Sunday, October 21, 2012

Koh Samet, Thailand

As part of my trip to Vietnam my BFFL Jon and I planned a trip to Thailand. First a few days on a small island, Koh Samet, then a few in Bangkok.

fruit stand on the island
Jon and I arrived in Bangkok in the afternoon. Right now it's a Buddhist holiday where a lot of Thai people go vegetarian, so we stopped for food in the airport cafeteria and got a big plate of spicy stuff. Only a few bucks and a welcome change from Japan where everything is expensive and filled with meat and fish.

We caught a bus and I made Jon do all the work because he's been to Bangkok and Koh Samet before. We took a 2 hour shuttle to this little bus stop on a highway. From there we would catch another bus in an hour or so. We thought we might miss the last ferry to the island so we tried to hail a taxi with no luck. Two Australian ladies we waiting with us and we all became best friends. Jon did, anyway. They kept calling it a "wasted day" because of travel, which I thought was funny. I guess when you have a tiring job back home you stress out about relaxing.

While waiting we saw a dog get hit by a car. He was OK. There are a bunch of wild dogs around Thailand. I'm surprised I'm not scared of them. I'm scared of my mom's dog. I don't know what my deal is on this trip with not having panic attacks. Cars, airports, boats and dogs are my biggest anxiety inducers (oh and manatees, but they don't grow here I don't think). Maybe I used up all my panic before I left Japan. Maybe I don't care anymore.

We caught another bus and it was great. There was a cute kid in front of me doing cute stuff. There was a crazy toilet with a bucket of water sloshing around that you're supposed to use to wipe or flush or both. The Australian ladies had to use it. One did successfully, one reported that she failed.

Once we arrived at the pier it was already dark. We bought a ferry ticket but were told we had to wait for 20 people for it to leave. There were 10 of us and no one around. We waited for about an hour and when no one else showed up I told Jon and the Australians I'll buy the last 10 tickets (about $16). I made Jon go tell the guy that (don't make me talk to people!) and he said he'd ask everyone to pay about $1.50 more if we wanted to leave now. Everyone was willing and relieved. I wouldn't stop talking about how great I was on the whole ride to the island.

At Koh Samet Jon and I stayed in a little beachside bungalow. For this trip I told Jon I want to just go somewhere cheap, on the beach, and with fruity drinks. He delivered. It was nice and seemed like more of a place where Thai people go on vacation than somewhere where whiteys fill the streets with their fanny packs.

breakfast on the beach

We stayed two nights and ate lots of foods, drank lots of drinks, swam on a deserted beach, and got crazy Thai massages. The whole thing cost me less than $200. You can be jealous, I don't mind.

Thai lunch

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

an afternoon in Seoul

I arrived and my first thought was "I wonder if they have a Taco Bell here?" I am the worst tourist. I had a few hours to kill before heading out to my final destination, Hanoi. I stopped by information and got directions to an area Jon recommended for eating and some sightseeing. There were some cute window washer scaling the building. I didn't take a picture. One of my biggest regrets.

I immediately noticed everyone was more aggressive than in Japan. Ladies were swinging their arms around pointing, people were rushing for buses instead of hanging back to make sure they weren't cutting anybody off. It's not a negative thing, people just seem less fragile and nervous. I don't even know if they were Korean (there's no way to tell, right?)
It's not a Japanese animal, I know, but Japan reminds me of a panda. It's so fickle and delicate it is running itself into extinction. Koreas seem hardier. There is something amazing and artistic about being delicate like Japanese, though.

These are just generalizations, but Japanese love to generalize themselves anyway. "We Japanese" was always my adult students' favorite phrase to start of a lecture.

Corbusier is alive and well in Korea. The scenery on the bus ride from the airport was made up of stacks and stacks of identical housing units.

Dunkin Donuts. This is the first place I went. I can't help it, I'm from the east coast. And I was a little lost and needed to spend time with my map. (Shut up unless you've lived away from home over 5 years.)

K-Pop blasting on and off intermittently. I didn't get a donut, but I smelled them and I admired them. I couldn't find the trash when I was done, but then a Korean lady stood up and couldn't find it either, so I felt better and just brought my cup back up to the counter.

It was a beautiful, sunny fall day. I wasnt even sweaty carrying around my bag. I took off my earbuds and listened to all the gobbledygook. I've long since lost the wonder over hearing Japanese people speak, since I can usually pick up enough words to know what they're saying.

I remember last time I was in Korea a woman took Motto and I out to eat. She offered to pay and we insisted we pay some. She got really upset at that. I guess it implies she can't afford to pay. While in Japan it's customary to offer to pay and refuse gifts over and over, even if you know you'll let someone pay for you (cause you're a goddamn lady).

I exchanged ¥5,000. I paid 10,000 whatever currency Korea has for the bus. The coffee was 3,500. I have no idea what those numbers convert to, but people say Korea is cheaper than Japan, so I'm sure it's fine. 

Using a paper map without GPS or google is a pretty fun adventure. Until you have to pee.

I gave up looking for the restaurant I was initially seeking and found a toilet in an open air art museum. Then I remembered something about Korean toilets. They don't flush toilet paper. Pretty gross. Lots of flies.

I was in the artsy area, Insadong. Lots of little galleries. I found some cute shops and bought socks and paper dolls.

Was thinking of going back to the airport and sit around there and not miss my flight, but ducked in to Starbucks to see if they had free wi-fi. No dice! Well, half dice. Snake eyes. I had to enter my name and passport number into a site, and I did so like someone who has never experienced identity theft. It didn't work though.

Staff didn't say thank you or smile anywhere, but this was most jarring at Starbucks, the friendliest place on Earth.

There was a wild baby roaming around. No leash policy on babies in Korea. He came up and wanted to look at my MacBook. He tugged on some lady's skirt. Then he hung out with a young couple and played "peek-a-boo." Then his mom found him. Then he wandered some more. Then he walked behind the counter. I don't know, maybe he worked there.

Yes, my (maybe only) time in Seoul was spent in two American-based coffee shops. Yes, I had my MacBook and iPhone out on the table while I got high on caffeine. But I wouldn't want to hang out with someone who thought they were too cool during international travel to do what they like to do.