Well, despite some concerns, I did manage to find my way back to my hotel in Tokyo, and thus wended my way back to the airport and thence to Bangkok. (I was, however, mortified to discover that I had spent two hours searching for a cybercafe about ten minutes from the hotel. Maybe I can buy a sense of direction in Bangkok; everything else seems readily available, and I could sure use one.)
Anyway, after a little fuss, I also managed to find my hotel, Suk 11 Hostel (http://www.suk11.com ) . It’s small but homey, the rooms are bare-bones but clean–bigger than my (considerably more expensive) room in Tokyo, but without the fancy bedding, etc. (Heck, I’ve paid $180/night for worse accommodations in Napa.) And I love the way they’ve done up the corridors–it’s impossible to describe, but I’ll take a picture tomorrow and post it, after I get my flashcard reader drivers installed on their computer.
(Oh yes, I forgot to mention my personal favorite reason for this place: they have a computer in the common rooms, so I don’t have to go hunting cybercafes. Yes, I know I’m pathetic, but I’m also a compulsive writer. You have no IDEA how long it takes to write things down longhand, in a paper journal.)
Not much in the way of notes on Bangkok, since I only just got here, but I saw a bit of the city on the way in. I’m not sure why the guidebooks say Westerners find it overwhelming–it reminds me of Taiwan, rather enjoyable really with the narrow, winding streets packed with street vendors selling everything from live chickens to (knock-off) designer clothing (sometimes right next to each other), people hanging laundry from their balconies, etc. As long as you don’t mind cars whizzing by and the occasional narrow miss (it just makes life a little sweeter knowing you could be run over by a rampaging motorcyclist at any moment), it’s actually pretty darn cool.
The only thing that *did* give me a double-take was the elephant I saw standing on the street corner. I have absolutely no idea why an elephant would be standing on a street corner in Bangkok (sounds like the start of a joke, doesn’t it?)–so, obviously I have to find out tomorrow. I understand that there’s a major problem with unemployed elephants, though–they were using a lot of them for logging, but the government banned elephant logging a few years back, so now they have a lot of elephants no one knows what to do with.
(I can’t help visualizing a bunch of sleazy elephants lounging about on street corners and in cafes, putting in job applications, filling out unemployment forms, and generally looking for trouble. Do elephants get a separate line at the unemployment office? 🙂 )
Ah, but the serendipity part. I was in the hotel in Tokyo, waiting for my shuttle, and I struck up a conversation with one of my fellow stranded travelers. He asked me what I did, I said, “Traveling,” he asked where, one thing led to another and we wound up swapping cards. Lo and behold, it turns out he’s working for San Francisco Public Health, infectious diseases division, and why is he in Bangkok? He’s presenting his WHO report on the state of AIDS in Burma. Ooh, neat. So, I worked my magic, he gave me a bunch of references/possible contacts, and he’s going to try calling me this week while he’s in town, so we can get together for dinner. If that doesn’t work out I may try emailing him once he gets back, it sounds like interesting stuff even if it doesn’t pan out here. But if it does work out, I’m pretty sure he could introduce me to a bunch of people around the area, especially in Burma. which would be way cool.
I’m thinking about going to Burma (Myanmar) now, btw–he recommended an old friend of his who’s also a travel agent, specializing in trips to Burma, & offered to connect me up to some other folk he knows there. For this one I may do a guided tour, though–I’ll email the travel agent, and see. Who knows where that might take me?
Tomorrow morning I’m also going to try calling Herve’s friend Ben–we were thinking of getting together on Tuesday at an American expat bar, where he’s going with a bunch of his friends. If he knows how to ship a yak, or knows someone who knows, you can all cower in terror. (You thought I was just going to send you postcards? Oh, the naivete. )
Although, it might not be a yak. It has suddenly occurred to me that Thailand has an elephant oversupply…and elephants are way cooler than yak. 🙂 Joe has helpfully pointed out that one can get a 40’x40’x40′ shipping container moved to the U.S. for as little as $1500…how many elephants can you fit into a shipping container? a Volkswagen Beetle? and what would be the correct packing algorithm for same?
–okay, I’m obviously getting punchy now, so I’ll stop here and go to bed. More tomorrow, once I’ve had a chance to get some sleep, get some food, and nose my way around a bit. 🙂
Oh yeah, one more note on Asia. This place doesn’t believe in decaf. Tomorrow, I go on a quest for Sanka–but I may have to start developing a caffeine tolerance. *That* should be interesting, since caffeine makes me hyper. (I mean, even *more* hyper. Hard to believe, isn’t it? 😉 )