Thursday, March 20, 2014

Two embassies - Two successes

March 20 2014 - noonish
Bangkok

(Still no photos - sorry)

It does appear that I will be going to Myanmar (Burma) after all. A little added stress, a little wasted time, and a few dollars more and it looks like it is going to be a "go".

Last night's sleep was intermitent. Sleep for four hours. Wake up for an hour of two, sleep for a couple more hours. Finally I gave up around 5:30 a.m. and got out of my very comfy bed. I had planned on arising like a Phoenix at 6 so not too much of a problem.

I Had an appointment for 8:30 at the US Embassy, so I left the hotel around seven thirty to allow for plenty of time to get there. I assumed (correctly) that the morning's rush would be in full swing on Bangkok's streets. I wasn't wrong. None of the taxis wanted to take me there. Finally one acquiesced for $3. He thought he was gouging me, I thought I was getting a bargain. I knew I was getting gouged when he didn't turn on the meter, but I was in not panic mode, but very severe business mode. He got me there by seven fifty.

I really lucked out getting the appointment yesterday. It was the last one for the entire day, and it  was early allowing me time to get to the Myanmar Embassy - maybe. The appointment checker let me in early and after surrendering my lighter, ear buds and cell phone. Removing everything for the x-ray, passing through the metal detector (no beep) and getting wanded I was on US soil. The process was reasonably painless. Window 2 followed by window 6 followed by window some other number. Told it would be an hour and to sit down and watch some basketball game on the Armed Forces Network, my number was called in about 35 minutes and I was handed my passport now fatter than a passenger disembarking for an all you can eat week cruise.

Another taxi ride to the Myanmar embassy some line standing with a bunch of other sweatty  tourists. The man at the first window, said :I did this for you yesterday!" - I explained the additional pages. He smiles and said go to the next step. The heartless woman at the next step said "Not too much trouble?". I had to admit it wasn't horrid. It could have been so much worse. I was making "Plan B" in my mind when I got up this morning. She gave me a yellow reciept for my passport and told me to report back at 3:30 to pick it up.

I walked over to the sky train. Guided another tourist in the ticket process, now that I am an old hand at Bangkok mass transit. The train was waiting at the platform. I got on and settled back for a nice ride. Looking out the window as Bangkok passed under me. Then the river passed under me and I didn't remember seeing it on my previous passages. The reason for that was I was going in the totally wrong direction. I am really glad I didn't tell the tourists to follow me. That would have been a very untasty dish of crow. I got off at the next stop. Changed sides and good old Bob was my uncle again, until I exited at my stop and went the wrong way there too. Yesterday totally sleep deprived and stressed it went like silk. Today with a fair night's sleep I am Corrigan.

Somehow I managed to make it back to the hotel where 20 ninutes under the A/C made life whole again.

Now getting a light lunch of Pad Thai and Diet Coke waiting for 3 pm to forge onward into the forge that is the afternoon heat of March in Bangkok in search of my passport and new Myanmar visa.

- evening -

Wow ! The time change just ganged up and beat me over the head. It is almost 7 pm here. Maybe 5 am back home. I'm not sure about that, my brain is not computing time zones very well yet. I was going to walk down to the main street and take a wander after dark in the night market. I stepped outside and like a wave exhaustion hit me. Maybe I should have taken that nap that sounded so good this afternoon. No sense crying about it now. With luck I'll be able to hang in there for 2 more hours until 9.

I loafed around between noon and two thirty and then started making trails toward the Myanmar embassy in hopes of picking up my passport with a new visa in it. The heat was oppressive so I wimped out and instead of walking the 4 blocks to the sky train station and then to the embassy. I started talking to the taxi drivers who lurked at the hotel's entrance. Trolling for that unsuspecting tourist who has no idea the real cost of a taxi ride. A meter reading should be in the neighborhood of 100 from here to there. So when the head taxi shill said 200 I laughed at him and said I'd walk.Then I countered with 150. No dice so I started to walk. One of the other guys said "160". No, 150. 160 ! Uhh.... 155 ! (15 cents less.) I was just playing the game now. 160 wasn't too bad, but comeon guy let me win. Nope ! No siree 160 it is. We went back and forth for a bit and I blinked first. I feel like such a wimp. If he would have gone to 155 I am certain I would have gone with his 160 (maybe even a little more)

The ride was fine and probably a little slower than the sky train, but it was all A/C all the way.

You know how there are pictographs explaining things if the mono lingual? One cab today had a series of circles with lines through them in the rear door windows. One wih a gun and a knife. One with a bottle of booze. A cigarette. -- you get the idea. The final one in the line was a couple locked in a missionary position embrace. I guess cabbies in Bangkok see everything.

When we arrived at the embassy there was a line out the door and quarter way down the block of "my people" to pick up their passports and visas. The line moved faster and smoother than it should have based on the number of people there. The woman handing out the passports gave my a big smile. I guess we did get a small rapport in the three times I had seen her over the previous two days. I thanked her and checked the page. Lo and behold my planned trip to Myanmar was a go, as far are the visa goes. Now if I can just remember that the Thai Immigration officers get grumpy when you toss the passport to then from 5 feet away I should be winging my way northward tomorrow morning.

I caught the sky train back to my hotel area and at the entrance to the hotel who should be there -- Mister 160.(it must be good fishin' here) I told him I wanted a taxi to the airport tomorrow and to give me a good price. He quoted me what I think was a fair price including road tolls and the deal was struck, 8 am tomorrow for a 11 am flight. 

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