From Bangkok to Phuket

After few relaxing days in Bangkok spending most of the time on my thesis and working on several other projects for the University I started to think what would be my next destination. Nastya had suggested me some places few days before but I also researched a bit on the internet. My intention was to avoid extremely touristic spots, although there are some places that you must visit despite the risk of finding yourself surrounded by a bunch of drunken English or some daddy’s boys acting like hippies. In my first list I selected Phi Phi Islands, known worldwide since the movie “The Beach” with Leonardo Dicaprio was filmed there, and also Phuket island. I also checked Chiang Mai as a potential destination, but due to the fact that it was located in the North of Thailand, I decided to postpone it until my trip to Laos since its border is very near (now I regret this decision because, in the end, I couldn’t go). My final decision was Phuket. The plan was to rest for a week on the beach, work on my thesis and write some content for the blog. The distance between Bangkok and Phuket is huge, around 12 hours by bus, so I took a flight. It was pretty easy to find a cheap one. A one-way ticket to Phuket with Thai Lion Air cost me 760 bahts (around 19 euros). It was November 22nd and it had been 8 days since my flight arrived in Bangkok.

I used Airbnb to book a nice apartment one more time. I was trying to avoid crowded hotels. The price per night was 18 euros, a superb offer. It was a small condo a bit far from the beach area but the offer included a small scooter. The best way to move along the island. The condo was located on a new housing estate which had a gym, laundry service and swimming pool. It seemed to be the perfect spot to chill for a few days. The owners were a lovely couple; a Thai girl called Tuk and her husband Eric, a friendly South-African guy. They told me that they used to live in Bangkok but after a while, they decided to escape from the noise and stress of such a chaotic city. They had purchased several condos in Phuket and they made a living from it, renting them through Airbnb. This was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had with Airbnb, Eric and Tuk gave me tons of advice and tips and they were always available for any questions or request. I’m still in contact with them and I hope I can visit them again in the future.

I’ve had a scooter for many years while I was living in Spain so I used it a lot since the first day. I like getting lost in unknown places to discover moments of beauty. I started visiting Pattong Beach, the most touristic and crowded beach in Phuket. Hereafter you can find Bangla Road, the temple of lust and perversion to most of the tourists who visit the island. I’ll tell you more about Bangla Road and its nightlife in further episodes. I arrived at Pattong Beach at around 9 AM. I barely had slept the previous night due to the early flight. After I got off the plane, got on the moto-taxi and checked in at the condo I didn’t want to spend my first hours in Phuket sleeping so I grabbed the scooter, opened Google Maps and headed towards the beach to take a morning bath. To be honest, I expected way more people in Pattong but the fact is that the beach was very peaceful. Maybe it has to do with the fact that it was too early or because it wasn’t peak season. In any case, I took a nice bath and laid down on my beach towel for a few hours.

I fell asleep for a few hours but something made me wake up. It was hot as hell but the temperature was not the source of my problems. A young Italian guy was determined to flirt with a German woman and he had placed his towel next to hers. He wasn’t accepting a no for an answer and once she stood up and began walking he decided to follow her for almost 1 mile. Once they disappeared I closed my eyes and continue sleeping, but only for a few minutes. Suddenly I heard the same voice. The Italian was back in the game, this time the victim was a poor Thai girl who was trying to read a book. The scene became so shameful that I was about to approach him and have a conversation with this fella, but all of a sudden another guy just showed up. Then, one of the most hilarious memories of my trip took place. This guy had been following the whole situation, he approached the Italian guy and placed his towel next to him, the same way he had done it previously. This dude just stared at the Italian guy for a few minutes until he stood up and left. Brilliant. After a while, he walked backwards and passed by my place. We looked at each other and smiled. I was left wondering how much better our world would be if this Italian guy had decided to find out what happens when you jump from a cliff. The world would be way better without these bloodsuckers. Thinking about the brain of this dude spread out all over the cliff made me hungry so I packed all my stuff and walked around looking for an affordable restaurant to enjoy some local dishes. It was only 3 PM and I still had time to take a nap and relish my first night in the paradise.

