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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Our trip to Laos part 2

After we check into our hotel and got the girls changed and ready for the day, we set off to find a place to eat.  In the province we live in, there are no Indian restaurants.  This is a problem because we happen to love Indian food.  So every time we have the opportunity we find an Indian restaurant to eat at.  As you have read in part 1, we ate Indian food in Bangkok as well.  So of course, we went looking for Indian food.

Nathan had told us about an Indian place they like to eat at when they come.  We negotiated a price with the Tuk Tuk driver BEFORE we got in and off we went.  Problem was that he didn’t take us to the place we wanted to go.  He just took us to an Indian restaurant that he knew of.  We were too tired and hungry to fight with him so we just decided to eat there.  Cultural note: Thais like Lao people are very proud people.  They are very much into “saving face”.  So often times if they don’t know something they will tell you an answer anyway, even if it is the wrong answer.  Case in point, instead of telling us he didn’t know where to take us when we showed him the business card and specifically asked him if he knew where it was, instead of saying no, he took us to an Indian restaurant that he knew.

The funny thing is that while we were having lunch, a guy from Nigeria saw us and decided to eat at the restaurant just to talk to us.  There aren’t very many blacks or Africans around Laos so I guess he felt we needed to stick together.  🙂  Very nice guy.  He actually lives in Laos with his Australian wife and absolutely loves it.  He had a lot of funny things to say.  I won’t repeat them all here because it was one of those you had to be there conversations, but one of the funny things he told us is that the restaurant we were looking for was about 50 yards from where we were sitting! lol It was really cool to see that he had found a niche in Laos as a personal trainer to foreigners and was doing well for himself.

After lunch we went back to the hotel and got some sleep.  We were all pretty tired from all the traveling.  For dinner we decided to go to the restaurant we were trying to get to before and wouldn’t you know it, they took us right back to the other restaurant we ate at earlier!  Too funny.  We just got out and walked the short distance to the other place.  While we were waiting for our food, my wife went out took take some pictures and ran into our new friends from the border!  I really shouldn’t be surprised.  The capital of Laos, Vientiane, is not a very large place at all.  If I had to compare it to a place in Texas I would say it reminds of the downtown area of Grand Prairie.  Sorry to those of you that don’t know what that looks like, but trust me when I tell you that if you haven’t been there, you aren’t missing anything.

We had a chance to have dinner with them and had a great time.  They are actually here in Thailand living and working on starting a business.  He actually was here at first training to be a Muay Thai fighter.  (I immediately thought of you Phil J) I won’t rehash the whole conversation but I thought this would be a good time to bring up the Kip.

The Kip is the Laos money.  It isn’t worth very much.  You can see the exchange rates below.

1 US dollar equals 8006 kip.  1 thai baht is worth 250 something.  I exchanged 1600 Thai Baht, which is about  $48 US dollars, and I got back 407,000 kip!  I know right.  This creates major problems when you are trying to figure out if you want to buy something because you can’t help but feel that you are getting ripped off when they tell you that something cost 12,000 Kip.  In the states, I’m just not use to dealing with such large numbers.  My bank account usually reads in the single digits. Lol

So when we got our bill we had a good laugh over the price.  I’ll let you practice your conversion skills on this one.

The next day, we took a Tuk Tuk tour around Laos and took a few pics.  (We also had lunch at the Indian restaurant again J, I told you we like Indian food.)

Then it was time to get packed up and start the process of heading back home.  We left the hotel at around 4pm and didn’t get back home until about 2 pm the next day.  Long trip.

Bus lag is definitely real.

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Posted by on August 29, 2012 in AJ's Adventures

 

Lots of New Pics Up

Here’s a taste of what you will see.

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picasaweb.google.com/adrielj2

 

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2012 in AJ's Adventures

 

Is bus lag a real term? Our trip to Laos, part 1

Almost everyone has heard of jet lag, and if we happen to meet anyone about to take a long flight we always give them advice on how not to get jet lag.  Who knew that we needed someone to tell us the same thing about buses!  Bus lag? Really?  I know, I know…I had never heard of it either, but trust me, it is very real!

My sincere apologies out there to my 9 devoted readers out there for not posting for a while. 🙂  If you read on, you will soon see why. Here is part 1 of my detailed version of the trip.

So we left our house around 12pm on Monday.  Nathan gave us a ride to the bus station in Kanchanaburi.  We got a bus to one of Bangkok’s 2 bus stations.  There is a northern one and a southern one.  We were going north so we went to Mo Chit bus station.  Not sure how to spell that exactly but I’m starting to realize it really doesn’t matter.  All of the English translations from Thai are all spelled differently from one company to the next, from one province to the next.  I saw a sign today spelling Kanchanaburi with a j, Kanjanaburi.  lol  I’ll be posting an album on the photo’s page in a few weeks of all the bag English interpretations I come across.

