21.12.2012 90 °F
Greetings & Salutations,
So maybe it’s been a little longer than 5 or 6 days since I have last posted. For good reason though as the past couple of weeks has been a mad dash to the finish line. Finish line you may say? The finish line yes, as I am sitting here writing this entry from the Riyadh airport here in Saudi Arabia. After an 11 hour layover here I am flying a quick 16 hours to JFK, where I then board a greyhound bus for a 3.5 hour trip back down to a cold cold Baltimore.
Before I get ahead of myself let me pick up where I had left off a couple weeks ago and paint a picture that is riddled with bureaucratic BS that has in turn forced me to return sooner rather than later. After picking up my passport from the India embassy in Chang Mia I was alarmed to see that instead of a 4 week visa I was granted only 2.5 weeks. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but in this situation it was critical. The 4 weeks would have allowed me to stay in India until mid January. At that point I could then book a cheap flight (cheap as it would have been several weeks after the holidays) into Cairo, Egypt. Kick it in Egypt for a week or two and then jump on a flight into JFK for around $350 USD. That was the plan I had put into place, but I have learned in these past 8 months that plans can change and do change very quickly. Quickly and without you having much control over the situation. When I had dropped off my passport at the Indian embassy the prior week it takes them 1 week to process. Well for no apparent reason they count the 1 week processing time into the total 4 week visa you are granted. Basically after you pick up your visa/passport after 1 week the timer had already started so you are automatically down to three weeks. I wasn’t going to be flying into India for another 4 days so there goes 1 week +4 days out of a total of 30 days. Long story short I had to be out of the country of India by January 6th. At that time ticket prices were very high due to the holidays. However, I was still contemplating flying into Egypt and then from there to JFK. Falese, think again Matt. There has been political unrest in Cairo and even though I like to roll the dice here and there this was a situation I really didn’t want to walk into. Long story short I had to book a flight directly from India to JFK, with an 11 hour layover in Saudi Arabia, which is where I am now.
Don’t worry though as these past 2 weeks have been a sprint from city to city and country to country. Taking the night bus from Chang Mai to Bangkok was an experience as these night buses usually are. I still don’t get why I attract the absolute crappiest buses wherever I go or whatever country I am in. This bus was absolutely horrible and to make matters worse we were passed by at least a dozen really really nice buses. Buses with plush seats, complimentary blankets, flat screen TV’s, and even steaurtists on board. Yeah that’s right, stewardess. Stewardess’s like the kind you see on airplanes. Uniforms, friendly Asian smiles, bright lipstick, you get the idea. Our bus smelled of stale vinegar, an overflowing toilet, and a faint smell of burning plastic. Plus it drove very slow the entire journey. Either way we got there safe and sound around 7:30 am. It dropped everyone off at one of the major streets in Bangkok, Khaosan Road. Even at this hour there were still people drinking from the previous night and the vendors were already setting up shop after closing down for maybe a couple hours or so. The sidewalks are not existent as people selling everything you can think of setup in front of the other shops. Fake ids, diplomas, press credentials, tailored suits, kebabs, t-shirts, bongs, and booze are just a few of the potpourri of treasures that can be had. Negotiable…..you better believe it. Everything is negotiable and being the salesman that I am I can honestly say I came out on top every single purchase. I played them like a fiddle and they enjoyed every second of it as the culture promotes haggling and haggling was done on all sides. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. I only stayed in Bangkok two nights as I already had my flight booked for Calcutta and was locked into this schedule. I like to be a little more cruisy then this when travelling, but there was just no room for further flexibility. The first night of fun was had on many different levels. Sitting on the street and drinking beers at a street bar is full-on, as one is constantly being assaulted by people selling all kinds of crafts and gadgets. As the night progresses there is definitely a seedier side to the city as most already know and there are several “infamous” night shows one MUST checkout. I will not go into further detail and please fill in the blanks as you see fitting. However, I will say that I saw things I will never forget for as long as I live. Even if I wanted to forget such things it will take much time and maybe several visits to an accredited psychologist to repair such mental scaring. But then again when in Rome……….right? The next day I was feeling a little rough so I just took it easy. Wrote a few postcards, ate some good food, and just walked around a lot. I really wish I had much more time to explore Bangkok and truly wish I had the opportunity to visit southern Thailand. This world is just so big with so many cool things to see/do it can feel very overwhelming at times.
I made my way to the airport the next morning feeling fresh for a 3 hour flight to Calcutta and was very close to missing my flight. For the record I have never missed a flight, whether domestic or international I have never missed a flight and pride myself on that. However, this was a close call and I was sweating bullets going through customs (as if I don’t already look suss enough.) Within several hours I was in Calcutta, India. I will not go into my week long India experience just yet as I still need time to digest my adventure into such an extreme country.
After this posting there will be one more where I recount India in great detail and then wrap up the 9 month journey that has changed me in many ways. This airport is super boring and there isn’t even a bar to help ease the pain of a 4.5 hour flight here with an 11 hour layover and then a 16 hour flight to JFK, topped off with a 3.5 hour bus ride to Baltimore. Luckily I planned ahead and brought in reinforcements.
Signing off in a dry Saudi Arabian airport.