Border Crossing Blues
Many apologies to all my regular readers for the lack of postings lately; I’ve gone from relatively busy to ridiculously, over-the-top busy this past week. (Poor me.) Imagine this scenario: I’m relaxing in my three-dollar room at a guesthouse in the town of Trat the other day, and I decide it might be a wise idea to thumb through my LP paperwork: editorial briefs and old emails and stuff. And then I realize I’ve made a terrible mistake. This is all a bit confusing (and boring) to explain, but basically happened was something approximating this: About a week ago I decided to extend my trip by roughly two weeks; I emailed my genius travel agent who’s based in San Francisco, and she managed to get me on another flight for nothing more than a piddly little US$25 fee. That’s no small feat when it comes to international airfare. My plan was to spend the majority of those two weeks in Cambodia — especially Phnom Penh, a city I’ve had something of a fascination with for quite a long time. (And no, I’m not interested in the child prostitutes or the cheap drugs. Please!)
Anyway … there I am looking at my paperwork when I realize that if I do, in fact, stay out of the country for an extra two weeks, I won’t have nearly enough time to finish my write-up once I return to Pittsburgh. Oops! Stupid me, right? Right.
I honestly have no idea how I could have been so disorganized; I even went to the trouble of bringing along my big, bulky day planner on this trip … although I don’t think I’ve opened it more than three or four times. Good lord I can be an idiot on occasion.
At any rate, I sent a second (and very anxious) email to Travel Agent Supreme last night, practically begging her to change my flight … again … to an earlier date. And not only does it look like she’s going to be able to do it, she even offered to knock $25 off the fee of $75, which is the massive amount of cash that retards like myself have to pony up when they fail to consult their day planners whilst travelling abroad. You know damn well Anderson Cooper would nevermake a mistake this embarrassing …
The good news, though, is that I’ll probably be home in three weeks. Not only am I just about physically spent, I’m about out of my mind as well. I’m so desperate for mental escape that I even went to a shady little clinic in Pattaya last week, where I complained to a doctor about a touch of shoulder pain and asked for a Valium prescription. How pathetic is that? The whole visit was unreal, actually — after the good doc realized I couldn’t speak decent Thai and he couldn’t speak decent English, he actually placed a pen and a pad of paper in front of me and said, “What medication do you want?” I’m dead serious — this actually happened. Naturally, I scribbled down Choices One and Two, after which the doctor picked up a medical reference book and began thumbing through it, in an apparent effort to see if he could find what I was looking for! Sadly, he couldn’t. “No have in Thai”, he told me. So I was sent on my way 20 minutes later with Diazipam, pain pills complete with codeine, and some sort of anti-inflamatory for my “bum shoulder”. Unreal. (Not to worry Mom; the codeine doesn’t work and the Valium just puts me to sleep. Bad times for me.)
But I digress. This post was supposed to be about border crossing, right? I did cross the border into Cambodia today because my Thai tourist visa was about to expire. Although because I’m now on such a tight schedule, I literally got stamped out of Thailand, then stamped into Cambodia (and paid roughly US$35 for the privilege!), got immediately stamped back out of Cambodia, and was then stamped back into Thailand for another 30 days … and all of this took place within the space of about 20 minutes. Keep in mind that the border town, Hat Lek, was an hour’s drive from the town of Trat, where I’d been staying. Once my border crossing adventure was complete, I raced back to my guesthouse on the back of a motorcycle taxi — I was even offered a helmet, which I found particularly thoughtful — and I then headed straight to the town of Laem Ngop, where massive car ferries travel every thirty minutes or so to the island of Ko Chang, which seems to be an absolutely unreal tropical paradise … although I suppose I wouldn’t necessarily know, because instead of frolicking on the beach I’m sitting inside an air-conditioned internet cafe and pounding out a pissy blog post. A genius move, as usual.
Oh! Everyone should log onto www.lonelyplanet.com on Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning; my third blog post goes online sometime thereabouts. And Moon Handbooks Pittsburgh, by the way, is now only days away from its official unveiling. May 28, people — mark it on your calendars and hit your favorite local independent bookstore.
Thanks for reading; I will see some of you (relatively) soon.