Friday, August 21, 2009

Bangkok, August 20th 2009

I landed in Bangkok Thursday afternoon. My intial plan was to take the overnight bus to Chiang Mai, but it was leaving at 5:30, which didn't leave me enough time to go shopping. So, I decided to stay the night on Khao San Road.

Khao San Road is a half mile stretch of bars, clubs, guesthouses and every type of street vendor known to man. I bought a plastic, waterproof watch (with an alarm), a hat, a pair of shorts, and a little Korean flag patch to sew onto my backpack. The thought behind the last item was to get the attention of Korean travelers and, hopefully, get a chance to practice my Korean outside of Korea.

It was odd. I sat at a little curbside restaurant eating Thai green curry, a routine I have kept upon every arrival in Bangkok, and watched all the backpackers lazily flip-flopping up and down the street. They were out in droves. Every concievable nationality was accounted for. The first thought that crossed my mind was how tan and fit most of them were. I am currently "slightly obese" according to my Korean doctor (which I think means 10-15 pounds overweight). I shall try to remedy that in the coming weeks. Yet the odd part was that I was specifically trying to spot Koreans. The few times I thought I had, by the time they passed by, I discovered they were speaking Chinese. My plane from Seoul was packed, but I suppose most of them were going to Phuket, which is much more commercialized, resortish, expensive, and clean than the places I will be going.

I found a room for 190 baht, roughly four American dollars and met an Englishman named Chris. The first thing he asked me was were I was from. The second thing he asked me was if I would be drinking beer that night. We sat on a third story patio or veranda or whatever you call it and watched the people passing beneath us. I got more than a few mosquito bites about the ankles. The next morning I bought repellant before catching the bus to the airport for my flight to Chiang Mai.

The longest subject

Riding in a taxi at 160 kilometers an hour along the Han River at dusk is a special thing. The driver weaved across all four lanes continously. He must have been sixty-five years old. I think it made his day when I came running to the curb just as he passed by. I was waving my arms frantically. I jumped in.

"Incheon airport, please go. Please hurry. My plane leaves in 2 hours."

I spoke in Korean, and he understood (which is always a special treat). He smiled and let his foot go lead. I think we actually caught air, for a mere second, while passing the airport golf course where the LPGA plays annually. I think it's hole 12 or 13. It's the par four green tucked into the hills along the freeway (or is it a par five?) and I think it's follwed by a par 3. But I digress...

A thought on hover travel.....

I met a man one night in Seoul a few years ago, named Tony, who was an engineer involved in constructing the elctromagnetic train in Korea. The train doesn't touch the rail. A two to four inch magnetic field, in which the force is sent and rebounded, propels the train at an alarming speed. One time when I rode it, I saw it hit 301 km/hr.

So, I'm in this taxi and we are literally flying out of Seoul. It is fitting that I didn't gte up early and take the mundane. methodical airport shuttle bus. I am leaving Seoul shot out of a cannon.

Here is serious respect to that taxi driver. He was getting it done.

I made my plane.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It had been a long time since I had been in downtown Seoul. Last Friday I went down to get extra pages put in my passport and saw where there had been some major changes.

This is the statue of Lee Soon Shin. Before, pedestrians were not able to get this close to it; it was on the median between 6 rows of traffic. Now, however, there is a fountain and a small walking park. I like this photo.

Leaving Seoul

After 6 years of living in the Land of the Morning Calm, it's finally time to say good-bye. I closed my bank accounts this morning and am going to shut off my phone this afternoon. Tomorrow morning will see me getting on the airport shuttle bus at 6 a.m. (ish) so I can use my one-way ticket to Bangkok. I like the sound of that "one-way ticket to Bangkok."

Over the past couple weeks I think I've gotten the chance to see and say good-bye to all of my friends here; I must admit they are many and dear to me. To all of you I wish the best.

My family in the states, on the other hand, have maybe seen me twice in the past 6 years. To them, I am looking forward to seeing you all this winter for the holidays.

Anyone who is curious can follow my exploits, for lack of a better vocabulary, over the next number of weeks here. This way I can avoid annoying you with a barrage of e-mails and photo attachments. This is my first blog and although I intend to update it regularly while traversing southeast asia, ....who knows? begins.