Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Where to Go Next?

During one of my braver nights out I met an American couple, Curt and Cathy, who were living in Myanmar. Apparently, Myanmar had a ten day water festival that was even more out of control than Thailand. They had flown to Bangkok’s Songkran because it was more subdued and needed a break. I was astonished to this bit of news. They also told me that the people in Myanmar were incredibly nice and English teachers were paid the most among Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.

I was at the end of my funds and needed to find a job or go back home, so I then decided to take a chance on Myanmar.

Naturally, there was the dilemma of going to a country run by an oppressive military government. Nonetheless, I was resolute to stay away from anything government owned and support only individual businesses. Being a poor backpacker this was my normal traveling method anyway. I could hardly afford or wanted to buy one of the expensive tour packages, which the government would get a fat commission. Thus I bought my ticket and took off to Yangon.

Big Night Out

Luckily, Sina and Matthias arrived to Bangkok right after and soon I had a mini gang soaking all the dry people we could find. At the end of one night we found a local club with a live band playing Ska music. Sina soon because tired and went home leaving Matthias and I to dance with the other people on the bench seats near the front. I was having a great time meeting people and listening to the music when I turned and saw Matthias being held by a couple of people. I quickly saw blood on the bottom of his foot and took a closer look. Then I saw what I was afraid of, a huge gash that would require stitches. Matthias foot was completely covered in blood and everyone started to give me paper napkins to help stop the bleeding. With the help of three other guys, I carried Matthias out of the club to the street and caught a tuk tuk to the hospital.

When I got to the operating room I had flashbacks of my time volunteering at Harborview Medical Center. When the doctor started to clean Matthias’s foot I noticed that there was another huge gash that I didn’t even noticed because of all the blood. Luckily Matthias was a bit drunk and in shock when they began the slow painful process of 15 stitches. For some reason they did every stitch separately, tying them up one by one. When it was all finished one of the nurses handed us Matthias’s flip flop and asked if I wanted to keep it. I had previously thought that Matthias stepped on broken glass barefoot somehow. We both looked at the flip flop and saw two huge pieces of glass from a broken beer bottle imbedded straight through it. We politely said no thank you and left.

I later found out that Matthias had to stay in Bangkok for the following ten days to make sure there was no infection and have his bandages changed daily. Sina was not a happy camper. Then when the stitches finally came off the wounds re-tore and Matthias had to stay in Bangkok another 10 days. This was really bad luck since they were planning on heading down to the southern Thai Islands, which was Sina’s dream. I was just glad I wasn’t there when Sina found out the news.

Songkran in Bangkok Slideshow!


Returning to Bangkok was a lot more simple than getting to Siem Reap. The only downfall in a land crossing to Thailand was that you only get a 15 day visa as opposed to 30 days if you fly in. I also later found out that Thailand was giving free visas for 90 days or more till June, 2009 because of the lack of tourism. From the border I took the train the rest of the way. It was only ~$1US for a six hour trip. Or you could pay $8US for a minivan and get to Bangkok in four hours. I had lots of time and it was nicer to take the windowless train to see the countryside. When I arrived in Bangkok I learned that Songkran was starting the next day.

Songkran was Thailand’s three day New Year where the entire country had a huge water fight. It gets so crazy that people on mopeds, and sometimes cars, get into accidents as buckets of water are splashed on them from all directions. Khao San Rd. was packed with people holding a Supersoakers in one hand and a beer in the other. It was every kids dream except 99% of the crowd were adults.

Unfortunately there was no escape from the madness. My hotel was in the dead center of all the action in the tourist area and as soon as I stepped outside I was drenched without mercy. I then proceeded to stay in my air-conditioned room with wifi for the majority of the time. During the middle of the celebration there were violent protests in the downtown town area (~3km away). I was completely oblivious to the entire situation along with the rest of the tourists until an announcement was made on the streets loud speakers for everyone to disperse.

Sure it died down on Khao San Rd., for about four hours, and then everything picked up again like nothing happened. Meanwhile things were much different outside my tourist bubble, the protests continued till the next day and at one point there was car with hundreds of bullet holes at the end of my road. It was later reported that it was an assassination attempt on some Media Mogul with government ties. After all the commotion stopped the government extended Songkran to compensate for the disruption. It then became even more intense…

Returning to Bangkok Slideshow!