Well I have made it back to Hua Hin in one piece and it feel good to be “home” per say. It’s odd but being back in Thailand real did feel like I was coming home. It’s kind of nice, and as fun as Vietnam was, I’m gad to be back. It’s kind of funny, because after seeing the insane drivers in Vietnam, the Thai drivers look like they drive really well!
Anyways, after I posted yesterday I walked back to my hotel to pick up my bag and then thankfully had my last Xe Om ride to the Vietnam Airlines office. They have a mini bus service to the airport for US$2 per person. It’s much cheaper than a cab which costs US$10, and quite convenient. The ride to the airport took almost an hour and along the way I chatted with this nice Vietnamese guy who spoke pretty good English. I still have trouble fathoming a fact that my Vietnam friend was telling me–Hanoi is nearly 1,000 years old!
When I got the airport I had plenty of time. I was so early that Air Asia hadn’t started checking in my flight yet, though they did after about 15 minutes. When I checked in, I learned that they have a weight limit for baggage of 15 kg, and mine, was conveniently 19 kg. The guy told me that it was US$1 extra per kilo, and after some repacking (moving stuff into my carry on) I got it down to 16 kg and he took it without charging me.
After paying the US$14 departure tax, I officially stamped out of Vietnam and passed through security. I should note that in the departure area, both before and after security, there were no exchange booths. I wanted to use up my dong and I was pretty hungry as I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch at 12:30pm (and it was now 8pm), I decided to eat at the airport.
Now, I’m a bit used to airport food being more expensive than food elsewhere. There was only one restaurant in the international section and the prices were ridiculously outrageous! An average meal in Vietnam had cost me around 45,000 dong…a little under US$3. At the restaurant I ate a cheeseburger and got a can of 7-Up and my total was over US$9!!! I mean the prices were so outrageous—US$4 for juice! It was a bit amusing watching people’s reactions when they heard their totals at the register…I guess they hadn’t checked the prices as I heard many people shouting, “What????” I used up my remaining dong and put the rest on my credit card.
The flight was fine. Despite leaving a bit late we landed 2 minutes early (11:13pm). One would expect that landing at the brand new Suvarnabhumi Airport that we would park at a gate and that they would be plentiful, but that was not the case. We taxied, and taxied, and taxied, finally parking quite a ways from the terminal. Perhaps it was because it was so late…I don’t know though. So, of course, a bus met us to transport us to immigration, but they had only sent one bus and only half the plane fit on that bus! The bus left and it took a good 20 minutes before another one came! So we were left standing there on the plane with the flight attendant blocking the exit while we waited for the next bus. When it came, I noticed that it was a different bus, so they just did not plan well at all. By the time we made it into the terminal, we had landed nearly 40 minutes before!
Immigration was a breeze, and even at midnight it was quite crowded. The procedures at the new airport are pretty straightforward, though at the old airport it was easier to find desks with shorter lines that were further away…not the case here. I changed money and then caught a metered cab to my hostel (I stayed the same place I did when I left), which somehow cost nearly half the price on the meter that it did to get to the airport from the same place just one week earlier!
Today my day was devoted to shopping around and comparing prices on digital cameras around Bangkok. I asked for a suggestion as to where to look at my hostel and got a fantastic recommendation from the front desk–the IT Mall. Yes tech nerds, you heard me right, a mall dedicated to technology. Well, to be fair, it’s not enormous, but it has many smalls stores selling nearly all technological things imaginable. The advantage of all these stores is that you could compare prices…the price for the same camera had a range of US$100! It was a really cool place!
After the IT Mall I took the subway to the Sky Train, and then took that to the Siam Square area…the big shopping area. Some of the high class malls didn’t have stores selling cameras. Siam Paragon, for example, which is one of the fanciest malls in the city, didn’t have computer stores, but instead had quite a few luxury car dealerships (Steve Wynn take note). The three malls on that block all specialized more in fashion, so I headed over to my old favorite…MBK.
I’ve been to MBK before and it is pretty incredible. Essentially, the best way I can describe it is as a combination mall and indoor market. And they had a whole floor dedicated to tech stuff. Unfortunately, nearly all of the booths sold cell phones, but I did find a lot selling digital cameras. My only complaint is that they don’t have quite the selection they do in the US. Ah well, I’ll be doing some research in the coming days now that I’ve seen my choices and next time I’m in Bangkok I’ll pick one up.
After I was set I went back to my hostel to get my bag before Sky Train-ing it over to the Victory Monument where I catch the van back to Hua Hin. Handling the Sky Train with my big pack this time was far easier, as the train was much less crowded (on the way up it was rush hour on a weekday). The van let shortly before 4pm and I was back here by 6:30pm.
Well, now this chapter of my great adventure has come to an end. It’s only a small one though, and I’ve still got over 2 months left in Thailand so there will be plenty more to come! Tomorrow I start the new term and this time I am taking Ethics in the Media and Thai Language II. Should be interesting though! Plus, this term I only have class 2 days a week which means I can do more! I’ve got a few trips in mind. We’ll see what’s coming up. First though, I’m excited to learn about my classes tomorrow!