Meeting in Manchester

Tuesday saw me rushing through a gazillion more little tasks and trying to find stuff in the cellar (where the hell are all my shoes anyway?) before driving down to Manchester where I was to stay with Andy before my interview. I’ve not had the paperwork back about the driver position I was offered (and accepted) from someone else yet, so I don’t feel too guilty! This one’s for an IT role covering the entire snowy resort area in France. A lot of responsibility and a lot of variety. I guess we’ll see…

I set off late, but had no traffic problems the entire way down. This is a good thing as it’s over four hours (in my mum’s car) to get from Perth to Manchester. I arrived after 10pm, but still managed to locate a KFC for supper before crashing at Andy’s (not in the car!)

The interview seemed to go OK, but didn’t cover any new ground. I think it was just to ensure that I wasn’t a psycho with “KILL” tattooed on my forehead. I bluffed it anyway – they didn’t see through me. Bwahahaha! Later in the afternoon, the head of IT gave me a call to save me traveling all the way to Fleet which was nice of him. We talked for about 30 minutes and I feel fairly positive that I’ll have a job offer in a couple of days. Fingers crossed, folks!

I met Andy for lunch and started updating this beast in the afternoon. Before dinner, we went to play 5-a-side with some of Andy’s work colleagues. I think I was on the winning team (you know how you lose count) and I scored three goals. All past Andy and all with my left foot!

I’m sat here typing up this final post to bring me up to date with the remnants of a spicy pizza tingling my tongue and the taste of pumpkin beer lingering on what remains of my taste buds. My legs ache and I think I’ve pulled a muscle, but not a bad day all in all.

Mad dogs and 11 Englishmen

Back with the ‘rents and the poochies for a couple of days. I’ve got a huge stack of paperwork to get through, things to dig out, comics to read (19 months’-worth of 2000AD, Judge Dredd and Viz…), arrangements to make, clothes to find… Gah.

Of course, the upside is a lack of rent, great food cooked for me, dogs to play with, 19 months’-worth of comics to read… Or it would be if I had the time around everything else! The job thing’s moving on apace. I had another offer for an interview for an administrator’s positions which I had to turn down as the French requirement was above my standard. I can just about manage conversational if I choose the subject and talking like a 5 year-old is allowed.

I popped down to a local hotel to watch the England v Russia game and wished I’d not bothered. God grief. After six 3-0 wins, we throw away what should have been an easy three points. However, I was heartened by the attitudes of the locals who all wished England well. I guess they were on a high with Scotland’s recent run of form – which if course came to an end the same night. Not good for either of us!

Pedro and Page 3

I didn’t do a lot today other than pop into Newcastle. Tony and June picked up some copies of the Chronicle for my parents (I made page 3 – all of it!), and I bumped into Peter Beardsley at the Monument. He was publicising some BT Wireless thing, but I took the opportunity to add to my tattoo collection. It’s a good job I couldn’t make it to the charity match the following week – I’d have run out of arm.

Courtesy of a laundry marker I obtained from WHSmith and a nice chap at Hype Tattoos on High Bridge Street, I now have Pedro’s scribble on my arm underneath Shearer’s! The tattooist even re-inked the team name on my badge for free after I told him about the Walk. I’d like to ask his bosses not to tell him off – he just got you a free advert! Had I been able to manage the aforementioned charity game they would have had me on their doorstep first thing on Monday morning with a very carefully wrapped arm waiting for another 12 signatures to be inked on.

One night in Bangkok

Dum dum dum dum dum-dum. OK, trivia time. The song came from the musical Chess written by Tim Rice and two guys from ABBA. Anyway, that’s all that Amy and I had – one night. And two long days! Yet another early morning after too little sleep and we shared a minibus to the airport with two Aussies which worked out even cheaper than getting a tuk-tuk.

The whole airport/flight/landing thing was a bit of a blur courtesy of Amy’s snoring keeping me awake. OK, that’s a lie. If anyone was snoring, it was me. Somehow we managed to stay conscious as our Air Asia flight dropped us at the new (to me) Suvarnabhumi Airport. It’s certainly glitzier than the old one despite obviously not having been finished yet. Unplastered concrete shows between miles of glistening tubing. Or maybe that’s the “look” the designers were going for. It still doesn’t have free wireless, though. *tut*

Immigration was a breeze and we walked right onto one of the express buses. I believe the BTS (overhead train) is being extended out to the airport which will make transport even quicker in future. I’d elected to stay at the HI Sukhumvit this time rather than Big John’s. Partly as Amy was staying there and partly as it would be somewhere different that’s still in a good location (ie not crappy Khao San Road – I am such a snob). I won’t rattle on about the hostel and duplicate information you can find on the Thailand accommodation page.

