I want to keep my posts shorter than I normally just bang out. It keeps things coherent.
I took a 15 days vacation in various parts of Thailand with the starting destination -Bangkok(I normally fly from Delhi International Airport in India). The occasion was to celebrate the publication of my book-Windows Malware Analysis Essentials, Packt 2015. I like travelling solo as I meet so many people that having another one tugging around is like taking care of extra baggage, not always but mostly so. Also it inhibits talking to other people cos you are always talking to your travel partner.
Since I travel often, I already have a hang of things like how much to carry, flight weight limits, where to find what etc – still I had surprises, of the not so good kind.
- Arriving at the wrong terminal on departure, but the guard letting you in anyways and messing up your timing
- Mismanaging your Visa On Arrival Cash at destination
- Losing your ATM card on the day you are charged and feel good about shopping
- Not having enough liquid cash to pay the hotel rent and staying at the owners liability
- Having to find someone to arrange money abroad for without having any guarantee that you will ever get your money back
- Booking the flight on a wrong date, and having to work around a solution, while being sleepy first thing in the morning, on the last day of your visa.
Bit more in detail:
Co-incidentally, I did not change my currency while still in Delhi which is 1000 Baht. Its just about 2000 rupees and even as I thought about it and asked the exchange guy in front of me – he was recommending that I will get better rates at Bangkok so I should do the exchange there.
First mistake – don’t take people’s word for it. Do the research. In India its not just misinformation, but even personal grudges or biases that can persuade a person to disseminate incorrect facts, especially when its relevant and can cause inconveniences without being overtly harmful. Another things about the petty mindset, if you look too cool or stand out from the crowd, in places like India, it attracts the wrong kind of attention sometimes and the inner evil starts to pour out. Just be aware and don’t make decisions in a rush, take your time to judge whether you are being taken for a ride. This quite gender agnostic from my experience as anyone who qualifies for the above attributes are target by the ones who think they need some of it. Its the Schadenfreude mindset that is very prevalent in the Indian mindscape.
Moving on, I took out some cash from the ATM, which is always a good thing when travelling abroad because cash really is kind. ATMs can back out, banks can close and emergencies can happen – that is when the cash reserves can kick in and save the day. But in my naivety, I took out just 2500 INR thinking that I am landing in Bangkok in just about 3 hours, can’t be much of a deal, and I have the bank cards anyways. This was the second mistake – I should have taken enough to last any incidental expenses too, like airport food or airport entertainment or services options.
Anyways, I waited 3 hours for the flight which was scheduled to leave at 4:30 in the morning. I arrived at IGI airport around 9:00 PM in the evening. So I had a good amount of time to checkin and rest in the meantime. Mistake to trust anyone these days — I found out that I was in the wrong terminal just less than 2 hours before the flight at around 2:00 AM. So I retraced my steps mentally to check where could I have made the mistake. My ticket was all set, I came on time – what happened was the security guard who checks the passport and ticket “deliberately” allowed me to enter the wrong terminal when the ticket explicitly mentions the terminal, which he too is supposed to check – after all he is the gatekeeper. But one look at my passport and then my overall getup, and the guard’s face tightened up, I remembered. He then slightly annoyingly told me to get in and looking at me as if, I was now tricked- that look should have set the signals for me, but I was too excited and in a holiday mood anyways. Normally its easy for me to pull up such people as I have connections out here in India. But sometimes things are just not worth it.
These sort of things happen quite a few times with me, especially if the other person has some sort of deficiency that he gets reminded about. As far as I remember the guard had an oriental look, possibly from Sikkim or the North East, and then it clicked that my name reveals the fact that I too have roots in North East, something which he could never have guessed just by my looks. Given that he knew my destination and asked me about it – I told him it was for a vacation – he looked like he got jealous of it and wanted trick me into this predicament. He was not the supportive and same community person that one could have expected. It seems seeing others’ success makes one a little uncomfortable and envious of their present circumstances.
I took the shuttle bus immediately after waiting for it for 30 min and then proceeded to the correct terminal.
In fact at the correct terminal another guard from North India, was again asking me in a slightly nostalgic and defeated tone as to what purpose I am going to Bangkok? I said vacation – he was trying to be friendly and probing what was my occupation etc…trying to figure out what makes my cash flow tick. Its just a vacation pal, and you gotta be a little resourceful yourself. You get to see these types a lot – but surprisingly in the Airport too? Its the one place where people come to fly out and away– still badgering me with questions — but since in India I command everywhere I go — I said, “brother, its okay, I’g getting late, I gotta move now”. He amicably shook my hand and we parted. One of the better people I say. Not like the previous guard.
