Friday, May 3, 2013

The Journey to my New Home


May 3, 2013. 1:20PM
Somewhere in Thailand

I'm sitting in seat #1 on the VIP bus from Phuket to Bangkok.
Seat One is THE place to ride on one of these double decker
luxury cruisers. Seat One is immediately above the driver, front
row of the second deck.  I can stretch my legs all the way out
in front of me, and I have a beautiful view of the countryside
ahead. The AC is strong and the road has been very smooth.

 

I'd like to be able to write about being stuck
on a Third World, diesel-belching, Eastern European-made bus,
surrounded by peasants carrying chicken cages and maybe with piglets running freely through the aisles. That's sorta of the romantic Western view of bus travel in the tropics. 



Actually, I don't want to be able to say that.  This is much nicer. 


We just pulled out of our mid-trip rest stop, so I guess I'm
about halfway to Bangkok. Although I slept through half of it,
the journey up Thailand's southern isthmus has been surprising
in it's emptiness.  There's certainly been plenty to look at. 
Hills jut up out of the jungle nearly vertically with weirdly
rounded tops. They look like 50 meter tall stupas with trees
on them. The traffic has been sparse. A dwelling or collection
of buildings cluster on the side of the 4-lane highway every
half klick or so.  Just as I realize that we're passing through
an actual town (we're an express; we don't stop), we're through
it!  No rice paddies. No agriculture. Just trees. The trees have
been planted in regular spacing; it is horticulture.
I don't know if the trees are teak, sandalwood or rubber, but
tending trees doesn't support nor require a lot of people.
Right now as I type, it's acre upon acre of thick palm trees
(for palm oil, I assume).

Perhaps I notice the emptiness as I cannot help but compare this
place to what I remember of Indonesia's island of Java, where I
lived for 2 years so long ago. Java is one of the most densely
populated places on Earth. 

I'm missing my camera so much it hurts.  Watching the Japanese
tourists on the beach yesterday, I kinda scoffed at how intensely
they photographed themselves and the environment.  It was almost
like they were going places not to experience the place itself,
but to have their picture taken there.  I don't want to be that
way; I don't want me making the recording of an event take away
from seeing, smelling, feeling and living that experience in all
of it's richness.  That said, I feel compelled to record my
experience because I am so inspired by them.
__________

There's a small mountain range off in west that I see from
time to time as I look up from my typing.  On the other side
of those hills lies the country of Myanmar, formerly known as
Burma and before that, part of British India.  One of the cool
things to think about as I begin my 5-month teaching contract is
what I'm going to do next. Deciding to move overseas, getting rid
of all my stuff in America and learning to be a TEFL teacher,
these have all been hard things to do. Now, however, I can reap
the rewards. For example, Myanmar, which had been one of the most
closed countries in the world, is opening up to the rest of the
globe. I bet they need English teachers over there. 

If I were writing to you from there, I suspect it might be from
a bus with live chickens running around on it...

...Maybe I'll stick around Thailand for a while.

_______________

4:30 PM
Somewhere called Pranburi

I think we've said goodbye to the mountains, now blurry in
the afternoon haze. Their silhouttes fading off to the north as
the road makes a slow bend to the right, to the northeast, to
Bangkok.  Hopefully, I will see those mountains again soon.
I'm looking forward to living in Bangkok, but I'd like to be
able to get away from the city when I can.

It occurs to me that when we crossed over the bridge from Phuket
onto the mainland, I was on the Eurasian continent for the first
time. Indonesia is made up of islands.  Phuket is an island. Even
my transit stops in Singapore and Hong Kong were islands... err,
I stopped in Korea on the way here, but just for a minute...

Theoretically, I could drive from here to Tehran, Paris or
Vladivostok.  Berlin, Jerusalem or Ulaan Bator.  This is one
big chunk of land where the most people live and the most history
has happened. All my ancestors come from here, from somewhere over
there (gesturing towards the now disappeared western mountains).
Yes, it feels a little like coming home.  I do believe in
reincarnation.  I believe that my soul has lived many individual
lifetimes, and most of them have been here, on this
supercontinent.

We're rolling into Hua Hin. I remember that name from the map.
Three hours to Bangkok.
 __________

11:27 PM - A Hotel Somewhere in Bangkok

As it turned out, I misplace the paperwork where I had the
hotel's address, so here Will (another American whose going to
be teaching at the same school as I) and I are at one of several
of Bangkok's bus stations with no idea of how to get to the hotel
or even it's name. Yeah, I'm not the best when it comes to
planning and travel.

After wandering the bus station looking for information booth,
finally we get directed to an internet cafe in a bookshop
where I can retrieve the e-mail confirmation of my reservation.
Then, we look for a taxi.  None of them wanted to take us to
Sukhomvit, which we had no idea was how far or in which direction.
Finally, with the help of the security guards, one driver agrees
to drive us clear across Bangkok to our hotel. His name was Mr
Chai.  Chai in Thai is the word for "Tea", so our taxi driver was
Mr "T"... I pity the fool!

He was helpful in figuring out the discrepancy I had in my mind
between where I though the hotel I booked was located and where
it actually IS located. See, I knew I needed to be on the BTS line,
that's the elevated train system here, but it turns out we're
on the wrong BTS line... there are several. It's not so bad in that 

I'm only about 3 miles from the area I intended to get a hotel, but
as I've already learned from Mr T the taxi driver... 3 miles in Bangkok
can be a long way...  

2 comments:

  1. So sorry you lost your camera, and ended up at the wrong hotel location. Was the paper work also in the back pack? It sure doesn't seem like the school helped you very much. How are the younger ones doing? Did your ex room mate get an assignment? I just got home last night. I will email you tomorrow.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Let's see, to answer your questions... No, it was elsewhere. Yeah, there could have been more support in the travel department. They did buy our tickets for us (with our money) and I wouldn't have had that amazing seat otherwise. Everyone's okay, as far as I know, and yes, he got an assignment.

    ReplyDelete

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