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Published: February 21st 2013
Ajijic to Culiacan. Culiacan to San Carlos. San Carlos to Gila Bend, AZ. Gila Bend to San Diego, CA. San Diego to Rohnert Park. After 19 months of living in Mexico and Central America, we were back where we started. When we first drove to Mexico, we stayed in a Best Western in San Carlos and ate at a restaurant a couple of doors down. Last week on our way back to California, we drove to San Carlos, stayed in the same Best Western (in the same room) and ate at the same restaurant. In fact, we even had the same meal – very fitting!
There are two ways to go in California once you get to Phoenix – I-10 to Los Angeles or I-8 to San Diego. Since I had never been to San Diego, we chose going to San Diego. When driving through Yuma, we had never seen so many RVs! There were thousands! We stopped in San Diego for the night. David had gone to boot camp and was also stationed there in the Coast Guard, so I had the perfect tour guide! We drove to Los Angeles the next morning and saw David’s sister, Brenda. It’s
always fun to see her and we had a great time catching up.
It was quite a trip to be back in our town. David went to his old barbershop and they treated him like the conquering hero. We also spent time visiting our son, Michael, putting a bunch of stuff in storage, replenishing our clothes, having lunch with old work friends, and catching up on necessary sleep. One of the last things we did was put our trusty (sort of!) car in storage. I felt like I was abandoning my old trusty dog to go play with a new fancy puppy. Oh well, life goes on.
After watching three movies, two documentaries and playing one video game, we arrived in Bangkok Monday morning after a LONG but uneventful flight. After going through Immigration, getting our bags and going through Customs, we got money from an ATM and decided to brave the New World – Bangkok, Thailand!
Denis, our new landlord, gave us great directions, including his phone number, with instructions to call before we left the airport. Unfortunately, our cell phone doesn’t work here and there are no pay phones to be had anywhere in Bangkok!
So, with Denis’ directions in hand, we went to the taxi stand. This should be pretty easy; I mean, it’s not like we were in a foreign country where not only do we not speak Thai, we can’t even read their alphabet, and we’re doing this all on no sleep for 30 hours! We found a taxi driver who sort of spoke English and sort of read English, but had no idea where the apartment complex was! We decided that he was the best choice, so we followed him. We had packed light when we came to Bangkok; I only had one suitcase and the computer bag and David had one suitcase and his camera bag. My suitcase did not fit in the trunk of the car; I guess the driver should take his NOS tank out of the car before picking up passengers! My suitcase rode in the front seat while David and I and the computer bag and the camera bag rode in back.
Once our taxi driver got out of the airport, he spoke to other drivers on his radio to find out where our apartment was. Thank goodness someone told him! We pulled up into
our new complex in about 40 minutes. Our total fee for the 40 minute cab ride – 10 bucks! We contacted Denis at the 7-11 and he came right out. Denis, to me anyway, looked like Michael Caine in ‘The Quiet American’; chain-smoking, sweating profusely from either nerves, too many beers the night before or the heat, and driving an Indian motorcycle. He told us in his Irish brogue that once real estate in Ireland went south about eight years ago, he headed here to make money. With 37 apartments, he seems to be doing pretty well. Denis was very helpful; he brought us on a tour of the development, gave us the address of the grocery store, told us how to contact a taxi, and showed us where the “jungle” was. Our new studio is very nice. It is located on the 8th
floor and it overlooks the distant Bangkok skyline. There is also a canal where people can commute or sell their wares in wooden boats. David put his binoculars on the side of the bed so we can always look out when there’s something interesting.
After a 12-hour sleep, we were ready to tackle the grocery
store. We brought the directions to both the grocery store and our apartment, which was a good thing, since neither cab knew where to go and had to stop and ask directions. It was a very different way to shop. We no longer had David’s box of pots and pans, plates and silverware. We now had one pot and one wok. We also didn’t know what kind of foods we would find. We had previously decided that we would be eating breakfasts and dinners at home and eat lunch out. We found cereal pretty easily, but had a struggle finding bread. We also discovered that pre-made packaged stir-fried pork in red curry paste with rice that you can find in 7-11 was pretty darn good!
We got home from the grocery store, had some lunch and decided to visit the “jungle” that Denis told us about. It was quite hard to believe that you were in the central of Bangkok and you seemed to have stepped back in time. Spirit houses lined the cement walkway. The houses were on stilts, there were wooden boats on the canals, and an older man cutting down a palm tree. Very cool.
Wednesday we headed to Khao San Road, the backpackers’ Mecca. Remembering that it is indeed the journey and not the destination, we took the shuttle bus to the Skytrain, the Skytrain to the ferry, and the ferry to walking to Khao San Road. I guess this will be the norm since we are now carless. An elevated train, the Skytrain was originally built as a way to avoid the congested traffic. It is fast, quiet, and efficient, with trains running every four minutes. Did I mention it was air conditioned, also? The ferry was also a very cool way to get around town. Before cars, the Chao Praya River was THE way to get around town! Think of a chicken bus on the water, but for 40 cents for an hour long ride, who’s to complain?
We sat down on the curb to try to get our bearings. I chatted up an older German woman, who, I think, was a little crazy from the heat. She at first came across as mean, but warmed up and not only gave us great directions to Khao San Road (although she did point to the left and say go right), she also
told us that Germany was the best country in the world. We asked her how long she had been in Asia and she said a week. We walked through a beautiful wat (temple), the Wat Chana Songkhram, before reaching our destination.
If you ever wanted something and you couldn’t find it on Khao San Road, you probably didn’t need it, anyway! Ray Ban sunglasses for four bucks? Check. Itching to see that new Bruce Willis movie, but don’t want to go to the theater? They got the bootleg DVDs here. Want a new suit to wear this evening? They can make one for you in three hours for cheap!
After walking the length of Khao San Road and back, we were working up an appetite. There were tons of food stalls lining the road. For our first meal out in Bangkok, we chose a British pub that served bangers and mash and mushy peas – yum! I guess there will be plenty of other times to sample Thai food.
Bangkok is a city of over 10 million people. It is hot, humid, loud, and vibrant with friendly people who don’t think twice about personal space. If the
past days are any indication, we’re really going to like it here.
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