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  • hardie karges 1:59 pm on March 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bangkok, Khaosarn road, Patpong, Soi Ngam Duphli, ,   

    Bangkok on a Budget: Time Travel and Second Thoughts… 

    IMG_2186

    Soi Ngam Duphli today

    Every budget traveler in SE Asia has heard of Khaosarn Road, in Bangkok, that warren of creepy-crawlers, that rookery of high-fliers, that underbelly of bottom-feeders that all identify as backpackers, or maybe even ‘flashpackers’, travelers—generally young, at heart if not calendar—who’ve made a date with fate and a pact with no backtrack to see it all…

    …or die trying, including beaches, mountains, cities and villages, but especially beaches, as famously immortalized by Leonardo, DiCaprio not Da Vinci, wherever the beer is cold, the bud has flowers, the prices are low, the English language has taken root and at least one enterprising local has mastered the recipe for banana pancakes, sweeten to taste and allow to settle… (More …)

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 2:11 pm on March 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Sharing with my granddaughter and her husband who are planning a trip to Cambodia and Vietnam.

  • hardie karges 2:42 pm on March 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bangkok, Bumrungrad, , , kidney stone, ,   

    Medical Tourism in SE Asia: This is Spinal Tap… 

    IMG_2193Continued from previous…

    Fast forward to Bangkok and I arrive on schedule, 10:00 hours, no wait at immigration on these early regional flights, too early to check in at my hotel, and feeling better after a half-stream piss at the airport, so walk the back road from the ‘Airport Rail Link’ station at Makkasan to my hotel near Bumrungrad hospital, waving—but not flipping—off the tuk-tuk drivers who only love me for my fare…

    I decide to wait another day for the medical care, though, since I’ve been granted a minor reprieve, and since it won’t be cheap. I bite the bullet the next day, though, since this could gone on forever, and is the silliest of servitudes, impairment is. That means sonograms, again, telling me what I already know, that I have kidney stones—duh. They haven’t dealt with the obstruction, since that is not viewable by ultrasound…

    IMG_1302Doc says I’d need a camera shot up my little thingie for that, and that’ll cost $4-6K, and to grab it, too, or nuke it, adding in the same breath that it could be a fraction of the cost elsewhere, ‘after hours’, specifically the police hospital, then I notice he’s a police colonel himself, so got it, hint hint, just call this number and talk to Nurse Ratchet, and don’t let her ratchet up the price, I tell myself accordingly. Bumrungrad is the all-English ex-pat hospital of choice BTW…

    Sounds weird to me, though, so I decide to make the rounds of other hospitals before making any decisions. Chulalongkorn is well-known, so I visit, but not really to my taste or liking, too busy, must be a government hospital. I don’t much like crowds, especially in hospitals. Ever heard the word “Bedlam?” That was a mental hospital, though, I believe, or ‘lunatic asylum’ as they say in Mississippi. Still, I don’t like people screaming down the hall, for any reason, including pain…

    So I make an appointment to meet with a urologist, two days away, then continue on my way, next stop Sukhumvit Hospital–bingo. They make a quick estimate of the ‘cystoscopy’ at a favorable price, then tell me to come back the next day to meet with a urologist. So I do. He has a better idea: do a CT scan, which would show a stone in the urinary tract, no matter where (since he can’t just take my word for it). So why didn’t they suggest that at Bumrungrad? Good question…

    IMG_2196And Bam! There it is, bigger than sh*t, and not that large, either. So we schedule the ‘surgery’ (sort of) for the next day, with one night in the hospital, all for a couple thou USD—I sign. You can’t do this in the US, by the way, or do I have to mention that? I should mention, though, that I had a stone twice that size stuck in the same place last year, did the CAT, still nobody told me I had a stone the size of a bread truck lodged there…

    To quote my LA urologist, as he talked on the phone to ER (he never viewed a scan, X-ray, or even sonogram): “If there’s one there, it can’t be very big,” quote unquote. ER must have seen it, though, and again I quote: “You’ll have to piss them out.” Only one problem: a 10mm stone won’t necessarily pass, though mine finally did, after six weeks. I’m still considering a lawsuit. I won’t even get into the Primary Care-ER-Insurance-Specialist runaround, in which referrals are sent by MAIL, as in SNAIL!!

