SUMMARY OF JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2003 TRIP TO THAILAND
This was the first time that I have traveled to Thailand all by myself and it seemed very strange. I had not planned to go by myself this time, but the friend who was going with me had to have surgery and had to change her plans. In the past 10 years, I have spent time in the jungle and in the camps with no one from America with me before, but that was always after another team member had left to go home. Starting out from Hawaii on my own, seemed like a pretty good idea when I was planning the trip.
I arrived in Bangkok about midnight after traveling almost 20 hours. I was pretty tired, but also excited about actually being back in Thailand again. An American friend, Jeffery, and his wife met me at the airport and I was very pleasantly surprised. He has lived in Thailand many years and speaks fluent Thai. It was great to see a familiar face as I was wheeling my heavy luggage cart through the airport lobby. I had 3 very large, very heavy bags and definitely needed some help with them. Jeffery and Nah negotiated with the taxi driver and got all my bags into one taxi with us. They live in the same building that my friend Joel lives in. Joel had left me a key to his condo and told me I could use it as long as I needed. He was away on a business trip and wouldn't be back for a few weeks. It was going to be very nice to be in a luxury condo and not have to pay for a hotel. I only planned to stay two days in Bangkok, but even saving 2 days hotel fee will make a big difference in how much I can give away to the Karen refugees.
I went to bed at 2:30AM but was up before daylight and watched the sky turn pink as the sun came up across the river. The air was too polluted to actually see the sun behind the sky scrapers, but it was pretty to see the pink rays reflecting off the clouds.
I felt a deep sense of loneliness for my home. I was feeling unsure about how safe it was to go to the border by myself and the absolute quiet in Joel's condo was a little un-nerving. I could not remember the last time I had been completely alone, To have no one to look after, or even consider felt very weird. I took a quick shower and grabbed a pair of shorts and T-shirt from my suitcase. When I looked in the mirror I saw that I had put on a T-shirt that had been given to me by one of my friends from church. She knew that I liked to take in shirts with a Christian message on them and she gave me 4 of them. The one I had put on had Proverbs 3:5-6 on the front and it hit me right between my eyes when I read it: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight"
When I read that, I realized that I had been trying to worry about my trip and make all the plans. All I had to do was "let go and let God" and He would direct my path! God had a plan for me. All I had to do was listen and he would show me where I was to go and when. It has been so evident on all my past trips, that when God's hand is in the planning, the doors just open right up for me and I can accomplish so much. I have to also remember that God will close doors for me when there are places I am not supposed to go at the time I think I should. That is very important with the civil war going on so close to the border.
I put all my American dollars in my waist pack and headed out to find a bank to convert some into Baht. Joel's condo is right on the banks of the Ban Chaopraya River. The area of Bangkok that I am most familiar with is right across the river from his condo. His complex owns 2 motorized river boats that run every half hour all day long. All I had to do was go down to the dock area and wait for the boat to take me across. I walked to the post office where I could get an International Phone card and use their computers to e-mail family. After I sent my e-mails, I wandered the streets of Bangkok for about an hour. I love to go down the little side alleys lined with street vendors selling everything from food to clothes. I started getting a headache from the incessant traffic noise and terrible pollution. The smells of all the food being cooked on the side walks mixed with the exhaust fumes can get pretty disgusting. I found myself longing for something cold to drink and I never eat or drink anything off the streets.
I hailed a taxi and was immediately rewarded with a blast of air conditioned air as I slid into the back seat and told the driver to take me to Marboong Krong. This is a huge department store we all call "MBK" and you can find just about anything you are looking for in there. All the shops are arranged like kiosks and I love to wander from floor to floor, bargaining with the vendors. I always feel a sense of accomplishment when I walk away with a purchase that I have bargained down to a lower price. Everything is so cheap over there compared to what things cost in Hawaii, I love to go buy gifts for my family while I am there. I always buy my business cards when I am in MBK since I can get them done in an hour and it costs a fraction of what I pay for them in the states.
One of my bags was a huge wheeled duffel and there was no way I could manage it on my own to get to the bus and to my hotel in Mae Sot when I headed for the border the next night. I went in search of the luggage kiosk that I had purchased a big hard sided suitcase from last year. I found it with no trouble and bought a nice medium sized wheeled case for $25.00. I was going to split up what was in the big bag so it would be more manageable. I had a cold coke down at a KFC kiosk before heading back to Joel's condo. By the time I got back, I was so tired I was just rummy. I took some aspirin and was in bed by 8:30. I was too tired to even think about eating dinner.
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