Sunday, September 15, 2013

Visa Run to Bangkok

I realize that I haven't posted as much as I'd like about my life in Mandalay but time and poor internet have been barriers.  Besides, how much do you want to hear about my routine?  Got up at 5:30 a.m., was at school by 6:15.  I play Simon says.  I play Math Bee with the kids, which is a game I invented out of desperation in Samoa.  It is low tech and the kids here love it.  And, it's a great way to get the kids to practice "doing math in their heads".

I could write about making kids cry.  No, I don't do it on purpose and I hate it, but it happens.  Most recently it happened last Friday.  We had a new student.  His day seemed to go well.  His mom and older sister picked him up and he was smiling.  10 minutes later he was back in my room, delivered by another teacher.  Seems he and his family somehow got separated.  We cuddled, his mom came back, it was ok.

So much for the minutia of my day.  Let's move on to the visa run.  Thanks to the Myanmar government, I have to leave the country every 70 days so I can come back and get a new visa.  My school pays for my flight to Bangkok.  They try to combine it with holidays so we can make a vacation out of it, if we choose.  I chose to stay in Bangkok for my week off.

The school packed a bunch of us in the bus yesterday for the 45 minute ride to the airport.  Spirits were high.  Most weren't staying in Bangkok.  Two were off to Chiang Mai.  Another was heading to northern Thailand where she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  Another was heading for Beijing.  Three headed to Siem Reap, to visit Angkor Wat.

I checked into my hotel with no problems and it was everything the internet promised.  The room is smallish (although huge compared to European hotels) and is sparkling clean, new and very nicely furnished.  Plus, the location is outstanding.  Usually when a hotel says it is a two minute walk to the train, they mean its two minutes if you are an Olympic sprinter.  In this case, they were exactly right.

I was cranky yesterday when I got to the hotel.  I've got a nagging problem that started last week with my leg.  No biggie, but it hurts and it made me cranky.  Then I realized I hadn't brought my credit card/ATM card.  I should have enough money and if I run low, I can take out cash on my AMEX card.  But it annoyed me.  What, this is my first trip and I forgot something that basic?

I got over my snit and got a great night's sleep.  This morning I woke up early but then dawdled, which I love.  I was planning to head to Chatachak market but it was overcast and threatening rain and that, combined with the fact that 200,000 people go to that market every weekend kept me in my air-conditioned room.

After dawdling, I headed out to explore the neighborhood.  At 10:00 a.m. street vendors were setting up and the grills were already fired up.  I'm in a great location, close to several high end luxury hotels and an amazing mall.  After walking for a couple of hours, I hit the mall to have lunch at the food court.

Asian food courts are NOTHING like American mall food courts.  Yes, it's fast food, but it's freshly made and healthy (mostly).  And, very cheap and delicious.  The drill at Terminal 21 mall is that you first buy a card - you can charge it for as much money as you'd like.  I chose $6 USD.

I walked around checking out the vendors for almost half an hour.  The place is large and was packed.  I finally just opted to join the longest line, assuming the locals knew what was up.  While I waited the five minutes in line I tried to decide - pad Thai or fried oysters?  I went with the pad Thai and it was delicious.  I went to another vendor and got a plate of sticky rice topped with coconut cream and perfectly ripe mango. A wonderful meal in a clean, attractive, air-conditioned environment.  Plus, I had the company of Mr. Kindle.  All for $3.00.

I'd visited the grocery store in the mall and was disappointed in the lack of Mexican ingredients and the high prices.  I headed down the street to another grocery store, which was definitely cheaper although still pricey. And still didn't have the stuff I was looking for.  I found Italian seasoning and a packet of taco seasoning (at $4 a packet) but neither store had sweet pickle relish.

As I was leaving the store I realized it was pouring outside.  On my way in, I'd stopped just outside the store to check out the prices at a small spa.  Since I was waiting for the rain, what better excuse to go in for a massage.  60 minutes, head, shoulders and back.  It was sort of Thai, sort of Swedish and all wonderful.  Done without oil and clothes on.

It was 4:00 p.m. when I got back to the hotel and I'm whipped.  My leg is still sore but I think the walking helped.  Now it's time to kick back and relax.  Tomorrow I'll be checking out more street shopping and leaving the high priced mall alone.  Except for the food court.

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