HOT INFO On The Road

Ben van den Anker
SE Asia: REPORT #1

July 22, Y2K BKK, Thailand

ROBBED BY SOME MONKEYS!

Kao Sarn road was just too much, too crowded and it seemed that all the people were happy dining at their guesthouses instead of finding something original. Lots of choices but you have to walk quit some roads for it. I informed about getting a job and It's really that easy, a lot of jobs are available for foreigners when in Asia. Finding these jobs out of the country is more difficult. But for now, this year is dedicated to traveling and not to working.

I left for Lopburi the next day. My cyber friend (who has become real during the years) and I had dinner Saturday night warned me for the monkeys. I saw some in town, walking the streets and hanging above noodle shops. They didn't look scaring to me. I bought some delicious rambutans at the market and forget about the monkeys. As I walked back to the hotel it seemed that they didn't forget about me. They came running toward me, it was no use defending myself and the bag of rambutans was grasped out of my hands. Robbed for the first time!

By train I went on to Phitsanulok, a rural town. I informed how I could find the bus station for my trip to Sukothai the next day; I asked it to one motor-cop. He stopped another one and this one ordered me to sit down on his bike. He stopped a bus for me. Actually I wanted to go tomorrow but after these kind gestures I couldn't refuse so I boarded the bus. With nothing more than some small money and my camera I visited Sukothai, the tour buses spoiled it a bit for me. Lots of tourists talking about their Pentiums back home and their travel agent," The Thailand specialist". I still remember the days in Ayuthaya when no other tourist could be seen.

Philok has a nice night market at the riverside; food is inexpensive and good. I traded some Dutch for Japanese with the daughters of the hotel-owner and by now I can proudly announce that I'm able to speak three sentences fluently in Japanese.

It took some time to find out where I could find the eastward bound bus station in Philok, I bought the ticket and to my surprise they just kept on selling tickets, knowing that already too many people would be on the bus. For the six-hour bus ride I sat on the back seat in the middle, almost afraid to breathe, so much space was left for me. The views were great, we passed some national parks and after six very long hours I arrived in Khon Kaen .

>From Khon Kaen I took the next day bus to Udon Thani. This town has been one of the major bases of the American air forces. They also caused samlor drivers to double their rates overnight. As I didn't intend to stay anyway I walked to the other busstation to get my bus to Nong Kai. I met a German guy; he has been here since last November studying Thai boxing. He seems a friendly guy but has to appear in court in Germany for defending himself with too much success after he got attacked by three football hooligans. He also did the civil service instead of service time in the army. He of course didn't tell them his hobby was Thai boxing.

In Nong Kai and old Australian man was waiting at the station and we chatted
for a while. He was wearing a T-shirt from Amsterdam so I assumed he was Dutch. I asked him, he replied "Oo, I'm normal!" He showed us the way to a guesthouse and when he took a pen out of his bag it turned out that he had a Rotterdam police pen. "You see, I'm undercover here!" He seems to enjoy life very much; I admire this kind of spirit that allows people to travel all over the world in their later years. In a bar we met another Aussie, he has been living here for 17 years now and seems to never want to get back again. A foreigner can't own a business here so government allows them 49% of the shares and the remaining 51% are for the woman. I heard some stories that foreigners lost all of their investment due to a broken marriage. The risk is high. He further told us that everything has to be paid for here. If you don't want any problems with the police, just pay them off. If you want a better job, pay your superior for it and by that way you will be able to receive bribes yourself.

Crossing the border to Laos wasn't difficult at all; I knew what I had to do. Just fill in the paperwork, pay the 30$ visa fees, hand over a photo and tell them where you will be staying. I just fill in whatever comes to my mind, don't intend to go there. Laos just looked like a different country, formerly it has been known as the land of the million elephants, by Vietnam War-era journalists as the land of a million irrelevant. I heard it wasn't developed that much but I've surprised, it all looks quit ok.

The roads are not that good as in Thailand. Vientiane is definitely different, the architecture looks more historical. I visited the national museum and, just as in Vietnam, they kept on talking about the American and French imperialist war crimes. I guess no one, it's really unbelievable how these people have suffered.

The city is crowded with tourists, something I didn't expect neither, for people that want to visit some original country; they'd better explore the eastern parts of Thailand. I've heading north tomorrow, actually planned to do so today but I met a journalist and a NGO worker here and it was just too much fun and beer. So my headache didn't allow me to travel today.

Ben

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