You mean you’re not from around here? You don’t say…

We haven't really said much about what it feels like to travel around in lands where we're mostly illiterate and probably come across as more deaf mute than anything with all of our pointing, grunts, waving and facial movements that we use to get our ideas across. 

Singapore, was more of a slight introduction to Asia, with it's clean lines, new buildings, ordely systems and missing old people, but where is the chaos and the brash shouting and lack of concern for who was first and who's turn it is anyway? Where's that vibe of foreign that rings so true in small places in the states like NYC's Chinatown.

Oh, here it is, Welcome to Bangkok, Thailand. Sawadi Kup/Ka! This is where that familiar surliness you've been waiting for comes out from yours truly. 

Actually we got a good dose the chaotic feeling in Hong Kong, where our connection to Singapore was so close that we were shuttled through the staff security checks and through immigration just so we could make our connection, but that was even laden with tones of organization that were latent from western values. (Which I have to say, we could learn something from back in the states about their ability to do this. I mean people were actually waiting for us and had a list of the passengers that needed to rush over there. That has never happened in the states, it always equals a missed flight.) 

Savvy travelers that we are, using the “if you walk to the empty line far away technique you'll move faster” logic, we quickly saw where our cultural ideas could be stripped away. The queue we chose for immigration for our tourist visa, while short, was the longest wait, as one person belabored over each passport and traveler. Our line seemed laden with United Arab Emirates, who because of their Arabic wrap and dress, and passport origin, were drilled a barrage of unknown questions. Once they were proven non-threats, they were allowed passage. 

Once through, we walked to several information booths, finally inking out information from one of the last, where we purchased tickets to an airport express bus that carried us to the city rather quickly (about 20 minutes) for a mere 150 Baht each (about $5  US each). Getting to the hotel from the bus station was pretty much a breeze or at least the haze of traveling memories leads me to believe it was.

Once, settled into our most expensive hotel room yet, we relaxed a bit and then headed right back out into the heat to find a day market and find some food. After about a 45 minute trip across town on Bangkok's surprisingly quick and efficient train system (BTS) we found the Sunday market that held forth every item one could ever need. House furnishings, clothing, kitchen ware, food, fresh veggies, fresh meat, shoes, all the antiques and knickknacks one could ever dream of. 

We wondered around the market in a travelers haze leftover from flying in from Singapore early in the morning and the Bangkok heat and after deciding that our bargaining skills left something to be desired we settled on a hawker stand directly across from the market, where Tracie ordered sensible cold noodle dish and I mistakenly ordered a bowl of hot broth soup with noodles and pork and apparently some delightful stomach bacteria, which left me toilet bound most of the night.

From there we took a stab at exploring Bangkok with zero knowledge of bangkok and ended out by the railroad tracks, dehydrated and tired. I took some of my first photos there under and from the overpass of a roadway interchanged (show below) and from there we hopped a free bus (no one else paid, so why should we?) back to a train stop and back to out hotel.

After a brief nap we headed over to a night market a minute walk from our hotel, and Tracie ate a fresh mortar ground papaya salad and I got some fresh grilled prawns. All accompanied with little air-poofed baggies of spicy sauces. Sorry no-photos, we were exhausted.

After chugging the local guaranteed hangover beer, Chang, I popped some Imodium and we headed off the next day for an “8hr” bus trip to Isaan Province to a town called Yasathorn in Northeastern Thailand, where our Sustainability Study Trip began. Sure, 8 hours, after zipping over to the bus station from train and taxi, we arrived and asked for a train to Yasathorn, blank stare number one, moved onto another booth, “ahhh…Ya-So-TORN…follow man…”. We were lead to one of hundreds of windows with Bold Thai writing everywhere, no English (welcome to Asia finally), where the woman scribbled the cost down and handed us two fledgling pieces of paper with thai print all over and a time circled. We said,”…when is is leaving?” blank stare. Hand motion to watch. “NOW…GO…THERE (pointing towards the gates)”. Of course, we had just used up almost our last Thai baht, we had 40 left, about a 1.20 USD, and then commence our scramble to find an ATM. After, more hand motions, we found an ATM and scrambled to get money out of it and back to the gates in time. Let's stop right here….

Note: Fellow travelers, nothing points you out as a potential sucker more than rushing around. Hesitate at all times from looking hurried or rushed. Keep a calm air about you and things will work out.

…Yea, you'd think that would prevail from my kitchen job back home, but nope, we scrambled, and when we asked where the Yasathorn bus was…a guy motioned us over and examined our ticket…he then took our bags and loaded them onto a bus that had UBON as the final destination. I said “…YA-SO-TORN?” He said, “…yes…ya-so-torn…sit here (pointing to rows of chairs)”. And so we waited…
and waited. We watched him, for the next hour and a half, try and fill his bus to wherever. We had been swindled off the direct express bus to a long local bus, but we wouldn't figure that out until our next bus trip, that was so much smoother.

For 11 hours, once we got going, we were tormented with uncertainty and this liquid syrupy sugary thai pop music, until finally, the guy who shall forever be known as the prototypical Thai bus attendant type, motioned us to get off. We were nearly 4 hours late. It was dark and in some small town in a land where few spoke English.

We tried a phonebooth to call Jo Jondai, the farmer that was going to lead our Sustainability Study Trip. It didn't like the amount we put in…we hand motioned for someone to change our bill to some change and tried more money. No dice. We spied another booth a block away. No dice.

This booth was in front of a beauty supply store where a transgendered lady, who happened to speak a little English, let us use his cell phone to call Jo.  A little bit later after a nice chat with the lady and a young girl, who walked Tracie over to the local radio station they ran, where she introduced a song, Jo walked up and anxiety melted away. There are some people that have something about them that relaxes you and makes you feel welcome and at home. Jo Jandai is that kind of man. We shuttled off into the night in the back of a pickup he had talked into taking us out to Bahn See Than, in the province of Isaan, where his family farm was and our trip was to meet and begin.