Wednesday, 23 October 2013

I don't appreciate my friends as much as I should.

Let's face it. I can be a real asshole. I can be worse than that, especially to the people I love the most, like my sister.
This week should me how lucky I really am. I have the luck of the devil.

It started off pretty good. I was all full of vigor and ready to take on the world. Instead of taking a tourist package, I was going to go out on my own to obtain the all elusive Thailand Tourist Visa. If you are from a First world country, you can fly in to Thailand and get a 30 day visa waiver. It's not actually a visa, just permission to fuck around for 30 days. If you travel by land, you get the same thing for 15 days. There is no limit to how many times you can do this. However, leaving or flying out every 30/15 days is a real pain in the ass.

There is another option. You can actually apply for an actual visa that allows you to stay for 60 days. If you you pay extra, you get another 60 days. If you go to the Thailand Immigration office in Bangkok, you can get up to another 60 days, so in total, you could stay up to 6 months. Leaving every 15 days, compared to every 6 months, is a no brainier.

So off I went, on my own. I went to the most southern border of Thailand/Cambodia. What a desolate shithole of a place. I hitched a ride on the back of a motorcycle for $1 and caught a bus to a place called Sihanoukville. Half way through the trip, the bus broke down, so I found myself with my fellow travelers on the side of the road waiting to get another bus. Eventually it came, but not before the perishable goods in the Styrofoam containers, perished.

Sihanoukville is on peninsula and is the the only beach area in Cambodia. Lots of old perverted men owning bars, running brothels. I rented a moto for $5 a day and got rip roaring drunk and rode all over town for a couple of days. There are cops doing ride checks everywhere, but they don't care if you't drunk, only if you have an international driver's license. I didn't have enough money to pay them off, so they let me go. The next day, my host got stopped by the same cops (with no license at all), but his bar employee was in the process of delivering coffee to the cops, so after a few words, they let us go again with no consequences.

Always the entrepreneur, I met a couple of perverted bar owners and did a couple of jobs that paid for my trip. US dollars is the norm in Cambodia, and expats pay US prices. Non of this "you're in Asia, you should be paid what we pay the Asians" BS. A lot of good that did me when I left for Phnom Pehn.

I took the night bus. To help with the trip I bought a 10 pack of Valium for about $0.50 I think I took too many, because I ended up 500 Km past Phnom Pehn and had to take another bus back. All that money I just made was slowly being wittered away. When I finally got the Phnom Pehn, I went straight to the Thai Embassy, but was late to submit my application. I let some Tout do it for me, for an additional $40 dollars. I had no intention of paying him $40 dollars. I just agreed to it to get it down. Then I went to sit out the weekend at a guest house. For the whole adventure there, read the previous post.

When I got my passport back, I had $10 US to my name.I got a bus to Poipet. I had $2 left over. I crossed the border and started walking the 6 km to the train station. A dude drove by asking if I need a ride. I said, " sure, if it's free"

A few meters later, the same guy was sitting there waiting for me and drove me to the train station for free. I could not be more thankful. I got on the train with my last $2, and suffered though a 8 hour train ride that was actually only 300 km. I went back to my old hostel in Bangkok. I told them my adventure. They gave me a couple of beers, some smokes, and a bed to stay in. I have no money. I don't know why or understand why they were so kind to me. I contacted my recruiter and a few more friends. My friend is going to meet me tomorrow to lend me a couple of bucks to get through the week. My recruiter, tried to send me money through Western Union but had a hell of a time, and had to leave town for the week. When she gets back, she has a couple hundred dollars for me.

I'm glad I'm back in Bangkok. I thankful that even though I can be a real prick at times, I have some of the best friends in the world. Friends that overlook my faults and bend over backwards to help a man in need. I love you all, even if I don't say or show it enough.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Plus 30 more Days in Bangkok and onward to Cambodia

The first week in Bangkok was mostly about getting around. Once I go that down, I tried to figure out how long I could party, yet still wake up early enough to go to work by 7:30. I managed about 5 hours of sleep a night. That's a whole other 18A story. It's being edited by someone other then myself. it's totally rambling BS.

I actually only taught for a week. Then it was students writing exams, and desk warming. I did graphic design for a tourism group instead. The internet sucked. Slow and flaky. A reoccurring theme throughout this narrative. On the odd occasion I actually did some teacher work, entering scores into an Excel spread sheet, rather than fix my mistakes, they would print it out, circled it, and told me how many digits I was off, so I could correct it. By correcting it, they had to re-open the Excel spreadsheet, insert my correction... I asked "why didn't you just change it, if I got it wrong? Why waste the paper and time? If you made a change, and you want my okay to change it, show it to me, and I'll initial it. I'll sign off and now it's not your liability."

I did nothing for 2 weeks. It was a routine like living in any other city. I woke up, shit, showered and shaved and made the 1 hour long trek to work where I sat at a desk for 8 hours and did nothing. I did some graphics for a tourist company, so that's not entirely true.

Eventually my time in Thailand was up. I milked it. I milked it enough, money is owed to me. I had to do I visa run.

The first run was an experience. I missed the agency bus, so I hot-tailed it to the last skytrain stop, got on  a bus and made it in seconds flat. I got snaked as soon as I got off the bus and paid too much for a Cambodian visa. I walked across, walked through no man's land... it didn't seem to ever end.... but I was actually in Poipet. Imagine the old west, but all Asian. Turned around, walked back into Thailand, got another 15 days, I missed the bus, so I crashed out on a bench at the train station. A 6 hour train ride to Bangkok is $2. A 6 hour bus ride to Bangkok is $7. I went back to the routine.