Despite the best efforts of Bangkok’s notorious traffic system, we made it to the hostel by a little after 11:00. Not bad for a flight that landed at 9:50. Despite being exhausted, we agreed on a quick shower before heading out for lunch to make the most of our stay. The advantage we had was that I’d been here before, so anything Amy wanted to see, I did have a good idea of how to get there and how long it would take. As such, there’s not a lot new for this visit apart from the companionship!

I’ve decided just to lump this visit into one post as it’s easier on my doddery memory…

For lunch we (for “we” read “I”) settled on the Bull’s Head. I couldn’t visit Bangkok and not pop into the best British pub it has. So I did. While sitting force-feeding myself a delicious cornish pastie smothered in HP Sauce (which Amy declared she would have to try and get in the States now she’d tried it), Billy walked up to me. Billy runs the Bull’s Head and he’s a great guy – though he admitted he’d have walked right past if I’d not been wearing my Newcastle shirt.

We got talking (about football – surprise) and the Billy mentioned there was a pub quiz on that evening. Amy wasn’t too sure, but it’s an English Pub thing so we managed to twist her arm. It would be “quaint”. Billy also told me that I’d made it into the final cut of the music video being filmed when I was last at the Bull’s Head. He didn’t have a copy but after much searching, I located it online. You can see me around 2:08 through, and Billy giving out a red card a second later. I can’t get this to work in Firefox, but it does play with Internet Explorer:

Same Same – Give It All You Got video

Our stomachs full and our wallets emptied (lovely food, but pricey compared to eating on the street!) we boarded the BTS and headed for the river where we hopped onto a boat. The conductor on board didn’t take any money from us until we got up to disembark opposite Wat Arun, and then took so long sorting out our change that we missed the stop and had to get off at the next one. The walk back down one stop wasn’t too far, and we hopped on the next ferry across the river to see the Temple of the Sun.

I’d been before with Prashant, but it was still good to revisit. Amy loved it, and I think I appreciated it more this time than I did the first as well. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to wait till sunset and watch it being lit up, so made our way back to the hostel via the Siam Paragon mall. This has filled up somewhat since I was there last year, with most of the units now containing shops. Even the Ferrari dealership has opened its doors fully to non-Ferrari Club members. There we spotted that Spiderman 3 was on. At the IMAX. For less than the cost of a regular ticket back home. Times noted for the next day, we returned to the HI and showered.

A quick turnaround and we made it back to the Bull’s Head for 8pm and settled down for dinner. My stomach was still working on the pastie from lunch so I settled on the world’s best barsnack – a small plate of double-fried beef strips. Amy had something Thai and kept pinching my beef.

At 8:30, the quiz began. I won’t go into detail regarding the poor wording of the Great Plague question which cost us a point, though it wouldn’t have helped anyway as we managed to come last by a fair margin. I wish we’d played our joker on the music round instead of entertainment. Ah, well. Amy really enjoyed it, much to her surprise, and everyone who entered got a free bottle of beer. We also “won” a booby prize of a generous discount from a dive shop, but unfortunately as we were both flying out we couldn’t make use of it.

Downstairs, I lucked out completely. Virtually everyone I know in Bangkok was there! Louise’s cousins Joy (who part-owns the Bull) and Sharon as well as Joy’s husband Nacho. More free drinks (thank you everyone!) and some great conversation. Ciaran, the quizmaster, got chatting to me about the dive prize and it turns out his wife La works for the company (Dive Site Asia) who offered the voucher. She explained that the voucher’s fully transferable (I passed it on to two girls in the hostel the next day) and that the company offer dive master courses including accommodation should I wish to head back to Thailand sometime… Hmm… Another seriously interesting offer which I may take up. We’ll see what life throws at me in the meantime!

The next bit can’t be read by Amy’s mum. After wandering for ages as we are rubbish at following directions, we found Soi Cowboy. This is an area of go-go bars and, despite her feminist leanings, Amy was curious to see what Thailand had to offer. When in Rome, etc. Soi Cowboy’s basically the same as Pat Pong which I went to with Louise last time and it’s a curiosity for anyone quite liberal. I’d not make a habit of going, but at least I can say I’ve been!

Of course, this meant another late night but we walked back to the hostel anyway rather than haggle with taxi drivers. We bid a sad farewell to Amy’s umbrella on the way as it died a fairly snappy-broken-twisted death.