First Days in Bangkok

I had rented an apartment a bit far from the center. Close to Chatuchak Market, the biggest market of Thailand and one of the biggest markets in the world. In order to reach the apartment I needed to take a metro and either walk for 20 minutes or use one of the many bikers who drive you home from any of the metro stops. I was told by the owner of the apartment that these bikers fee were 20 bahts per trip, around 50 cents, so I decided to grab one of these bikes the first time. Once we arrived he kindly charged me 40 bahts. After few minutes fighting with the guy I paid him what he asked and left. After that incident I decided not to use this transport anymore even if I had to walk for hours. When you think about it you have only spent 50 cents more but if you keep on doing the same all the time you will find yourself with a huge gap in your account in a short space of time.

I met Nastya the first night, a Belarusian girl who was my coworker during my time working at the reception of a small hotel in Amsterdam. It was her last day in Thailand after a 10 days’ vacation. There is no doubt that Nastya comes from the extinct Soviet Union, she has long blonde hair, 1.70 in height and a thick accent. She moved to the Netherlands few years ago together with her mother and she was studying the same degree as me but in a different University. We had a good connection since the first day. I greatly respect every single person who likes me since I usually show indifference to the huge majority of people I meet. I usually find human beings very boring. Nastya has an east European character, she looks serious and sometimes even careless, but actually she is a very funny woman once you have the chance to know her. We spent most of the afternoon looking for a bar to grab a beer. I didn’t know the area and apparently neither do her. We found ourselves walking around like headless chickens for more than two hours. Finally, after grabbing a cup of coffee in a shopping mall we found a bar where we shared few beers, talked about her trip and recalled stories and anecdotes from our time at the hotel.

During my first days in Thailand I contacted Idear. Idear is a Thai girl I met during my trip to Vietnam in 2015. We sat next to each other in the bus during a tour I booked when I visited the Cu-Chi tunnels. Despite the language barrier (it was pretty difficult to follow the conversation sometimes) we had a good time that day and we kept in contact until now. Idear is an extremely kind person, she brought me a metro and skyline card (skyline is another type of public transport used in Bangkok, similar to the metro), gave me useful tips to move along the city and pointed me the best places to eat in Bangkok. Together, we went to the Grand Palace. There was an exhibition of the biggest treasures and ornaments of the recently deceased Thai King. I got surprised with the respect and admiration showed by Idear every time she talked about her King. I knew in advance that he was very close to the heart of Thai people, but the way she described him was a true reflection of the passion professed by his people. When I asked her the reason for this huge love towards the king I couldn’t understand any of her answers, partly because of the language barrier but also because she didn’t seem to be able to mention any important development brought by Bhumibol, the former king of Thailand. The opulence of the artefacts and ornaments found inside of the Grand Palace drags the attention of everyone. I won’t say they are not beautiful, but it is very questionable whether all this amount of gold and jewelry is really necessary. However, since I come from the cradle of corruption is better to remain silent in these cases. Everything could be found in the exhibition, immense paintings made by more than 300 artists, sculptures carved with a surgeon’s precision and a huge amount of thrones and other accessories used to bring the king from one place to another. All of them full of golden and precious stones.

In the afternoon we visited Chatuchak Market. A must for every traveler who visits Bangkok. I do not quite like consumerism but actually if you look deep in this market you can find amazing stuff for ridiculous prices. After a long walk through the market we sat in a small bar where a Spanish chef (“El Chef Fernando”) was dragging the attention of bunch of locals and tourists. He was cooking a Spanish paella. Around 50 or 60 people were asking him to take a picture with them as if he was a rock star. “El Chef Fernando” happily accepted all the requests and he started to do some magic tricks for the kids at the same time as he managed to give a speech about world peace. Spaniards cannot go unnoticed anywhere.

The following days I had the chance to discover a new Bangkok. I took a speedboat through Chao Phraya River (see videoblog 2). I had the feeling that the boat was going to overturn at some point and based on the reactions of the rest of the tourists of the boat, I wasn’t the only one, but still it was a very funny experience. I also visited the “Snake Farm” and attended to the demonstration that takes place every day at 2pm. The staff from the farm show you how to defend yourself from different types of snakes. The demonstration was so realistic that one of the guys was bitten by a cobra in front of me. All the public was in shock until other guy from the staff with a big smile on his face said something like: “Well, at least the hospital is right behind the farm, otherwise my dear friend would have serious problems”. Thai humor I guess… (You can see this moment in my next videoblog 3).