Then it all changed. 15 Days was up, I need a new visa. But not a visa waiver given to First World countries that's not actually a visa at all, but a proper non-immigrant tourist visa. This meant an application to a Thailand Embassy outside of Thailand. Which where I find myself now.

I just got paid. Not all I was owed, but enough. I set out for the capital of Cambodia for my tourist visa run via the most southerly route. I thought I'd visit a guy I'd never met but had known for years recently settled in Sihanoukville. Awesome time. Emerald Bar, by the old bus station, downtown. Central to everywhere. Good rates, good food, great people. Bikes for rent, easy access to islands and buses. I swam in the ocean almost every day.

I did a couple of graphic jobs in the week I was there. Paid for my trip. Took a night bus to Phnom Pehn that had actual beds instead of seats. I overstayed my welcome. I woke up 500 Km past that. I had to wait until 8:30 for the next bus back to PP. Another 5 hour trip. I finally got to PP. I got a tuk-tuk driver to take me about 5 km to the Embassy. The embassy was no longer taking applications, but a guy assured me that he could sneak it in for a $40 surcharge on top of the usual $40 visa fee. It was now costing me $80. I had $90. I agreed, I was desperate. He gave me his number to call when the passport was ready. His buddy took me to a hotel to wait it out for the weekend. I sat on the balcony drinking beer waiting for time to go by.

I got bored. I went out. I don't know where. It did not end well. It didn't end that badly either. I took $10, my phone and keys. I come home with no money, no phone and no keys. The tuk-tuk driver taking me home, called ahead to his buddy, took me a secluded spot where his buddy was waiting and worked me over. Being mugged sucks. My jaw hurts. My ear hurts. My pride hurts, and I have a nice scar forming on my back, but I'm okay. They got the security device from my online banking which is useless without the code, and my phone. That one is the killer. Anybody got an old android phone they're not using? I could really use one.

Stumbling finally home, I made it to my room where I banged on the gate until someone let me in at 3 am. I had no key, so I demanded they open my door... I was drunk and I'd just been mugged.

I thought they got everything, but then I remembered that I always take what I need, not what I have. I don't need ID or credit cars, or wallets. A little bit of cash, my phone, my keys. gone... forever. The passport is safe with some shady character at the Thai Embassy. He's not getting his $40 bribe. He's getting $10, if that. I need cash to get home or the visa he worked so hard to get, is worthless. If he gives me a deal, I'll get his number and refer some friends to him.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Cowboys, Perverts, Girls, Boys and not quite anything.

I’ve been here a month now things are pretty much routine at this point. I wake up, go to work, come home and work some more. I struggle to make ends meet coming into a foreign country with no money to begin with. Everything I do is on credit until I get paid and once that happens, I have to pay off the credit, and start all over again. I do my best to spend far less than I actually make, but, I’m not always successful. I’m in Bangkok-- I indulge too much sometimes.

If I try hard, I can survive on less than $3 a day. I only make $30 a day. That means no drinking, no smoking, 2 meals and rent are paid for that. It’s a very tall order to fulfill. Booze is cheaper, but not by much-- it sucks me dry, continuously. And then, the girls... I’m only a man, and a weak one at that. I can hardly avoid my mistress-- the beer. The constant lure of nubile Asian Lolitas is too much. I spend my time drawing them instead. I watch, I observe, I feel a little like a stalking serial killer that doesn’t follow through on any of his desires.

So here I sit outside a bar on street called Soi Cowboy. The same bar a shootout occurred in a movie about drinking too much and the day after. The girls don’t wear panties. At least I know they ain’t boys. Across the street, I see a whole lot more girls. I know these aren’t actually girls because when you see a person in a bikini, there is a huge difference between camel toe and a bulge, even if it’s a small Asian bulge. They have really great boobs, though.

The thing that strikes me as the most weird is the endless stream of white western girls with their western boyfriends. Is this a test? How long do these relationships last? Who’s the more interested? The girls or the boys? We all know the boys are walking down the street with their eyes bugging out at all the sex. The girls either look fascinated or disgusted. Even more weird than that is the couples of 60+ plus females. They look like tourists on a package tour and they look truly disgusted-- didn’t anybody tell them what this street is or what it means? Did they just stumble upon it or did they search it out?

I go to a number of different bars. All in the name of research, of course. The second one has about 50 girls on a small stage about the size of 2 king size beds. Right above it is a glass ceiling. The girls that have risen above this glass ceiling are dressed in nothing but running shoes and a short pleated skirt. Underboob takes on a whole new meaning when you look at it from 10 feet below and there is no shirt covering up the rest of it. There’s the added bonus of the up-skirt shot with no underwear as well.

I go outside because even in Asia, in this “high-class” part of town, you have to smoke outside, and I take a seat. Beside me are two fat Russians wearing the stereotype of an LA pimp. They speak fluent Thai to the staff, and the bouncers at the door treat them like royalty. These must be the owners. This is where I notice the lady-boys across the street, the chunky western woman testing their goggle-eyed boyfriends, the old lady couple visiting the zoo. The children spending their lives growing up on this street starting by selling flowers, graduating to drug running, pimping and “dancing”

Back inside, a beer is double the price of anything in a store just so perverts like me can stare at the ceiling looking upskirts and at underboob while 50 young Asian Loitas dance on 2 mirror king sized beds. I gladly pay it. And I pay it again and again. And again. Each girl has a number, so you can choose. I think of Z, I ffel nausea and a small amount of vomit rises in my throat. The male part of me chokes it down, I can’t help myself-- I thinking with the brain in my pants and I’m disgusted with myself, but I haven’t killed anybody yet, so I continue to watch with intense fascination like a stag in rut caught by headlights.