The next day was fairly well planned and we hopped around a few things. The Dasa Book Cafe wouldn’t take my photocopied Lonely Planets, but sold great warm chocolate brownies. We stopped by a little roadside place for lunch (top notch cow pad guy) and made it to the Snake Farm in time for the slide show. The snakes brought out were slightly different to my last visit but I managed to talk Amy into getting a Python draped over her shoulders. For someone who claims to be scared of snakes, she did well!

Just enough time to grab a massage for me and a pedicure for Amy (not at Miss Puke’s but the place next door. I didn’t get a photo of Miss Puke’s sign, so there’s the link to prove it exists! Then we dashed over the road, dot in time to catch the start of Spidey 3. On IMAX. Woah.

The sound was significantly better than when I saw Superman Returns in Auckland, though the lipsyncing was out for about half the film. Otherwise, I loved it. Yes, it shoe-horned a lot in. Yes, it was slightly predictable. Yes, some of the fast sequences were a little too fast and blurry. But who cares? It’s Spidey. I didn’t look at my watch until the credits rolled!

From there to a small cafe next to the Bull’s Head for some Kang Gai (chicken curry) and then the Robin Hood on the corner where I introduced Amy to Newcastle Brown Ale. Which she liked. I’m impressed. There’s hope for this American yet!

And finally… back to the hostel where I manage a quick shower and pack before the taxi arrived to take us to the airport. Despite flying opposite directions (Amy to Seoul, me to Dubai) our flights departed two gates and ten minutes apart, so we hung around until Amy’s flight was called. Many hugs were exchanged and I promised (and still do) I’ll catch up with her somewhere, somewhen! At least I have a guide in Chicago should I get there before she finds another country to work in for 2 years!

Then to my gate, onto my plane… and on to another country! I do like Thailand. Once more, I hope I get back there again sometime soon.

Chào Hà Nội

Yeah, back here again after a restful couple of days in Singapore. A quick catch-up as it really was restful:

I lazed around the hostel, updating blogs and emailing people. Went on the walk around Bugis with Karen and a bunch of tourists (hey – I keep forgetting I am a tourist) for the second time. I was quite pleased I remembered everything she’d told me the first time around.

After deciding on an early night, I stayed up until 5am talking to some people who came rolling in drunk before forcing my itchy eyes open after far too little sleep to try and convince people to go to the water park with me. Which failed. At least a lot of them were heading to the zoo which is a worthwhile alternative. Instead, I loafed. I made a start on Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell but gave up after two days. It’s crap. Avoid.

I collected my passport avec visa from the Vietnamese office. They have given me the 14 days I applied for. I was expecting them to give me 30, which is the most they allow, but I did only ask for 14. Still, I’m expecting to only stay there for 10. The extra four are in case flights/buses are full or expensive and I decide to wait it out.

Saturday was spent just chilling out until the evening. Leah – a teacher from the wilds of north Scotchland – and I went to see The Hills Have Eyes 2. Sick, brutal, violent and hugely predictable. Full of “what the hell are you doing?” and “I bet you a tenner he’s not dead” moments.

Back at the hostel we worked on making our eyes bright red by staying up till silly o’clock watching the second Harry Potter film. It got quite a crowd – good choice of film!. Then someone put on From Dusk Till Dawn 3 and everyone left.

Oh, yeah. And I accidentally bought a PlayStation Portable. Given that it was less than half the price I’d pay in the UK I decided to just get the thing. Great for movies and so on, especially when I take a lot of budget flights.

Sunday was the day of my flight so I had the usual rush around packing things and panicking that I’d written down the flight time wrong and stuff. Leah and I took a wander around the Colonial area – me being tour guide again – and I left her in a techie mall looking at cameras as I (literally) ran back to the hostel as I realised I was running late.

Beans on toast comfortably (almost – they were too damn hot) down my throat, I said my goodbyes and pegged it to the airport. It was great to see the people at the hostel again. A shame it’ll be so long until the next time. Hopefully I’ll catch Karen in Europe later in the year. Not sure when I’ll catch up with Dylan and Raj again though.

And then to Hanoi. Again. I got talking to a few people on the minibus who’d just flown in from Vientiane and got dropped off near the Backpackers Hostel. There have been a few changes around the place, but it’s still cosy.

I dumped my bags quickly, ran to an ATM and found a cafe/bar showing the Newcastle match. A great start to what I hope will be another memorable visit. 45 minutes of passably entertaining football, a point against a team I thought we’d get stuffed by, a rather tasty chicken burger, some delicious fresh fruit, a bottle of Hanoi Beer… and I only spent around 2 quid.

It felt like coming home after a long trip. I really do like it here. Tomorrow I’ll sort out my trip to Sapa and maybe catch up with the good folk at Blue Dragon.