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Around the World in 210 Days

Big Gulps, Big Fish, and Big Scratches

THAILAND | Thursday, 20 March 2008 | Views [1792] | Comments [19]

Aw....the land of papaya and pineapple, and warmth, and hot showers, and beaches, and thai food, and cheap souvenirs, and really nice people, and happy hour specials, Thousands of 7-11's with big gulps...and....ok, we like it...ALOT.   In fact, we have decided to stay for another six months......ok, maybe not, but we do like it alot.
 
We arrived in Bangkok on the 6th.  We initially planned to remain in Kathmandu until the 13th, but were feeling the need for a beach, and happily Thai Airlines didn't charge us to change our ticket, so we left a week early.  (Granted we paid a lot for it begin with), but we happily caught the plane and took full advantage of the free drinks on board.  We thought we could drink enough to make the flight a loss for Thai, it didn't happen, but Andrew was happy to sample an after dinner brandy, as well as two rum and cokes.  Alex settled for Rum and Diet Coke (the diet seemed like a better deal, because it costs more in the store) and a Heinekin.  It was a GREAT flight. We landed in Bangkok around 6:00 pm and found our way to the backpacker district.  Once there Andrew left the bags with Alex and headed off to find a hotel.  We settled for a somewhat shifty hotel that was pretty cheap for the first night, and then hit the town. 

That night we didn't see a food vendor we didn't like. In the interest of spreading our dollars far and wide, we had shish kebabs, pad thai, pineapple, and....wait for it...Mc Donalds!!!  Yes, the Thai Baht menu is not as sweet as the Indian Rupee menu was, but the ice cream was great.  After feeling completely stuffed, we left the McDonald's and ran into our Swedes.  We are rather fond of these four girls, and had planned on meeting up somehow, so it was a happy time. We decided to go to a bar, where we shared 2.5 liters of Singha beer with the Swedes and had two fruit shakes for ourselves.  We ordered watermelon and pineapple.  Unfortunately they got our order wrong and one came out as lemon.  When we discovered the error, we asked the waiter to change it.  He took away the lemon shake, and brought the watermelon shake and a bill for three shakes.  It was only for 40 baht more (30 baht = $1), but Andrew was adament that he was not going to pay for the first drink. It is an oddity that we have noticed more than once here, but if the waiter makes a mistake, they expect you to pay anyway. We've heard tale of people getting the completely wrong dish and being unable to send it back. Unfortunately, it took about thirty minutes, and a stupid bouncer wearing a police shirt (and tried to pretend he was a cop), but finally we got our forty baht back, and went to the hotel.  The next morning, we checked into the D&D Inn, which is a great hotel, replete with TV, air conditioner, and free breakfast.  We stayed in a good bit watching their cable channels, which...ran pirated movies.  E.g. we watched the Bourne Ultimatum and for much of it, there was a head in the picture from an audience member.  It's possible that Andrew was even more excited that it was pirated than that it was in English.  The next day we met up with the Swedes before they left Bangkok.  We ate lunch and shopped for most of the day, and bought a total of 4 Big Gulps (with ice). 
 
After three days in Bangkok, we took a local bus to the seaside town of Cha Am.  It was about 2 hours away from Bangkok, and we arrived with enough time to find a nice hotel (again with tv & aircon) and we spent most of the first day at the beach.  Initially we were worried that there might not be 7-11, however, after walking five blocks and seeing the number of 7-11's, our fears were asuaged, and yes we did sample all of them.  We even made a point to get a hotel within a few seconds walk of a 7-11, and when we went to the beach we were able to find our way back to the hotel by counting them (the place we liked best was 5 7-11's away). Since re-entering the land of cheap convenience store food, Andrew has had many craving for hot dogs, and our first night in Cha Am was no different.  We made our ritual walk to the 7-11, Andrew ordered up 2 hot dogs, and headed to the condiment table to retrieve his mustard.  Imagine his shock and horror when we discovered there was no mustard. Moreover, when he tried to use the opaque yellow mustard container, a blob of sweet chili sauce poured out.  Rather than being a defeatist he tried the next two 7-11's.  Finally, after all of them had said the mustard was finished, he came back to the hotel and decided he would just eat the hot dogs without the mustard.  He seemed pretty happy nonetheless. 

