A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: GaryWeir

Day 12

"Home time"

semi-overcast 8 °C

The adventure ends, and it sure has been an adventure.

I'll miss Bangkok & Chiang Mai. I'll miss Thailand, a country where only a few people in their lives will have had the opportunity to have visited. If you have had the chance I guess you'll feel the same. For me, it's something I hope to repeat, if not better. And, if I do better it, it's got to have been something like having viewed the Earth from outer space. I can't think of anything else better than this comparable. Although I have not travelled as much as others, I still have been to some exciting places, including my home city of Edinburgh, and where I currently live, Madrid.

My feelings are so high for Thailand, it's made me think of the following things I have seen and understood more.

I've seen and met so many people, who do so many different things, and lead completely different
lives.

I've seen two happy Thai families achieve a lifetime goal, waiting almost what would seem a lifetime to
achieve it. Four years to wait for the first brick to be laid, probably even longer for the application to go through and get a simple seal of approval stamp on the form.

I've seen a group of people, unknown to each other at the beginning, get together and work to achieve many objectives. A group consisting of many different nationalities and religions working together for the common good. I ask myself why the same can't be done on an international scale for say, eradicating global warming or promoting peace, nevertheless, our work was voluntary and there was no money involved whereas governments would prefer to make a quick buck than save the possible suffering and destruction of the human race.

I've seen how a peaceful religion such as buddhism, practised by the majority of people in Thailand, can create a bit of harmony in a community, yet because of this imbalance there is poverty in vastly more areas than in the western world because of their selfishness to their faith by waiting, doing nothing, and hoping that a prosperity will hit them in the face, through the kindness of others. Their is no time for waiting and being patient, we need to make our own luck and find ways to become prosperous. We need to work to achieve what you want.

I've seen how beautiful the world is, the fewer the adults there are. A child's smile and laughter in any part of the world should be a treasure, and granted as the first wonder of the world. Whether in poverty or prosperity, should a child be happy in their surroundings it is a feat for humanity. Should us adults consider ourselves worthy to hang around this place we must smile, all the time. To smile brings happiness and well being.

I'm back in Madrid now, and this is how I see things at this moment. I hope to experience more in my life as life, it seems, like one massive journey. It's a cliche to say 'that life's for living', but I'm going to make sure I live it. I suppose I have found the ultimate dream.

I sure hope the above makes sense to you all. It does to me, but it sure is difficult though to explain in words.

I also hope you've enjoyed my blog pages too. Part of this was a way to say ขอบคุณ (thank you) to all those who pledged donations to the charity Habitat for Humanity, the main reason why I had travelled to Thailand.

I don't expect, either, debates on my opinions on how I have seen things. Each person does sees things differently based on personal experience, external influences such as the press, politics, and maybe even through this blog.

I want to apologise for not being able to upload photos. The site, for some reason, didn't allow me to do so. I now have the capability, and I'll be posting the photos on each page, so don't forget to look back at previous posts.

Thanks again though for reading, but look out for one more post too. I'll have it by Monday, I guess, next week, after I come down from my massive high.

I look forward to seeing you all.

Gary Weir
Aiming to live the ultimate dream.

Posted by GaryWeir 18:14 Archived in Spain Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Days 8, 9, 10, 11

Bangkok City Nights

sunny 35 °C

Thank god it was a Saturday to 'kick off' my week in Bangkok. Saturday for me means football. It always has and pretty much always will. It also seems that wherever I am in the world, this weekly event in my life will never change, even in summer.

Everybody should have a passion, regardless what it is, and mine is football.

Even though I love the game and regardless of it's sceptical comments (i.e. "blokes just kicking a ball around") it also brings people together. I knew that and used it to my advantage to get to know people. As Manchester United kicked off at 10pm, Bangkok time, I approached the 'lucky bar' on the Khao San Road. All the tables were taken in front of the three TV's that lined the terrace but I didn't stop there. I asked a couple of lads if I could sit down at one of their tables 'to watch the game'. Well, you wouldn't think from that moment my new aquintences, Bas (Thai) & Ron (Dutch),
would have partied until 6 am in the morning in Gazebo, a known hotspot for excellent live music, and disco bar. I was, though, shocked to have had been offered drugs by a fellow Scot. Although Thailand is massively strict on drugs, and if caught you'll get around twenty in the Bangkok Hilton, it seems young lads are quite content to carry on them a bag of pills and risk a heavy jail sentence, yet probably make peanuts before that time even arrives. Anyway, despite the young lad hailing from my home country I still took great pleasure to say 'sod off', the 'Gazza Weer' way.

