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Transit

July 6, 2012

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On a trip such as this, it’s inevitable that there are going to be some times that are overloaded with travel. I hit what I hope will be my biggest overload between June 21 and June 25. This ill-advised spree involved three countries, three flights, five airports, two bus rides, and seven cities. The peak was a 36 hour period between June 22 and 24th, which featured all three countries and two of the flights.

On June 21st, I woke up early in Mandalay, fittingly hungover after getting into the rum the night before. I scarfed breakfast and caught a motorcycle taxi down to the Mandalay bus station. Riding on a motorcycle taxi with a large backpack at 8 a.m. with a hangover – very much not recommended. I got on the bus to Yangon and chugged two big bottles of water. The bus stopped for a food break at around 10:30 in the morning. I was still much too hungover to think about more food, plus I had breakfast not long before so I wasn’t hungry. I figured that there would be another food stop since we still had 7 hours to go to Yangon. I figured wrong.

Once in Yangon, I caught a bus downtown, which I actually liked quite a bit more than the taxi I took to the bus station a couple weeks prior. Somehow, the bus got downtown faster than the taxi. Yangon was rainy but mercifully cool. After getting a hotel, I went to a cafe with wifi and ordered a pizza, happy to eat for the first time in 12 hours. Half an hour later, I asked the waiter what the status was on that pizza. Turns out, they hadn’t put in the order yet. I considered jumping in front of a bus, but decided to just continue living for another nineteen minutes so I could eat.

The next evening, the 36 hours of travel insanity began as I caught a cab to the airport and flew from Yangon to Bangkok at 6 p.m. Once in Bangkok, I discovered that my phone didn’t work, even though I had put minutes on it 3 weeks ago in Chiang Mai. Apparently, one must put money on these stupid prepaid phones every week or two regardless of the usage. I added another 50 baht to my phone credit at the airport 7-11 and walked downstairs to catch the airport train.

The train leaves every fifteen minutes. When I got to the platform, I was horrified by the news – the next train was leaving in – easy guess here – 14 minutes. I considered jumping onto the tracks, but there’s no third rail so I would have had to wait that 14 minutes anyway. It was at around this time that I realized my destination – my friends Jon and Dana’s apartment at Soi 101 in southwest Bangkok would have been much easier to reach via taxi.

Jon and Dana’s apartment made me want to move to Bangkok yesterday. They had four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Their kitchen alone was bigger than my apartment in Seoul was. I went out for beers and McDonald’s (which I’d been craving since it doesn’t exist in Burma) with Jon, then slept comfortably in their massive guest bedroom.

The next day, Jon, Dana, and I went for brunch at an Irish Pub near Ekamai bus station. My burger was expensive, well more than I usually spend on this trip, but due to Burmese banking quirks I hadn’t been to the ATM in 3 weeks and I had plenty of leftover baht from my last stint in Thailand, so I was basically operating on found money.

I hung out with Jon at the mall for a bit before going to one of my old haunts in Silom to kill time waiting for my buddy Scott to show up. While waiting, I decided to play with my horrible phone since I’d left my iPad on the charger. I got bored of the single game I had, so I decided to call time and temperature back in Lawrence. It worked! Plus it only charged me 10 baht a minute to call. I decided I could kill time calling people in America or Korea, but then I instantly remembered that I don’t actually know any phone numbers by memory. The only numbers in the world that I know by heart are time and temperature, Pizza Shuttle, and my buddy Daniel’s parents. Since it was 2 a.m. in America, Daniel’s parents were out and calling Shuttle would just be weird, so i called time and temperature 2 more times. 785-842-5115 if you’re curious.

After drinking with Scott for a couple hours in downtown Bangkok, it was time to move on again. I went back to Jon and Dana’s to get my stuff and then wisely took a taxi to the airport. I was on the redeye, leaving at midnight and landing at 4 a.m. I was flying to Clark Airfield, a rather inconvenient airport north of Manila, but with cheap fares. Strangely, the departure board at the Bangkok airport listed my destination as “Luzon Island.” While this is technically accurate, it would be like listing a flight to DFW as just “Texas.”

When checking in, I had a moment that Adam Carolla could certainly appreciate. The Cebu Pacific check-in agent asked for my itinerary, and I showed her the PDF of it on my iPad, which I’ve had no trouble with elsewhere.

“Um, sir, next time could you print that paper out for me?”

“I don’t have a printer.”

“Okay, but yeah, next time make sure you print that out.” Sure thing. I’ll be sure to print out my travel info the next time I fly on Cebu Pacific from Bangkok to Clark, which I’m sure will be something I do every other week. Bitch.

I got to sleep a bit on the plane, because I continued my 4 for 4 streak of flights on this trip in which I snagged my own row. I was still plenty tired when I landed, and I found an air conditioned jeepney (who knew they existed?) heading for Dau Bus Terminal. I spent something like 11 seconds at Dau before I found a bus going to Metro Manila, and arrived at the Cubao section of Quezon City at 6 in the morning.

I’d been to Cubau before, which was convenient as I kinda knew what to do. First agenda item – walk up to the mall at the Araneta Center to see if Taco Bell was still there. It was, so I went to another place I knew – the Eurotel, conveniently across the street from the Bell. I bought a 4 hour block to catch a nap, which coincided nicely with when Taco Bell opened.

Following my Bell feast, I took the train into central Manila, which I’ll describe in greater detail on another post. Manila, not the train, as the train was uneventful.

The next day, I headed to the Manila Airport, delighted to be going through terminal three rather than the infamously horrible terminal one. Protip – if you are flying through terminal three and want to catch a buzz before you get on the plane, drink at the bars near the upstairs gates. The bar by the downstairs gate charged twice as much as the upstairs bar. You won’t get this type of wisdom from any other travel blog!

I caught another Cebu Pacific flight to Dumaguete, an easy hour away. Once in Duma, I was excited to do something I hadn’t done in nearly a week – spend two nights in a row in the same room.

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Casually riding my bike through Mandalay, blissfully unaware of the extended layover my life was about to become.

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This was my bus from Mandalay to Yangon. It was so direct from Korea that they didn’t even bother to remove the Korean ad on the side.

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What I spent the last my Burmese currency on at the Yangon airport.

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Oh Thailand, this doesn’t help your image. I think my buddy David will be the only one who gets this joke.

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Nor does that.

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Setting up the Patpong night market in Bangkok.

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Jon and Dana, my gracious layover hosts.

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Sunrise at that one volcano by Clark. Not Mount Pinatabo, the other one.

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Makati skyline from the Manila airport.

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Dumaguete Airport, definitely one of the smaller ones I’d seen. Pretty relieved to get there.

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