    And next day at Sukhumvit Hospital goes like clockwork, nothing weird except the spinal tap—ouch! No anesthesia, just a curtain so I don’t freak, and it’s all over in less than an hour. Doc’s even got a plan for a permanent fix, maybe, fingers crossed. And it all comes in at a cost of two grand and change, for which I get my life back, after a week with Cathy—my catheter. I think I love her…

    IMG_2194Did I mention previously that I hate the US healthcare system—no matter the price, whether it’s Obama’s or whoever? Okay, so I did. Let me re-count the ways: 1) It’s overpriced, 2) It’s mediocre quality, 3) It’s Byzantine, 4) They can’t estimate costs accurately, and worst of all: 5) They don’t communicate with you. That’s one reason I’m here. Most ‘medical tourists’ fly over for the surgery, then fly back. Some of us just stay. I guess I’ve backed myself into a little corner of the universe, but I think I can live with it…

    …and on the surface it might seem that my travel career is over, too, since who knows when or how many times this might happen again. I can’t travel much if I have to stay close enough to a hospital to make sure that I can empty my bladder twice a day, minimum. Curses! I hate old age! I hate the accumulation of repeated mistakes all packaged together and presented to me as evidence of my failure as a human being. I hate karma…

    There is another way, of course: just carry a catheter and learn to use it. They’ll love that at Customs. They’ll see that rubber tube and naturally think I’m tying up in the bathroom, and I just might be! It seems so sinister, so unattractive, so self-consumed and dangerous. And still, that would only buy me a few days, at most, not all that much better than just making a run for the border if and when disaster strikes, like I just did. I’ll figure something out…

    I’ll have to. Living life cloistered and cashiered is hardly thinkable, though not inconsistent with my recurring desire for the Buddhist monk-hood. Now I won’t pretend that the Universe planned it this way, and for a reason, because that would be silly and superstitious. But it’s good narrative, and it might as well be that way, because that’s ultimately the package that I’ll buy. Welcome to the future. It’s been a rough week…

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 4:00 pm on March 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Decisions, decisions. Making changes is not easy.

    • davekingsbury 11:08 pm on March 12, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Blimey … hey, is that why you call us Limeys? … what a roller-coaster ride! Glad you had a good outcome but as you say, the future’s unclear. Devil and deep blue sea come to mind. I have to admire the sang froid of your writing, though, do you find meditation helps?

      • hardie karges 1:32 am on March 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        Meditation helps with everything. Sang froid is part of the culture, called ‘jai yen’ = ‘cool heart’ in Thai. I think ‘limeys’ refers to the practice of sailors carrying limes to prevent scurvy, or so I once heard… 🙂

    • davekingsbury 3:44 pm on March 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      ‘Cool heart’ is, well, cool … best wishes, anyway!

  • hardie karges 6:19 pm on February 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bangkok, Krung Thep, ,   

    Los Angeles and Bangkok (Krung Thep) both translate as “City of Angels”, BUT…  

    IMG_0292

    LA freeway overpass encampment

    …I don’t see what’s so angelic about either of them.  They are two of the most God-forsaken places in the world IMHO.  They just go and on forever, like your older brother talking his endless rap.  There are ten million people and you haven’t got a friend in the world, just streets and highways, all going nowhere.

    Buildings flash their fifty-story erections in worship to a dark God, a God of greed and corruption, each story a different tale of intrigue and cunning, each ending a false one, happiness imposed by the dictates of fiction.

    IMG_0208

    Bangkok’s pubs-n-clubs define a genre

    It wouldn’t be so bad if there were just some escape, some momentary relief from the grid-work of conformity.  But there’s no relief in sight, no mountains, no forests, no streams of consciousness to break the monotone droning on and on through public address systems and loudspeakers in airports, train stations, and bus stops ad infinitum ad nauseum.

    The grid conquers all, miles and miles of wires and cables pretending to meet at right angles like Saxons and Jutes at the corner pub, get shit-faced, then get up in the morning and do it all over again.  Homo erectus falls flat on his face and sapiens sapiens takes over a bit self-consciously. I fight the grid with a worldwide web of my own design, but it’s never enough.  You can’t change a world that’s not ready to be changed.  You can only change yourself.

