Same Same But Different

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This blog entry about the events of Saturday, January 22, 2005 was originally posted on January 26, 2005.

DAY 462:  There is a phrase on t-shirts that many of the backpackers in southeast Asia wear:  “Same same but different.”  It is a phrase often uttered by tour agents and touts when trying to get a foreigner’s business.  “Same same” as in “we’re just as good as the next guy;” “but different” as in “but we’re more special.”

This was my fourth time in Bangkok on my global trip thus far, and the city was more or less the same same, but different.  The usual backpackers were roaming Khaosan Road in their Red Bull tank tops and baggy fisherman’s pants.  The women selling jewelry were still hawking their merchandise amidst the tables selling the latest bootleg CDs.  However, it was different this time around; with the upcoming local election, the entire city was plastered with campaign posters (including the one for the “Hammer Guy” Noelle and I kept on joking about since the night before, and for good reason).  Also, the most notable difference was seen on the corner of Khaosan Road:  a long bulletin board and memorial displaying the thousands of foreigners still missing from the devastating Asian Tsunami of December 26, 2004. 

This fourth time in town, it would also be different as I had a new partner-in-crime to go around with, Blogreader-turned-“The Trinidad Show” guest star Noelle, who met me in my small jail-cell-of-a-room at the Sawasdee House that morning.  “You get to do a bunch of fun and exciting things with me today,” she said as we arrived at the pier of the water taxi.

A short ride later, on a boat with some seats reserved for monks, we arrived at the Thewes district, home of a mid-day carp feeding frenzy and the nearby Vimanmek Mansion in Dusit, the former royal residence of King Rama V used between 1901 and 1906.  A big beautiful house completed in 1901, the Vimanmek Mansion was designed in a European-influenced style with European furniture and accessories (mostly gifts donated from British royalty to schmooze for trade agreements).  It has the honor of being the world’s largest house built out of teakwood and is not only beautiful, but an engineering marvel; no nails were used and is held entirely together by wooden pegs. 

Like most Thai temple complexes, the Vimanmek Mansion complex was more than one building — many separate residence halls surrounded the main building — but it was only the big Vimanmek Mansion that we chose to tour in.  “I’ll take my shoes off for that one,” Noelle said.

Shoes off, we went along with other tourists on the 55-minute English-speaking tour, which showed us the big parlors, bedrooms, and hallways of the five-story house — but unfortunately didn’t allow us to take pictures.  The guides pointed out the fine crystals, furniture and silverware, which were all accompanied by the ivory of elephant tusks in almost every room.

The tour ended just in time for a mid-afternoon Thai traditional dance show (picture above), but we didn’t stay for the entire thing since it was outdoors and sweltering.  “Should we get outta here?” Noelle asked.

“Yeah, let’s go.”  We ended up at a nearby street food cafe for some spicy “spaghetti,” as the woman called it.


WITH THE QUESTIONABLY SANITARY CONDITIONS of our lunch place, we were at the hospital soon after.  It wasn’t for anything stomach-related as you might be thinking, it was for a much more benign reason.  Mission Hospital was where Noelle had wisely filled her prescription for malaria drugs two days before, instead of paying ten times more at any drug store in the States.

I had run out of my own batch of Lariam, my malaria meds, and I too needed to get some, so Noelle took me to the hospital.  The pharmacy counter was right by the entrance, but it wasn’t that easy; we had to explain to the woman there that mefloquine was the generic name of Lariam and that they did in fact have it since Noelle got it from the very same desk two days before.  However, the pharmacist wouldn’t fill my American prescription unless a local doctor approved it.

“But I just got my prescription filled here on Friday,” Noelle argued.  The pharmacist wouldn’t budge and I was led to the information desk.  The guy there led me to the emergency room office and again, Noelle and I argued to get my prescription filled.

“You have to see the doctor,” the nurse in white said.  We continued to argue it wasn’t necessary; my prescription was a legitimate prescription.  They continued to argue it couldn’t be done without local approval, and we counter-argued that Noelle had done it already.  Back and forth we went and ultimately it came down to the question, “How much to see the doctor?”

It was only 145 baht (about $3.80) so I went for it, and soon, there I was, being admitted into the E.R. again.  I filled out the form and got an official patient card with a bar code on it.  I thought I’d go in and speak to a doctor right away, but it turned out to be a routine E.R. visit, complete with the long waiting at the beginning.

“What if I was dying right now?” I questioned Noelle.