Thankfully, both Ron and Bas, shared the same passion as I. We were able to talk alot about football. We also discussed Thailand's drug and corruption culture amongst loads more other things that one shouldn't really mention on this blog. I suppose 'Ladyboys' is pretty much an accepted topic since it does capture the world's attention and imagination. Fortunately, for me, I didn't come across any. Even with the the regular offers of visiting the "ping-pong" shows for only 30 bhat didn't do it for me since their was always something sinister behind those ridiculously cheap prices. The idea was that you get in a 'tuk-tuk', and they take you to the show. One lad who I met on the second night, said they end up charging you more at the door, or they take you to an unknown area of Bangkok, say a quiet street, and rob you of all your belongings. Well, I wasn't prepared for that and continued to enjoy myself around the bars and clubs in the Khao San Area.

For those who don't know the Khao San Road Area at night, picture dazzling neon lights on a stretch of road, about 400 metres in length, Illuminated as well by many different types of people from the four corners of the globe coupled with lots of bars and market stalls plying their late night trade due to influx of these many foreigners. As well as us westerners, there are obviously Thai's around, although the place is mainly habitated for the backpackers, and city partygoers.

The second night consisted of more football. I had arranged to meet Bas and Ron to watch the London derby. We agreed to meet at the same bar. However, I was pleased to see that somebody else was playing my same game too. Having arrived to bar half an hour before kick off, I was approached by a female (no, not a ladyboy, please). She was from switzerland and was sitting right in front of me, when suddenly, she challenged me to a game of pool. She was young, very timid and shy but she did launch herself, and that is what I liked, so I naturally agreed. As we approached the table, any attempts to have me on her own were gone when we were suddenly challenged by two other young travellers. So, doubles it was. After a couple of racks I was then greeted by my two mates. They were mates, otherwise they wouldn't have turned up. It was a shame both of them were leaving the following morning (Although Bas is Thai he studies in Canada) and only had time to catch the match. After the match, we said our goodbyes and headed back to the table. Now, even more people joined and at one stage we were around twelve in total. We carried on until 6am drinking Changs and Singhas, and having a real good time. We all left our seperate ways but throughout the night I was challenged yet again by Miss Swiss, this time to agree lunch the following day before she left for Chiang Mai. I declined by not showing the following day. I believe in Karma (I'm now Buddhest, by the way) and trust me, I have received some bad back. Those on Facebook might know what that was. I might tell later on in this blog.

The next again day, I met Ian again. I had saw him as he checked in on the Saturday. I made some small chat again with him, and we both agreed to go out for some quiet beers. Yeah, right..! We played pool at the same place and ran into some of the lads from the previous night. As Ian was flying to Pattaya (a beach resort in South Thailand) the following day, he retired and said his goodbyes too. This is the night when I ran into the Polish girls and experienced one of the things you wouldn't normally do unless drunk enough to be convinced. This is the story of the bet.

So, there were three of us lads. After playing pool and getting a little bored with the same old, we grabbed some noodles from one of the many street vendors (food was delish by the way) and headed up the Khao San Road for a bar, not just any bar, but a bar with music, beer and candy. I selected the seats, and instantly made chat with the polish girls. As I was talking with them the lads (names still unknown) had decided to order plastic sandcastlesque pails of Rum and Coke, and at an offer of 2 for 1. There was just no debate in the matter. The more I talked with the girls though, the more the other lads drank. As they finished their first bucket, I was egged on to finish mine off and the many straws provided with the buckets were almost forced into my mouth to drink. So, by the time the last bucket was consumed I was completely, using my own popular choice of word, 'gone'. That's when the bet came in, and quite stupid it was.

Although, I talk of the Khao San Road, I describe it to you retrospectively. I thought it was another street. The same street where the airport bus dropped us off. Message to Noemi, this is how we got lost on our very first walk. I had taken the Khao San Road as that very same street where the bus dropped us off. Mind you, it doesn't help if the front of the airport bus had said Khao San Road. So, as I was completely sure the Khao San was perpendicular to the real Khao San, Marta, one of the Polish girls, decided to bet an earpiercing. At first, due to the loud noise of the music that she said, "an earbashing", I agreed 100% to the bet. So, when I lost, off I went for my earbashing. We
walked down the street until we were chatting to what turned out to be ther owner of a parlour for tattoos and piercings.

What would you have done?

In a drunken state, please bear in mind?

Well, even though some might say, "irresponsible so and so". I actually quite like it, and.....it's staying.

So, again, the night finished with more goodbyes after that. We are facebook mates (Marta and Karolina), and I hope I stay in contact with the girls as they've marked my life, literally. They left for Chaing Mai the following day, and are still there. Although it sounds like a very short story, we had talked throughout the night for about 5 hours....non stop.

Okay, in short, and as not to bore. The following and final night belonged to me, myself and Gary. All three of us decided to go off for a walk. I badly wanted to see bangkok. Not through the tourist sites, not by shopping, or take the open top bus top. I decided to go to the tallest building in BKK.

The Skytower.

Sky for a reason. It touches the sky, and I wanted to do exactly that.

