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.