Sooner than I thought, a nurse led me into the E.R. for the routine weight, height, and blood pressure check.  Everything was normal, and I waited again until I was led into the doctor’s office.  “I just need to get this prescription refilled.  I’ve taken it, I just ran out.”

“Ah, Lariam,” the Thai doctor said with some confusion.

“It’s the brand name for mefloquine.  You have it.”

“Mefloquine?”  Is this guy for real?  He still seemed confused, perhaps because my American doctor had written down in his questionable penmanship that the prescription was for “Erik Trinipod.”  “Er-rik Trr-in…” the doctor tried to pronounce.

“Erik Trinidad,” I finished.  He scrutinized the prescription, or merely pretended to, and said, “Okay,” and soon I was waiting on another chair in another waiting room by the cashier — a process Noelle never had to go through.  “It’s like a real check-up,” I told Noelle.  “With the stethoscope and the deep breathing.  He didn’t touch my balls though.”

Noelle waited with me in the waiting room and read her guidebook until a male nurse called my name.  “Oh that’s me,” I said.

“Peace out,” Noelle said.

The male nurse only led me to another waiting area at another cashier and I was soon wondering if I’d ever get my drugs.  My number was called and they gave me a bill for over 1000 baht, over three times the amount Noelle paid.  I argued in English to a staff that wasn’t really fluent in it.  “But my friend got the same thing and only paid three hundred.”

“It’s not the same.  Different,” one woman said.

“Mefloquine.  It’s the generic name of Lariam.  You have it.”

I argued with them and they sent me to another pharmacist who led me back to the cashier.  In the end, the error was merely because the doctor prescribed me thirty-five pills when I only needed ten.  Everything fell into place after that and soon Noelle and I left the E.R.  I hoped to never see one again if I could help it.


WHAT WE DID SEE THAT NIGHT was not the same same old thing, but different, when we had dinner at Patty’s Mexican Fiesta in Bangkok’s Patpong district, which was sort of like a familiar Mexican place in the States, but wildly different in its own way.  “This is the most random place,” Noelle commented as we ate platters of chimichangas and a quesadilla.

The place was done in wood with a sort of Mexican theme, although it was much more eclectic with Buddhist images, pictures of naked women, and posters of classic Hollywood icons like Marilyn Monroe.  Soccer was played on the TV monitor by the bar, while on the other side of the room a lone Thai guitarist with a back-up percussion on CD played Spanish songs and then Elvis tunes.  At one point, one of the ladyboy waiters went up on stage to bang the bongos.

Random indeed, but it sure beat a night of eating the fried bugs from a street vendor.

There wasn’t much we felt like doing that night but get foot reflexology massages at a nearby parlor that, despite being in the Red Light district, was actually a legitimate business for both men and women.  The foot massage, which went all the way to my kneecaps like the one I had in Luang Prabang, was pretty much the same old thing — not that that’s a bad thing — although Noelle noticed that if one chose to do so, it could have been different; a sign on the front window stated, “outside services available.”

Outside services?  Maybe they could have refilled my Lariam prescription easily.

SAVE THE DATE; DAY 503 IS COMING.  MARCH 5, 2005, NYC.
DETAILS AND TRAILER COMING SOON…






Next entry: Pretty Fly For A White Guy

Previous entry: Blog and Reality




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Comments for “Same Same But Different”

  • GREETINGS FROM SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA!  I’m here with Noelle after a long 21-hour bus ride that should have only been 12 hours…  Details on that to come soon. 

    Currently we are in the most metro place in Cambodia, The Blue Pumpkin (in its new location), a totally out-of-place trendy restaurant completely interior-designed in iPod white; there’s even an Airport Extreme here for free WiFi access…  plus the food is pretty good too.  This is Cambodia?

    Anyway, we’re off to Angkor Wat in the morning… MORE TO COME!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/26  at  10:06 AM


  • Those fried bugs look like something from a Survivor challenge!  Hey, am I really first?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/26  at  10:59 AM


  • 21 hours? not bad. sakit sa pwet. hahaha! u tried those bugs? nah, never mind.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/26  at  11:55 AM


  • 21 hours? not bad. sakit sa pwet. hahaha! u tried those bugs? nah, never mind.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/26  at  11:55 AM


  • iPod white and wifi in Cambodia! Astig!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/26  at  12:59 PM


  • So did you eat any fried bugs?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/26  at  01:56 PM


  • “same same but different”...oh, how that phrase haunted me.

