11-20 August 2008: An Abridged Travelogue

August 25, 2008

11 August: Arrived in Singapore past noon. Stomach was grumbling with a fury. Needed to sort out accommodation problems pronto while at the airport. In a fit of desperation, I ended up booking an overpriced hotel on Orchard Road. Finally had lunch at 4-ish. Among the wonderful array of international food choices, I ended up having a Big Mac meal (when hungry I am unable to think straight and make sound decisions). Had dinner with friends – chili crabs, prawns, satay and jugs of Tiger beer. We bought more beer at the friendly neighbourhood 7-11 and hung out at Naumi hotel’s infinity pool. Got home fairly late.

12 August: Checked out of overpriced hotel and moved into a hostel two blocks away. Had Hainanese chicken rice for lunch, a dish I always have to have when in Singapore. Went down to the MOM to sort out some stuff. Headed back to hostel to rest for a bit. I made sure I was at the Esplanade extra extra early for the DCFC concert that night. Didn’t have much of an appetite so I just had a post-concert dinner of kaya toast and tea. My friends and I went back to our friendly neighbourhood 7-11 and we got more beers and a bottle of chardonnay (upon my insistence). Stuffed my face with leftover hainanese chicken rice, and this one was, without question, better than what I had for lunch. Hung out at the infinity pool again while watching the concert videos we took and almost every conceivable Youtube video with Ben Gibbard in it. When I got home it was almost sunrise.

13 August: Slept in and woke up embarrassingly late. Had another favourite dish for lunch, soy chicken with noodles. Went back to the MOM to finish off the paperwork. Headed back to hostel because I was dying of sunstroke and suffering from acute shops-fatigue-syndrome. Had riveting conversations with Chloe, a chatty girl from HK; William, an Indo-Aussie dude who worked at the front desk…interestingly, he also went to the same uni; Tristan, an Asian-Kiwi tour guide and Edgar, a Filipino from Leyte who was looking for work in Singapore. Went to bed without having dinner.

14 August: Had some more money changed. Bought my mom’s moisturizer and searched in vain for my brother’s Ipod thingo in Sim Lim Square. Went window shopping in Bugis but felt extremely annoyed that there were throngs of shoppers everywhere I went. By this time I was so sick of seeing shops (they have multiplied fifty-fold since my last Singapore trip) and people that I nearly had a nervous breakdown. Why are people always in malls, don’t they have to work?! I am beginning to hate this culture of consumerism. Headed back to hostel to pick up my luggage and bade farewell to my hostel friends. Took a cab to the airport to catch my flight to BKK. Arrived in BKK late evening and took an overpriced cab to my hotel. Dinner, shower, watched CNN for Olympics news and Russia-Georgia developments then it was bedtime for me.

15 August: Had a hearty breakfast, then headed to the shopping places in the Pratunam Area. Bought a few clothes and some corn muffins at a random street hawker then went back to hotel. I find that I increasingly lose patience with shopping as I age, and it’s just something I cannot bring myself to do the entire day. Took a nap, washed my face and then I was on my way to Siam Niramit. Took photos of the model Thai villages, had a buffet dinner, then watched the cultural show. Overall, it was an impressive production. Waited an eternity for a cab. It was terribly frustrating that when they hear me speak English, the cabbies would automatically shake their head vigorously (to say that they are not willing to drive me home). Good thing a cabbie took pity on me and so together we embarked on our thrilling adventure to find our way back to my hotel. Direction-giving was all done in sign language and map-pointing. Got home late after all the getting lost episodes and language barrier issues. Had an ice cold Singha beer, flipped through the channels for a bit then went to bed.

16 August: Went to the Jim Thompson house. Beautiful Western-inspired Thai house steeped in fascinating history. Thompson also led a very interesting life. Headed back to hotel (more sign language-ing with the cabbie again). Took a long nap, and by the time I got up it was already night fall. Had dinner at KFC (they give you real cutlery!) then tried to have a look at the shops but they were mostly closed. Went to the friendly neighbourhood internet place. Owner spoke good English.

17 August: Breakfast of champions – rice with vegetables, Thai noodles, dried fish, sausages, orange juice and fruits. Went to mass with a friend from uni. Had lunch at Siam Paragon. We then headed to the Grand Palace, because I told her that I really wanted to see their temples. My friend was in leggings and apparently this wasn’t appropriate attire for the Palace so she had to change into a sarong. We checked out the temples and pagodas and gardens (it was also my friend’s first time at the Palace; though she’s Thai, she was raised Catholic). I had an attack of sunstroke again. We walked around the Palace’s periphery and then we took a cab to her house. I met her very nice family. Her aunt and cousin went with us to Central World, and we had Vietnamese for dinner and Polar Ice for dessert (crushed ice with milk and fruits…it was to die for). Her aunt gave me the grand tour of BKK at night before driving me back to my hotel. It was a terribly long day and I was pooped and dehydrated as hell.

18 August: Had to wake up insanely early for my Ayutthaya trip. I was picked up at half past six am at the lobby. Driver picked up a handful of other people then dropped us off at the bus terminal. We got on the tour bus, and I sat next to a very nice French lady from Cannes . Her name was Sophie and she teaches geography and history at a middle school in France. First stop was Bang Pa In or the King’s summer palace. The place is a mix of European, Chinese and Thai-inspired structures. We then went to three ancient Ayutthaya temples: Wat Mahathat, Wat Lokayasutharam and Wat Na Phra Mane. The first one reminded me of Siem Reap; the ruins were completely amazing and photogs are sure to go crazy over them. One of the temple guards berated a couple for striking a funny pose with one of the headless buddhas. The guard also insisted on deleting the picture in their camera. The last temple had a massive reclining buddha covered in cloth. After the visit to the temples we were dropped off at the pier where we got on the cruise ship. We had a buffet lunch on board while taking in the sights of the Chao Phraya River’s banks. I was bone tired when I got home and I took a nap. I had a quick dinner and a quick shower before having a Thai massage. Had a bottle of Changi beer and then I proceeded to sleep very very soundly.

19 August: Checked out early and left my luggage in the lobby. The hotel has a few Filipinos in their employ. Went out to shop for a good few hours. Before I knew it, I could barely carry my purchases. Headed back to hotel and deposited my stuff. With the help of a Pinoy front desk person, I weighed my luggage – 20 for the ginormous suitcase and 7 for the carry-on (I am a packing genius). Had lunch at A&W, a restaurant of my youth. Checked the time and I still had a few hours to spare before my evening flight so I took a cab to Wat Po, the famous temple of the reclining golden buddha. I had a very deep and engaging conversation with the cabbie who drove me there – an amazing feat for a Thai who knew 50 English words at most and a Filipino who knew a grand total of three Thai phrases. The golden buddha was a sight to behold indeed – it was an imposing statue with feet made of mother of pearl. The various other temples and pagodas in the complex were quite interesting as well. After an hour or so I headed back to Pratunam to pick up my luggage and catch another cab to the airport for my flight back to Singapore.

20 August: Arrived at Changi past midnight. Six hours to go before my flight to Manila. I decide to kill time by reading Murakami, but eyelids were getting very very heavy. An Australian lady eventually sprawled herself on the seats and slept. I managed to get some shuteye before the check-in counter finally opened. With still a lot of time to spare, I figured I should grab a bite to eat. I was craving for kaya toast again (those things grow on you) and so I had two slices with a hot Milo. I bought myself the latest Foreign Affairs issue and read a bit while I was waiting for boarding time.

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