     
  • hardie karges 11:42 pm on July 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bangkok, , River Kwai,   

    #Bangkok #Kanchanaburi #Thailand: Bi-Polar Syndrome of a Country… 

    Meals on Wheels

    Meals on Wheels in Bangkok

    It’s amazing how diverse Bangkok can be, depending on your chosen neighborhood. If you only stay in the backpacker enclave at Khaosarn Road or near the red-light district of Patpong, or Sukhumvit Road between Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy, then you’ve only seen the most obvious charms—or horrors—of the city. That was especially evident a month ago, when I happened to step out on Sukhumvit Road AFTER midnight for the first time in a while—YEOW! Unbelievable! There are prostitutes from all over the world, right here—brown ones, black ones, white ones, blue!

    Still I doubt it’s ‘traffficking’, just free market flea market, choice cuts of meat in the international section. That’s all chilled down now since the military coup, I reckon, but I don’t really want to know—too disgusting. So I stay far north of town this time, saving myself a chunk of change in the process. You know what they say about rental rates—it’s all about location location location.

    Portuguese Past in Kanchanaburi

    Portuguese Past in Kanchanaburi

    So this time I stay in an entirely different section of the city, one I’ve never really stayed in, and close to the Victory Monument passenger van pick-up points. This is where I’ll catch a van to Kanchanaburi, on the River Kwai, or something like that. There are no bars around here, but that’s just fine; there’s plenty of good coffee. Ten years ago it would’ve been Nescafe only. Vive la difference! Unfortunately bars dominate the tourist scene in Kanchanaburi, a real disappointment.

    These last two stops, Bangkok and Kanchanaburi, are the undoing of my little purist fantasy, full of tourists and ex-pats, too, back with a vengeance on their part and no small measure of repressed revenge on my own, the spreading colonization of the Kingdom beyond all reason, writing on the wall for years now, but I forgot to wear my glasses, so I know now that my time here is drawing short…

    Kanchanaburi, Thailand: City on Water

    Kanchanaburi, Thailand: City on Water

    In Bangkok it’s to be expected, of course, major world city with people from all over, but… Kanchanaburi? Sleepy little Kanchanaburi? Sure, there’s the River Kwai, of course, but does that necessarily imply a cliched ‘entertainment’ strip with all that entails? It looks to be about half-and-half old fart expats and young backpackers, so plenty of blame to go around IMHO…

    I mean: I’m glad the local economy is good enough to support a Carabao concert at one of the local clubs, but there won’t be any Farangs there, just locals. And there’s a historic district in town, with appropriate documentation for antique houses, all with Sino-Portuguese origins, then a house-boat city and floating entertainment district on pontoon ferries, but most foreigners will never see it from the bar stools in their own private little GI bar enclave…

    Bridge over the River Kwai

    Bridge over the River Kwai

    This bi-polarization of a city—and country—into locals and foreigners is not at all what I look for and no longer what I need from this Kingdom or any other. I need inclusion, not separation; information, not ignorance. What worked for me twenty years ago no longer works for me now. I’ve changed, and Thailand hasn’t, or only for the worse, I’m afraid. It’s time to move on, boo hoo. I’ll miss the coconut ice cream. I decide to forego the Carabao concert…

    Now for my last train ride on the last train line in Thailand, the only one I’ve never been on, from Kanchanaburi back to Bangkok, or Thonburi, that is, across the river. Going the other direction will take you to Burma, a real temptation if I had the time, especially if I had a visa and they’d let me in. things are changing there fast. As it is, the ride back is pretty predictable, the only real excitement finding the ferry once there.

    My friend and I accomplish, that, though, and we even get a little river ride in the process. The SE Asia part of this trip is drawing to a close, but I’ve still got a scheduled stop in Istanbul, so I’m jazzed about that. That’s still Asia, right? Stay tuned.

