Tag Archives: police

The Trip Back From Mae Sot

Of course, even the best laid plans go awry and our trip back from Mae Sot proved no different! After another adventure plunging down the mountain in the back of a truck, we headed to the bus stop…only to find out there were no more seats available on the bus to Bangkok! We were told to grab a bus to a different providence, with the possibility that we could get tickets to Bangkok from there. 

So we got on a bus to Tak province. 

Unlike our bus ride to Mae Sot, however, this was not a smooth ride. The police kept pulling the bus over. Or maybe they pulled everyone over. I’m not sure. All I know is that every hour or so, the bus got pulled over and everyone had to bring out their passports and show their visa to the masked cop. 

It interrupted any attempts on my part to nap and put me in a very ill humor with the Thai police. 

Not that they actually showed much concern for me. In fact, compared to my friends, I barely got any notice from the police. One glance at my white skin (or even worse, syllable from my English speaking mouth!) would send them hurrying away. But the others underwent stricter scrutiny. Thailand is a very racial system. 

While sitting on the bus, one of the attendants walking around asked who wanted to go to Bangkok. (At least, I assume she asked that. Thankfully, some family/friends of Mae Sod’s were also traveling to Bangkok and able to translate a little.) We said we wished to go and the lady demanded a certain sum of money. She then scribbled on a piece of paper and told us to present it at the bus stop!

It was not the most formal way to transfer buses, but thankfully it worked. Once we arrived at our destination, they whisked us onto the next bus to Bangkok. We got back around midnight. 

By this point, neither Mae Sod or I had working phones. No buses run that late. We decided to bite the bullet and take a taxi. With great trepidation, we got into the one hailed for us. Our last driver made us fear for our lives. This one…was absolutely a gem!

He spoke very little English but cheerfully did his best to maintain a conversation. “Thailand very hot! You try food? Is spicy?” 

We originally planned to drop her off first and then have me either stay the night or hail another taxi. However, we liked our driver so much we asked if he would be willing to take a “second” trip. He did not know my address, but thankfully I could direct him from that point. He was definitely an answer to our desperate prayers! 

Friday Adventures

After the excitement of coming home to an apartment with no electricity, yesterday ended on an almost anticlimactic note. Not long after I posted my blog, my landlords sent someone to sort it out. Only my room appeared to suffer an outage. The rest of the building was fine. Three, non-English speaking men showed up and went into the little electrical/storage room that I assume services the entire floor. They then started flipping breakers. Now, I am not entirely sure how breakers work, but it strikes me as singularly inefficient to flip one breaker, look expectantly at the still dark apartment, flip another, look at the apartment, flip another…but eventually it worked and I got electricity again! 

Maybe because of that, or because I got too much sleep, I woke up cranky this morning. I decided to channel my crankiness and finally buy a cell phone and data plan. My previous attempts all came to naught and left me exhausted and frustrated. I figured my crankiness would keep me going. 

Unfortunately, endorphins kicked in on the 2.5 mile walk to the nearest mall and I ceased feeling grumpy. Not that it ended up being only a 2.5 mile walk, as I managed to get lost. I may have no sense of direction but I know how to follow my nose and my nose quickly told me I had no idea where I was. I decided to cross the street. This proved an extremely challenging task as traffic kept whizzing past.

I don’t think I dawdled too long staring at traffic, but apparently I dawdled long enough. A police officer popped out from nowhere and literally stopped all lanes of traffic to help me cross! Sometimes looking helpless works quite effectively. 

Once I crossed over, I found my way to the mall with little difficulty. The malls here are…huge. The one I visited easily had 7 floors. I kept trying to count them from the escalator and then realized I couldn’t even see them all. And this mall isn’t even the biggest or most well known one around! 

Mindful of the advice I received from the internet, I began my phone hunt by comparing the prices of various phone retailers in the mall. By which I actually mean I furtively stole glances at the price tags on the kiosks full of phones and tried not to make eye contact with the salespeople. I’m very susceptible to sales pitches.  

I knew, though, which place I wanted to buy a phone from the minute I saw it. Only females worked there and I immediately liked the look of one, joyful looking saleswoman who barely looked out of her teens. While her knowledge of English lacked breadth, she knew enough to help walk me through the various phones and prices. As I only wanted a basic smart phone, don’t know much about phones, and couldn’t read the packing describing the options anyway, the conversation went something like this: 

Me: “And they all work with Google maps?”

Her: “Yes! Google maps comes with all of them.”

Me: “And I just need to go buy a sim card and data plan? Nothing extra?”

Her: “Yes, they all work that way.”

Me: “…”

Her: “…”

Me: “…”

Her: “…”

Me: “So…how are these different?” 

Her: “They all come with Google maps!”

Me: “Would they work in the United States?”

A confused shrug. 

Her: “This one comes in two colors and this one comes in three.” 

And so forth. I appreciate her patience. Eventually we found one for me. I think she found my inefficiency a form of haggling because she even lowered the price a few times. We parted mutually satisfied and she asked to be friends on Snapchat. 

I then sallied forth to get a data plan. The last time I walked in, I did not realize I was supposed to get a number at the door. I was politely chastised for overlooking this step. Now I confidently walked in and received the little ticket that would send the next person who spoke English in my direction. 

Except apparently no one spoke English today. Or at least, it took 3 of them to help me and I’m not really sure about the results. They asked how long I would be in Thailand and we spent several minutes trying to figure out the translation for “June.” They then disappeared and reappeared with a sim card, a price tag, and the information that I was set for the next 6 months. As I payed an obscenely low amount for the plan, I’m skeptical about how much data I actually received. Unfortunately, all my inquires met with equally blank and confused faces. After posting this, I’m going to try and see if I can figure out what I got! 

I then ventured forth from the mall and – buoyed by success – decided to swing by a drug store and buy face masks. The pollution is down considerably but with all the walking I do, it can’t hurt. Drug stores here keep everything behind the counter so I’ve been too intimidated to buy masks before. The lady who helped me proved very cheerful. After learning I was from the United States, she said it was much colder in Chicago than in Thailand. I agreed and said I was from a place near Chicago. She was delighted by this discovery! For a moment we basked in mutual understanding about the frigidity of Illinois. Then I tried saying something else but we apparently maxed out her English and I was politely dismissed from the store. (Thankfully by that point I acquired a box of face masks.) 

For my final errand, I visited my favorite store: Tesco. In England, Tesco reminded me of Pick ‘n Save. Here it seems more like a Wal Mart. Not that I am complaining. I love that I can buy jam, a mug, and a pillow case in the same place and not have to worry about haggling over anything. 

The only difficulty I ran into at Tesco was finding instant coffee. Actually, finding it was easy. The store carries a variety of instant coffee flavors and types. Finding one, however, that doesn’t list “sugar” as the second ingredient is almost impossible. While I’ve enjoyed waking up to what amounts to little more than hot chocolate every morning, I’m a black coffee kind of girl and I miss it. Forget coffee beans and a coffee pot, though! Everything here comes instant. (In the end I did manage to find a non-sweet mix and am enjoying a cup with Digestive biscuits right now.) 

I walked out triumphant and loaded with groceries. The bag then split down the middle and it dawned on me I had a 2.5 mile walk home. I almost took a taxi but I decided taxis were for the weak and I marched on. By the time I arrived home, my arms were shaking and my legs aching but by golly I made it! 

And so my Friday adventures roll to an end. Sort of. I need to work on a paper tonight (and probably the rest of this weekend, ugh) but I think this feeling of triumphant success should last at least until next weekend’s adventure!