For a few years I've wanted to touch the sky in all senses, and I can now say that I have finally done it. It's not the tallest building in the world, but at 1am, after all my adventures in Thailand for the last 11 days, I was certainly the tallest in the 'land of the smiles', with my hand reaching the sky. I was now living the dream. My dream.

When I said we went for a walk, we sure did have to walk to get there. We trailed through the poverty stricken, down and out areas, right up to the flush high rise hotels and shopping commercial zones of the capital. The skytower was visible all the way from the start of my pilgrimage and I followed the natural path there the same way the three kings were guided with the holy star. I 'were' the three kings that night.

The tower is 88 storeys high, and up there I enjoyed a Singha beer and reflected on the amazing journey I have been fortunate enough to have had. Thanks to absolutely everything and everyone in my life, I have enjoyed this experience. It was hardly a 6 month sabbatical or anything like that but it sure was a journey to find more about the world, and about me.

Right, I was going to be short with that so I'll wrap this penultimate blog up with my bad Karma. It wasn't really bad come to think of it, as I write, but I just sure wish I had the chance to have had invited the wonderful barmaid close to my hotel for some 'khao', nothing more. Despite getting on well, she didn't want to, citing a sore throat and cold. It was true but maybe had she really wanted too, she would have agreed. Maybe had I time to persist further then she might've but hey you win some you lose some, take the rough with the smooth, but gotta keep battling against the odds, should they be against you. I did ask at least so I'm happy with that.

I spent everyday looking into her unbelieveable blue eyes as she served me my morning brew of PG tips.

Gary
Having lived part of the dream, it's time to continue dreaming dreams to have more dreams come true.

Posted by GaryWeir 09:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Days 3, 4 & 5

House building in Baan Mae, Chiang Mai.

sunny 30 °C

After three solid days of voluntary hard labour we were able to construct two houses for our two Thai families. With 23 CIGNA employees recruited throughout the world, despite not knowing each other, we worked marvellously as a team.

Firstly, let me tell you where we were building.

Bann Mae, Chiang Mai. A beautiful, quiet suburb of the city, with picturesque country lanes and humble living people. Where banana trees grow in the wild and chickens and hens roam free wherever they like. All the townsfolk naturally smiled and greeted us in their native language. It allowed you to feel welcome in their community. Whether they know we are building a house for Bann Mae's own Mr Smith, I don't know, but they sure make you feel you belong there.

Instantly, we got started as we arrived on the first day. After a short introduction on basic safety rules we headed towards the house. The first task we had to complete was the mixing and laying of the cement. Hard work, it was, especially as the day went on. Although, it was cool in the morning, it was baking hot by midday, and even hotter in the afternoon. Fortunately,nobody got burnt as people were applying lots of cream. Surprisingly, even though I didn't apply much myself, I'm still Scottish white as milk. Mixing the cement involved using a bag of cement, obviously, 18 buckets of sand and 15
buckets of stones with water being added intermittently. Virtually the whole of the day was spent doing this task

On day two, we commenced the building of the walls. Thin brittle breeze blocks were used, and to create th e cement we just had to mix sand, water and cement. When I had built three rows in about half an hour to start with, on my own, one of the house builing professionals had told me it was not straight enough. It looked straight to me but after he got the string out, it was out by a chaing Mai country mile. If only I had downloaded the spirit level app to my Iphone.
Well, the more he knocked each brick down, the more embarrased I got and the more it drained my confidence. The Tradesman then proceeded to rebuild in 5 minutes what I had constructed in that half an hour. Thankfully, one of the coordinators for Habitat for Humanity, Melane, convinced me to keep going and guided me to continue what the professional had left me with and we reached our objective by reaching the top of the window.

In the afternoon, we visited the Baan Mae primary school. We played many games with the kids and had a really wicked time.
When I'm around kids, I am a kid but only in an adult's body. Our fist game was with a bottle of talc, yes talc Liz. We had to
clap our hands and pass the bottle around and as soon as the school teacher blew her whistle, the person, or better defined, the
kid had to pour a hand full of talc and wipe it all over their face. Funny how the majority of us kids (the CIGNA team)
wanted to get caught with the bottle. Around ten of us in total got caught. At one stage, I held onto the bottle and waited for the
whistle to go before handing it over to Thressa (Hong Kong office). She didn't mind as she knew it was fun. But that's me, I
can be a bit devious at times. After that I played a bit of football with the kids, showed of a few skills but didn't score any
goals as the goalkeeper was actually quite good. It's amazing how any ball is fit enough to play football (we used a volleyball).

