Discovering the world on $20 per day ......................

Post 388: Travelling West to the East .. Posted 30th October 2013

I swear, the flight from San Francisco to Bangkok takes at least a year. EVA Air do their best, but I honestly didn’t buy the ticket because EVA have the largest economy seats. No, I certainly didn’t. I chose EVA Air because they were the cheapest, no other reason. Thankfully when it comes to air travel, ‘cheap’ doesn’t mean ‘unsafe’, but it can mean ‘uncomfortable’. Looking on the bright side, even at half the price, EVA Air is still twice as accommodating as United or American. Travelling West to get to the East, I fly for 18 hours and arrive 36 hours after take-off. Crossing the International Date-Line, well, that really screws-up the body-clock. Compared to many airports, aiprots where Terminal really does feel like Terminal, arriving at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport is an absolute joy. Walking from the Arrival Gate to Immigration you’ll pass four ‘Smoking Rooms’, important for some but not for others, and all of the Duty Free Shops before joining the queue for Arrivals.

Several aircraft have arrived at the same time, but the line of people keeps moving. With my Arrivals Card completed, I find myself standing in front of the smiling Immigration Officer. That’s right, he’s smiling. Looking into the mushroom camera, he snaps my likeness and flicks diligently through my almost full passport. Back to front, front to back. I like what he’s doing, it shows that he cares. He could take the easy option and stamp an empty page, but what’s easy for him would be unhelpful for me. It’s almost as if he’s read Pirsig’s Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and he’s applying Quality to his task. Finally he finds what he’s looking for. He looks at me and raises a questioning eyebrow? I nod and smile my thanks. Carefully, he places the rubber stamp on a page that has just enough space for an Entry and Exit stamp. He presses down and hands back my documents - ‘Welcome to Thailand Mr Thomas’.
At Baggage Carrousel 20, my tote bag is right in front of me, no waiting required. Green Lane, nothing to declare and nobody cares to check. A hundred Taxi-Touts, smiling and shouting, easily ignored. Down to Level 1, where the Meter Taxis are waiting: ‘Wat Lak Si, Highway Kap’, I talk like a native. A forty minute journey, a little conversation and $8 exchanged, I arrive at my apartment. Nothing seems to have changed. Have I really been away for six months?

Post 387: Summer in Boonville ... Posted October 11th 2013

After 150 days in Boonville it’s time to start moving on. In many ways it’s been a very productive summer, but in other ways, not so much. The first months of summer were spent navigating my way through the minefield of publishing, a journey that reminded me of trying to leave Russia with the Triumph Tiger. Lots of false hope, a good many 'maybe’s' and lots of dead-ends, but eventually things did get accomplished. With the help of Lemon Fresh Design and The Ted Simon Foundation, towards the end of August the first book in the Poor Circulation trilogy was finally published: Ashes to Boonville. I can’t tell you how excited I felt when I collected that first case of books from the post office, Well, I could tell you but you probably wouldn’t believe me. You’d probably think that I was being childish, over reacting, and you might be right. But, it really was an exciting day.
I donated a number of books to Loretta at the local bookstore, Laughing Dog Books. I like bookstores, especially those that are small and quirky, and Laughing Dog Books is certainly that. A few days later I looked in the window and almost fell on my arse with shock. Ashes to Boonville was on display, nestled between books by JK Rowling and Will Self. Me, sitting between two amazingly famous writers? I was certainly flattered. Loretta told me that the book was ’selling well’, though in Boonville terms, I’m not entirely sure what that means. Actually, I’m not even sure if I want it to be ‘selling well’ , at least not in a bookstore, even in a bookstore as nice as Loretta’s. I know I’m being selfish, but sales in bookstores might be good for a writer's ego, but they’re fatal for the bank balance. Of course, I didn’t write the book to make money, I’m not that stupid, but I’d at least hoped to cover my costs. Anyway, I hope that the local’s here aren’t too disappointed when they read Ashes to Boonville, because it isn’t really about Boonville, it’s just about the overland journey to get here. Perhaps they’ll prefer the 2nd book, Homeward Bound, because that is about Boonville? Well, at least the first three chapters are.  
I’m not sure if I’m getting old, or if I’m just getting lazy. Everyday I’ve been writing, sometimes way into the early hours of the morning, but you couldn’t really call that ‘work’. I’ve written a few articles for UK magazines and most of the chapters for the 2nd book, but that’s probably not a lot to show for my 150 days of opportunity. If I had a normal job then I'd probably be a lot more productive, and I'd appreciate my writing time more, but I don't, so the hours, days and weeks just seem to blend into one another. I’m not sure what I’ve achieved, or where the time’s gone, but Autumn’s already here and the lazy day’s of summer have simply vanished into an ocean of idleness. Sure, earlier in the summer I was a little help to the family here in Boonville, helping with the house-build and caring for their growing herd of livestock, but it really wasn’t a great deal. The truth is, they’re working on an ever tightening budget and when materials aren’t available, it’s difficult to build anything. But you know what, that doesn’t seem to phase them. It would totally freak me out, because I really don’t handle responsibility well, but they just seem to smile and get on with it. This summer they’ve managed to build the decks on the upper levels of the house, and some internal plastering and wiring, but there’s still an awful lot more to be done. Their home will get finished, finished in a Boonville way, but I'm not sure if anybody would be brave or foolish enough to suggest an actual completion date.         
I’m probably telling you things that you honestly don’t need to know, but I’m telling you anyway. You see, I’m becoming very forgetful and if I don’t write these things down, then I just seem to lose them. I can remember the shirt that I wore for my first day at Corporation Road Junior School, and even how many buttons it had and why I hated it so much, but I’d struggle to tell you what I ate for dinner last night. I used to keep a diary, religiously updating it every evening, but I don’t do that now. I really don’t like paper anymore. It’s not about how paper looks or feels, it’s more about how much it weighs and how much space it takes up in my luggage. Luggage is baggage and I’m bored with it. I should blame my growing forgetfulness on old age, but I don’t. I’m blaming gluten, because it’s an easier target to aim at. In SE Asia I don’t really eat gluten, I only drink it in beer. But since I arrived here in America, everything I've eaten has been wrapped in either pastry or bread, and usually washed down with beer. Gluten overload, not old age, that’s the culprit. I’ve been gluten-free for three weeks now, and I actually feel better for it. I've discovered the Boont Berry Farm Market & Deli here in downtown Boonville, and it's great for gluten free food. It's actually great for a lot of things, even if it's just chatting with the amazingly eccentric members of staff, but I particularly enjoy the organic gluten free meals that they serve. That’s probably something else that you didn’t need to know, but I’ve told you anyway.            

I’ve bought my air-ticket out of here. EVA Airlines, San Francisco to Bangkok via Taipei. I had to buy the ticket at a travel agent, on account of not having a credit card, but I really don’t like travel agents. In England, travel agents are quite large and glossy, but here in America they’re a little bit different. Cold stark offices with a computer screen that they never let you see and a lot of out-of-date brochures for places that you’re never likely to visit. They don’t give me confidence and I’m always worried that they’ll somehow rip me-off. It’s silly really, but it’s just the way I am. Anyway, I found such a travel agent in Ukiah, and the ticket was almost $150 less than I would have paid if I’d bought the same ticket on-line. That made me happy, so I gave the young travel agent a copy of my book. I doubt that she’ll read it, she didn’t strike me as the reading type, but I gave it to her and it seemed to make her smile. I’ll arrive in Bangkok for the last week in October, and I’ll have to knuckle down to some serious work. I need to write more articles and do something about promoting book sales in England. I might be gluten-free, but a man’s still got to eat.