There was also time to enjoy the night of Bangkok. There is a huge amount of places to visit during the night with different music and atmospheres. I’m getting old so I usually go for places where I can chill and listen some live music. I loved the fact that there was so many live music venues. One place that is worth to mention is “Havana Social”. It is a lounge bar decorated as the typical houses of Cuba. The recreation of the place was absolutely spectacular. Its walls, decoration, atmosphere and even the music quickly bring you to the times of the Cuban revolution. The entrance is one of the most remarkable areas, a telephone booth that leads you inside of the club after introducing the right code number. Who gives you this number?, you might ask now. A guy in a food truck selling hot dogs next to the club. Yeah, I know how it sounds, but trust me, it is true. Inside, the club has 3 floors where you can enjoy delicious (and expensive) cocktails. Due to my low budget I decided to taste only one. After a short talk with the manager, a friendly Venezuelan woman, I moved somewhere else but not without first visiting the bathroom, one of my routines. I know it sounds weirds but I’m very glad I went to the bathroom because it is one of the most interesting restrooms I have ever visited. I know toilets are not glamorous and they are not one of the things you remember after you visit a place but peeing with the background sound of Che Guevara calling to fight against the power was an orgasmic experience. The walls were also full of pictures from the revolution, so in general, the restroom was one of the most attractive spots of the club. You might think I’m crazy but some of the most idiotic and implausible things I’ve experienced in my life have happened in public restrooms, that’s why thinking in bathrooms always bring me good memories. I think this may be related to the fact that my bladder is so small that I need to go to the toilet two times every time I drink a single beer. This personal condition makes me be in the public restrooms of clubs and bars most of the night. Bathrooms become the hub of my nightlife.

Bye Bye Holland, Asia is Waiting

I was in the elevator. A big backpack hung over my back. Inside of the bag there were t-shirts, shorts, boxers and socks. All the basic stuff to survive abroad for a short period of time. Hanging from my chest, another bag, but smaller, where I kept my video camera, e-reader and a book of poems written by Pablo Neruda. I got that book from my auntie when I was living in the United States. That was 10 years ago although I never had the chance to read it before and when I was packing everything I felt that I needed to bring it with me. I think it had nothing to do with the book itself but what it represents. Maybe I just wanted to carry a piece of my family with me.

There were another 4 people in the elevator, among them, an elder Dutch married couple. Once I entered they mumbled something in Dutch but I was wearing my earphones and I didn’t pay too much attention, after all my proficiency of the language only allowed me to say “Good morning”, “Thank you”, “One Beer, please” and just a few words more. During my 5 years in the Netherlands, I have had the chance to improve my Dutch but I never thought that I would stay there for a long time so I decided to use my time more efficiently and I studied a Bachelor Degree in English. I could only listen through one of my earphones so their mumbling came to my ears.

-I think he doesn’t speak Dutch.

I raised my head and nodded.

-Only English, I don’t speak Dutch.

-Aw!, I understand. How many days have you been in Amsterdam? –the old man asked.

-5 years –I replied-. Actually, today is my last day.

Both of them looked at me very surprised.

-You have been here for 5 years and you are not able to speak Dutch?…, this is…

They took a moment, before they continue, probably because they were looking for the right word.

-Unacceptable-. The old man concluded.

I looked at him and with a smile on my face I replied

-Well, it must be acceptable, because I’ve been here for 5 years and nobody has kicked me out yet.

The couple didn’t reply and once the elevator door was open they wished me a good day and left.

This situation could exemplify and summarize my relationship with the Dutch community during my journey in Amsterdam. If you know anyone who has lived in the Netherlands for a while you’ll be already aware of the stereotypes. Most of them will tell you that Dutchies are very straight-forward people who are not mincing their words and that they are one of the most tolerant countries. Unfortunately, in my view, there is a thin line between being too straight and being impolite or offensive. I must say that this line is being trespassed on a regular basis. Regarding the tolerance mentioned before, we must understand that the only situation where tolerance exists is a situation where inequality is present, in other words, for tolerance to exist there must be two groups, one who is tolerant and another who is tolerated, therefore we have a group which is always in a superior position. A Dutch person will, in general, count on you, he will ask you, listen to you, but when it’s time to take the final decision, he’ll do whatever the fuck he wants. Don’t get me wrong, they also have good things to offer. The Netherlands has one of the best economies in the planet, the public spaces are in an excellent condition, welfare state works in a pretty good way or at least better than in most of other countries, there are almost no crimes and you have the feeling that your taxes are going to somewhere productive.