The next day in Cha Am, we spent at the beach.  Unfortunately, we weren't very good at applying sunblock, and ended the day with very splotchy skin, and of course hot dogs.  (This time with mustard as we visited a fourth 7-11).  Cha am was a very nice sea side town, but we had diving to do, and islands to visit, so we caught a couple taxis to the bus station (the taxis were mopeds) and caught a bus to Chumpon.  We arrived in Chumpon about four hours later, and only knew to get off because Andrew asked the driver.  Unfortunately, the bus left us in the middle of nowhere with two Swiss guys.  A local woman took pity on us and led us to the correct side of the highway and called one of her friends to take us to the pier in Chumpon (25 km away).  Twenty minutes later when the friend arrived we all piled into the car and then asked for the price.  600 Baht!  We explained that we would rather walk, thank you very much. (We weren't sure of where the "taxi" was going to take us anyway, since no one spoke English very well.)  Anyway, after a bit of negotiating, we were able to secure the ride for 350 Baht, even though the Swiss were no help whatsoever.  (Wat eez des?  400 baht eez gut price no?)

The car took us to the pier where we would catch the ferry the next morning, and we bought two tickets. The boat was for 7am, and we had to be at the office at 6:20, so we decided to stay at the hotel just behind the travel agency. Well, that and the fact that Andrew didn't find anything else within a comfortable walking distance, and the rooms were really nice. Air con and cable TV again, so we kicked back and watched movies. We also had dinner on a dock surrounded by Christmas lights, and it reminded us of a Dawson's Creek set.

The next morning we dragged ourselves to a truck that took us to the pier. We boarded the ferry and after some waiting were out on the open sea. The ferry was a little too air conditioned, so we went up to the deck to warm up. We weren't the first or only people with this idea, though, and the deck looked like a war zone- people laying everywhere, some on top of others, or on top of the pile of luggage. We squeezed into a small open space and enjoyed the sun for the rest of the ride into the island of Koh Tao.

Koh Tao, which means Turtle Island, is the smallest of the inhabited Samui Islands, and our scuba diving destination for Thailand. While on the boat, several touts showed us their resort/scuba center and we were able to get a feel on prices. We opted out of their services though, as the touts usually have overpriced and/or underserviced lodges. We talked to a travel agent in town and found a scuba resort with great prices, and a free taxi, and climbed aboard. The resort had very "basic" bungalows, the kind that make you feel like your camping, but at 200 baht on nights we'd been scuba diving, they suited our needs just fine. We even have a family of pet lizards that help us out by eating the mosquitoes that make their way into the room at night. Thanks, guys!

The next day we wandered the island a little, verifying a 7-11 within walking distance, and then went to the scuba shop and got fitted for our gear. It'd been two years since we dove, so we signed up for a package of four dives with a much needed refresher course. An example of how long it had been: when we were getting fitted, we were asked to try on some wet suits. After the instructor found fins for us to try on, he turned around and said quietly, "uh, the zipper goes in the back." We looked down and realized our suits were on backwards. Not only that but Andrew managed to put his on inside out as well, and still got it to zip up. After that, we were glad we had opted to take the refresher course.

The course was quick and painless. We went over the most basic skills that we were tested on in the certification course, and it included a mini-quiz of sorts. Afterward, we swam from the beach we were tested on to the first dive site, called the Japanese Gardens. It was gorgeous, and although the fish are cool, the plant-life is just other-wordly. There is one spiky black sea urchin that has a little blue and orange eye in the center that glows and flickers. It's really bizarre, and reminded us of the evil eyes we saw all around Turkey. But to see plants like this, that seem to have brains and everything (and some actually look like brains) is just mind-boggling. There are also little worms that look like colorful urchins and live in the coral. They provide quite a bit of amusement as when you brush your hand over the water they dart into the coral so rapidly at times you know you saw something move but couldn't tell what it was.

The next site we went to was called White Rock, and had a few more exotic sea creatures, including a very agressive fish called the Titan Triggerfish. It's a territorial guy, and has been known to take off divers' fingers and ears. Andrew didn't know this before hand or he would have renewed his warning to Alex about not losing digits.  Best of all, perhaps, Alex didn't get seasick as she had when we dove before, and we felt great afterward.

