February 6th, 2003

all of a sudden, I found myself ... in love with the world

So I fled. I had heard that a few days of Bankok (kungthrep to the locals) was enough for most. I just didn't expect it to hit so abruptly. I packed my bags, checked out, and went to the Myanmar (Burma to the old schoolers) Embassy. My visa was approved, I'm going to Myanmar. But I've learned that I have a few extra days between when Sue arrives (10th) and when she wants to head to to Myanmar. Which means I've completed all my necessary tasks, and I can go play. "Everyone into the water!" (That includes you araceli!). So I caught the first cab that passed the embassy, and headed for the bus station. Or so I thought. The driver and I just couldn't communicate. He eventually found a police station on the corner and asked them for help. He got some, but I got spooked, so I asked him to let me out. I wandered back to the police, got a bit more oriented and was eventually put in a cab with explicit instructions. All I knew was that I wanted to hit Hat Khao Lak, a small town on the west coast famous for being near the Similan & Surin islands.

Hat Khao Lak is in the Phang-Nga province. I didn't realize this until minutes before getting on the bus, but there is also a city named Phang-Nga in Phang-Nga. Think about NY, NY with about a millionth the population. However much like NY, NY no one in either place speaks a language I understand. Yo! So I've just booked a ticket for the wrong place. Sort of. It's like buying a ticket from Maine to NYC, when what you really want is a ticket to Albany. (but 30% longer)

I wait a few hours, hit the 'net and eat some pad thai (first time ever, in the country or out!). I'm of course still unaware of the ticket mixup. I ponied up the extra cash for the 1st class bus (but not the VIP), because I figured AC and a bathroom might be nice for 11 hours. Pop into 7-11 and grab a loaf of bread and a phone card. I still haven't talked to the dive shop, and I don't know if they still exist, and if there will be any trips that work with my schedule. But as you've probably noticed by now a little thing like that isn't going to keep me from rushing headlong into an 11 hour bus trip. 15 minutes before boarding I realize the problem, but I also read in the lonelyplanet guide that "any bus passing by will stop at Hat Khao Lak if you ask". I asked, or at least I tried. Turns out my ability to read and write romanized thai is pretty good. However Thai's ability to read romanized Thai, and my ability to pronounce it are both pretty pathetic. Hey I'm only a few days in, and its getting better. Along the way I got to speak a bit with my seat neighbor. And when we pulled in for a food and rest stop she bought a bunch of these rose-apples. I had never had them but they where somewhere between an apple and appear and it was a joyous moment. At the rest stop one of the younger women at my tables spoke english pretty well, and would ask me questions which I would try to answer in Thai, then she would clarify for all the confused ladies around me. It was pathetic and absolutely joyous. It was the longest and most casual chance I've had to practice my thai, and I think it did my pronunciation a world of good.

Regardless of my new camaraderie, the bus didn't stop at Hat Khao Lak. They seemed to understand where I wanted to go, but in the end I wound up in Phang-Nga, Phang-Nga instead of Hat Khao Lak, Phang-Nga. Whatever. I still didn't have a boat booked, since the only number I have for the dive shop was a cellular (in thailand you can tell by area code) and it was constantly out of range. I found a hotel in Phang-Nga for 150baht per night (~$3.50 per night). 3x the size of my last one, private shower and western style toilet. Private balcony and roof access. Since I had been stinking of dried sweat the whole way, and feeling guilty about it (would you want to sit next to me when I had showered but not changed for 3 days in Thai humidity?) I hopped in the shower first thing, and hand washed my clothes with a bar of soap. When I finished I was about to crawl into bed when I realized the sun was rising. It was 6am. I had managed to sleep a tiny bit on the bus, but not for more than 3 hours.

Well, for reasons that my now exhausted mind could not comprehend I didn't feel tired. I got up went to the roof and took some pictures of sunrise, and this little town nestled in steep mountains waking up. Monks walked from shop to shop being given rice. Market stalls were being setup. And some video of a sunrise that just never seemed to break the way I had hoped. I found a internet cafe, sound a different phone number for the dive shop and made a reservation. Not quite the one I had hoped for, but it would do. A 30 baht slow meandering bus ride, and a 300 baht cab ride later I wa at the dive shop. But it seems that 10 others have sprung up around it, so I shopped around and found a 4 day 4 night all expenses (food and gear rentals, but no bar) package to the islands I wanted for 15,800 baht. Yes thats about $376 for 4 days. And trust me on this one, diving isn't cheap. The boat leaves tomorrow, so I found a place for the evening 200 baht and have even found a nearby beach bonfire party for this evening. Ocean Beach eat your heart out.

Folks I love you all but its been a very hectic couple of hours. I'm gonna go grab a few hours sleep before this vicious cycle begins again.