    June 2014

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 12:06 am on July 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      My daughter, Lisa, and her husband have just returned from a 10-day our of Turkey, including Istanbul. Did you get the picture I sent of Wilson and me taken at Camea Dobbs’ wedding reception last Saturday night?

      Esther

    • Sven 1:10 am on July 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Hardie, You see what you want to see and what you are looking for. Nana is Nana and Yet Yod is Yet Yod. I were in Kanchanaburi 15 years ago and I did not see any bars because I was not looking, I was there with a good lady staying in one of these floating resorts north of town. Then I was there with good friends playing golf 10 years ago, yes, they have some very good golf courses there, and there were enough with bars for us.
      I live 15 clicks outside Chiang Rai, 19 houses in the village, and the ice cream man comes every second day plinging his bell. My wife now and then gets a big bowl of coconut ice cream with sticky rice for 30 baht (1 US$).
      The old Thailand is still here IF you are looking for it!

      Cheers!

      • hardie karges 1:13 am on July 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        Yep, that’s been my theme of the last month… nice experiences in places like Korat, Roi Et, Pichit, P-lok… Cheers, Sven, C U some day 🙂

  • hardie karges 11:05 pm on June 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bangkok, Butterworth, Hadyai, , Nakorn Si thammarat, ,   

    #Butterworth, #Hadyai, #Nakorn Si Thammarat & กรุงเทพ City of Angels 

    Negara Shree Dharmaraja

    Negara Shree Dharmaraja

    I look at Thailand across the Thai-Malay border, Muslim south always restive never rested, martial law and marital raw all over Thailand now, too, nation-state for sale if you got the bucks, new dictator says it’s only temporary but who knows? Me, I got one last go-round, merry-go-round, so time to see everything I missed in ten some-odd some very odd years, hopping skipping jumping for the last couple weeks from BKK down south few days at a time by rail and its rumble, metal pounding earth, third-class bulk mail my best friend in steerage, rumble of train is like meditation, pissing is like a moving target…

    But now it’s time to up the ante, even if it means abandoning the rails: ten/twelve cities in next ten/twelve days sounds good, say goodbye, throw caution to the wind, different bed every night, hobo Hardie, see old towns new towns small towns don’t really care for big cities anyway, including BKK, civilization w/o cities is goal, Thailand abides in the villages, kinder gentler and all that maw lam music, look toong for the lightweights… (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 12:35 am on May 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bangkok, , , , train   

    Asian Swan Song: Stir-fried, Sweet and Sour, part II 

    Bangkok elevators

    Bangkok elevators

    …continued from previous Sub-title: Leaving Bangkok in the Broad Daylight (leaving the trash leaving the filth leaving the skyscrapers leaving the street-scrapers leaving the leaf-blowers leaving the elevators leaving the percolators leaving the bar-girls leaving the traffic snarls leaving the uncertainties leaving the eccentricities catching the wind catching the morning sun catching a second wind catching a train…

    The landscape is alternately hilly and swampy, populated and rural. There are rubber trees and palm, pineapples and mango—cash crops all. Rice is seen less down here in the south of Thailand. That’s mostly up north. That symbol of life and tradition is also a symbol of poverty. Nowadays cash is king; without it you’re resigned to a peasant’s life and existence. (More …)

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 12:54 am on May 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Your stamina and expertise are far beyond my comprehension – and how you put it all into words is remarkable.

  • hardie karges 2:46 pm on July 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bangkok, , , , , Richard Thompson   

    Summer in LA Ciudad, Another City of Angels… 

     

     

    Richard Thompson at McArthur Park

    Richard Thompson at McArthur Park

    I’m back; I’m rested. I’ve just submitted another book for publication. Hey, I’ve only been in eight countries in the last seven months and only five thousand miles on third-class trains, so that’s no big deal for a sixty-year old with prostate cancer—all in a day’s work. When do I get paid? Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: Welcome to the ‘Summer in LA’ version of my blog…

     

    Seems like no matter what I do my life still revolves around these two monster cities of angels—Bangkok and LA. Could be worse. People ask which part of Bangkok is the city and which part is the angel, usually with a little grin. No, the real Thai name is Krung Thep, City of Angels; impress a bar-girl with that nugget of knowledge…

    Loudon Wainwright

    Loudon Wainwright

    Say what you want about LA—I do: the sprawl, the crime, the traffic, el esmog, y los eslums. But the weather ain’t too bad, food either, and when summertime finally rolls in and it might just be a tad too warm inside, well you can bet there’ll be a party outside—mostly music, including world music, and mostly free.

