Thailand- Protesting in Bangkok near MBK mall 10Feb14

Another hot and humid day in Asia. But at least it’s not rainy season here in Thailand like it is in Indonesia. I’m looking forward to being able to shower and actually dry off, rather than begin sweating again immediately. Even after two months here, humidity still kicks our asses.
We spent the first half of the day on a mission to find Nick some catheters to get him through the remainder of his stay here in Thailand. I leave on the 12th of Feb, he goes home the 27th. It was too expensive to change his flight to be on mine, so he’s just going to stay a little longer.
It wasn’t easy finding the hospital, and it was even more challenging trying to convey what we needed once we got there. After about an hour or so, we walked away with half the amount he needed and decided it was a success and went about our day.
We had the greatest tuk tuk driver ever. His name was Alok, and he loved to laugh!

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Next stop: MBK mall.
Whoa. This mall is crazy. I’d say it’s about fifteen malls crammed into the space of five malls. Seven floors of wall to wall stalls selling anything and everything.

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It’s so big and confusing that they offer a comprehensive map that turns out being of no assistance once you’re actually lost. We spent a lot of time on the electronics floor browsing gadgets, phone accessories, and bootleg movies and software.

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At some point we went outside because we heard a loud speaker and found ourselves right in the middle of a protest rally. Ahhhh, so this is what all the hubbub is about in the media; people demonstrating, rallying together for change, camping out, and showing Thailand’s true spirit of independence. The Thais are very proud that they’ve never been occupied or colonized by any other nation, and are now calling for political change.
Truly, I know very little about what’s going on, but I know some people have been hurt and killed. What Isaw though was anything but violent. People singing, waving flags, making red, white, and blue handicrafts to sell, people camping and sleeping and being fed by a food line. I witnessed togetherness.

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The sweet girls handing out noodles insisted I get a bowl, and they loved to smile for my photos.

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I was offered free coffee as well but was never approached to buy anything. I wandered around the area for 15-20 minutes while Nick stayed in his wheelchair by the mall entrance. I’m very grateful to have had this experience.

Thailand- Bangkok, KhoaSan 9Feb14

I experienced immediate relief upon landing in Bangkok. I just feel more comfortable in Thailand. We made our way back to Chada Guesthouse on KhoaSan Road. Even though it’s not the absolute most perfect location for us, we knew it would be comfortable and reliable in our final days together in BK.
We settled in and had some street pad thai for only 50 baht while enjoying the priceless people watching in Southeast Asia backpacker central.

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KhoaSan Road is like Venice Beach California on hallucinogenics. People come here for shopping and partying. It’s like a free pass to Idiotsville for some travelers who just get wasted and do stupid shit.
The place really comes alive after dark. New vendors begin setting up their merch, food stalls wheel into the street, bars set up tables further and further into the street. Cars become fewer and foot traffic steadily increases as the space to walk decreases. Touts try to stop you every few feet: suit makers, tribal ladies, T-shirt salesmen, ping pong shows, massage, you name it.
We were in bed by 10, ear plugs in, music thumping hard through the walls until well after 2. But just because the music stops it doesn’t mean the party’s over.

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I was up early the next day and back out on the street looking for food by 8am. Party central was now a creepy ghost town. No food vendors, no vendors of any kind. A few restaurants were open. So were the 7-11’s. Traffic flowed beautifully down the street that was a complete chaotic zoo only 6 hours before.

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For this very reason Bangkok and I just aren’t a good fit. I enjoy a brief stay here to prepare for transit, but could never fall in love with the place. Nick and I are just operating at a different level, a slower speed than what Bangkok offers.

Day 3, Bangkok by boat and PatPong

Day 3 was our last day in Bangkok for a while. Still not adjusted to the time difference, I woke up at 5am and could hear people still partying down on the street. At this point in my life I can’t even imagine wanting to get that wasted in a foreign country and risk being robbed or getting sick.
Nick slept off whatever was making him feel shitty the night before, and we hit the streets around 9am for breakfast.
We toured through the adjacent backpacker neighborhood of Rambutri and found omelets and fruit for breakfast.

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And after making our way through the long winding streets we stopped for a beer. Nick needed to lay down for a minute after that long walk. Pure convenience that this bar had cushions laid out to do just that.

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Since it was our last day in BK, we had some errands to do. We saw Angie’s travel agent, Mama, and booked our bus ticket and boat ticket to go down to the islands the next morning. And we booked our flights to Bali in January.

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Nick and I had a few hours to see the city before meeting with Angie and Darren for dinner, so we hailed a tuktuk and drove to a dock of the Chao Phraya river to catch a boat and site-see while keeping Nick off his feet as much as possible. The Chao Phraya runs through Bangkok and serves as a way for the locals to commute easily around town. Our initial idea was to ride the express boat (public transport) but ended up hiring a private driver to take us through an off shooting canal called the Khlong Canal instead.

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Our driver was a little old Thai man with very few teeth who likes to drink liquor in his hot tea. He and the boat “agent” saw Nicks legs and started laughing and pretending to box, thinking that Nick lost his legs in a fight. That’s about the 4th time a local has asked Nick if he lost his legs in a Thai Boxing match. He tells them it was a tuktuk accident.

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We stopped for gas at some dudes house who has an old school gas pump.

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We passed by a few Thai ladies on boats selling trinkets and cold beverages, floating market style, so Nick bought himself and the driver a beer.

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In the evening we met with our friends and hailed a tuktuk across town to a neighborhood called PatPong. There, we saw sights I dare not write about. What happens in Bangkok stays in Bangkok. But don’t worry, we didn’t get in any trouble or piss off any Lady Boys.