Day three was a good day for me, in terms of working hard. For me working hard is blood, sweat and tears, and that is exactly why I enjoyed it. I knew we still had the septic tank to make, and as being a brickie is not my bag, I immediately decided I was going to do the hard labour work. Along with Shybian, a chinaman, living in New Zealand, we got "dug in" and got to know each other a little better. Shybain is a big lad, and as we both appeared to share this same 'gusto', and avoid the brickwork altogether, we completed the objective of digging a 1.2m x 1.9m x 1m hole in about an hour and a half. It had to
be big enough to place two large septic tanks inside. It was indeed hard, back breaking work and we were permitted, by ourselves to take regular breaks. Whilst the others continued to build up to the roof, we focused primarily on our task.

Day three was extremley special too. Not just because it was the final day, but because the septic tank job allowed me to take these regular breaks (not because I'm lazy, please). On each break, I went walking around the small village. On one such walk, I came across the village store. Nobody spoke english, of course, which allowed me to refer to my phrase finder. I wanted a coffee, and was offered a sachet for about 4 baht (8 cents/pence). 'What was i going to do with that?', I said to myself. As my phrasefinder didn't include, "can i have a mug of hot water too please", I had to resolve it by making gestures and noises. Remember the nescafe advert where the guy goes to the kitchen and makes a boiling water noise? Well, I had re-enact that advert. I later learned that one of the locals could speak French, so I had a little conversation in the best French I could and was a bit surprised with myself and how much I could understand.

Once we had all finished our jobs. It was time for the handover ceremony. Although there was still much work to be done on the house, plastering, painting etc. we had done most, if not all, of the hard labour work. The ceremony, itself, was purely a publicity stunt as the CEO for CIGNA Thailand and the local press were all present. I'm not disrespecting the ceremony but it did feel a bit superficial. For me, it was more personal and emotional when we, the CIGNA global team, had built not only the house but
a unique relationship with the homeowner, his family and his neighbours. I had given the children the many coloured pens and pencils that some of my colleagues had given me and we shared our musical knowledge on the third day by me playing a bit guitar and them playing typical Thai instruments. I was offered a special Thai cigarette which I naturally declined as it looked more safer to have smoked a spanish dark "ducado" rather than dried grass rolled up in a palm leaf. Funnily enough one of the workers
coined it a marlboro and we both laughed it off together.

After the handover ceremony everybody could not stop taking photos. We all enjoyed working together and getting to know each other.

It was a real privilege to have worked for myself, the team and for my company, CIGNA.

Most of the evenings throughout the last few days were taken up with dinner, thai massages, shopping at the night bazaar and walking around the beautiful city that is Chiang Mai.

Thanks for reading.

Gary
Continuing to live the dream.

Posted by GaryWeir 10:21 Archived in Thailand Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Day 7 (Night)

Alone in Bangkok

sunny 30 °C

I walked back to the hotel, I felt anxious yet the adventure seemed as if it had just started. Noemi had just left. I was alone but started instantly to push myself to make it happen.

The square outside the hotel is extremely quiet and relaxing. Even though there is a constant coming and going of backpackers and tourists from the hotel, the restaurants which surround the beautiful exotic square make it a fine balance. As I approached the hotel, on my return, I was greeted by a nice nepalese gentleman sporting elegent clothing, smart polished black shoes, cream
coloured pants and a black shirt loose at the top. I had a feeling he wanted to sell me something. I wasn't far off but he seemed different from the rest of the 'come into my shop type'. We talked, even though I knew he wanted me in his shop, however, it felt like he genuinely wanted to chat, so we established rapport instantly. After 5 minutes talking, I agreed I would see what he had to offer.

"I'm just coming in for a look", I insisted.

As I walked into the small tailor shop, I was introduced by Chris, the marketeer, to his brother Mr
Lucky. He looked even smarter than his brother, he was cool, calm and naturally intelligent. He knew what would work for me.

I like clothes, I like smart clothes which catch the eye yet being subtle with the colours and design. Mr Lucky ended up making me a happy man. He sold me part of the dream. Yes, it was two shirts, but he sold me two outstanding designs.

"Do want Toyota my friend, or do you prefer Mercedes?"

He was referring to the make of the dresswear. When I buy a car, I'll be going for a Mercedes.
Therefore,

"Mercedes", I replied instantly, the kind of reply he wanted to hear.

After attempting to negotiate a little, I got nowhere. He was good. Better than the assistant at el corte inglés. He did throw in a silk tie to make me feel good about the deal. Well, for 1,800 bhat, I got a small part of the dream. I felt good, he was happy and we both knew it. I bet he sells alot but it was a good experience for us all I guess.

He wanted payment instantly which I paid with a bit of hesitation, as who knows, this is Bangkok, right? Could it be a scam?

So, everytime I pass the shop, I naturally pop in to say hello. I pick up my shirts in the next few days, as they are measured to fit.

Upon retiring to me room at around 9.30, I hit the sack and woke up almost 13 hours later. I didn't mention I was tired before, did I? Well, I was shattered, having slept only around 8 hours in three days. I was more tired than I was on the day of the flight. At last I slept a much needed kip.