When it comes to the people I can’t deny their pragmatism, they adapt easily to all types of situations and they are pretty coherent with what they think and do.

But enough of the Netherlands, Bangkok was waiting and as I usually do in every trip I wait until the last moment to book my accommodation. This rush made me send two different requests to two different hosts in Airbnb. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that as soon as the host accept your request, the accommodation is officially booked and the payment is done. Just after I sent the requests I got on the plane and after I arrived in Moscow, where my transfer flight was scheduled, I realized that both requests had been accepted and the payments processed. There is no better way to start a trip than sharing with locals and giving away 130 euros seemed like a proper contribution. However, I sent a message to one of the hosts asking for a refund. They kindly told me to fuck myself in the same way I had done so many times in the past when I was working for the hotel and I received calls from customers who had made a mistake with their non-refundable reservations. Karma I suppose, and a dose of stupidity.

During the flight to Moscow, chartered by a Russian airline called Aeroflot, I was seated between a Russian woman who looked like an aristocrat and a Dutch man who looked like… Dutch. Just in front of me, there was a couple, I’m not sure of the origin of the man but the woman was Thai and she seemed to be pretty sick. Since the beginning of the flight, this woman was puking in one of these doggie bags you feel dizzy during landing or take-off. She puked, coughed and sneezed several times and was continuously moving in her seat. In this exact moment I was witness of the kindness and courtesy of the Russian people, every person who passes through the aisle of the plane started to look at her with disdain, the flight attendants asked her numerous times if she got infected somewhere else or if it was only flu and to round off the Russian aristocrat became hysterical yelling at one of the flight attendants. My proficiency in the Russian language is similar to Dutch but based on her gestures and expressions I think the woman considered “unacceptable” (in this moment I recalled my Dutch neighbor) that she had to share the flight with a sick person and that she didn’t want to get infected from her so basically she was requesting to move to another seat. After few minutes one of the flight attendants came and the Russian aristocrat left showing the same disdain as she showed during the flight take-off. To be honest I felt relief because even if that Thai woman was contagious, the middle seat of a plan sucks. Furthermore, I can get rid of the flu in 3 or 4 days but human stupidity has no cure and I was concerned that I could get infected.

The flight was delayed and the transfer which was scheduled to last 1 hour lasted barely 10 minutes. The second flight had no major problems. In the plane, I met Rodrigo, a Spanish guy who was seated next to me. I had few talks with him during the 9 hours flight. The funny part is that we spoke in English the whole time and just before landing he turned to me and asked me:

-You are Spanish, aren’t you?

Actually, I kind of guessed that he was Spanish in the first place but didn’t say a word in the whole flight. I don’t know the reason, I do a huge amount of stupid things during the day if I had to find an explanation for all of them I would go crazy.

Finally, the plane stopped, the airport shuttle picked us up and Bangkok opened her legs to welcome this bastard.

Why Asia? Why Now?

In order to understand this trip properly an explanation of my story is needed. When I was 15 years old I was forced to move to the United States, concretely to New Jersey, leaving in the process Vigo, the city where I had lived all my life. I stayed in New Jersey for a year and a half where I finish High School and work as a busboy for a Spanish Restaurant in the area. After a thorough thinking process, I decide to move back to Vigo in order to continue with my studies. In this particular moment, I suffer what is called “Inverse Cultural Shock”, something that some of you already know because it might have happened to you as well. You come back home, to your city, but even when some things look the same, something inside of you knows that everything has changed, you have changed. The time you’ve spent abroad makes you perceive everything from a different perspective and after few weeks you start to feel like a foreigner in your own city. After some time you start to integrate again, new relationships begin new challenges on the horizon. Everything makes sense again but even at that point, you know that nothing will be the same anymore.

