|Friday 11th Oct
Pick up from the hotel is around 9am, the same driver and vehicle again, Joanne and Shane are with us as they are on our first flight to Bangkok. On the way out to the airport we see that Siem Reap is building a “London Eye”.
The flights are with Air Asia from Siem Reap to Khon Kean cost AU$563 ($611), we are thrilled that our bags are tagged all the way to Khon Kaen, so we don’t have to worry about picking them up in Bangkok. As we pass through duty free we decide to grab some alcohol now, a bottle of Jim Beam for Tony (and Jeff), and Baileys for Cynthea (and Karen).
Our ride today is an Airbus A320-200. Not a lot of leg room, not a lot of room full stop, so Tony pushes back when the guy in front tries to recline his seat. We are scheduled to leave at 11.55, arriving at Don Mueang airport (the old one) at 1pm. We had been warned when booking flights through Bangkok that there were two international airports, quite some distance apart, so we were careful when booking to do so with just one airline, and make sure the transfer airport is the same. We get a meal on this flight, chicken curry and an omelette. We are parked some distance from the terminal, and are taken on a long bus ride to the gate.
We say goodbye to Joanne and Shane at Bangkok, and they head off to Brisbane. We are a bit confused as to where to go, and finally spot a sign telling FlyThru passengers where to go. That is what our luggage was labelled, so we head that way. We have over three hours wait so plenty of time if there is a stuff up. It is a bit of a trek, but we finally come to an immigration desk. We are told we cannot go through because we need an address of where we are staying, and we don’t know it. Tony rings Jeff and gets the details, then we queue up again. Once more people on a tight transfer are queue jumping, but we just have to wait. Not their fault that the airline makes such stupid schedule.
Eventually we are through, and just as well we got the duty free in Siem Reap, there was no opportunity to get it here. The domestic side is massive, heaps of shops, but no one selling sim cards. Tony asks at the information counter and is told he has to go landside to get that. Bugger. We go for something to eat, but are put off at the sight of cockroaches running around the food display. We get a bread roll and a coffee, and hope we don’t get sick!
It is interesting looking at the other airlines, one called Nok has cool bird faces painted on the nose of their planes.
It is quite a walk to the gate, and the place is packed when we get there. That flight departs, and there are still heaps of people waiting. Our flight gets called, and everyone moves, this one is going to be full! At least they are enforcing the boarding rule to make boarding go a bit smoother. We wish more would do this.
Another long bus ride to the plane, we wonder what the reason is, does it save money? Our flight to Khon Kaen (A320-200) is only 70 minutes, leaving at 4.40, we get a meal on this flight too, chicken curry and an omelette again.
There is a bit of wait for luggage, and a worry when our luggage does not appear on the carousel. We are thinking oh shit, among other things. We can see Jeff and Karen on the other side waiting for us. After a few minutes someone comes over and asks to go through to the FlyThru section – would have good to have been told. Our bags had probably been there all along. As we walk around some advertising boards, we see the sign for FlyThru. Sigh. TIA – This Is Asia! LOL. All is good, Cynthea’s bag has a label on it indicating it has been opened and checked.
It has been a while since we saw Jeff and Karen, a bit over 6 months, when we spent Easter in Perth with them. They have borrowed a car from a kiwi that Karen teaches with, Andrew is away in NZ at the moment so doesn’t need it.
Great having four wheels to get around in, though we doubt we could drive here. We are to find out during our stay that it is not too bad as long as you drive very defensively. Here in Thailand if you hit anyone, it is your fault, regardless of the circumstances, so we frequently see people just pull out of nowhere. Scary shit. We talked about this, and it is down to a couple of things, if I pull out into traffic and you hit me, it is never my fault in law, so I don’t care if I get hit, because it wasn’t my fault. Secondly, Budda is taking care of me, I have all these charms that I bought, and made big donations to the temple, so I will be protected. If only it were that easy. The up side is that every expects that to happen, so drives accordingly, and most times it works. Road deaths usually happen for other reasons, alcohol being a main one.
At home we are used to be plagued by bloody windscreen washers, here at intersections you get roadside sellers flogging off bags of donuts, salted fruit drinks, bags of cut up fruit and Buddist flower charms. They must do a roaring trade. The donuts are lovely and fresh. Jeff says don’t buy the orange juice, it is loaded with salt (needed in this heat), and then sugar is added to disguise the salty. Nothing short of disgusting to drink, and we have to remember to tell vendors at market stalls, no sugar, no salt in any fruit drinks and smoothies, salted everything for the drinks here unless you stop it. Cynthea told one vendor “no sugar”, thinking that was all they were adding, so when he added something white to her berry smoothie she told him off. He replied he didn’t add sugar, and when asked what he added, was told it was salt. Yes it was yuk.
Jeff tells us we are in the university campus, it takes up huge section of the city, some 3,300,000 square metres!, almost a mini city in its’ own right, with its’ own shuttle bus service.