Gary
Dreamin'....

Posted by GaryWeir 09:57 Archived in Thailand Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Day 7

Welcome to Bangkok

sunny 35 °C

Noemi and I felt just the same as intimidated arriving at the Khao San Road in Bangkok as we did when we first arrived in Chiang Mai. Having experienced that, I knew it would take less than a day to feel relaxed a little more in this massive city of 9 million plus habitants.

As we got off the bus at the end of the line (Khao San Road), we were greeted by countless locals asking us where we were from, how long are we here for etc. etc. Some may think they were being generally nice and helpful but you could tell there was something sinister behind their hospitality. That led me to not trust pretty much anyone. One 'samaritan' even encouraged us to enter a tourist information office...inside a police station. We thought it pretty rare indeed, but once
inside we were assisted by an attendant in civilian clothing advising us not to go to any hotel inside the Khao San triangle as it was notorious for hotel robberies and muggings, instead, he suggested we go to 'this specific hotel' outside the triangle, and take a 'tuk-tuk' for 100 bhat to get there. Does anybody smell the comission? Could we even go as far as call it corruption? Using one's power for economical advantages.

We first noticed in Chiang Mai that the pelican crossing system simply does not operate the same way as it does anyway else in the developed world. Cars pass at high speeds even though people look ready to walk. Therefore, it's just the same walking across anystreet, at any place, at any time. At first Noemi appeared rather apprehensive about walking across the pelican crossing knowing that it wasn't a safeguard whatsoever but I did catch her towards the end of her final day in Thailand crossing with confidence and without scruples, the Thai way.

I knew it straight away, thanked him, and off we went. I had heard of a nice hotel called the Rambuttri Village Hotel whilst searching on the internet, just off the Khao San Road. I hadn't booked up as I had read online that client's credit card details were being passed on illegally. Some even had thousands of pounds spent on their card after returning home. So, I decided I would do it the backpacker's way. Once I arrived, the receptionist, who was happy to speak Spanish to us, provided me with
a room for 850 bhat (17 euros) per night. She was nice and whenever I see her I speak Spanish as so she can remember who I am. Everybody speaks English (even any spaniards who I see), and as I like to differentiate myself most of the time, we speak a language we both like to communicate in. We also have a laugh too and exagerate our spanish style.

The room is nice, a double deluxe. Nothing compared, though, to our 5 star stay in the Royal Princess in Chiang Mai, but good enough if your on a budget. I could go more but after a day here, I'm happy. As we walked around Bangkok on the first day, I was a bit concerned with what the 'tourist information' had advised us and was worried in case, whilst I was out on the first day, somebody would ransack the room, therefore, I carried around all my valuables, usually what is not recommended anywhere else
thus opening yourself up to muggings and losing everything in one go. So, welcome to bangkok.

Noemi and I wanted to see the Palace. Unfortunately, it closed as we arrived there (3pm) but we did see a little bit inside, not much though. On the way to the palace we were witness to the extreme poverty always talked about in developing countries. The large dirt square opposite the royal palace was home to thousands of beggars and people selling, literally, junk. From ancient old remote controlled
toy cars to overused haircombs, you could get anything which is of no use to a tourist, but could be a real gem to the local. I did see a half empty bottle Nivea suncream, but opted completely against it, risking the direct sunlight beating down on us all day. The buses took our attention too. All the windows are wide open, people almost resting outside to get relief, from the intense heat, using the polluted
breeze as a fan. The transport too appears very old and overused. We even saw an old mercedes bus, probably from the sixties, still in circulation.

As we neared the end of our walk, we had a burger king for some fresh air conditioning and a bite. We trailed around the many market stalls on our return to the Khao San area and we were enticed to buy almost everything. Although most of the mechandise is fake and cheap, it really is of good quality. I mean, the clothing we buy in the western world is just a rip off, only the brand/logo costs us money. It's all probably made in the same factory therefore not only are the people in the developing
country exploited, we are too.

A nice starbucksesque coffee finished Noemi's journey through Bangkok. We enjoyed it, and thoroughly enjoyed walking around despite the numerous attempts by the irritating tuk-tuk drivers to take us 100 metres up the road for 20 bhat (40 cents). As we approached the bus stop, we learned the bus was leaving almost right away. After an extremely quick 'despidido', Noemi lifted herself onto the bus and for the first time in my life, I was alone. Very alone. There was only one thing to resolve it. Hit Khao San and meet loadsa people.

See you soon.

Gary
Livin' the dream yet realising their is more to dream for.

