Saturday, March 12, 2016

Beginning of my trip

Cheers!  This is the start of my trip to Southeast Asia.  We had a layover in Seoul, Korea, and opted to have a quick beverage before settling into another flight.  I thought it was three hours.  Turned out it was 5.  I thought I would die.
Mostly due to the fact that the initial flight from Seattle was almost eleven hours.  I get bored sitting in one place and I was unable to sleep.  Typical.  The return flight was worse.  I think I slept maybe two hours before landing in Denver.  I am staying up, currently, in an attempt to sleep through the night. 
I left Denver on a Saturday morning.  Shari missed her initial flight from Minneapolis.  She contacted me to let me know that she was trying to find a way to Seattle before our flight departed for Seoul.  I remember thinking--crap.  I really hope that she can get on another flight.  If she doesn't, I am uncertain how we will meet up in Bangkok and I don't have any of the hotel information.  I am so screwed.  After landing in Seattle, I met my friends, Jean and her boyfriend.  They took me to breakfast and gave me a mini break from being in the airport.  We had omelets and bloody Mary's.  Lovely!  They dropped me off back at the airport and I went through another security to eventually meet Shari at our departure gate.  She had managed to find another flight to Seattle.  Thankfully!
We land in Seoul where we go through security to enter the airport.  There was a transfer to our gate and over an hour to handle this.  I went through the scanner and was flagged down.  They wanted to search my bags for what I presumed was my wine opener.  I found it tucked away in my carry on.  A wine opener from chateau st jean that I had acquired years ago while visiting California.  I also had a souvenir from my dining experience at the French laundry.  Both items were nostalgic.  I was surprised that I made it through both Denver and Seattle with no trouble. 
The agent was uninterested in the wine opener.  Instead she asked to scan my bag again.  I pointed out that I knew I had a wine opener.  She insisted that it wasn't that that was causing the scanner to go off.  No, they wanted to see my change.  I had a bunch of quarters in my purse from needing quarters for parking meters.  I had forgotten to take the coins out of my bag.  Seemed so surprising that they would stop me and question me about that.
We left security and walked through the airport.  Large.  Shopping.  A few bars and a group of people performing.  I liked it and felt comfortable.  We had a beer each before heading to the plane.  Next stop, Bangkok.  We arrived at 10:55 pm.  Since we had no checked bags we made our way out of customs and arranged a taxi.  The whole process was painless.  I achieved another passport stamp (yea) and entered Thailand.  Our hotel was in the Sukhumvit area which suggested good restaurants if you avoided certain streets as they had sketchy massage parlors and characters.  Shari found us a hotel that seemed to be in a good area.  Of course, the hotel was not what they said completely on line.  A little misleading but lesson learned. 

The next morning we chose to see where we were staying. This was on the way to a massage we were hoping to find.  I think it is gorgeous.  We attempted to find a place suggested in the book only to get frustrated by the heat and not being able to find it.  It was considerably warmer than I thought it would be.  Instead of continuing to search for the suggested place we returned to a spot we had seen along the way.  Receiving a thai massage was perfect.  Clean facility, good therapist and refreshing tea to serve us afterwards.  From here we took a tuk tuk to check out the canals.  Seemed like a good idea at the time and a way to see more of Bangkok.
That evening we tried to find a restaurant that would be in walking distance from the hotel. A friend of a friend suggested a few other areas where we could find great food.  Indian, Korean, street food.  I wanted to see what one street was like and this guy said we would find great Korean on it.  We walked to the street only to feel a bad vibe.  I was no longer interested in finding a restaurant after walking along and seeing all of the women and men.  That is all I am going to say.  Use your imagination.
We walked back to the hotel area and settled on a steakhouse.  This was geared towards a western tourist for sure.  We sampled comfort food and it was delicious, if not too rich.  We skipped the steak and opted for sides.  Early night as we had to repack and figure out the taxi ride to the airport.  There is a train that we could use as an option depending on when we left. 
The first morning in Bangkok, we dined at the hotel for breakfast thinking it was included in our rate.  It wasn't and it was geared towards the western tourist.  Bacon, eggs, pastries, some cereal and the majority of guests were English speakers.  Since we knew that we didn't love it we walked to find street food for breakfast.  There was a stall with rice, beef, chilis and hot sauce.  We stumbled through the process pointing at bags and saying yes, we want this.  We sat down and realized our mistake.  We should have given the woman our plate instead of asking for a bag of rice.  It was big, shareable and delicious.  Preferable to the breakfast we at the previous day.  As we sat there a few others joined us and one man poured us water from a cooler.  He knew that we needed water.  We accepted graciously and yes, the water helped.  Those thai chilis are hot.  Afterwards, Shari commented that we were doing everything that you are not supposed to be doing.  And, I concurred.  I was afraid that I would be experiencing stomach issues in the foreseeable future.  I hoped for the best and than had memories of my return from Honduras and Cuba.  Bad experiences that is all I am going to say after dining.
The massage place we found was delightful.  We had an oil massage/facial combination spanning two hours.  We had just enough time to return to the hotel, check out, and hire a taxi.  We paid 260 baht to leave the airport and were instructed that the return to the airport would be 500 baht.  Such a scam and one of those situations where we had to endure it.  Taking the train was no longer an option.  We needed to arrive at the airport, check into our flight and depart to Hanoi.
I turned my wine opener in at the airport.  They advised me that I would not be able to get it out of Hanoi.  I figured they were right.  We started and ended with a beer.  I will update my time in Vietnam in a bit.

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