I don’t know how I survived

154581933_7b4ac262d2It is week two of the respiratory illness that I seem to have picked up some place in Thailand. I just came back from a second visit to the doctor and this time, he prescribed some antibiotics. I hope this works because I have felt miserable during the last week or so. It is no fun when your cough seems to go on and on and on…

On other news, I discovered that the fastest way to remove people from my presence is to wear a surgical mask. People will right away make a belt way around you. Want to be a pariah, wear a mask. Nothing better to tell the rest of the world that you may be carrying some kind of exotic disease. Specially, when you already look like an exotic bird.

So, what am I thinking right now? Well, assuming President-elect Obama pushes that huge stimulus of his, then I should be back on track to continue on my wandering ways around the world. Let’s see, I got enough mileage for a free ticket to Miami. The whole Latin gangway is open again for my travails. Huh, huh.

Sipping Scotch again…Not sure when I can do this again

It is Monday night and I am flying in the darkness of the South China Sea, heading east. Heading back home, finally. The Singapore girls and boys are quite efficient but like everything in this world, the plane is showing its age. I would say that ANA’s seats are a little bit nicer, but that is just a feeling.

In the meantime, I am sipping Scotch whiskey again. Forget sore throat. Better make this whole trip a worthwhile experience. Though, in fairness to all my other fellow passengers, I did buy a couple of face masks just to assure everyone that I am not out trying to infect them with whatever virus that got into my body.

This trip may be the last one of my “hopping around the world” trip. With the situation of the financial markets, I better be prudent with the money that I got. But thinking just right now about this makes me realize how much of an herb mentality we all got. As much as we all want to be individualistic and follow our dreams, in the end we tend to migrate together. We are the market, after all.

I was away when president elect Obama got to enjoy his victory. I was away when the Down Jones swayed up and down like a dingy in a crazy sea. And guess what? I did not feel anything of that. Instead, I was worried more about how to reach to the next exotic (in my view) Thai town or which bar to go to. I must say that living in Thailand is easy, if you got the money. But money does seem to make things easy. It is just that it is a little bit easier in Thailand.

So, on that thought, maybe I should make my life even easier than what is now. Oh, yes, Dominican guy left message. Let’s see, Internet café got hit by Dominican mafia?

[Some time later….later, like being sucked into a time warp] I do admire how the stewardess and stewards work through these shifts. It seems to be a never ending flight. My coughing does not help. I am grateful though, that I did not get a seat mate. So, how about that, business class in Singapare Airlines with that extra space. Looking at how bad I feel right now, I wonder how I ever survived travelling in cattle class. Those must have been years of youthful energy. Now, even travelling in business class is a chore. Given the situation, I wonder whether I will ever do these long distance trips again.

In the land of the thousand massages

I am at Bangkok’s airport, awaiting for my next metal cigar to take me to the fragant harbor.

So, in the meantime, I am enjoying myself of all the services that Thai Airway’s Royal Silk program provides. Do you guys know that they have basically one wing of the airport dedicated for massages? I know that it is free, but “wink, wink” you are suppose to tip the masseuse. I bet some continental guys will claim ignorance.

Anyway, still without a voice, but feeling better. Now, I have to figure out a way to cough without making myself a pariah.

At Phuket’s airport, ready for the long long way home

Last night my throat gave up and I am without my voice. So, it is kind of scary to be in total silence but for the occassional flare up of cough. I would say that, but for the throat infection, this trip was as successful as it could have been. I did not think that the Monsoon season on the east side of the country would be so strong. So, everyone, don’t go to the east side during this time of the year. I promise you’ll get drenched in water.

During one of my semi conscious moments, I happened to stumble upon the tv broadcast of the funeral rites given to the late sister of the current King of Thailand. It was quite a surreal process, where the body was encased inside a hurn and paraded standing up around. Then there was the music that accompanied the procession. Some flute sound with a wailing, mournful melody. The whole process was well, well overdone IMHO. But then, royal ceremonies over here seem to top any other ceremonies for royalties around the world. I don’t think that I would like to see myself burned in such a way. Just looking at the smoke shooting sideways makes for some uneasiness.

Well, that is that. Right now, I am enjoying the quietness of the Royal Silk lounge at Phuket’s airport. It is a long treck back home. Hopefully, my throat won’t wake up that many fellow passengers. I even bought surgical mask for the occasion.

Alone and last night in Phuket

It has been a couple of days that I haven’t posted. I am glad that I am back in Phuket, where the sun seems to be eternal. The sun, however, has not been able to remove my cough. So, one morning, out of being awake, I decided to haul myself to the local hospital – Patong Hospital. It is quite modern but geared for the masses. On one side, you sign up and get your hospital card, then you wait for the nurse to call you to check your vital signs, then you wait for the doctor. The doctor is quite young and after a couple of questions, he filled out a prescription, and off you go to the pharmacy to collect and pay. The medication was nothing out of the ordinary; the typical cough syrup, actifed, codeine pills, and some kind of tylenor substitute. Something that I could have done by myself at the pharmacy. At least the bill was not bad, just 500 Baht for the examination. The medication was about 30 Baht. Still, when your sore throat is due to a viral infection, there is really no much one can do.

