Subject: more insite?
Date: 8, Oct 2002

hiya.... okay... so the way the visa works is that you get a one month visa on arrival to Thailand. I tried getting a longer visa by sending my passport to the Consolate. No dice. I had my visa in advance, but it didn't matter. So, I recommend getting maybe fifty bucks in Thai baht before leaving, just to get you to Kao San road, and into a hotel. But there are plenty of ATMs everywhere in Bangkok that dispense 10,000 baht fast cash (233 bucks) at a good exchange rate. Don't bother with traveller's checks, but I always carry a 100 dollar bill and a couple twenties for any sticky situations (a 20 dollar bill can prolly take care of most situations with the police, for example and a hundred bucks can get you anywhere in the country and feed you for a least a week or two) I carry only Thai baht on me, leave 4 or 5,000 baht in my room, and my emergency money buried in the deepest recess of my backpack. , my passport stays hidden in my room, with an emergency use only, "clean" credit card and the rest of my baht,, or a "safe" at the hotel. I use my own padlock on the door whereever possible, preferring a combination lock so I don't have to bother to carry (and risk loosing) a key. The basic idea is try to distribute your loss. If your pack gets stolen, they get the hundred bucks. If the passport gets stolen but not yer pack, then you still have the hundred bucks to get you to the consolate in comfort. If your wallet/purse gets stolen, you still have your passport an hundred bucks. If everything gets stollen, well you're SOL, and relying on the kindness of strangers and police, which is also enough. Its more about mitigating the hassle than saving your own life. The U.S. consolate, in any case, is there to help you. Also give all your credit card and banking info to someone back home along with phone numbers of who to call to cancel and replace each, should they get stolen...

In five years of travel around the world I've never had to use any of this information... and everyone I've talked to who's been robbed in Thailand was being drunk and stupid; they took the money but left the passport and credit cards... The THai are very nice people...

Okay, EVERYONE does what you're thinking about doing. Its all very easy. Visas available at the border for; tour busses that will make your life more difficult in the end than if you were to do it yourself are everywhere. Everyone wants to help you for a small commission on whatever it is. Its all very easy and safe. In Chiang Mai there are a million cooking schools, massage schools, hill trekking organizations, and two or three elephant camps. Motorbikes err... mopeds are available for 150 baht a day / that's 3.50....

oh and here.,.. very rough estimates for how to think about thai currency.

1 baht = 2 cents 10 baht = a quarter 20 baht = fifty cents 42.8 baht == the actual exchange rate for one dollar 50 baht = a buck and a quarter 100 baht = two fifty 500 baht = "a lot of money" twelve bucks.... 1000 baht = "a whole lot of money" about 23 bucks (think 20 dollar bill)

almost nothing should cost a thousand baht unless its clearly valuable.

A taxi from the airport to Kao San is 350 baht, a train ride 2nd class sleeper, 12 hours to chaing mai 650 baht... the same by buss, 350. A flight from Chiang Mai to Ko Samui is 4400 baht. etc...

um... Immunizations. full Hepatitis series of three shots is good for 10-20 years. yellow fever, cholera, Japanese Encephalitis can be pricey but its out here... And you prolly didn't get that one for Costa Rica. The rest are pretty standard. If you were smart, you still have your immunization card from the last time. If not, make your best guess... Go do public health and the "travel clinic" if you don't have your own doctor. they'll walk you through it. Otherwise, in the future, keep your little yellow immunization record with your birth certificate and social security card as a vital document. Proof of immunization for yellow fever is required for entry into some African countries, but not for anywhere in Asia. Otherwise its impossible to remember which expires when. Typhoid is like 3 years, Jap enceph, 5 or so... etc. Tetanus... well you know...

nayway... um... what else is there. If you must, read the lonely planet BEFORE you go. DO NOT travel with or by the lonely planet. It makes you look like an asshole. DO BUY tapes for learning Thai. People love it when you make an effort. A basic books on Tape for Thai will let you hit the ground running. You'll want to hang out in Thailand, but visit Lao-Vietnam-Cambodia. Don't do an organized tour; its not necessary. And always walk with confidence when you start to smell a tout. Even if you haven't a clue where your walking. Beyond all this its just normal safety stuff that is the same everywhere.

always learn:

SawadEE Ka (for a woman "ka") hello/goodbye taoLIE how much KApunKA thank you very much Ka "thanks"

goodby is actually La Kawn but don't say LaKoon cause that means love you as in Phun Lak Khun for "I love you"... that could get you in trouble.

also, if you see a bar with a bunch of Thai girls sitting together at a couple tables near the front, just keep on walking...

wherever you go... there you are...

oh yah, and don't buy anything special for your trip. Don't buy mosquito netting or anything silly like that. Its all available over here. Bring maybe one change of clothes, cause you're gonna want to buy a bunch of shit as soon as you arrive cause its all so damn cheap. Many people travel with cd walkmen, but cool travellers have a tape player/recorder with the built in speaker. A mini-disk recorder would be nice if you're really interested in lots of recording. Also speakers for a cd walkman are available on Kao San road. And haggling in the market: The actual price is almost ALWAYS no more than HALF the first price. On Kao San the last price is often 1/4 the starting price. So be relentless, and don't buy anything for a couple of days if you can help it. Don't actually stay on Kao San road, but just around the corner. to the east I think. past the end of the road. There's a big temple complex, and a road that wraps around it with a lot more hotels. Its quieter and nicer...

I'm going to shut up now...

Next!

usly marked intersections, too many times when one will be presented a red light where one is supposed to go, or a red and green light simultaneously signifying god knows what. Keep in mind, this is all occuring driving in the left lane, and to this day I still can't figure out where to look for oncoming traffic. Terror finally overcame my foolhardy courage and I let Ann drive.