I was in Vientiane, Laos last week getting a new visa for Thailand. That’s not where I was supposed to be, but it’s where I ended up, almost last-minute. I left the day my visa expired (with the extra 30 day extension), which is something I try not to do.
I was supposed to be in China. I got tired of dealing with their bullshit and decided to push that off for a bit. They are going through a party leadership transfer that has been a bit messy. Not to mention the continued occupation of Tibet and the problems that has caused. The typical paranoia the Chinese seem to exhibit along with these other issues has just meant far more hassle for a visa than I care to deal with.
I wait until Spring of next year and then deal with it. Though, I have to admit, it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside to know that I am a threat to the stability and security of China (they must be one wobbly weak country).
I was going to head to Indonesia instead, but decided against it when I saw the price of flights and hotels. Ouch!
After China I was supposed to be Australia. That was moved to December, but I still get to hang out with my Aussie friend in Cambodia in November, so I am looking forward to that. Also, my ex-partner and good friend will (hopefully) be visiting from Seattle. I haven’t seen anyone from back home in a year, so it will be nice.
So, I ended up in Vientiane getting my visa. I almost didn’t make my train, even though I left at 5:30pm for the 8:00pm train. I literally had to jump on as it started moving. I think that is the first time the train ever left on time (though it was still 3 hours late to Nong Khai. My boyfriend went with me in the taxi so he asked for Hua Lamphong (the railways station), in Thai of course.
Normally the drive would take 30 minutes in moderate traffic, though at 5:30pm I expect it to be 45 minutes. An hour later I noticed things were not right. I started to complain, but my boyfriend, being Thai, just ignored it. Eventually he said something to the driver, but the driver said he had been driving in Bangkok for 30 years. In other words, shut up. I still made my boyfriend ask a few more times and clarify that the driver knew where he was going. Each time, I heard Hau Lamphong and “chai, chai” (yes, yes) and mind you, I rarely can tell if Thai words are correct or not.
Well, after an hour and a half, it was pretty clear we were nowhere near where we needed to be and the meter was over 250 baht, plus toll fees. I was freaking out because it would be almost impossible to make the train and that would mean a new ticket (758 baht) plus 500 baht a day for over-staying my visa.
Finally, my yelling about how we are going to the airport and not the railways station got the driver’s attention as well as my boyfriend’s. A big scene developed and I heard the word “Suvarnabhumi” thrown about quite a bit. See, Suvarnabhumi is the airport, and it nowhere near Hau Lamphong. Believe it or not, Suvarnabhumi and Hau Lamphong actually sound very similar, but NOT TO THAI PEOPLE. To Thais, those two names are like night and day. I wasn’t the one telling the driver where to go, so it was plain what was going on: white guy with backpack… must be going to the airport so I am not going to pay attention anymore and just go the airport.
I have never seen my boyfriend lose his Thai cool before, but he was pretty pissed off (it probably didn’t help that every other word I was yelling was “fuck”). It was actually pretty funny to listen to him explain the difference between Suvarnabhumi and Hau Lamphong to the driver.
Once you are on your way to the airport, though, there is no turning around. At this point I was in the cab for almost two hours and pretty much accepted I would miss the train. I was clear that I wasn’t paying a single baht for that cab, especially after paying for toll fees. The driver tried to make it into our fault, but that wasn’t working out so well, especially since I made my boyfriend clarify several times about the destination.
The driver then said 100 baht would be fine. I said, “Translate this: I will give him 100 baht if he gives me 758 baht for a new train ticket, plus 500 baht for over-staying my visa, plus 100 baht to take the subway and then Skytrain to the place he was supposed to take me in first fucking place!” I don’t think that needed much translation. So, I got a free ride to the airport when I didn’t need one. Even better, when my boyfriend complains how bad my Thai is, I can just point out that his isn’t that good either! =)
After jumping on the train, I needed a beer and ended up meeting a nice guy from the US in the restaurant car. Later, I met another guy from Spain, who lives in Koh Tao and works as a diver instructor. Guess where I am going to visit pretty soon? =) I ended up hanging out with them in Vientiane.
Vientiane hasn’t changed, and is still ridiculously hot—I swear the temperature drops by several degrees when you cross back into Thailand (several people commented on this)—and it’s still a nice little city. I didn’t do any sightseeing. Just applied for my visa, waited and left when I got it. I think Laos should try to get people to stay, but being a communist country I don’t think the tourism bureau is on top of it yet. I was going to stay longer, but Laos is just so expensive. It didn’t make much sense to stay and spend all that money when I had so much work to do, the internet was so bad, and it would cost so much.
Back to Thailand it was. The trip turned out okay, though. I met some cool guys. Drank and smoked way too much (and have spent the last week detoxing Beer Lao and Marlboro’s from my body), and met some more cool people on the train who had Lao whiskey (the strong stuff). Of course, the train was 4½ hours late getting back to Bangkok, so I plenty of time to sleep it off.
What’s next? Well, Bangkok has been loosing its charm for me for sometime now. I have friends here, though the one I enjoyed hanging out with the most has left for the mother country (England). I moved half way around the world so I could have sunshine and beaches, not pollution and rain, anyway. So I decided I will be moving to Phuket next month. At least, that’s the plan. We’ll see how that works out.