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Day 2 in Bangkok – TukTuk & Muay Thai

Fener and I have been charging pretty hard. We were up before dawn because of the 15 hour time difference between here and LA, and were out on the street by 8am. Bangkok really comes alive at night, so seeing the streets this dead in the morning was actually more shocking to me than the craziness of the night before. We were looking for street omelets but settled on PadThai at JoJo’s PadThai, a little vendor who speaks decent English and is eager to please.

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And we had PadThai again for lunch. But this time we split a plate, and had a few bags of fresh mango.

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We finally met with our friends Angie and Darren who we know from the skydiving world. They’ve really gone out of their way to make us feel safe and comfortable here, to acquaint us with the city streets, and help in any way they can. First stop: Thai coffee and Thai iced tea.

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And then more Thai massage. Vacation is rough. Angie took us to her favorite spot, Shuwa Spa, where they all got full body treatments, and I opted for just a 30 minute foot rub outside on the streets. The people watching is incredible here, and there was no way I could be cooped up in a room for 90 minutes after that Thai coffee!

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Darren and Nick got their treatments side by side on the fourth floor. A tiny old Thai man did Nick’s massage and it was ten times better than yesterday. Darren got massaged by a lady boy, and apparently neither of them had any idea until she proudly declared, “I Lady Boy!” Oh Thailand!
We walked the streets for a bit, and then decided to take a brief rest in our rooms before heading out for the evening. This is where we are staying, Chada Guesthouse. You walk down the alley and look at all the westerners eating their gross Subway sandwiches (they sell beer there too!) and then duck into a little door and go upstairs. We are on the second floor

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On our way to the massive MBK mall to check out a free Muay Thai fight, Nick experienced his first tuktuk ride. We lucked out and got right in the middle of rush hour traffic!

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The MBK mall is ridiculous! I shopped there ten years ago and it blew my mind. Tonight though, we only hung around outside to see the people kicking each others asses Muay Thai matches. A white kid whooped a Thai kid, and two chicks duked it out for 5 full rounds.

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And then we witnessed some seriously massive mammaries in Bangkok.

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We got back to KhoaSan Rd around 9pm and we were DONE! Well, almost. I had to grab some street food to take upstairs. Meat kabobs for 10baht each ($.33), and a fried banana pancake with chocolate syrup for 25baht. Soooooooo yum I can’t stand it.

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I think the jetlag and nonstop hustle caught up with Nick. He wasn’t feeling too well last night and fell right asleep with no dinner except pain meds. His legs were bothering him by the end of the night, but he checked for blisters and found nothing. I think the adrenalin is wearing off now and his body is saying REST! So, he’s sleeping soundly despite the bumping music out on the street. Thank you earplugs!

Feners first day in Bangkok

The Fenwalters have set off on an epic Asian adventure together.

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After a cramped and uncomfortable 15 hour flight we surfaced in China, where Fener saw his first squat toilet, got a $10 hot chocolate, and choked down a $2 warm beer from a vending machine before flying to Bangkok.

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We got a taxi from the airport, where the driver and counter person spoke zero English except for carrying a piece of paper that said PROTEST. There’s a bit of civil unrest happening here at the moment, so we weren’t sure if they were telling us we were foolish for going through that part of town, or that they couldn’t get us where we wanted to go. Oh well, what’s the worst that can happen? So we hopped in and enjoyed the views on our 45 minute drive across Bangkok in a hot pink taxi, seeing not a sign of anything other than ordinary Thai life. Destination backpacker melting pot KhoaSan Road.

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We found a hotel immediately with a king bed and private bathroom for $700baht per night ($21 bucks). This is twice what I wanted to spend, but with no reservations and heavy bags in tiny alleyways and hectic streets, we decided it best to just settle in and begin enjoying the city. Chada Guesthouse is cute and clean. So clean, they even made Nick take off his shoes to go upstairs to our room

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Within 20 SECONDS of being on the street, Nick got persuaded into following an Indian fortune teller to a side alley. He promised to tell Nick his Moms name. Sucker. These touts can smell a new tourist from a mile away. And for 20 baht the dude guessed Nicks favorite color instead. Wow!

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We sat down for lunch at a slightly touristy spot and Nick immediately got his first cultural lesson in patience while communicating through a language barrier. He ordered a tall beer and this is what he got: a $30 tower!

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He was angry and wanted to leave, but ultimately decided to invite strangers to come drink with us. Free beer=instant friends!

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We enjoyed beef panang curry, chicken green curry, sticky rice, and coconut mango sticky rice for dessert. Oh, and a fried scorpion.

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We walked around the streets for a little while and eventually ducked into a massage place and each enjoyed an hour long Thai massage. My girl beat me up pretty good, which I appreciated after the two days of travel. My feet and ankles swelled up so much I felt like my skin would explode. Nick didn’t know what to expect from his first Thai massage (and frankly I’m not sure his masseuse knew what to expect either. Probably her first time massaging a double amputee). You keep your clothes on during Thai massage and they use pressure points and pull your body in every direction. It’s awesome, and well worth the $7 for an hour. When I was in Thailand ten years ago I was getting two hours for $4. I have a feeling Nick will be treating himself often.
We had plans to meet with our friends Angie and Darren to go out for my birthday, so we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and relax. Relaxing turned into a nap, which turned into a full nights sleep. Oops. Guess we didn’t play the jetlag game properly. Overall, a very cool first day in Bangkok. One down, 66 more days to go.

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