The highlight of these last few days was the arrival of my niece and her husband. This is their first time in this country and they were wide-eye open regarding everything. I basically gave them a couple of tips as to how to negotiate, took them to a tour of the nearby islands, and found them a taxi for the airport. Apparently, they looked rich enough that the local touts refused to negotiate with them. So, this is one of the times when an exotic uncle can be handy. As for whether they asked anything about my Thai travel companion? No one word. Is this their version of “don’t ask, don’t tell?”

Anyway, just a few more hours and back into the safe hands of the metal birds.

Satwatdee Krup everone.

Rained out in Nakhon Si Thammarat

[I am posting this using a wifi access point that I had to pay. It seems that Thai hotels are like hotels in the U.S. The bit more upmarket, then wifi is no longer free. Well, at least it beats the free 56K wifi that is available in most guesthouses.]

I believe this is the last time that I venture out of the normal circuit of Thai tourist cities. Cities where most foreigners go, that is. So, here I am on my first day in Nakhon Si Thammarat and I have already decided to return to Phuket tomorrow. The whole town is not ready for English speaking tourists.

This should be something charming if you have a Thai speaking travel companion, right? Well, the issue is that there is not even an infrastructure for tourism. We ask the hotel for a tour guide and they did not have one. Finally, after a lot of discussion, they finally decided that one of their staff members can be our guide. I somehow felt like I was the first foreigner way back when China just started opening up to the outside world.

Anyway, the day started nicely. Although it was cloudy, there was no rain. Our driver/guide decided to take us out of the city to Talum Puk cape. It is a small peninsula populated by oysters and crab fishermen. Unlike what I got to believe from the Lonely Planet guide, the beaches around this area are not as spectacular as Andaman Sea. Here, the gulf of Thailand is rougher. The tour guide reported that the whole cape may be under water in ten years. Global warming, I believe.

One interesting comment about Thailand and maybe the whole Asia in general, is that the local people are quite resourceful. I found it interesting to see concrete condominiums built specially for swallows to nest inside. As some of you may know, bird nest saliva is considered a delicacy in some circles. So, here we now have mass production of bird nests. I guess both the birds and the humans get something out of this relationship.

Returning back to the city, we ended up touring the biggest Wat south of Bangkok – Wat Phra Mahathat. Although not as grand as Wat Po, it has its own charm, especially when picture taking is encouraged. Later, I think I encountered the highlight of the day trip; visiting the shadow puppet theatre of Suchart Subsin. The elderly gentleman was gracious enough to provide us with a performance. Also, his workshop creates wonderful carvings in leather, something that I could not find on the local shops. So, I gouged a bit buying some of them.

Well, we are back in the hotel room and the rain has started to pour down in earnest again. Time for Phuket. Need to nurse this cold that seems to have been stuck in my chest.

All men are the same

Hello again from Hatyai city. It is now Tuesday morning and fog is still enveloping the whole city. Yesterday was a day of continuous rain. It did not start that way. So, early morning, my Thai travel companion and I decided to venture out to Songklan city, the nearby seaside town. It is not that far away; kind of like a suburb of Hatyai.

It was when deciding how to get there that my Thai travel companion exhibited all the tendencies that are typical of all males worldwide. Like my partner at home, he refused to ask for directions. First, he said he was afraid that the taxi drivers in front of the hotel would take advantage of us. Second, he started making assumptions as to how the transportation system in Hatyai works. He thought that Hatyai is a typical Thai city where public transportation moves along a main road. So, he took one look at the map and found where the main road to Songklan city is situated. It was not that far from the hotel. So, we walked over there.

I should have realized that we were not in the right place because the street is actually very nice, with trees planted in the middle. Although there was traffic moving along it, we only saw one public bus in the matter of half an hour.

So, after waiting for 45 minutes or so, I told him that this was not working. We crossed the street and hailed a tut tut to take us to the bus station. My assumption was that, at least, at the bus station, there should be enough information to help us go to our destination. So, yes, over there we found that there is transportation to Songklan city. However, and this is what my Thai companion was amazed with, is that the bus terminal is shared with minibuses. So, we had the selection of the slow bus or the faster minibus. But where was the minibus? Several persons pointed to several different locations. We finally managed to find the minibus. On the way out of town, it was driving along the commercial road out of town, not the nice road we were waiting on originally.

So, that is it. My Thai companion is not different than any other male in this universe. Asking for directions is a no no.

The rest of the day? It was not much of the day because we got wet from one rain storm after another.