Posted by GaryWeir 09:39 Archived in Thailand Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Day 6

Haggling

sunny 30 °C

On my first night in Chiang Mai I met an extremely nice old lady from a fantastic city called Edinburgh (that's where I'm from and I'm not being byest one bit on this one). After I ordered a Beer at the Red Lion Bar (a local for the ex-pats in Chiang Mai), I suddenly heard,

"oh, that's a lovely accent I can never forget"

Mrs King, as I called her, has been in Thailand for over 25 years. She is a retired school teacher who was shocked to hear that I didn't know much about the Romans and how they used elephants to move stuff across the alps. If you knew that please let me know. After telling her that I could speak Español and was learning Francais, I later managed to convince Mrs King (although she demanded
to be called Sheila - I just couldn't) that we can't learn everything at school. Maybe that's something schoolteachers can't understand as they appeared to be always correct. They do, however, have my full 99% respect.

Anyway, the lovely Mrs King explained a bit about haggling before I even contemplated starting. The price they apparently always look for is just above 50% of their asking price. After a long chat about other things in general I later learned that she was staying in the same hotel as us. Thankfully, I was able to see her on my last night as she came out the hotel.

"oh, you look very handsome tonight".

Little did she know that I was on the pull.

So, it seems Thai's just like haggling. I don't why they bother really as the price always comes down. With fixed prices everybody saves alot of time and encourages competition. Maybe it's because everybody works for themselves, however, it does create a bit of communication between buyer and seller and you can always joke and make small talk.

Apparently, I got a good deal for a watch without knowing it. I wasn't really looking for one but as most of them catch your eye, you get easily drawn in to the vast array of the fake designer classics. The price started at 1800 bhat (36 euros). I wasn't happy with that simply because it was the first price they offered (take note Lina). He then reduced it down to 1600 Bhat as that was exclusively a 'special' price for me. This must be a way to make you feel, well, special. I still wasn't happy as I knew it come down more. Then, came the earthquake,

"1000 Bhat", I shouted confidently, whilst also pretending that the marvellous watch didn't mean anything to me and that I was just in it for a game.

"No", he said bluntly.

I never responded back to him, continued to look at the watch and placed it neatly back where it was. I didn't even acknowledge his response and pretended to be distracted. As I walked away very slowly, he called me back.

"Okay 1,000, you pay 1,000".

I continued to walk very slowly until I was two market stalls away.

"900, and it yours".

I looked back and smiled, and continued again on my well rehearsed journey up the street.

"800".

"kaching" for him, that got me back. I walked back briskly. Looked at the watch again. Examined the strap, the face, the backside. It was only fair I proceed to haggle more but not too much as he did reduce it down by 50%.

"750" I said again confidently, "..and the money's yours".

Not that the watch is going to be mine at €15, but the moeny was going to be his. A bit of reverse pyschology.

After referring to a chart and discussing it quickly with the wife, he agreed the deal. He's still making some money as he didn't complain, at least like some others do. Some use that tactic to make you feel bad about the haggle. You shouldn't feel pity for them as they try to rip you off in the first place. It wouldn't surprise me if somebody has agreed the first deal in the past without a haggle I suppose it's all about compensation for them.

Well, the watch is mine and it's damn fine Rolex with a nice solid strap, elegant and smooth gold looking face.

Maybe one other tip is to look at something you are dearly not interested in, and subtly check out other things at their stall whilst keeping an eye on your gem.
I was adherent on buying an Omega Seamaster but didn't prefer either of the five I liked. Having spotted the Rolex a few rows down, I decided without telling him that it was going to be mine, and for a cheap price.

So, I got over 50% reduced. Not bad, eh? Maybe you've haggled a better deal. Let us hear about it, add your comment below.

See you all in Bangkok on Saturday.

Living the dream, in dreamland and for real.

Gary.

Posted by GaryWeir 09:16 Archived in Thailand Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

Day Two & Three

Images speak louder than words...

sunny 30 °C

Okay, sorry for the delay in keeping you all in touch with what's happening. To begin with, Thailand is incredible. I love it. Firstly, the people are so nice and it keeps with the saying 'the land of smiles'. Everybody smiles and everybody appears kind hearted. Yes, you have to haggle with prices as they start quite high but everybody's out to make money, right?

How can such a nation be almost third world? Check these pictures out. I'll keep you up to date from now on, I promise. Unfortunately, I had wifi, technical and web problems to deal with.

So here goes. Click on each image and movie which should tell a little story.

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Posted by GaryWeir 10:06 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Day One (Cont.)

Barajas Airport

semi-overcast 10 °C

Not surprisingly, I'm really quite tired. Not enough, however, to fall asleep at any place, at any time, like in the Madrid metro, for example, a sport which I'm really quite good at. I am a world champion sleeper so I can't wait until I come down from the adrenaline which is pretty much keeping me awake.

Last night was really quite special. Done all I planned and spent alot of time with both the 'wee yin' and friends. The champagne party was a nice touch by Mr and Mrs Frenchie and the evening was filled with a lot of guitar, smoke, more guitar followed by some more champagne, and a glass of water.