    I kind of miss the Sawasdee guesthouse.  I saw a lot of cockroaches and it was kind of a hole but I had fun there!  I like the music they play in the lounge too. 

    I missed a guest appearance on the Trinidad show by a couple of weeks…damn!  Oh well…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/26  at  01:58 PM


  • if he didn’t touch (or look) at your balls, it wasn’t a real check up…

    hahah…

    TDOT - i hope you’re not going around yelling “Astig!” up there; they might think you’re “special” or something….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/26  at  02:19 PM


  • I love Lamp… I love keyboard… I love mouse!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/26  at  06:07 PM


  • “Deep Thoughts”
    so the song Fish Heads came on in the “party shuffle” on iTunes…  it made me laugh! ha!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/26  at  09:13 PM


  • Cambodia doesn’t sound so bad.  Can’t wait to hear your take on angkor Wat! 

    How silly of that vender…doesn’t he know that chocolate covered bugs is the way to go?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/26  at  10:08 PM


  • I can’t believe they’re still hawking those Same Same shirts on Khaosan. Thoes where old news when I was there 8 months ago!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/27  at  01:36 AM


  • Update on the U.S…. did you hear that Johnny Carson died?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/27  at  02:02 AM


  • Moe and I loved our visit to Cambodia…we ate at a great French/Cambodian restaurant—Madame Butterfly. It is on the Airport Road. Enjoy the visit!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/27  at  03:47 AM


  • Just wanted to say I continue to enjoy TGT, and am trying to get out of the SBR ranks.  At the risk of sounding a bit cheesy, I’ve been inspired by your writing, and have tried to keep my blog as interesting as yours…Keep it up. 

    BTW, did you ever make it to Marinduque?  My wife’s mom’s from there…hear it’s nice.  I’ve not yet been, though, as Mom wouldn’t let us visit til we got married.

    Posted by Dave  on  01/27  at  09:01 AM


  • Hi Erik!  SBR here and just wanted to let you know how sad I am that the end is coming.  Your blog got me through some rough times at work before I left on my trip. 

    Anyway, the western food in Cambodia is pretty darned good and I’m impressed with the Khmer food as well.  We’re in Siem Reap too but just for another day, I’ll keep an eye out for you since you ARE the blogging God and I may want an autograph smile

    Posted by Amie  on  01/27  at  09:43 AM


  • Hi Erik!  SBR here and just wanted to let you know how sad I am that the end is coming.  Your blog got me through some rough times at work before I left on my trip. 

    Anyway, the western food in Cambodia is pretty darned good and I’m impressed with the Khmer food as well.  We’re in Siem Reap too but just for another day, I’ll keep an eye out for you since you ARE the blogging God and I may want an autograph smile

    Posted by Amie  on  01/27  at  09:43 AM


  • Hi Erik!  SBR here and just wanted to let you know how sad I am that the end is coming.  Your blog got me through some rough times at work before I left on my trip. 

    Anyway, the western food in Cambodia is pretty darned good and I’m impressed with the Khmer food as well.  We’re in Siem Reap too but just for another day, I’ll keep an eye out for you since you ARE the blogging God and I may want an autograph smile

    Posted by Amie  on  01/27  at  09:44 AM


  • MICHELLE:  Yup.  Saw it on the wire just 90 minutes after it went live.  Sad, really.  I’m old enough when “staying up for Carson” meant Johnny, not Daly.

    On that note, 1981ers… do you remember the days when Banana Republic was actually a safari-themed clothing store?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/27  at  12:47 PM


  • DAVE:  Thanks for breaking the silence!  No, not Martinique… not yet anyways…  Glad you enjoy, now keep commenting!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/27  at  12:50 PM


  • AMIE:  Hey, if you’re still in Siem Reap, we’re staying at the new Millenium guest house, on a side road where Sivatha Rd. splits, across from the bus terminal. Send me a message or just meet me at The Blue Pumpkin, as I’m usually there if I’m not at the temples. (I’m the guy on the iBook.)

    Did you get a massage from the blind woman?  AMAZING!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/27  at  12:53 PM


  • Yeah, when going into Banana Republic was for “adventure clothes for millionaires”. Too funny.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/27  at  07:32 PM


  • I don’t think I lived close enough to one at that time to know what it was in the first place… I knew what Montgomery Ward’s was, though!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/28  at  09:22 AM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
Pretty Fly For A White Guy

Previous entry:
Blog and Reality




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




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