Once we got to Kanchanaburi we had to go and make copies of our passport as well as take some passport photos.  When you enter into Laos, and probably any other country as well, one of the forms you feel out requires a photo to be attached. If you don’t have one you can get one at the border but they will definitely over charge you for it.

You need copies of your passport in case because usually you will need to leave your passport at the Thai Embassy for about 24 hours or so and you don’t want to walk around Laos without your passport or a copy of it.

After that it was off to catch our bus that left at 2 pm.  3.5 hours later we arrived in Bangkok.  After wandering around confused and lost for a few minutes, Raena and I were able to buy our tickets to Nong Khai, the border town next to Laos.  Since our bus didn’t leave until 8, we decided to go and find something to eat.  There is food at the bus station but what we really wanted, Indian food, wasn’t there.  Bangkok is full of Indian restaurants.  Kanchanaburi?…not so much.  Actually there are no Indian restaurants in Kanchanaburi.  (I figure it would take about $30K to start and run one for a year. Hit me up if you want to invest. lol. no really though)

We did end up finding a very good Indian restaurant and making it back without missing our bus.  Go Team Jones! Some of you might not find this to be a big deal but Bangkok is overwhelming.  To find an Indian restaurant that was close to the bus station, that actually tasted good, in a city of 15 million that we don’t live in, is no small feat!

Back at the bus station, we had to wait about an hour before our bus was ready to leave.  We almost got on the wrong one, but thankfully, they have bus attendants, kind of like flight attendants, that check your ticket and tell you if you are on the right bus.

We got on the bus and got settled in for our 9 hour ride.  Which is why we decided to ride the VIP bus.  From what I can tell there are 3 types of buses you can ride.  VIP, which has a bathroom and more leg room.  First class, which has a bathroom and a little more leg room. Or regular, which has no bathroom and the regular bus seat.  It also makes several stops along the way which lengthen the trip more than the others.

Because I happen to be 6’3 and have the bladder the size of a 6 year old, we choose to buy the VIP tickets, which will costs you about 10 bucks more per ticket than the regular one.  Well worth it for a 9 hour trip.  We ended up only getting  3 seats because we end up holding Alayna most of the time anyway.

We got into Nong Khai at about 6 a.m, where we were promptly bombarded by about 20 Tuk-Tuk drivers.  Since the border doesn’t open until 8, we decided to walk around the local market and get some diapers.  We saw a cute outfit for my daughter, which we found out later, had a special feature. 🙂

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Yes, that is newspaper.  I’ll just let you make up your own story for that. lol

In the midst of us shopping we notice that we have a tail.  One of the Tuk-Tuk drivers decided in his mind that we were rich and was going to follow us around until we said we needed a ride.  After about 30 mins he decided to give up and go after someone else.

From the bus stop you have to get a ride the 4 km or so to the border, where you fill out your departure card and go through customs/immigration.  While we were in line we ran into an awesome couple.  They were even more awesome because he happened to be black!  American black!!!  Again this might not seem like such a big deal to you but in my two months here I haven’t run into a single American black. Not one.  I know, crazy right? I’ll tell you more about them later on.

After you go through customs you have to take a bus across the Mekong River which is only like 5 mins.  You then go to Laos Immigration/Customs.  This is where you need that passport photo I was telling you about.  You also need to fill out your arrival card.

Once through there you have to take a taxi into town to the Embassy or to wherever you are staying.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that there are lots of taxi drivers waiting for your business on the Laos side as well.  🙂

Since we didn’t have to go to the Embassy this time, we went to our hotel.  One little problem.  I forgot to negotiate a price BEFORE we got into the cab!  Hahaha  Let’s just say, the drive definitely ripped us off!

We go to the hotel at 9 am.  A little before our 12 pm check in, but they were nice and let us check in early.

I’ll stop here because if you have been keeping track at home, we left our house at 12 the previous day.  It took us 21 hours to get to the hotel in Laos.

See, like I said…bus lag.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2012 in AJ's Adventures

 

Going to Laos

So we have to go to Laos this week in order to extend our time here in Thailand.  I won’t go into all the details, but the basics of it is that we have to cross the border in order to extend for another 60 days.  We won’t have to do this many more times because I will be getting a work visa that is good for a year as soon as the language school that we are working on is registered with Thailand.

Anyway, as we are preparing to go, I was looking at a few things and came across does and don’t’s in Laos.  They are very similar to the do’s and dont’s of Thailand.

