Day 198: I Am Shoppingman

By comparison to Pai today was action packed from beginning to end. It started at 5:30am and didn’t finish until gone 11:30pm. We did various activities including shopping, eating out, shopping, cinema, shopping, sharing a taxi with a stranger, shopping, and not necessarily in that order. Now read on as I try to condense a very busy day into several paragraphs.

• Continuing on from the coach trip. It dropped us off just outside Koah San Road. Our Canadian friend didn’t know the way, luckily we had been there before and were able to locate it from memory. Seeing as we already had accommodation booked we headed there right away. When we reached the front doors of Green House hotel we pointed our friend in the right direction for other hostels, hotels, or guesthouse’s, depending on her preference. When we reached reception we were given the bad news that we couldn’t check in until 1pm. We were allowed to put our bags in storage however. Storage being a loose term, what it actually was, was an alcove sheltered by a 3 foot high brick wall atop some stairs. We ditched holdalls but kept my day bag on us, as it contained all our expensive items. We then went looking for some breakfast.

• After walking around the various roads for anywhere that might be open, we learned that everywhere was cleaning up after the night animals who’d been out partying. We decided it was best (and cheapest) to eat at our hotel. We were then told we’d have to wait some more time for their kitchen to open at 7am. Seeing as we had an hour to play with, we sat in the restaurant trying to use their Internet. After several attempts to connect to their router I went to speak with the receptionist. Wether it was because he’d just finished a night shift, or if he was rude by nature, either way, when I made the point of telling him he was quite short with me. All he did was show me his phone and said “it’s working, see”. So I returned to my seat a defeated man, I may as well have spoken to the wall. After a while Sarah also had enough, and went to have a word. He tried giving Sarah the same response, and even tried making a joke that it was probably because our devices were English. HA, the joke was on him, the iPhone was purchased in Thailand, that was Sarah’s retort to the ******. He then messed about with the router, and after a while we connected.

• When 7 o’clock rolled around we ordered two large breakfasts. With me eating the lions share when Sarah couldn’t finish hers. After that we moved over to the cafe area and watched the tv fixed to the wall. The HBO channel was playing back to back movies all day, and the film that kept us entertained was an oldie called “It Takes Two”. It starred a young Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. The film itself bared an uncanny resemblance to the movie “Parent Trap”. I think it was because we were sleep deprived, but the pair of us actually enjoyed it. Near the end of the movie we noticed a backpacker checking in, seeing as it was only 10am, Sarah went over to see if we could do the same. Fortunately for us the night shift guy had left and was replaced with a younger, happier lady. She gave us a key, we paid the deposit, then I carried the holdalls to our room.

• We were in desperate need of a shower. After having travelled overnight on the bus it left us feeling a little clammy and dirty, a shower was the perfect remedy to freshen up. It was then we discovered our bags had been rifled through on the bus, or at the very least that’s what it looked like. Sarah strictly remembered tying a double knot in the straps, but noticed they were undone. Her items inside were also in new positions, as were mine. As well as that my side pocket fastening straps were undone, although I couldn’t remember if I did them up or not in the first place. Luckily nothing had been taken, but as a precaution for future bus rides we moved a memory card (containing all our photos) from the container in my holdall, to the safety of my day bag. When we knew for sure that everything was still with us we had those showers. It’s a small thing that makes a huge difference when you’re backpacking. Nothing beats a refreshing shower after an all nighter.

• The plan for the afternoon was to look around the stalls for clothes, then head to the large MBK complex for more shopping, and the cinema. It all went to plan, we looked around Koah San road and its neighbouring Rambuttri for various garments, but to no avail. It was early after all, and the stalls tended to have more items later in the day. It was then we decided to hail a taxi to the MBK super mall. While we were waiting we befriended another Canadian, this time we got their name. He was called Oliver, and he told us he’d been travelling Thailand for the past 6 weeks, but was heading home the next day. He had very distinctive features, a tattoo creeping out the top of his Tshirt on his back, two large flesh earrings, and had a septum piercing. At first no taxi would take us on the meter, I think it took 4 before one agreed. He was an elderly gentleman, and he spoke very little English, which made it quite funny at times. So long as he understood MBK that was all that mattered, the small things he couldn’t understand just made us laugh. For example when Sarah asked him,
“Is it close?”
He said,
“No, it’s open. It’s open all week”.
Bless him. When we arrived the fare was only 69 baht, all the taxis before wouldn’t have taken us for anything less than 150. It was at the front doors we parted ways from our new Canadian friend, and went inside to browse.