A lot of the bar/restaurants on this island advertise a movie each night, one that is no doubt pirated, that you can watch as you eat or drink. A brilliant idea, so we decided to join in. We emailed the Swedes, as they were planning on making it to Koh Tao that day, and told them that if they wanted they could join us for dinner and a movie. About twenty minutes in they arrived, and Alex joined them in a quieter area. Andrew, already hooked to the film, opted to be anti-social and keep watching. After the movie, Andrew joined the conversation and we made plans for the next day. We had thought about renting a 4-wheeler so we could explore the other, harder to reach beaches, but the girls had rented mopeds and it turned out they were significantly cheaper. So, after Andrew test-drove one of theirs, we decided we could rent one and go out the next day in search of uncrowded beaches on the other side of the jungle.

The next morning we woke up and rented a brand new, shiny red scooter. Better judgement would have told us to find one with more scratches, but as we weren't planning on scuffing it up, we didn't think it would matter. The rental included a couple ping pong ball helmets, Andrew's with a fancy visor and everything. We drove off, wobbling back and forth. The girls are staying on the south beach and we are on the west beach, so we had a good 10 kilometer drive to their lodge to get used to the scooter. Judging from Alex's ever-tightening grip on Andrew's shoulders, it was harder than we thought to get used to the scooter. We met up with the girls and the six of us headed out on our three mopeds, intent on getting to a small beach on the southeast of the island.
 
Halfway there, we encountered a series of dauntingly sandy hills, but were able to make it up them no problem. The last big hill, however, was so steep and rocky that it was all but impassible, so we decided to park our scooters and walk from there. We walked down the other side for what seemed like forever, and ended at a very small cove with rocky sand and, unfortunately, hard coral all the way up to the water's end. So, relaxing in the water was difficult, as we were constantly getting stabbed by the sea rocks. We kicked back on our beach mats for a little before deciding to go explore other parts of Koh Tao.
 
We climbed- slowly- back up the hill and through the jungle. We found our mopeds, and the Swedes, sadly, had decided to return home. This was mostly due to the fact that they slightly resembled cooked lobsters. We bid them farewell, and started back down the dusty dirt hill to the main road. It was too steep and sandy at first, so Andrew idled down with it and Alex followed behind. After we came to a flat straightaway, we decided we could ride the rest of the way. Alex boarded and we set off. Everything was fine and dandy.

Then we crashed. There was a mound of dirt, not unlike a speed bump, that we made over with ease. Problem was, just past it was a build-up of very soft sand, so after going over the bump we sunk into the sand and dropped the bike. Luckily, neither of us had a scratch on us, but the bike did not fare as well. We had scratched the plastic underside on the right side. No big deal, we figured, as that part is bound to get scratched up anyhow. So we kept going.

If the mound of soft dirt was problematic for us, imagine our chagrin when the road began sloping downward again. The path was much harder than before and the slope not as steep, so we kept driving. After a bit, though, we had picked up too much speed going down a hill, and the sandy gravel got the better of us. That wreck was not nearly as quaint as the first, and when we were done with it we both had road rashes on our hands and feet and Andrew's back, and Alex's backside had sustained significant bruising. And once again, the bike got a pretty good mark as well. This time, the left brake, mirror, and front panel got scratched. The panel, which was red, had the deepest, and most obvious, scratch of all, although it was still only an inch long. After that, we determined the bikes would not be used on anymore up or downhill adventures. In fact, we were close to returning them right then, but opted instead to keep them for the rest of the day, sticking only to the flat, paved roads. We met back up with the girls at the beginning of the main road, and one of them had wrecked as well.

We all decided to drown our sorrows with sandwiches at a nearby restaurant, and then went our separate ways, planning to meet back up for dinner. We rode home, as carefully and slowly as inertia would allow, cleaned up our wounds, and took an after-wreck nap. We spent the rest of the day lamenting the scratches on the bike and wondering what it would cost us, but were still able to drive it over to the Swede's beach for dinner. Along the way, Andrew almost killed 12 people when he had to execute a turn, but he saved them all at the end by pulling sharply to the left. What a nice guy. Dinner was nice, too, but the impending doom of having to return the bike, let alone having to ride it home, was overwhelming, and even our Snickers Shake wasn't quite as tasty because of it.

