Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sour airplane crew, sweet restaurant owners in Istanbul

Just a short update, since I'm nearly passing out in need of sleep... Turkish Airlines was OK - they had alright seats (except the turquoise color) with individual media centers and had a good choice of food and drinks. However, the crew was rather unpleasant, which pulls down my rating.

We made it to the hotel on time (11 pm), but Olav had gone to bed early with the flu, so we chilled in the jazz bar of the hotel for a little while and went to bed. I had trouble sleeping long, so I got up, out, and about to catch the sunrise. A nice taxi driver drove me out along the Bosporous Straight, and let me off somewhere near the bridge north of Bosporous Bridge, where a restaurant owner and his companion wondered what I was doing walking aimlessly around in the rain. They invited me inside even though they didn't open until 8 (almost 1.5 hours later), and we had a chat over three cups of tea and breakfast. Four policemen popped by as well, and when I was leaving, they refused to let me pay. I took the dolmus/bus back to Taksim Square and the hotel.

Olav, Astrid, and I had lunch before window shopping at a mall, and then we paid a visit to one of the seven wonders of the world; Hagia Sophia. It was really amazing. Read about the 1500 year-old cathedral/mosque in Wikipedia...

At the end of the day, we went back to the hotel and played Red Alert 3 until midnight :-)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

next stop Istanbul

our last night in Bangkok was a good one. We had a simple dinner at Beer Palace (which offers a whooping 4 kinds of beer!), a visit to a karaoke bar which charged us double price for our own drinks as well as those they themselves offered to the tout and the dj/midi operator. Since we didn't even take advantage of their services (which consisted of lining up pretty girls in long skirts for incoming farang so they could pick one) and were the only ones making entertainment, we had a minor argument with the boss, paid half price, and got out. We had our night cap at a great place near the Silom night-market, where we turned down near 100 pussy ping-pong touts throughout the night. Is the demand that high? Our bed at the hip and minimalist HQ hostel at Silom soi 3 slept great, and the room was functional except there was no room for our stuff. Friendly staff, corn flakes included. $40 a night.

We head for Turkey this afternoon, so we've got a few hours available. Looking forward to meet Olav there tonight, and take on Istanbul. We're gonna need a lot of coffee!

Friday, December 26, 2008

three strikes, you're out (of battery)

our lucky day...? Um, no. We did have some initial luck in catching the ferry, but I was caught pants down (figure of speech) speeding. Third ticket in Thailand! The officer even gave me a discount. We stopped in Pattaya for a late lunch and continued to Bangkok on the new motorway. It's normally a 2 hour drive max, but we got creative at the end. Add an hour and a half :-) When we finally reached the Silom quarter, where we'd decided to stay, guess what... THE DANG CAR IS FLAT OUT OF BATTERY! So, thanks to HQ hostel's wifi, I'm now able to kill some time while waiting for the mechanic.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Own very own guard dog

the first thing Anders told me about Thailand was that dogs were very aggressive. "You should always carry a stick when walking alone. There are dogs everywhere, one at every driveway." There's one where we stay as well. This dog seems to have a liking in us. The other day, she walked us to the main road and back. Yesterday, she followed us to our bungalow, spent the night on our doormat, and welcomed each of us in the morning. She seems to be our devouted servant and guard dog. She even follows us to the table and sits under my hammoc.

Christmas island

We're at Ko Chang, the second largest island in Thailand located in the south-east, near Cambodia. We cancelled Cambodia, partly because we couldn't take the rental car there. We met a Swede in Trat who'd been bussing around Thailand and Cambodia for weeks, so we're thinking about doing Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand by bus next time.

Monday 22: We were 25 minutes late for the last ferry to Ko Chang (running 6:30 am through 7 pm every 45 minutes), so we spent a night in Trat in a room with a bed that was 2m long and 3m wide! A/C, warm water, TV, and wifi for less than $15... The next morning, we took the ferry over and shopped for a room. We ended up in a modern bungalow with sea view next to a small beach where they make the best mango smoothies. The name of the place is Ko Chang Bailan Beach Resort. Price: $30 per night. The service is great.

Tuesday 23: We spent the first day on the beach and shopped around a bit. The island is not crowded at all, but this is highly likely partly due to the world economic situation and the unfortunate political issues that have weakened Thailand's image a bit over the last three years. The short-term result is that lonely beach again fits it's name and that getting a room, a table, or a stool is almost too easy.

For the second time on this trip, I was caught breaking the law. We we're northbound on the road :-) and were stopped in a routine traffic control. I'd left my wallet in the room while swimming earlier, so it was time to pay another 200 baht to uncle police. Yes!

Wednesday 24: Astrid got a foot massage and had 20 nails done. She spent the rest of the day in a hammoc. Anders went scuba diving all day - two great dives with a professional Thai crew from The Dive Experience. We had our Christmas dinner together accompanied by Blues Brothers (just the movie) including the worst t-bone steak ever, but it was perfectly leveled with my expectations, so no harm done. Just remember to order fish or chicken if you want good food! We spent the rest of Christmas Eve in each our hammoc with wine coolers and fried banana in crack powder :-)

Thursday 25: Merry Christmas to all Americans! It's time for breakfast (Astrid is finally up) and this blog will be continued soon... Thanks for following us!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wedding, silk, ancient history, and thai boxing

This day has been long and eventfull. We got up before 7 and left around 7:30 for a wedding in Nong Bua Daeng, another village in Chaiyaphum. A friend of mine from last year's trip to Bangkok, Aoy, married Joachim from Ganz in Austria. We didn't have time to stay long (I would have loved to see more), but what we saw was beautiful and fun. Before lunch, we made it to the silk village Ban Khwao - a place where one should have a guide. We bought some stuff and set course south.