So anyways – boarding was done successfully.
I arrived at Bangkok around 2:00 PM Bangkok time. I wanted to reach out to give some cash to the exchange – SCB-Siam Commercial Bank outlets – the purple coloured booths. I found out that I do not have 2000 INR but am 300 rupees short. I casually asked for an ATM nearby. In the meantime I was trying to guess where had the extra cash gone. I then recollected that I did buy a sandwich at the airport. Bummer, when I found out that there is no ATM in the airport. At least what the SCB teller was saying. I asked around, then someone was telling me that going past the security check in the second floor, there is a small ATM hidden behind the SCB outlet. The security check area was little confusing for me, its not just straight, but till the end, almost. Then I met a security officer who gave me the right directions and said with authority that if asked say the official security has sent me. I did the same and went checking after finally finding it. No rupees – on Dollars and Euro amounts are accepted by the ATM which have to be exchanged at the SCB booth to Baht. I took out about 500 Euros. Got that exchanged immediately and breathed a sigh of relief. Now I had the cash, I rushed back and stood on the VOA line.
One funny thing about the VOA stamping counter waiting area – you get to hear the token numbers and between each number- a rather cute and kinky sequence of words are said in a female voice to break the monotony so that no one misses any token call. They sound something like “sa-phu—how-pow” as far as I can remember and said a quick and sweet tone in Thai of course. I took an exit to the MRT and then the BTS heading to Siam station, after which I had to change to National Stadium just one station after. This is the Siam commercial area with hotels all around in hopping distance, and the MBK as well as Central World all connected by the BTS Skywalk(overhead walking pathways).
I checked in at Lub.D hostel, which I honestly did not find appealing at all. So I shifted to The White Lodge and later to Reno Cafe Hotel and the Feel At Home Backers as well as Suk 11 for the rest of the journey in Bangkok.
MBK was indeed a great experience for me as the seven floors of shopping is cool in its redundancy and diversity. Also –very clean and organised. You can find your way around easily. Not at all like Dubai mall. Might be the biggest mall currently, but not much of life, the Reel Cinemas in Dubai are OK- though I found the Bangkok cinemas to be a lot better, screen size was larger and more engaging, also the screens were curved. Virgin Megastore sections are nice in Dubai mall and The Mall of the Emirates. But when you combine, MBK with Siam Paragon and Central World-as well as the Chatuchak market and the smaller markets like Patpong market — you realise that this is a unique and world class shopping experience, possibly second to only Singapore. Size is not everything. Also other things that matter to the shopper – like accessibility, price points, bargains etc.
I purchased a new Korg Synthesiser and controller from Central World. 3 Dry Tank bags from Karana and Feel Free. Both are outstandingly useful bags that I am still in love with with their utility and weather proof build.
Again I got ripped off in the MBK as the female shop attendant in the ground floor swapped the Feel Free Dry Tank bag I was demoing with another defective bag. I went after 5 days to Central World and told them about it, they exchanged it from Supersports store. Supersports is on the biggest sports sections I have ever seen in a shopping mall. Thanks to the brand warranty !
Food was the best deal for me in Bangkok – so many choices really. Hachiban Ramen was a regular choice for me at MBK. Sushi Boy is another nice restaurant where the 1 teaspoon full of Wasabi blew my head off – Wasabi and mustard. Deadly combo. I actually could not even call for help or “water”, I was choked. The sensation I can describe is that Wasabi will taste very sweet immediately till in the next couple of seconds the “kickback” surges up and punches your nasal cavity and nerve system too..just flushes everything out. The kickback is so strong that its like and external orgasm that is as forceful as enjoyable. But its has to be in moderation.
The best deal I got in terms of the purchase was from Chatuchak market- a solid machete for just 250 baht. I bargained for 230 baht, cos its cheap already. Very happy with it. I also got a couple of Bear Grylls knives – Paracord survival knife and the Ultimate Survival Knife – from MBK — and you can bargain again. Just have a good idea of the original price for known goods and for unknown ones, start at the half price point, though as a compliment to the shop keepers I offer a higher starting point.
Chang Mai, Cambodia and Laos as well as Vietnam were an awesome experience and I just had to do it. I should be able to highlight some of the better rides in future posts.
I am going back a second time this month and I hope to see even more of Thailand.