Wednesday, August 4
After an hour or so of scouring the Web, I located an Air Asia office in Bangkok--exactly one block from my room. Doh! I finally booked my flight to Yangon, Myanmar for next week. I'm so excited! The whole process of obtaining the visa and flight "only" ate up at least four afternoons! But, it was well worth it, because I'm sure Myanmar will be a highlight of the whole Tropical Punch Tour, as long as I don't get bit by Mr. Malaria-Filled Mosquito.
As usual in Southeast Asia, a nice, sunny afternoon got suddenly obliterated by a crazy downpour. The weatherman must have it pretty easy down here: "Today's outlook calls for sunshine with some completely punishing scattered showers. Back to you, Bob." The TV station could just play the same clip every day to avoid having to pay a salary to an actual weatherman. No one would even notice.
A friendly Thai man in his early 50s randomly started talking to me as we--and all of Bangkok--cowered under a roof during the downpour. Born in Chiang Mai (a town I hope to visit), he is a car insurance salesman, and has lived in Bangkok since he was 15. I told him I was looking for a Bangkok bus schedule, so he dragged me way down the street to a tourist office. (As it turned out, he was a tout, and the only reason I went along is because he seemed benign.) We made it halfway there under awnings and roofs, but had to wait at a bus stop shelter for 15 minutes when the cats and dogs started coming down in buckets. A couple of young military men were there in full uniform. I asked what they were doing, and my new friend said they were keeping an eye out for red shirts. After a little while longer, we ran the last half-block to the tourist center, where I was dismayed at the sky-high price of the maps. I declined to buy one. When I walked outside, my new "buddy" was gone forever.