After a short stop in Chaiyaphum city for KFC (yes!), we drove to Nakhon Ratchasima, or Korat, to see the 1000-year old Khmer temple Phrasat Phi Mai. It's about three hours from "home" in Huai Mak Daeng, so we didn't arrive before dark. And I just had to stop and feed an elephant on the way ;-p After dinner, we're going to watch the local thai boxing tournament, which starts about now...

Thursday, December 18, 2008


We're in a small village where pizza ingredients cost about two days' pay. You can of course buy the ingredients at the K Mart equvivalent. It is winter, which means that we need to put on a sweater during the evening. The city of Chaiyaphum looks like three villages thrown together into one. Where we live, they make rubber, eukalyptus (I don't know what that is in English), and some kind of root vegetable (like potato but not the same). I don't know what they call it. Cassava! They could have made more, but as they don't have enough trucks for transportation, they don't.

Money means a lot. The money is in Bangkok. In Bangkok, you can rent a hole in the wall place to make and sell stuff. Or work within tourism. Clothes are made in hole in the wall places (the same shirt in hundreds of them) and bought by people that somehow get to sell the clothes for export.

As everywhere except Norway and Germany, tomorrow may mean tomorrow, the day after, or never. What is for certain, is that tomorrow (!) we will go and look for a traditional Thai instrument in Chaiyaphum.

A rental car named Chaiyaphum

Anders woke up early and decided to be efficient. He went to the rental car office. He also forgot the map and reservation number, but Wireless road is not far from Sukhumvit soi 11 - only the rental car office is on a street off of Wireless road - which is not named Wireless road at all in Thai, but something like Radio road. Anyway... he actually managed to get a car. And drove back. Well, not entirely. There are traffic regulations in Bangkok as well, which should be followed when the police is present. This is a picture of the intersection (Anders demonstrated full knowledge of the rules a few days earlier when he explained them in detail to Astrid who was eagerly listening). Here are the rules: All traffic except buses and taxi must turn left. And onto the highway. Anders didn't want to do that, but was promptly pulled over and relieved of his driving license, which could be picked up later at the police station on Wireless road (yes!) Afterwards, he could go on (straight) and pick up Astrid and the luggage. Then, we went to the police station and paid the fine (200 baht / 40 kr / $7) and set course for Chaiyaphum. Bangkok-Chaiyaphum took 5 and a half hours, including a half hour lunch. We made Chaiyaphum city by dark, and easily found the way towards Tat Tone (waterfall) and Huai Mak Daeng.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Second or third day

I don't know what we did the first day we were here... I am not sure if I was awake or asleep:) Some taxi and tuktuk drivers managed to fool us anyway, so I guess I was asleep. No, not really... We were sort of willingly mislead... We didn't really know where we were, so we decided to take a cab. Of course, they wouldn't take us unless we agreed to stop a few places on the way. When we refused, we had to stop to have a serious talk, and then we agreed.

But we have seen the boat from the movie, Bangkok Dangerous (which by the way is a title we love) which is rainbow colored, has a large motor at the back, and can be used to smash things with if you're the cool kind of guy (Nicholas Cage).

Don't book rental cars at the last minute during Christmas. It might not work our entirely as planned. We'll have an exciting morning ahead of us:)


One night in Bangkok...

Well, three nights, actually. After a long (15 hour) haul from Oslo through Munich to Bangkok, with separate seats since the AirBerlin carrier was full, finding a taxi and checking into a hotel was a breeze. No need to book a room in advance, 900 baht per night. We're staying at Sukhumvit Soi 11/1, one of the central parts of Bangkok. A few stops from the main shopping malls by Skytrain or Metro, and with lots of places to eat and drink on our doorstep, it's an alright place to stay. Sure, the Marriot across the street offers more luxury, but for at least 7 times the price. Unfortunately, I wished I slept there tonight, because a party of load africans had decided to not stop partying until 7 am this morning...

We've seen the Grand Palace, taken a river boat, visited Dow's sister (my aunt, in a way), and, of course, had some state-of-the-art massage :-)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Yahoo!! We're leaving tomorrow morning!

On my desktop, I've got weather reports from Oslo (-4 C), Chaiyaphum (21), Bangkok (24), Istanbul (11), Alanya (13), Columbia (8), and Nashville (2). I just removed Honolulu, which we visited about a year ago (sigh).

Astrid has placed clothes and stuff in small piles all over the livingroom floor. I've made a pile of sunglasses, mp3-player, camera, and earplugs.

We still need to pack, but first, we have a party to join for a few hours and maybe a last visit to cafe Copa Con Oro pending.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thailand, Cambodia, and Turkey next

It's business as usual this week, that is, full throttle at school, work, and home. I'm finishing up the End of Month tasks at work and taking a course in SAS Data Integration Studio, while Astrid is going to Trondheim for a meeting related to her MSc and she'll finish up some work at BNP Paribas. It seems something is up every night, and then, finally, on Saturday we're OUT OF HERE and on our way south...