Sunday, February 08, 2009

Asia Adventures - Post 8 (Thailand transit)

Dana, Olga, and I just finished riding bicycles around the ruins of ancient Siam capital city Ayuthaya. It was over 100 degrees and nearly 100% humidity, so we were sweaty, exhausted, and sunburned (hey it is hard to keep that SPF 50 on when you are just sweating like it is your job). We were waiting in the open sweltering hot train station to catch our ride back into Bangkok. We waited, and waited, and waited. I guess having a posted train schedule means nothing and the trains simply show up when the engineers feel like it. Meanwhile, we are panicking because we planned on meeting up with Evan and Gabby, grabbing our bags, and hopping on an overnight train to the island Koh Pha Ngan. When our train finally arrived (an hour late!!!), we made a plan to leave one person at the train station to intercept Evan and Gabby while the other two try to catch them at the hotel. I decided to be the one left at the train station to sit in my own sweat stew in yet another non-air conditioned building surrounded by strangers with probably had not showered in a while. I noticed that the locals were all listening intently to the radio announcements (all in Thai) which of course sounded like quick talking gibberish with a few shouts followed by applause. About an hour before the train was supposed to leave, I asked the ticket attendant the standard questions if it was running on time, what platform, etc. to find all was well (I even saw them start to load the fresh linens for our overnight stay, hurrah!). Shortly later, the whole gang showed up at the train station and I breathed a deep sigh of relief. About 20 minutes before the train departure, I again approached the ticket agent. When I told her my destination, she said “oh, nooo, oh no go there…revolution happened…drivers on strike….south Thailand protesting…you not go”. What!!! She then directed me to a shady travel agent who spoke English and had an office in the train station. He told me that the Prime Minster (or some other diplomat) sold a national telecommunications company to a foreign buyer and didn’t force them to pay taxes. Without the taxes, the people of Thailand won’t see any money from that huge multi-million dollar transaction and now they are furious. So mad in fact that all of the work force in southern Thailand declared a strike. Of course all of this happened in the last hour (well the protests had been occurring the last few days). The train engineer s refused to work and therefore stranded us in Bangkok. The shady travel agent then said his ‘friend’ had a bus who would take us to the island for a price (yeah totally sounded like a cash only scam notorious in Thailand). We had no other options in order to escape Bangkok so we hopped on the shittiest over night bus ever! Instead of beds with fresh sheets which we originally booked, we were stuck with semi-reclining seats that were built for tiny Asian people. Trying to fall asleep at a 45 degree angle while riding on a bus that probably sold its shocks back in the 70’s so didn’t happen. Plus the three of us spent the day sweating our balls off biking around the ruins and hadn’t showered yet (unless you count spending quality time with a couple of wet wipes). After an hour being miserable on the bus, I said, “sigh…a shower and a massage…and bacon…a bacon shower!”

Us, sweaty, tired, and stewing.

Taking a break midway at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere Thailand.

Sign at the bus stop that lets you know where to pee.


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