Thailand 2011 — Part 1 – St Louis MO to Thailand

1996, 2006, and 2011 — On the three occasions I’ve been to Thailand, it was as if I was visiting an entirely different country. Every two to three years Thailand leaps forward a decade, pulling itself into the modern world.

Most of my time was spent with my relatives out in the middle of nowhere, but we managed to head to Bangkok and Phuket for shopping, eating, kickboxing, the red light district in Patong, and an elaborate elephant show.

It was HOT — swampy, humid, and steamy. American Airlines was awful, but thankfully the bulk of the flight was with Korean Airlines.

This log was written during the trip, thus the present tense writing.

Travel Log:

The captions are placed below the corresponding image.

May 29-30 2011
With 30 hours of travel ahead of me, I made sure to pack enough entertainment essentials to last days. Through Zinio, I had a dozen or so unread magazines which I made sure to download to my Thinkpad.

I also stopped at Barnes and Noble to pick up a few books. One is Sam Walton’s autobiography, written before he died of cancer in 1992. The other is a critique and explanation of Wal-Mart’s business model, which has so far been refreshingly unbiased. Third is a book on the flaws and dangers of JM Keynes’ economic theories. Fourth is a book I bought a few months ago but never got around to reading, a story on how Yugo came to America and quickly disappeared.

Oh, and of course I grabbed my two latest copies of Nines, a publication from the Saab Club of North America.

There’s my dog Newton. His expressive face makes him fun to photograph. I won’t be seeing him for a month.

I bought a pair of new headphones before leaving town. The last authorized Grado dealer in St Louis is a guy who runs a shop out of his house. These SR40s sound amazing, especially for $30. They easily outperform most competing $50-$100 competitors. Unfortunately, cans this large are like earmuffs in a tropical climate.

Whoops. Error message on a display at DFW.

At Dallas-Fort Worth (my brother pictured on the right). The layover was only 30 minutes.

We Americans have come to expect air travel to be a brutal, militaristic experience, and we put up with it because its a large country and air travel is the only practical way to get from place to place in a reasonable amount of time.
I found American Airlines to be a bit rude, especially at the check-in counter at Lambert. [Dan, I remembered your name tag. You’re a dick.] AA’s aircraft were a bit dirty, which made me wonder how thorough their maintenance procedures were.
Its a shame that TWA, a legend in aviation, was acquired and ruined by such an awful airline.

Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. They send all the foreigners to a separate building, which unfortunately means standing in yet another security line and walking through another x-ray.


This was my first time on Korean Air. Despite being seated in Economy Class, it was reasonably comfortable and sparkling clean with outstanding service from the ticket counter to the flight crew.

Yay! USB charger.

Entertainment controller with a joystick on the back.

Boeing 757. Thankfully NOT an Airbus.

Scenic California

My display was broken. Asked the flight attendant to reboot it.

Browsing through the in-flight music selection. Koreans seem to know EXACTLY what I listen to. And they described George perfectly: “the forever icon of pop.”

Luther! Again, they read my mind. This is the last album he recorded before he died in 2005 of a stroke.

Coolio. Nice to know he’s making a few coins from in-flight playback royalties.

Checking out the 757’s lavatory

Yeah, its a toilet.

A warm bun filled with meat.

3D golf. The games were reasonably well made, except for the rally racing one where the steering was less like Sega Rally and more like Cruisin’ USA.

Chicken, broccoli, cake, and fish. Outstanding for in-flight food.

I watched “Unknown”, an excellent film despite the far-fetched story. There was a heroic Mercedes W124 in a car chase scene that endured a series of rollovers and an impact with a trolley.

Hamster! A BBC program about colors, light, and motion.

Approaching Seoul, South Korea

You could watch the landing through front and bottom-mounted cameras. Quite clever, giving a sense of control to control freaks like me.

Touching down…

Success! 12 hours across the Pacific Ocean, completed.

You can even watch the plane taxi.

The 757 we just deboarded.

We had to go through yet another security checkpoint. The Koreans didn’t go ape shit over bottled water or treat people like criminals.

The air conditioning was a bit weak. I suppose different people are used to different levels of thermal stress, but I was sweating bullets.

Incheon Seoul was a beautiful airport. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a single place that sold ibuprofen.

Stopped here to order a strawberry-banana smoothie. I experienced some leg cramps on the plane and figured I was low on potassium. I neglected to tell all of my banks that I was traveling overseas, so they’re going to see one charge in Korea at a smoothie stand and wonder who the hell stole my card.

Wifi at Incheon. The disclaimer is in Korean except for “I Agree.” Naturally, I signed my life over and clicked “I Agree”

The layover was just an hour. I was hoping for more time on the internet. I was only connected long enough to post “Greetings from Korea. THERE’S HELLO KITTY SHIT EVERYWHERE.” on Facebook.

Slim can of Coca Cola made with cane sugar instead of corn syrup. Occasionally, I miss the bite of corn syrup, but the smoothness of cane sugar is far superior.

My sister asked for Sprite. I probably should have done the same to settle my stomach. I had a headache from a lack of sleep and considered getting up to vomit in the lavatory. I was so exhausted that I wasn’t even sure I could muster up the energy to puke, so I did my best to doze off.
And I did eventually fall asleep until a baby in the row next to me started crying. Some Chinese people behind me were talking loudly. Ugh.

