Thursday, April 8, 2010

Conquered the Bus System

Bangkok's busing system is a little daunting. This is a city, a real city-sized city. There are a lot of buses and they run on routes (and not just from their village or origin and to Apia and back). Oh, and the web site is mostly in Thai, obviously. So Cale used the information he could glean from their web site and from Google Maps (Bangkok is conveniently one of the cities whose transportation system is on google maps) to determine what bus would take us to the national museum.

It started out a little sketchy as we couldn't for the life of us figure out how we were supposed to catch the bus from the location Google indicated we should. It is a four lane road going in that direction and the bus was in the lane furthest from the curb. Not likely we are gonna flag it down. So we did some reconnaissance. The bus immediately turned left after that place onto another road with a walk way over it. We watch the bus on its journey from the walkway and quickly noticed that it and several other buses were all stopping a the same spot with lots of people. We had found a bus stop! Hooray! We went and waited there.

Thanks to some previous internets research, we knew that after getting on the bus an attendant would come around, we would tell them where we wanted to go, they would give us a ticket and take our money. We had no idea how much it was gonna cost. We also had no idea how to say where we wanted to go in Thai. Cale used Google Translate to see how to write National Museum in Thai and copied that into his moleskin. When the attendant came around he just showed it to her. She took it and showed it to the driver and they both seemed to agree that the bus would go near this place. Next we would just have to worry about knowing where to stop the bus and how to stop the bus.

It wasn't long before other people got off the bus and we figured out how to tell the bus driver we wanted off. The rider would walk to one of the two doors and press a button on the door that buzzed and lit up. Then the bus driver would stop at the next bus stop he came too. We knew how to do that, we just needed to know where to do that. Luckily the attendant was looking after us and indicated to us when to get off and pointed very excitedly in the direction of our destination.

Right away we got turned around and ended up near Kha San road where all the palagi backpackers stay. We stopped to look at a map conveniently nailed to a post and found ourselves caught in a street hussler's net. He kept asking where we were going. He had an old Thai newspaper showing Red Shirts and the military clashing. He kept pointing to the picture and insisting that if we didn't go with him it would be dangerous and we could get shot. This was indicated by making rifle hands and saying "bang, bang." We knew he was full of crap, but went to an internet place to look at the news anyway, since we were lost and needed to figure out how to get to the museum from there. We definitely decided that we were happy we weren't staying on Kho San. It was like some sort of horrible place to gather all the palagi together and sell them overpriced things. One drink at a cafe we passed cost twice what Cale had paid for breakfast earlier that morning. The streets were filled with white people.

Eventually we found the museum and discovered that conquering the bus system was going to be the highlight of the day, as the museum was less than exciting.

After the museum we found our way home by bus with out even using Google. We found a bus stop in the direction we wanted. We flagged down a Number 3 bus. Cale told the attendant our street. We pushed the button when we got there. It was very successful.

For lunch we ate street food. I had rice with a veggie and chicken stir-fry and Cale had rice and curry. It cost us $1.50 USD.

Cale took an afternoon nap and I got my haircut. Peak walked me over to a salon, told the woman I wanted a haircut, figured the price and left for some errands. I showed the lady pictures of my hair on the computer. She cut it, I paid. I never spoke a word to anyone. Well, that anyone understood. While gesturing at my head i couldn't help but say things like "longer in the front and shorter in the back" but we had no idea what the other was saying. It turned out pretty well. Obviously it was no Nezian experience. My hair lady in Samoa was awesome. It cost me $6 USD. So like going to Great Clips, but they washed and massaged my head too.

I was determined not to nap and power through the day and sleep at a reasonable time and wake at a reasonable time. However, by 7:30 pm I couldn't do it anymore and was in bed asleep by 8.

We haven't really done anything exciting here yet. Today is the day we meet up with some Thai Peace Corps Volunteers. Tomorrow we are supposed to head to one of their sites and then on to Chiang Mai on the 14th. So things should get more exciting soon.

I understand there are things to do and see in Bangkok, but right now I am not that excited with the city. It is just so big. So very big. I am used to a capital city where you can see everything on foot if you want to. Not possible here. I would much rather get out of town and come back to Bangkok later for another try.

Also, some people have been concerned about the whole protesting the government thing. There are more protests scheduled for today. Cale has made a good analogy. Imagine there were protests at the Soldier's and Sailor's Monument downtown Indianapolis and you were in Fishers. The likelihood that your paths would cross are slim.

More later

— Sara

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