happens because the driver needed to get gas for the return trip. Interesting 2-bowl outside urinal for the men.
We were on the outskirts of Bangkok by then and soon were at the drop-off point, which is somewhere near the Victory Monument but I couldn’t see it anywhere, so no picture. Out on the street, I flagged down an unmetered taxi, showed him my destination and he said 300 baht ($10-keep in mind the 200-kilometer ride to Bangkok only cost $6). Not being familiar with what the fare should be, I agreed. The driver was very talkative and wanted to drive me back to Hua Hin tomorrow for 2,500 baht. I said I was using the minivan, but I may buy two seats going back to stretch the legs.
I’m going to spend a bit on taxi fares, it appears, as I need to take three tomorrow.
Traffics was horrendous and chaotic. We passed the king’s palace and some other places my driver made sure to point out like a tour operator. He finally let me out on a street with no hotels in sight, pointed to a sign on the top of a nearby building down an alley and said that was my hotel. So I walked the 100 yards, waited for four Chinese students to register and then found out there is more than one Sawasdee Inn here and I was at the wrong one.
Luckily, the second one was about a block away and I finally found it, registered and checked out my room. Now, I didn’t pay much for the room, although I did upgrade it online, but it’s a dive. Not recommended generally for women. For some reason, there are three beds. I assume backpackers probably frequent this place and the room would be fine for them to share. There seem to be a lot of backpackers here.
As I examined the room, I noted there was no chair to sit at for typing so I’m using a small chest of drawers. At least there’s A/C, a frig and a TV. But there did not seem to be a shower. I couldn’t believe it and thought maybe there was a shared shower area so I went looking with no luck. Back downstairs, the clerk said there was a shower so I went back up and did find it. The bathroom is maybe 5 feet square, with the shower(?) so close to the toilet that you almost have to stand on the toilet to use it. Oh well, it’s just one night.
Of course, when I come to a new place one of the first things I do is walk around the neighborhood. It appears I’m smack in the middle of a tourist area off Khaosan Road. There are several streets nearby full of shopping, massage parlors, tattoo parlors, restaurants and bars. I won’t have to go far tonight for entertainment, although it will probably be stuffed silly with Westerners, not Thais.
It was about 2 pm and I hadn’t eaten all day as yet so looked for someplace interesting. I found a nice outside seat and waited to order, and waited. The prices were high but I figured that would be the case anywhere in this area, but bad service I won’t tolerate, so I left and continued walking. There was a lot of interesting clothing and souvenirs on sale everywhere, but this is a tourist area and the prices are high. There even were Sikh Indian men trying to stop passersby to read their fortunes. I passed, even though one said “Hello, lucky man” as I passed by.
I then wandered down a less busy street that was lined on one side mostly by silver shops, body jewelry shops and tattoo parlors. Having bought silver in Yogyakarta, I knew the prices here would be much higher, and I don’t wear any jewelry, nor am I apt to get a tattoo.
Finally, I found a side street that had some Thai traditional sidewalk restaurants and sat down outside one to have their Pad Thai with shrimp. I didn’t realize until recently that pad Thai is something of an iconic Thai dish and this was my first chance to try it. As with all the Thai restaurants like this one, the food came out fast, along with my Chang beer. There were only two shrimp in the meal but it was good. For more detail about this dish, go to Hua Hin Expat News. That’s my new website launched last night. The food was 65 baht, as was the beer, about half what I would have been charged by the restaurant that dawdled in serving me.
I will post about this evening and tomorrow’s exciting happenings at the Embassy and going home later.
As I said, I’ve created a new website for my new home and will see if I can create some business and some buzz with it when I return. I started work on this site while I was holed up in North Carolina and put the finishing touches on it in Hua Hin as I learned more about the town in person. There are several other Hua Hin websites already online but none of them posts current news, as I will be doing daily like I did with BatamExpat.com (Which is still for sale, BTW). There’s also a poorly done weekly print flyer that is mostly advertising and results of the local pool, golf and dart leagues.
Finally, as I left Hua Hin this morning I had to text my landlady that the shower water heater wasn’t heating and the refrigerator wasn’t refrigerating. She will address those on my return.