This feeling of stateless in my own town together with other personal and labor factors made me move to Amsterdam 8 years after my return from the United States. After 5 years in the Netherlands, I accomplished many things; I have grown as a professional working in different fields, I’ve improved my English considerably and I’m about to graduate from my Bachelor Degree in Communication. I squeezed my time here, the fact that I’ve been living abroad by myself for 5 years made me grow up and evolve faster. Even though all the positive factors related to my stay in the Netherlands there have been difficult times as well, these moments when you feel lonely, far from home, from your family and also the problems arisen from the cultural differences between countries like mine (Latin country) and a north European country. Fortunately, I’ve been always surrounded by friends who care about me to a greater or lesser extent. This situation turns your friends in your family, the bonds get tight with the people surround you when you miss your family.

315568_10200412147480577_966922225_nAt the end of 2015, I started to notice that my adventure in Amsterdam was about to end. This perception became even clearer in December during my first trip to Asia, more specifically to Vietnam. The fact that I was able to travel by myself to a country so remote as Vietnam made me feel capable of almost everything and it was the spark that generated the flame of curiosity in me, a flame that keeps on growing every single day.

In Vietnam, I discovered a paradise of fascinating spots where its exotic culture and the warmth of its people intermingle with the chaos and confusion of the traffics in the big cities. A disorganized and chaotic country where you can wait hours in the queue just to get a simple paperwork done but also a place with lots of possibilities for the visitor. Paradisiac beaches, towns hidden between mountains and rice paddies or boat trips along millenary caves. During my 14 days of stay in Vietnam, I tried to visit the most interesting spots.

img_20160102_145902 I started my trip in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) where I spent 4 days. In Saigon, I visited the most remarkable places of the city, temples, museums and I also booked a tour through the “Cu Chi Tunnels” (The tunnels built by the Vietcong during the war against the US). After Ho Chi Minh I moved to Vung-Tau where I had the chance of walking through its fantastic beaches, enjoyed its tasty seafood and paid a visit to the Lighthouse and the huge statue of Jesus Christ, only smaller than the one in Rio. The initial plan was to stay only one day there but one local girl called Hanna made me extend my stay for a few days more. She was a fantastic guide and showed me these hidden spots that you always miss if you don’t know the area. My next destination was the ancient town of Hoi An, the capital of Vietnam back in the days. In this fantastic place I spent the last days of December, actually I spent New Year’s Eve here with two Argentinean siblings who have been reunited after 3 years. My trip ended in Hanoi with two visits to the Buddhist temple of Ninh Binh, in the region of the Red River Delta and another one to Halong Bay, one of the most famous places in Vietnam. In future posts, I will furtherly explain this trip to Vietnam in 2015, but now it’s time to explain the purpose of my incoming trip.

In less than a month, November 14th, I’ll be leaving Amsterdam and heading Bangkok, Thailand, which will be the first of the 6 countries I’ll visit during the next 4 months. After Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, and Indonesia will become my short term home during this exciting adventure that I’ll share with all of you. During my trips, I’ll be uploading a written post every week (Wednesdays) and a video (Sundays). Through these two platforms, I intend to show you not only the places I visit but also the personal relations with locals. The main difference between this blog and other travel blogs is actually this one, I would like to show you the places I visit, the food, music, etc. But I would like to focus mainly on people, I want to give names to the unknown, show you how they are, what they think, what their objectives are, basically, I would like to tell you stories of people with a background and origins completely different than mine and yours.

This trip takes place at the same time of my Bachelor Thesis so depending on my workload I might be late uploading content sometimes, however, I’ll try to inform you every time that happens. My Bachelor Thesis is based on an ONG located in Cambodia so during my trip there I’ll do a special report about them in order to show you how things work in an Asian NGO.

That’s all folks!!, I just wanted to thank you all for following me and I really hope you enjoy all the content I’ll be uploading soon. The digital platforms used to keep you up-to-date of my trip will be this blog, through which you will have access to all the written posts and videos uploaded to Youtube. Twitter where I’ll be posting mainly pictures in real time and Facebook which I’ll use for both pictures and live videos. Don’t hesitate to participate and share your thoughts and opinions. See you soon!!