Guess what? Even though I made a list online I totally forgot two important things. Suncream and mosquito repellant. I probably got the least important thing I needed right now, and that was a nice sweet smelling fragrance by Davidoff, called, wait for it.....'adventure'. Thanks to the the sales asistant at el corte inglés, whom I must say did a fantastic job by selling me something which I really didn't need, I have added another to my vastly growing collection of perfumes. She didn't just sell me the biggest bottle of the eau de toilette either, she convined me to buy the boxed edition which came with a free 'adventuresque' looking notebook (string around the sides and a pencil holder, you know, cheap and nasty). In all honesty I have no idea for what to use it for. Any ideas folk? If nobody comes up with a world beater I'll need to come up with something myself. Log in below, let me know.

So, I'm at the airport now. I decided to get a cab. It only took 15 minutes but was well worth the 30 bucks I paid because it could've taken up to 50 minutes in the metro where the cost would only have been, well, nought, because I have an abono (transport pass). It did save alot of unnecessary pre-flight stress. The Check-in queue was not so long, nevertheless, it was too good to be true. I was told by the check-in attendent that there was a possibility I would not fly. It appeared my name was spelled incorrectly on the flight booking printout meaning it pretty much looked dodgy to her. Mind you, picture this. A bearded Scotsman flying from Madrid to Bangkok with a name which doesn't match on his passport might look a bit shady indeed.

It seems many people get confused with my name. I've been called both Alexander and David in Spain and on few occasions Alexander David. I'm never Gary thus why I have gotten used to using my full name. Nevertheless, I digress. Having not paid too much attention to the flight ticket, assuming that the details were all okay, it turned out the reservation was in the name of a such 'Alexander Weir/DavidMr'. No Gary whatsoever. As my ticker was skipping beats yet thumping at a thousand a minute, she decided to avoid complications for both her and I and thankfully proceeded to print out and give me the boarding pass. She did hint, though, that on my return to Madrid I may encounter difficulties. To avoid this I have been told to get in touch with the travel agency. Leticia, if you read this can you sort this out for me please...pretty please.

Going through security was also another regrettable event.

"es tuyo', asked the guard pointing to my over sized hand luggage. Curiously, as he demanded my answer other bags continued to pass through the belt, going completely ignored.

"si, es mio", I naturally replied, obeying authority.

"Pasalo otra vez", so I proceeded to pass it through again.

Suddenly, the gate alarm went nuts, ringing out to the whole area. As I walked through the gate to the sound of the loud din, I noticed a concerned look on a couple. No doubt, the whole queue had fixed their eyes on me too. Obviously, I didn't fear anything. Only a real passenger with mal intent would, I'd imagine. So, I popped the bag on the conveyor belt, but this time was told to put it face down. It was later revealed by the the guard that I had initially put it through 'standing up', if you know what I mean.

So, the conclusion is, flying is a pain in the a**e. Maybe a bit like having a hundred mosquito bites in a hot and clammy Bangkok city centre. I mean, we have to take off our belt and shoes. Which, in my opinion, is really quite degrading.

It's half an hour to the flight. There's no Wifi in the airport to upload this, and there's no Noemi to say 'hi' to either. Where is she???? I didn't get her mobile number either which would've have helped in the event of any problems, i.e. in situations like this.

Anyway, I won't be talking on the flight. I'll be sleeping.

Gary
Dreamin' the dream (whilst sleeping).

Posted by GaryWeir 12:15 Archived in Spain Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Day One

Barajas Airport (Madrid)

semi-overcast 10 °C

Hey folks,

Just briefly, I'm currently having some technical problems but I hope to get all I have uploaded soon.

For now, here are some photos.

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Posted by GaryWeir 12:00 Archived in Spain Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Less than a day to go..

sunny 12 °C

Less than a day to go. I feel as if I’m ready. Well, at 6 O’clock today, when I leave the office, I’ll be starting to get ready. So, I’m ready to get ready, maybe. Does that make sense?

Or, maybe, I want to say, I’m ready mentally.

It sure has been a busy week. I’ve done all I planned to do but tonight is going to be big. Bigger than just big. Firstly, I have to go to el corte inglés tonight to buy certain things vital to the house-build and beyond.

1.) Garden gloves
2.) Light combat trousers.
3.) Suncream
4.) Mosquito repellent

I’ll probably add to the list as the day goes by as I’ve got so much on my mind...but, I won’t stop any further suggestions coming from your way. Please I insist. I need your help.