We call by the vege markets where Jeff and Karen are well known. No bargaining here, you just pay the price. Often there are extras thrown in, so that was nice. Farangs, pronounced “falangs”, is what they call non Thais, especially ones as white as us. Not usually an insult, we hear it from some kids pointing at us. Jeff points back and goes “Thai” and they all laugh.
We went to a bar for tea, and we saw how easily you can get drunk. You order a bottle of beer, and they serve it to you, a glass at a time, but they never let the glass get empty, so it is harder to track how much you have to drink. There is a tiered table at the end of each table, the bottles in use up the top where you can see them, the empties on the bottom shelf, out of sight. The empties on the bottom shelf are the record of how much you owe at the end of the night.
Back home we drop our bags and get a tour of the house, and important dos and don’ts. Most important is the toilet, too much paper will block it up so best option is not too put any down there at all. Bum Guns are in each toilet, and after using the loo, you point the gun in the required direction and pull the trigger. Then use a small amount of paper to dry off, paper in the bin beside. The big upside of the gun is that the paper is really only needed for drying, so what goes into the bin will not stink the place out after a few minutes. It takes a bit of getting used to, but works well. Saves a heap of paper, but could not possibly be used at home unless there was a wee heater in the works. Brrr, shudder at the thought, haha. The only hot water is an on demand water heater in the shower, although you don’t want the water hot anyway. And it is near on impossible to actually have a cold shower anyway. As far as dish washing goes, we boil the jug for a bit of hot water to add to the sink, but Thai’s generally just use cold water, not that it is actually cold.
Tap water is ok for brushing teeth in the bathrooms, but in the kitchen it is double filtered for cooking and the kettle. Drinking water, and water for the ice machine, is triple filtered, and three 2 litre containers are always kept topped up in the fridge. Unusually, we have a full indoor kitchen in here, most homes only have an outdoor kitchen of sorts. Many here do not cook because it is far cheaper to go out and get something cooked at the market. A decent plate of food costing upwards of 40 baht ($2), and a beer at 80 baht makes it a cheap night.
There is a temple nearby, from which local announcements are broadcast… frequently, and often at great length. It is loud, but apparently you get used to it!
Tony and Jeff take a taxi, Grab operates here, a similar system to Uber. Tony downloads the app on his phone, but it seems a bit harder to use, you do not appear to be able to reject the driver once a job is accepted, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to order a larger vehicle, for several people. Never did figure it out while we were here, but most times it worked ok. Promo codes we were given were never accepted either. Grab Food was very popular here too, delivery was usually very cheap, sometimes as little as one baht (5c), up to 10 baht.
Jeff gets them dropped off at some local bars, and most of the places know Jeff. We are going to the opening night of a new bar, so as we walk down the street Jeff tells them we will be back later. At the new place they are pleased to see us, it is not the official opening (that will later in the week), so it is reasonably quiet. Except for the music, EVERY bar has music pumping out at full volume, making it hard to talk. Tony meets the three girls who own the bar, and Jeff buys them rounds of drinks.
We have to tell staff no ice in the beer, the locals drink it that way, especially if the beer has not been in the fridge. Yuk! Tony has a bottle that they place in a stubbie cooler, those bloody things sweat, and leak water all down your shirt when you tip the bottle up at the end.
Each time you buy a drink an order form is placed in a container beside you, and added up at the end of the night. Easy system…
We don’t stay too long, and head off to the next place, and it isn’t long before the pretty girls are all over the boys. Jeff explains that they are bar girls whose job it is to sell more booze, by having drinks bought for them, and they have a monthly quota. Lady drinks are priced differently, not sure if they were dearer than regular prices or not. The girls are very friendly, and also touchy, standing very close to you. They are amazed by how hairy our arms are. As a sideline you can also have a shag, not sure if the bar gets a cut of that, or if it goes to the pimp. Jeff tells of a time he and Karen were talking to one girl and wires got crossed in translation. She was asking them for 5000 baht, for a “long time”, an over night stay. After talking to some ex pats that had been here a while they figured out she was quoting a price for the night, not just a quick shag, but said even that was expensive, until they figured that was the price for both of them.
Tony asks Jeff about the LadyBoys, and there are a few about. Sometimes it is pretty difficult to tell, especially if they have had an op on the Adam’s Apple. A good indication is the size of their feet, a bloody sight bigger than a regular Thai woman. Of course there is one sure fire way, but you really don’t want to get that far! In Thailand it is illegal to change your sex, so driver’s licences and passports will always show their gender as male. We visit several bars, none of them very busy, all of them loud, before getting to Blues, another of Jeff’s regular haunts. Only a few people in there, a couple of guys playing pool. One of the bar girls challenged Jeff to a game, which he lost. We stayed for quite a while here, it was a great wee place. And not only drinks available, you could buy Aussie cheese (we ordered some cheddar), and heaps of other stuff was available (like cans of baked beans, but can’t remember all of what was for sale, but it was strange that a pub would sell it!).
We waddled home in the wee small hours, doing our best to avoid the packs of stray dogs that are all around the city. Usually they are not too aggressive, but from time to time one or two want to have a go. You simply bend down to pick up a rock, doesn’t matter if there is no rock there, they don’t know that, and they bugger off.