Sunday, March 2, 2008

Lost in Bangkok

My main purpose for being in this 3rd-world version of LA was to deal with the Indian consulate, ensuring that I can get to Nepal without delay. After Skyping the office, both in Bangkok and Phuket, it seemed that to get it done in time I would have to get to Bangkok immediately to complete my application in person.

I took the overnight bus. I sat in the back, unknowingly next to the airconditioning unit that was jacked up to restaurant-freezer-status. Everyone was cold, but my seat was colder, and only having a t-shirt on I had to steal some extra blankets from another part of the bus. After not sleeping much, arrived in Bangkok and took a Tuktuk and the guy dropped me off at some random guesthouse. They had a windowless room for $12/night and I was glad to put down the stuff and relax.

After remembering they were only open 9am-12am, I hurriedly looked up the address and jumped in a taxi. I organized my papers and other stuff and then looked up to realize I didn’t really get a good look at where I had started. But I saw some big temples and got the name of one.

Dealt with the visa stuff all morning. [You can easily skip this paragraph.] Turns out to get a transit visa, they need exactly 5 business days, and there was an Indian holiday next week that I hadn’t accounted for, so my transit visa would be ready at 4:30pm on the day we fly out at 2:30am. So, they pronounced smugly, it was absolutely impossible and I would have to change my ticket. But I said I wouldn’t even be leaving the airport, and they finally let on that I didn’t even need a transit visa unless I were flying to another Indian city before going into Nepal. Whew. But since I go from Dehli to Mumbai on the way out of Nepal, I’ll have to get one there, but they couldn’t help me find out if this is even possible (no phone number or internet address). I realized that these were outsourced visa services provided by a corporation for the state of India, so they didn’t know/weren’t responsible for anything but Indian stuff. Sorry for all the boring details, but there you have it.

I was proud of myself for taking the subway back, which cost 20baht instead of the 200baht I paid for the 1hr long taxi to rush to the consulate. I hopped off the subway at the stop closest to my destination and knew I should roughly head north to get where I was staying, so figured I’d just walk. I guess I wanted to prove to myself I wasn’t too good to walk in Bangkok.

Apparently everybody else is. All traffic. All pollution. All the time, and everywhere. I had to limit myself to little sips of breath.

There are cool little pockets in Bangkok, found via the sidestreets off every road, with more secluded little shops and markets a little more shielded from the noisy hustle and bustle. In the right pockets, no one cares where you’re coming from or where you’re going or if you’ll buy anything. I found hints of them, but don’t know how to begin the search for the best ones. There’s too many of them.

And I should have checked the map’s scale a little more closely, because 2 hours of walking and I was just getting to where I wanted to go, and I couldn’t orient myself enough to figure where I wanted to go at the 6 street intersection, cursing myself for being so zoned-out in the taxi ride. Those big temples I saw? Well, there were about 10 just like it in my area. And nothing else looked right, either, and then I realized that everything within a 20 block radius had indeed transformed during the day to a market, with sidewalk stalls ubiquitous enough to block view of the businesses, especially a hole-in-the-wall kind of place I was staying in. I got a little claustrophobic with all the backpackers milling around and all the shit for sale; piles of tshirts and CDs and lighters and all that. I was just super disoriented in general.

After another hour of walking like this, I remembered I my room key had the name of the place, Googled it, walked to it, and instead discovered a restaurant by the same name (Popiang House). Another hour and I found the right spot. Promptly locked the door to my room, took a cold shower, and fell asleep. Not too hard to get lost here when you’re half awake.

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