When we finally headed home, it was again as carefully as we could manage. We decided to go straight to the rental shop and get it over with. The man there was quite the thespian, and had dramatic speeches to accompany his looks of sadness at the bike. He retrieved our contract and pointed out that normally the damages we caused would cost 4500 baht, but he would be okay with 2500. That is about $75, and we were not jumping up and down at the discount. In fact, we decided to haggle with him, as his reasoning for the high cost was that he had to "completely replace" the front panel. Completely replace? The scratch was an inch long. But yes, he claimed he always completely replaces the parts if there's the slightest mark, so that others can not make it worse and then "claim it was already like that." He stated this was all made clear in the contract, which Alex scoffed at. Surely we didn't sign something that said he could replace the part entirely for one scratch. Let us see the contract. ...Oh.

The argument about the illogical nature of his repair plans went on for half an hour, and by the end of it we had gotten him to ask how much we wanted to pay. Nothing, Andrew woud have liked to say, but we offered him 2000. Then, he backed down on his offer for us to name our price, and told us we owed 2500. We angrily reminded him that he had asked for an offer from us, thus commencing the bargaining process, and could not fall back on his original price. After some good, old fashioned hard-headedness, he agreed to the "lower" price (a little over $60), and returned our passport. But before we could get out of there, he told us we still had to pay for the rental. Another 200 baht. That was quite angering. We paid and left, but not before Andrew asked if he could keep the scratched front panel, as the guy had said that "it was worthless now." Turned out the guy didn't want to give it up, so we left, somewhat begrudged.

Since Richard never fails to complain about these lengthy posts, and since Daniel was reading our last one "like a TAAS article" (that was pretty funny, actually), we'll end things for there. We will say this, though: later, while walking by the evil bike shop, we saw what looked like red tape over the scratch. Andrew resisted the urge to push the scooters in a domino effect, but we have been sure to glare every time we pass. Next time we'll fill you in on our second set of dives, which included several sharks. Did one of us get eaten? You'll just have to wait and see.

Tags: 7-11s, beaches, bikes

Comments

1

You people are wearing me out!

First I was going to suggest a 12 step program but after reading I decided I would have to be drinking too if I was living your life.

  Richard Mar 20, 2008 10:41 PM

2

Don't listen to him!! Many of us are living vicariously though you guys. So glad you are out of Tibet safe & sound and can't wait for photos of the Base Camp. Love, Shiela

  Shiela Hall Mar 21, 2008 6:18 AM

3

PS Did the Diamox thing too to top out at 5895 m. on Kilo and it is no fun --- but it got me there... It's a sulfa drug that asthmatics use

  Shiela Hall Mar 21, 2008 6:43 AM

4

So do have you guys planned a cool trip for your upcoming anniversary??? You know some sort of travel to different see cultures or something?

  Rrrrricardo Mar 21, 2008 8:48 AM

5

the diving sounds great, the wreck not so good. need i remind you two that you opted out of all the extra shots, so no playing with sharks either. i cannot belive you two are hanging out at the 7-11, come on, hotdogs every day, where is the adventure in that, but oh wait, are you sure you know what the dogs are made of? is this place lacking any animals that you should see alot of? it will be ashame if you two get this far just to die of bad food from the local 7-11. well at least you can get all of your holiday shopping done at one place. do they have things there for Easter? hope you both get your choc. bunny with really long ears. well this house will be full for the holiday weekend so we should have alot of really good candy. wish you were going to be here. well will close for now, love you both. mom

  mardi Mar 21, 2008 12:44 PM

6

The scratched front panel would also have been a nice gift.

  spanky Mar 21, 2008 1:58 PM

7

When is the welcome home party. As a teacher I find any reason I can to party, to try to relieve the stress from the week or sometimes the day.

  spanky Mar 21, 2008 2:02 PM

8

We Had to Throw our OWN going away party, and now you expect us to throw one for our return? OH NO!! Party at Spanky's Everybody. Spanky will leave details in an upcoming post...btw Spanky there's a chance that your souvenir can be burned to make heat for cooking dal bhat...We're just saying.

  andrewalex Mar 21, 2008 4:45 PM

9

Now they are griping about having to throw their own going away party?