• MBK had 7 floors, each varying in the products they sold, from decorative household items through to technology. We explored the clothing levels for a good hour – hour and a half, but didn’t buy anything. Although there was so much to look at that it was probably more a case of being spoiled for choice than not liking anything. After a while we thought it best to have dinner, so when we managed to find the food court that’s what we did. Honestly, there’s no floor plan in those places which makes it so easy to get lost. The food court ran on a coupon system, in exchange for money you got the equivalent value in coupons. I had the pad Thai and Sarah ordered chicken and rice, afterwards she grabbed an apple shake, then we went up one floor to the cinema.

• The film I wanted to see was Ironman 3. It had been teasing me ever since I saw the trailer back in January. When we arrived it looked as though everyone else also had the same idea. The queue snaked around the barriers they had set up, and stretched far along the spacious fifth floor. This must have had something to do with the fact it was May Day, and it looked as though most of Bangkok had the day off. It was ten to 2 by this point, and the next screening was 2pm. When we got to the counter we discovered there were still seats available for that showing, but they were too close to the screen. So we decided to leave it until the 2:55pm one instead. To waste the time we explored some more clothing stalls. Again, we didn’t buy anything, and at 2:30 we headed back to the cinema. For a total of £9 we managed to buy two adult tickets, a large bucket of popcorn (and I mean large) and two large drinks. In England you can just about buy one adult ticket for that price.

• They let us in to our screen at 2:55pm and not a minute sooner. As we walked in, the trailers were already playing. After that the tv commercials came on, then we had to do the obligatory stand for the king, where we learned they had updated the footage again. Because the movie was in 3d, so was the video of the king. I felt a little let down by the movie if I’m honest, it was made a little too lighthearted for my liking. I prefer the comic movies to be a little darker, I guess that’s why I am such a fan of the anti-hero Batman. The movie was still entertaining all the same, but I felt as though it was missing something. When it finished we were ushered through the fire exit, then Sarah and I made our way outside. Down and down the many escalators we went until we reached the front doors and had to embrace the humidity again. It was outside that we noticed a large gathering of people being held back by a single police officer. What was even stranger was the fact the streets were empty. Ten seconds later we found out why. There was a police escort of at least 6 cars, behind them were 10 vehicles filled with political members, as well as several cars with tinted windows. Particular ones had flags on the front, which is what gave them away. When they’d all passed, a few more police cars tailed them. Then the streets went back to their manic ways and the pedestrians were allowed to walk across the overpass.

• Just when I thought we were heading back to our hotel, Sarah found a small alleyway filled wall to wall with more clothing stalls. We slowly passed trough it, looking at each item and piece of jewellery as we went, then tried to find a taxi to take us back. We had to wave on every tuktuk driver, as there was no way I was stopping at any suit shop, or jewellery store, just to get back to Khoa San at a cheaper rate. It took three taxis before one agreed to take us back. But unlike the ride to MBK we had to pay a fixed rate, it was deemed too busy for them to run the meter. Fifteen minutes later we were dropped off at the busy end of Khoa San. We then went around 4 different travel shops until we found one selling tickets to Koh Lak for a reasonable price. This would be the final resting place for us before we flew from Phuket to meet Sarah’s parents. With that sorted we returned to our room to relax for a while.

• I used that time to write the days blog, and Sarah watched one of her many tv shows. Around 8pm we went back out to look at the market stalls. I was in one of those moods as we looked around. I knew I had enough t shirts in my holdall, but couldn’t shake the feeling I needed to buy something. I almost bought a couple vests and a t shirt, but I was deterred by the high price tag. It was close to £12, which isn’t that much, but I didn’t like them enough to deem spending that much money. In fact I didn’t like any of the tops I found. All the images were the same as every other top I’d seen since arriving in Asia. There was only one item in particular I did like, a red pair of Abercrombie cotton shorts. It took me three different stalls before I found one woman who would budge on the price. She initially wanted 750 baht (£15) – which was too much, even if they were a copy. She claimed they were good quality, and then the bartering dance began. I never like bartering because at some point you meet at loggerheads and nobody wins. I was adamant I wouldn’t budge from 500, and at first I walked away. When I learned no one else would go that low, I returned with my tail between my legs. I said I’d go to 550, but she’d go no lower than 600.
“Sold!”
I bought them there and then, to which she was extremely grateful I returned to buy them from her shop. Also they’d come in handy for the gym in Australia, plus they looked good and felt comfy. It was a good purchase. We continued looking around the stalls, but didn’t buy anything else other than food. We bought a pad thai each and ate it on the walk back to Green House. It took us a while to get through it all on accounts of how much we were given. When we finished we went inside to use the Internet (which was shockingly awful) before retiring to our room. From the comfort of my bed I finished the days post, then closed my eyes for a nice cool nights sleep. It was good to have a/c again.

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