Take a look for yourself.  Just click on the pic.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2012 in AJ's Adventures

 

The last time I rode a bus…

Was about 17 years ago.  A public bus that is.  Being out in the jungles without a car is a little bit of a nuisance.  Nathan is more than glad to take us into town or let me borrow the truck.  The problem is though, that usually he needs the truck to go some place else.  Hence, the reason we are trying to purchase a van for the mission.  In the meantime, my wife and I have discovered the joys of public transportation again.

The first time we took the bus was the day we got back from Bangkok.  Nathan was about an hour away and traveling fast in the opposite direction of where we were going.  We could wait for him for a couple of hours but with tired kids we decided to take the bus.  We knew there was a bus that came to our area, we just didn’t know how to utilize it or where to catch it, or when to catch it.  After asking around and getting a little help from Somsee and some other people we were able to get home.

Traveling with 4 people, we paid 150 baht.  That’s about 1.20 per person to go about 30-35 miles.  Not bad I guess.

So today, since Nathan was gone two hours away teaching English, we decided to try the bus thing again and head to town.  Mission accomplished.  I noticed a few things while riding the bus these two times.

First of all, they drive tremendously slow.  A trip that usually takes us about 35 minutes or so, takes us about an 1 hour and a half.  Part of the reason it takes that long is because the bus also acts as the package delivery truck.  So along the way the driver stopped and picked up several packages that he dropped off along the way.

Another reason is because there aren’t designated stops.  In the states we have bus stops where you can be dropped off and picked up.  Here there are certain places to be picked up but you can be dropped off anywhere along the bus route.  So instead of making 6 or 7 stops, you can make 20-25 stops, not including package drop off.

There’s also not a bell to stop the bus.  You just motion to the driver that you want to get off and he will pull over.

Also, you don’t pay when you first get on.  About half way through the trip the bus pulls over or if he has a helper they just start going up the aisle of the bus and tell you how much to pay.  It varies depending on where you are going.

All and all, not a bad deal. The buses are pretty old so I keep expecting them to break down at any moment.  lol  But what do I expect right?  We are in the middle of almost nowhere. 🙂

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2012 in AJ's Adventures

 

Bangkok Cabbies

So if you read my last post, you know I talked about cab rides all ready.  But what I didn’t realize is that there are two other cab drivers I failed to mention.

The tuk-tuk drivers (not sure if that spelling, but it is pronounced the same as you would say the uke in Luke) are annoying.  The tuk-tuks are cool but the drivers are like used car salesman times 10.  They will stalk you, try to up sale you, bargain with you…and all you want to do is go to your destination.  So annoying.  I ended up paying a guy triple just to shut up and drive me back to the hotel. lol He wanted us to go to some jewelry store and a tailor shop so he could get some free gas in a promotion that was going on. Then he had the nerve to call him the next day so he could take us around Bangkok to see the sites.  Yeah buddy, you just keep waiting for that call.

The motorbike cabbies are probably the coolest of all the cabbies.  They have some serious driving skills too.  Weaving in and out of traffic like a bunch of ants going back and forth from the colony.

I got a chance to ride one today and it was pretty fun.  No waiting in traffic, you just go in between, behind, around, or wherever else there is space.  I got to my destination in no time.  That is definitely the way to travel in Bangkok!  I found it funny that the guy didn’t offer me a helmet until we were on the way back and it started to sprinkle.  Really, you don’t offer me one for safety, but you don’t want me to get wet?  Hmmm, there is something definitely wrong with that.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in AJ's Adventures

 

I hadnt planned on dying today…

Had to come to Bangkok to handle some visa issues.  After being given the run around for a few hours we finally got everything settled. (I think Raena will detail that adventure on her blog in the next day or so.) That’s not really important though.  The important thing is that I am blessed to be alive.  Bangkok drivers are out of control, off the chain, whatever clever saying you prefer.

The adventure started with us taking a van from Kanachaburi to Bangkok.  Our driver must have been training to be a professional because he was doing about 90 all the way.  I just prayed and went to sleep.  If I would have stayed awake I think I might have died from cardiac arrest.  I’m telling you we had so many near misses that I stopped counting. But a fairly good guess I think would be around the range of 63 or so.

Once we got off the van, we got into a taxi that wasn’t to be outdone.  The drive proceeded to turn up his favorite musical tunes and floored it.  I guess he figured that since he gets paid by the kilometer instead of by the minute that he would speed to all of his destinations and squeeze in an extra 20 fares or so.

After finishing at that place, it was into another taxi.  This driver thankfully didn’t speed, but she wasn’t in any rush to get anywhere…at all.  I think I saw a bicycle pass us while we were on the freeway.  It wasn’t all her fault though, traffic was CRAZY.  Perhaps my favorite part is when I realized that we were driving in a lane that really wasn’t a lane.

I guess that’s normal here.

Normal or not, I’m just happy to be alive.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in AJ's Adventures