This can is from 2008. 😐 Tastes fine, but I could tell it had lost some of its punch.

Dinner. Exceptional quality for an in-flight meal.

Filled out my travel papers.

It was 5.5 hours from Seoul to Bangkok.

A blurry picture of Bangkok

The Bangkok airport is brand new. Last time I was here in 2006, and this facility was not yet built.

wpid-DSC01177-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgMurals and such.

wpid-DSC01178-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgBangkok International wasn’t a testament to sparkling aesthetic perfection like Incheon Seoul or Narita Tokyo, but it was easily a few steps nicer than Lambert St Louis. With the loss of business over the years and the onslaught of tornadoes, I’m surprised Lambert is still standing. Eventually, Lambert Field will be nothing but patio furniture and lemonade stands.

wpid-DSC01179-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgIconic images of Thailand

wpid-DSC01180-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgLOTS of ads everywhere for the Ford Fiesta. I really need to test drive one. Probably won’t do it here, because the drivers are downright scary, but I might take one for a spin when I get home.

wpid-DSC01181-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgWe took one of these 15-passenger vans and a separate pickup truck to carry all the luggage.

wpid-DSC01182-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgI think its an Isuzu? I was too tired to check.
[It’s a Toyota Commuter]

wpid-DSC01184-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgBMW 5-ers ready for rental.

wpid-DSC01185-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgMet up with family I hadn’t seen in five years. That’s my grandmother on the far left, then my aunt, then a professor my mom knows. She left her camera in Missouri so we brought it for her.

wpid-DSC01188-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgLoaded up the van. I sat in the rear right on top of the wheels, which did a great job of compressing my spine.

wpid-DSC01190-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgSeat belts? LOL. What seat belts? I slept for most of the journey, and sitting in the back prevented me from cringing at the aggressive driving typical of Thais.

wpid-DSC01191-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgThe highway system is much better than it was in the past, with the expansion of concrete barriers and less interaction with… goats.

wpid-DSC01193-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgWELCOME TO THAILAND! To use this toilet, you squat above the porcelain hole facing away from the wall. When you complete your business, you use the plastic container to scoop up the water on the left and pour it into the hole to flush. It operates on the gravity principle shared by the Western flush toilet, but lacks our lever-activated drain that empties a tankful of water into the commode. The good thing is that squatting to shit means you probably don’t need toilet paper. Unfortunately, it also means you have to put up with a water basin where mosquitoes breed.
Still, this was much more sanitary than the some of the rest areas I used in Florida, where I once had to try FOUR TIMES to find a stall that didn’t have shit on the floor and walls. [Fucking Florida]

wpid-DSC01196-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgStopped at a roadside “diner” at 1am for a bowl of noodles. Made sure to not consume anything with ice since the ice doesn’t typically come from filtered sources. I’m sticking with canned soda and bottled water. As a kid, I happily drank soda from a plastic bag with ice cubes in it, and I pissed out my ass for the duration of my visit. I won’t be doing that this time.

wpid-DSC01195-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgThe noodles were great. Eating hot food outdoors in this kind of heat sucks though.

wpid-DSC01201-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgMy grandparents’ house. This place used to be more or less completely exposed to the outside world. In 1996, I stayed in a tent in the living room. Its been improved over the past decade, and now my brother and I are staying in a bedroom with air conditioning, drywall, and nicely finished floors.

wpid-DSC01202-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgThe bathroom, complete with shower head and flush toilet.

wpid-DSC01204-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgMy bed.

wpid-DSC01205-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgPower converter for charging the camera.

May 31, 2011, around 2am.
It’s strange, in this era of global broadband, to turn on a computer without being instantly connected to the outside world. But here I am, in a rural part of Thailand, using my computer without an internet connection. Its a bit like flipping a switch and expecting light.
Of course, there’s now connectivity all over the country, but at my grandparents’ house, way out in the middle of nowhere, its completely unavailable. Like television, a telephone, or running water, its one of those things that we spoiled Westerners have come to expect.
Facebook is now my primary medium for staying connected to family and friends, and my Virgin Mobile phone doesn’t have international roaming, so I basically said “goodbye” to everyone for a month. That’s okay — its easier to immerse yourself in a foreign country if you don’t have your homeland to constantly refer back to.
More importantly, there’s air conditioning, essential for the survival of a prissy round American.
May 31, 2011
wpid-DSC01211-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgI slept 12 solid hours. When you sleep more than 10 hours, your body gets confused, almost dizzy.

wpid-DSC01214-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgwpid-DSC01215-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgwpid-DSC01216-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgwpid-DSC01217-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgSome pictures of the property.

wpid-DSC01219-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgCool bike. Mom said “Dont even think about it”

wpid-DSC01220-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgMy uncle retrieving some fresh mangos. They were pretty amazing.

wpid-DSC01221-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgMy cousin coming home from school. I told my mom, “I think I’ll go for a bike ride”
She goes “Are you crazy?”
The answer is yes, but I’m a bit freaked out by the traffic.

wpid-DSC01222-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgwpid-DSC01223-2011-08-6-13-03.jpgCrops being grown and such.

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