Afterwards, I then need to go straight to see Sara as she wants to give me some of her old toys so I can hand them to the ‘poor people’…bless her. I didn’t ask her, but words can’t explain how touching it was to hear that come from a genuin, kind and thoughtful 4 year old. She is my own daughter, so I am byest. I think for that, though, thanks must be paid to her mother who is obviously teaching her excellent values. Her school too must be thanked. They too have raised awareness with the kids with regard to the situation in Haiti (to donate to Habitat for Humanity, who are actively addressing shelter solutions in Haiti, please visit my site www.justgiving.com/garyinthailand ). I’ve started asking my daughter what she wishes on regular basis, and just last week she surprised me enormously…’I want things for the people of Haiti to be like it was before the earthquake’. No joke, she said that without making one single error!! I’ve told my friends and family what she said, and I don’t think even once it came out my mouth the same and correct grammatical way my daughter had said it. Although Sara says most of her wishes are impossible I always tell her to ‘never give up hope’.

Anyway, after I visit the ‘wee yin’ (I’m from the sunny east coast), I’m shooting off home for a ‘packing and champagne party’ with mates. Self explanatory? I guessed so. It was suggested last night by the Julie, the girlfriend of one of my mates, Frenchie. I’ve added the packing bit in because if there is alcohol involved, there is no way I can do it on my own. Now, here’s the burning question. Would you trust even your closest friends to help you pack on a trip to Thailand? ………….I repeat, to Thailand?

So, after I finish packing, the idea is to stay awake all night. Continue to drink champers, maybe go out to a local bar for a few, come back, stay up, drink coffee, eat, continue to stay up, not go to sleep, not lie down and leave the house at 8am. Hopefully, by the time I board my flight I’ll be completely knackered I’ll sleep through the whole journey. That way, too, I hope to align myself with Bangkok time and be ready for the week. I bet there are simpler ways to go about it but as Frenchie likes to put it, ‘you gotta stick it to the man’.

Oh, before I forget….

5.) Birthday card for Mum and Alan

See y’all tomorrow at Madrid airport. I’ll try and get Noemi to say hi to you all too.

Posted by GaryWeir 14:37 Archived in Spain Tagged preparation Comments (0)

6 days to go

I'm now starting to move..

Obviously, I'm not packed. We agreed that's going to be last minute, however, most of my time has spent thinking about getting this blog up and running, and preparing for collecting donations. It has been complicated as CIGNA have had to make sure that my attempt to raise funds is legitimate, but I thank everybody who has taken the time to assist me with this part of (my) Thailand project.

So, next week, I'm going to be busy raising awareness amongst work colleagues and friends and family. That means loads of e-mails, phone calls and other means of communicating to the masses.

I sure hope I surpass my goal. Maybe you could help if you haven't already. The site is up and running now (http://www.justgiving.com/garyinthailand).

I think the next time I write, it'll be next Saturday, the flight date.

13 hours flight time? I think that's enough time to get one's life planned...

What would you do on a thirteen hour flight? Let me know your plans if you were flying, maybe even tell me your experiences when travelling long distance.

See you soon.

Gary
Livin' the dream

Posted by GaryWeir 15:31 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

11 days to go

Should I get moving?

rain 12 °C

Being my first entry, I suppose I better let you all know where I am with my preparation. It's the usual conversation at this stage, 'Have you packed?', 'Got your suncream'?' and 'Do know what 'Doctor, doctor, I've got a hundred mosquito bites on my a*se' is in Thai?'. Fortunately, in respect to the latter, I sleep facing the ceiling making my plump backside a difficult area to bide for the small animal kingdom during the expected hot & clammy nights in the land of the smiles.

I've got things to do, yes, but I always leave things to the last minute. I've got so much to do not related to the Thailand trip that I simply haven't the time. In fact, my trip is pretty much still at the back of my mind. All i know is that on Saturday 30th, I need to set my alarm early, get packing and go to the aiport for my late morning flight.......or is it early afternoon. Whatever, 13 hours of flight time and I'll be in Bangkok.

For those that are reading this, no doubt you know what I'll be getting up to. Well, I'm going on a house building trip in conjunction with my employer and the charity organisation, Habitat for Humanity, who just so happen to be operating in Haiti at the moment due to the terrible event which struck the poorest community in the world...the last thing they needed, the last thing really anybody needs, anywhere. Habitat for Humanity operate in Thailand where 6 million people live below the poverty line and survive on less than one euro a day. I spent almost 7 days worth of coffee today so maybe that puts things into perspective. Had I gone to Starbucks for my three coffees, no doubt I'd feed a family for a month.

I'm so glad I was chosen and I sincerely believe that the panel chose me because of what I could bring to the trip, andnot because I slipped them a backhander....only kiddin'. This trip has empowered me massively and I can't wait to live an experience of a lifetime.

Before I go, I would just like to thank my company for giving me this marvellous opportunity, all my colleagues in both Greenock and Madrid, especially those who have and will donate to the charity Habitat for Humanity, and a final thanks to my daughter who fills my life with illusion and goodness when just thinking about her. I love you forever Sara.

Catch you all soon.

Gary.
Livin' the dream.

Posted by GaryWeir 21:32 Archived in Spain Tagged preparation Comments (0)

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