In a stunning display of forward thinking, we decided to go to the Vietnamese embassy to get visas. Ideally we would have gotten them for China as well, thus enabling us to take the train all the way through China to Hong Kong, but there wasn't time for that.
We went on Friday. It takes four business days to get the visas, so we'd have them the following Thursday morning. The train through Cambodia runs only once a week. To catch it we'd have to leave on Saturday.
Submitting all of our info for the visas was no problem once we found the embassy, which was inexplicably on the opposite end of the road than we expected.
The following Friday we were sitting at the pool of the Atlanta Hotel, finishing up our Turkish food and Indian bread that we had delivered.
Another guest walked up to us.
"Where are you guys from?"
Bangkok, far more than anywhere else we've been, is full of tourists. Usually seeing other whiteys is a slight damper on the day - it reminds us that we aren't the only people with the genius plan of traveling around the world, and somehow takes away from our legitimacy. But in Bangkok it's different. Whitey is everywhere.
He's from Tennessee, but lives in India with his family, most of whom are splashing around in the pool. Earlier we were commenting on how cool it was that an American family was vacationing in Bangkok.
The conversation threatens to get intense when he says, "I'm a missionary, just going around the world wherever God sends me." Todd and I both have some pretty strong views on religion that could easily surface. But instead the conversation steers to our future plans.
"Well, tomorrow we're going to head to Cambodia. And then the next day we'll take the slowest train in the world to Phnom Penh. After Cambodia we'll go to Viet --- OH MY GOD OUR VISAS!"
I check my watch. The Vietnamese embassy closes at 4:30pm. It's now 5pm. They're closed on Saturdays, which means that there's no way we're getting on the slow train that we've been so excited about.
"Let's just go to the embassy anyway. Maybe we can convince somebody to help."
We abruptly end the conversation, hand our laptops to the surprised front desk clerk, and run out the door.
A motorcycle taxi shows up. You pay a small amount of change and sit behind the driver as he weaves through oncoming traffic and between cars at lights. It's a bit scary, so we normally only take them to go up and down the long and mostly empty alleys.
But today is different. We're in a rush and there are no other taxis of any sort, so Todd and I both hop on the small motorcycle seat with the driver, and give him the address of the embassy.
Never before have I been such an integral part of a man sandwich, and as we ride I silently hope to never again be part of one.
We finally pull up to the embassy and push on the door.
I ring the bell. It's loud, almost like an old fire alarm.
No one comes. It's forty five minutes after closing. Since we stayed with Elliot at the New Zealand embassy in Japan, though, we know how embassies work. There are definitely tons of people behind the ten foot spiked walls.
We ring again, holding the button down for longer.
A mother and daughter come to the door too. I'm about to tell them that it's closed, but they unlock the door and go in. We try to sneak in behind them, but they aren't having it.
Todd and I have become very good at the "lost, bewildered, and pathetic traveler" look. We clasp our hands as if we're praying.
"Please! We need to pick up our visas. We have to leave tomorrow."
"Please. We really need them."
"Okay, I'll go check."
She closes the door behind her. After a few minutes wait we get let in. The janitor is sweeping visa room. We zig zag a bit to try to avoid where she's already cleaned. See how respectful we are? Wouldn't you like to help two respectful travelers get their visas?
"Do you have your receipts?"
There was no time to run up to our rooms and get them before leaving.
"No. We lost them - that's why we're late."
I didn't know whether or not we'd actually get our visas until I saw them behind the glass window. Target in sight. There was no way we'd leave without them.
After a bit of paperwork and a short polite scolding, we got our precious bounty and headed off.
For the millionth time, everything worked out perfectly.
I don't understand how anyone would question your methods. Things like this story have been happening to you for 27 years. Tried and true. Why in the world change a perfected system! I agree with Dova. A sitcom or radio show is in order. Fun Story btw
Are you guys sure that this site isn't actually just a rough script of some zany sitcom? Where the guys always make semi-poor decisions but it all works out in the end and everyone learn a valuable lesson; only it's short lived, because the next episode, you just just know, they're bound to repeat their folly only to have it work out once more.
I think you should talk to NBC, maybe they'll put you on before the Office. Or just cast you on the Office, I know you'd love that Tynan.
Okay so I just wrote about half of a really long post about how awesome Thailand has been... and then it got deleted somehow. It's a shame when things like that happen to computer geniuses like myself.
So... from the top.
Todd and I reconvened on the small island of Koh Phi Phi (where The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed). But this time we had company.
I think to truly understand the phrase "Be strong to be useful," you can simply modify it to: "Be useful."
On Saturday, Charles Moreland and I were driving back from the grocery store. We were already 20 minutes late to our own party, it was raining, cold, and there were 30mph gusts. While at a stop light, Charles noticed a van in the intersection across from us. It was stopped in the left turn lane, cars were going around it, and all the lights were off. The lights came back on, briefly, and then went out again. Clearly, their car was dead.
Immediately, and pretty much without speaking, it was agreed that we'd pull into the nearest parking lot, don our jackets and gloves, and run into the middle of the road to help. We walked up to the car, and I waved. The old russian man cracked the door open suspiciously, as I announced that we were here to help. "I already called Triple A" he said. "They'll be here within the hour." I waved my hand toward the oncoming cars. "It's not safe for you to be in this intersection. Throw the car in neutral and we're going to push you into the parking lot."
I think there was a bit of a language barrier, and a bit of suspicion about these random boys who showed up out of no where to help, but once we got behind the car and started to push, he shifted into neutral and steered. Once we got out of the intersection, we pushed the car (uphill! Damn minivans are heavy.) through the road and into a parking space. I noticed about halfway through, whenever he could, the old man opened the door and tried to help push with his foot.
We got to the parking space, he put it in park, and he and his wife got out of the car and thanked us profusely. She asked us if we were in school, and if we were done with calculus yet (she is a calculus tutor at a local high school apparently), and she gave us her card. The man shook our hands and thanked us many times. I gave them my card and told them to call me if they needed any more help - I lived just five minutes away.