Is that the one in Austin or in Lubbock, or the one in DC or the one in New York? There was quite a long trail of people that had to wish them farewell.
It must have been heartbreaking.
Finally I can use the crying towel they gave me. Waaaaah!


Can I just note that Daniel simply went to Denmark without a party? Poor Daniel.

You two have been to every spot on earth where there is supposed to be enlightenment.
You better come back REALLY enlightened.

You better know all about Thailands 7-11 pricing structures and their top selling snack foods. I want to learn about the zen of frozen Thai burritos being microwaved at one of your many tour stops.

Siam going to stop for now.
peace

  Richard Mar 21, 2008 10:16 PM

10

I will do what I can but as a teacher I spend most of my time trying to educate tomorrows leaders (or criminals), and when I am not at school I am making lesson plans so that when I get back to school I will have something to teach. It is a never endiong process.

But hey if you need me to take charge I will, I will use my students to make party favors and I will sacrifice a night of sleep so that I can clean and cook so that you two can have the best party.

I wish I could take a vacation and travel, I would be happy with a trip to Post, i do not even need to go around the world in 210 days, I will just leave for a few hours.

It must be nice to be on the beach, as I work on cleaning out the swimming pool, Andrew you know how grose this job can be.

  spanky Mar 22, 2008 4:19 AM

11

I have done some work and made a few phone calls... we can either use the party room at Mr. Gattis or Copper Cabuse. If we use Copper Cabuse they said that we will have to bring our own cups, which I dont see that being a problem. If we use Mr. Gattis some one will have to pretend that it is their birthday, and I volunteer for that role.

So if anyone has any more suggestion just let me know.

  party liaison Mar 22, 2008 8:10 AM

12

Two ideas come to mind off the top of my head.

1. We pretend we don't know they are home and see how long it takes them to cry.

2. Let's wait and see if they even survive.

sidenote: Spanky is repeating himself. (above)
Spring Break isn't supposed to be that stressful.

  Richard Mar 22, 2008 9:09 AM

13

I just wanted to say thank you because as a teacher I dont have enough money to actually go out of town for spring break, so I have just been pretending and making myself believe that I have been traveling with you two.

Oh the beach was nice the food was good and the scratch on the moped was crazy, but now I must go back to Lubbock and try to get through ten (10) more weeks of school.

I cant wait untill summer and I can pretend that I live a crazy life in Austin. It will be so much fun.

  spanky Mar 24, 2008 1:54 PM

14

Spanky Spanky Spanky

You have been on a real adventure to a place that Alex and Andrew have not experienced yet.
The little country called REALITY!
As you know it is a harsh place full of unfriendlies.
That is going to send them reaching for the high altitude meds again.
We are all going to have to do some sherpa work for them in this strange land they are about to enter.

  Richard Mar 24, 2008 2:25 PM

15

Four days until we experience the Andrew eye flutter and the Alex glare. I can't wait.

Too bad Alex and Andrew missed the St. Patrick's Day celebrations. We could have pretended that was the welcome home party.

I wanted to introduce them to my new Irish friend I met while I was landscaping. His name is Paddy O'furniture.

  Rrrricardo Mar 24, 2008 10:15 PM

16

I think I may have loaded him and his family up with the rest of the "crap" in my backyard and hauled them off to the dump. Sorry Mr. O'Furniture

  spanky Mar 25, 2008 2:23 AM

17

Well as the road weary travelers head home I sure hope they aren't booked on American Airlines. I just heard on the news that 200 flights are being canceled or at least delayed for a long time.

But then I am a worrier so maybe I can stay busier on my hobby of worrying if they ARE booked on American. Decisions decisions. Now I don't know what to hope for.

  Richard Mar 27, 2008 12:10 AM

18

Sounds like fun!

  sally Apr 17, 2008 12:53 PM

19

Hey andrewalex,

We really liked your story and decided to feature it this week so that others could enjoy it too!

Happy travels!

World Nomads

  World Nomads Jun 9, 2009 10:46 AM

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