Saturday, December 21, 2013

Corrupt Thai Police

Meet with friends, getting late, excuse myself, take a taxi home. Driver pulls onto a side-street connecting to the main road. Police shine a light onto the cab, and seeing me, order the taxi to pull over.
Testily, they command me to exit the car. Not amused, unsure what’s going on, I see little choice. 

“Where’s your passport?” they demand.
“Back at the hotel,” I reply. I make it a habit to keep my most valuable travel position under lock and key as much as possible.
I’m wearing short sleeves and shorts. “What have you got in your pockets?” 
“Show us,” they order.
I pull out a small wad of cash, and a black credit card. “What’s that?” they ask accusingly. “My hotel key,” I respond, “Why are you searching me?” This isn’t America where the police must have probable cause.
“Empty other pocket,” they order. 
“I don’t have anything.”
“Empty pocket.” 
Two cases, one small green plastic labelled 'Glide,' and the other a metallic black emerge.
“What’s that?” they demand. 
“Dental floss dude.”
“And that?”
“My camera, would you like me to take your picture?”
They glower at me. “Where are you going?” 
“Back to my hotel to get some sleep.”
Unhappy, they tell me to get back into the cab and go. I don’t delay. Undoubtedly they were hoping to find some contraband substance, likely drugs, not so they could haul me away to jail, but so they could extract a bribe from me.

Not feeling great about the encounter, part of life I guess. 

the not always honorable Thai police

Three Taxis from the Airport Plus a Hike

After an exhausting 34 hours of travel time, which included frequent long-winded announcements spanning multiple languages interrupting my Tetris games played on the in-flight entertainment system, at long last I arrive at Bangkok’s international airport.

Taxi #1
Make it through immigration, lengthy wait for bag I shouldn’t have checked, I head to the public taxi area, driver starts meter and it reads 2450 baht ($76) or so after the first kilometer. I question the accuracy; “Meter, meter,” he insists.
“Let me out of the car.” Understanding I’m not falling for his game, he explains, “Oh, meter broken. I take you, I take you, you give me 500 baht”-- double the going rate.
“No, 250 baht,” I respond.
Moments later he drops me by the side of the road just outside the airport and circles back for an easier mark, as a new driver picks me up.

Taxi #2
Before I throw my bags in the back, I state clearly, “Taxi meter.” He agrees, we’re off.
Now, Bangkok traffic can be notoriously heavy, but we seem to be making okay time despite going an unfamiliar route. Arriving in the heart of the city, we find the arteries clogged.
“Are we close?” I inquire. “Yes, very close,” he answers, “Suhkumvit (the main drag) just up there.” After nearly a day and a half of travel and an hour locked in the cab, I’m admittedly getting impatient as the only thing I want to do is check in, take a quick shower, and stretch out.
Half an hour later, we’ve moved 100 yards (a very poor 40 yard dash time time, even for senior citizens) and have finally successfully merged. Now we’re moving, and well, we keep moving. Around, and around. “Why aren’t we on Suhkumvit?” I ask, as nicely as I can, but undoubtedly with an edge.
“No, no, we are close,” he responds. Traffic ebbs and flows. Five minutes later we’re still driving, he’s taking me for a ride both literally and figuratively. I inquire, and receive the same recycled BS answer.
“Pull over,” I command, trying to compose myself.
“No, no, we close.”
“Pull over now and let me out!”
He’s not pleased, but I’m out of patience and he knows it. The cab stops, the meter reads 270 baht. I give him 250 and walk away. Though I would have been justified in paying him zero, I didn’t think it was worth the risk of exacerbating the situation.
A local chef chops vegetables at her food stand, I inquire how close Suhkumvit is. “Oh, very far,” she replies slightly surprised to see me there with my luggage. I was right about my driver giving me poor service- Hooray, right?

Taxi #3
I hail a new taxi, get in, tell him where to go. A few minutes later we’re back at the exact same narrow road as before with the long, long line of cars waiting to merge onto the main drag. I make the decision not to take this sitting down.
“Let me out,” I tell my poor driver, who has done absolutely nothing wrong.
“Huh?” he answers surprised. 

The Walk
Pay him with a tip, exit, throw my bag over my shoulder, start walking. It’s hot and muggy, sweat starts pouring.
Passing a mound of trash on the side of the road, I see rats weaving their way in and out of it. Twenty yards later there’s a coconut stand. I purchase one and eagerly await its opening via machete. I inquire where Suhkumvit is. “Not so far, that way, that way,” she points down the long line of cars.
I’m moving so fast now I’m passing cars on foot like they’re standing still- either I’m Superman, or the cars are literally, standing still; you decide. I get to the front of the line, turn right, and find my hotel.
Next time I’m just going to walk from the airport and avoid the hassle.

taxi meter, Bangkok

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Panda Style In China- Seeing them Live!

Bamboo- its what's for dinner
Project Panda

The zoo met all of me and Drew’s requirements for straight up perfection, a ten out of ten, the best zoo ever.
1)   it had tigers we could see up close
2)   PANDAS!!!

I had never seen a Panda in person. Pandas are fascinating animals with three entirely different speed settings.
1) sleep
2) eat
3) eat while sleeping

In fairness, the zoo’s young cub was more energetic. He had climbed a tree, and faced with the dilemma of finding a supportive branch that would lend to his descent, calling on his entire accumulated knowledge and wits, and this is why you want a panda around to help you next you are faced with a stressful decision, he fell asleep. (on some very shaky branches.)
Why do people spend literally tens of millions of dollars on panda upkeep and procreation, when panda’s themselves, could frankly, care less?
Take a zoologist who places a young male panda, call him Ginseng, into the habitat of a  female in heat.
Zoologist: “Go to her Ginseng. Go to her.”
Ginseng:   “Man, you aren’t a panda, cause if you were you’d know that is one ugly panda bitch. I wouldn't touch her with an elephant’s dick.”
Zoologist: “Ginseng, the survival of your species depends on you mating with her. Don’t you want insure—

If it weren’t for the Panda Sperm Bank ($5 per ATM withdrawal for non pandas) the species would be done for. So why do humans continually pay $5 ATM fees, that amount to millions a year? Pandas are cute! Looks matter, end of story.

Panda video, stuck in tree!