    Sure you can fly to Europe on those expensive summer schedule flights or sell a body part in order to go to Womadelaide in Australia. OR… you can just stay home in LA and let it all come to you. Or if you’re from somewhere else, you could summer over in LA in some student’s summer sub-let and do the same.

    (More …)

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 3:46 pm on July 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Welcome home!

    • hardie karges 6:20 pm on July 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Thanx, Esther

    • Esther Fabbricante 1:01 pm on July 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I have a great niece who lives in Los Angeles (Hollywood) – you can find her on Facebook or Google, Bobette Buster.

    • Thom Hickey 6:17 am on July 24, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Pleased to have discovered your blog and will explore further. Regards from Thom at the immortal jukebox (drop a nickel).

  • hardie karges 12:07 am on June 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bangkok, Big C, , venereal disease   

    #Bangkok #Thailand: What NOT to Name Your Business… 

    Factory Prices in Thailand

    Factory Prices in Thailand

     

    Somebody dropped the ball on this one, even if they are “factory prices”…

     

    even if it is only the DVD section (remember them?) of Big C supermarket…

     

    All potential uses of the English language in Thailand should pass my censors first;

     

    I thought I made that clear…

     
  • hardie karges 12:53 pm on January 4, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bangkok, , Terminal 21 Mall   

    Mall as Theme Park? Bangkok, not Las Vegas…. 

    The old neighborhood has changed: #Haight-Ashbury

    The old neighborhood has changed: #Haight-Ashbury

     I don’t know about you, but I think of shopping malls in the same vein as renaissance fairs, record and book stores, legacy items in a virtual world of pretty pictures, cheap emotions, digital downloads and little else. That’s a long fall from grace for an institution that served as the paradigm of the future only a short two decades ago. Internet changed all that… or so I assumed.

    While Kevin Smith was making Mall Rats, I was writing a screenplay in which malls had not only turned into theme parks, but had also become a substitute for the real lost world outside. I went back and rewrote it for the Internet age, in which that virtual world became the surrogate world. Maybe I rushed to judgment. It worked for Las Vegas after all, at least for the time being.

      (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 10:41 am on December 31, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bangkok, , , , , ,   

    Starbuck’s Charges Big Bucks for Intellectual Property 

    We Americans are soCopyright infringement?  You decide... spoiled, complaining about paying $2 for 20 ounces of Starbucks coffee, reminiscing about the good old days when coffee was a dime a cup, and if you were on the honor system at the Millsaps College grill, and times were hard, then you could just thump the cup and no one would know the dif. Yeah, those were the gold old days, but the coffee tasted like re-fried Shinola.

     

    Know what twenty ounces of the black stuff will cost you in Bangkok? About $4.50 USD, and that doesn’t count a tip for the barista, if she (or he) is cute. There are typically six of them to choose from. Those are European prices, in a country where minimum wage is $10 USD per day. At the new Terminal 21 mall on Sukhumvit, there is a waiting line. Somebody’s making a killing, but it’s not high-tech, so we don’t know his name.

    New logo for Starbucks’ nemesis

     

    A month or two ago, they came down heavy on a local coffee vendor selling his ‘Starbung’ coffee with a logo that looked suspiciously similar to the green lady: lawyers, court hearings, the whole schmear. Now we know why I guess. Coffee is black gold, and so is the ‘coffee experience’ in a country just moving cautiously beyond Nescafe (once in Guatemala I saw that translated as ‘Nescoffee’).

     

    Starbung’s finally caved, changing his name and logo. Since they’re the corporate heavy, I won’t buy Starbucks if I have a choice, and definitely not at Thailand’s prices, but it sure looks good in some Godforsaken airport with nothing else—or in Europe, where it’s the budget option. I doubt Starbung’s is very good, anyway. I will try his roti, though. He’s closed for the holidays. I’ll be back.

     
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