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Day 313: #officeoftheday The Maker, Ho Chi Minh City

The first time I’ve posted two #officeoftheday shots on one day. I feel like a digital nomad lothario, getting around town like this.

The second stop of the day was The Maker which was set inside a huge block of apartments, which have since been converted to a myriad of small cafe’s, fashion shops, and other establishments. It’s a complex building, wrapping around on itself in interesting ways.

The entrance to the building is down a small non-descript alleyway. Something that really caught me by surprise to start off with but I would later realise is actually standard practice for many of the commercial buildings in Ho Chi Minh City.

 

#officeoftheday

Day 313: #officeoftheday at The Workshop

I’m being guided around Ho Chi Minh City by a Vietnamese girl that I met while travelling.

The first place she has brought me to is a trendy cafe called The Workshop. It’s popular with coffee snob hipsters and co-workers alike. Ordered a blend that I did not comprehend and a filter that I couldn’t discern, but I still felt very cool doing it.

The photo shows my leather bound beaker that I decanted my fancy coffee from. Also part pictured is a plug-socket friend I made who asked if he could plug into our extension cable.

If this means anything to you, I picked from the pour-over category and went for a Kalita Wave.

Daily Life

Day 301: Street market scorpion attack

Close call in the night market this evening. So far I’ve seen cockroaches, rats, soi dogs, and even snakes. It’s day 301 though, and I did not know I was supposed to be on the lookout for scorpions as well!

We were just casually browsing some of the standard clothes when this little bad boy came barrelling out from under the rails and caused quite a kerfuffle.

The photo doesn’t have any post-processing on it, we were just nervous to get to close to its little snippers! Nobody knew how dangerous it was and even the locals were exercising caution, so I snapped this one and retreated quickly.

Eventually, it was captured in a plastic bag by a stallholder and taken off at arms-length. No fatalities.

Daily Life

Day 286: Beautiful wats are all around Chiang Mai

When I first came to Thailand I was on a mission to capture everything exotic and “Thailandy”. Since I’ve returned it has not been such a focus.

It’s amazing how quickly something so beautiful can blend into the background.

Today, in between going to the hospital and renewing my sim card I took a few moments to stop off at a few of the temples scattered around the edge of Old City.

Travel Tip

Day 286: How to go to hospital in Thailand

If you spend any amount of time out of your home country then sooner or later you’re going to want some medical help. It might be for something minor or you might be unlucky enough to need some major assistance. Either way, you will be in a weakened state when it comes down to it so it can’t hurt to brush up on the etiquette before you need to do this for real.

I had to go to the hospital today. I should have done this about 4 countries ago but each time it flared up it wasn’t convenient to take the time out. I was either about to board a plane, on holiday with my parents or just generally failing to adult.

This wasn’t the first time I had ended up in a hospital on this side of the world. I’d been in for a similar thing in my first month of being a digital nomad. It was a lot worse that time I was rolling around on my bed in proper pain. I was a long long way from my mummy. Despite having made friends at the hostel I was still a long way from anyone that I could turn to as well. It was a tough time. I realised just how weak and exposed I could feel out here in the world.

This time it was more of a mild annoyance hence why I had been putting it off to just travel around and have fun instead.

But having been to a hospital in Bangkok and now in Chiang Mai, I have spotted a standard pattern for what you can expect. You may have different ideas running through your head but let me say that my experiences with the Thai medical system have been nothing short of amazement. They are super clean, super modern and super efficient. Here is what you can expect:

Your passport is required!

Before you set off: Don’t forget your passport and any other essential notes you don’t have in your memory like your Thai address, phone number, and any information about travel insurance if you have it.

I also went armed with a wedge of THB, my credit card and the medicine I had been self-medicating with up to now.

Picking your hospital

For me, this was a case of just asking somebody. Another friend at the hostel in Bangkok had been poorly the week before. She had visited two and recommended the second one to me as it was the most modern.

Here in Chiang Mai, I turned to the ever helpful MJ who owns In The City Hostel which I’m staying at right now. She directed me to Chiang Mai Ram Hospital which is just on the northeast corner of Old City. Easily within walking distance of my accommodation.

Arrival

After dragging yourself to the nearest hospital you need to head for the biggest looking entrance you can see. They actually have people stood right inside the door and if you hesitate and look like you need assistance somebody will attend to you in seconds. The first step is to be taken to the new registration desk.

I actually barrelled into the place so quickly this time around that I didn’t spot these helpers on arrival. I only spotted them on the way out as they were helping the next wave of unlucky tourists to get situated.

Form

You will find that everyone speaks great English inside the hospital which is important when you want to describe the nuances of how it hurts when you do this or how this rash wasn’t there yesterday.

Forms in various languages, red was English

The first step is to head to the new patient desk. You will be given a form and they will take a photocopy of your passport while you are filling it out:

They will want to know, in broad terms, what is wrong with you. They will also sit you down and take a quick photo.

Ticket

After that, you get a ticket. Clutch on to this for the whole journey through the hospital, it is your ID. Once you have this ticket a nurse will take you to the next stage if it’s a long way away. In Bangkok, I was taken through halls and up an elevator before being told where to wait. In Chiang Mai I was told to head over to counter number 4 and give them my ticket:

Waiting

After they checked I was in the right place I was asked to sit down in the rows of seats and wait. I pulled my phone straight out and set about playing my latest puzzle game du jour. The waiting time in both cases was under 20 minutes.

They had asked me a few questions and then I had replied Chi (which is yes in Thai) and then they were like oh do you speak Thai? I quickly realised I was out of my depth. This was no place for me to be acting like I was multilingual just because I’d learned the half-a-dozen most popular Thai phrases, so I sheepishly said no. After that, I stuck to my mother tongue for the rest of my visit.

Examination

The gross bit: I have an ear infection, the doctor said it is from dirty water getting into my ear. I suspect that it’s because I used those little cotton bud sticks and cleaned my ears out a little too well, exposing my ear to the ravishes of non-potable water.

Potable water means drinking water. Did you know that? I didn’t until just a couple of months ago but it seems that it’s a widely known phrase. It went into my vocabulary builder anyway so it’s not getting away twice. Not sure how I missed it all these years!

The examination both times started out with a quick chat, then they told me they were going to take a look and performed the initial examination. In my home country, this is where your journey would end, with an appointment to return some days in the future. Not here in Thailand, both times they have said yep this needs some work and moved straight onto a procedure.

Warning – additional gross-ish bit: Now I must admit, I was somewhat spoiled in Bangkok. The Dr had two mysterious flatscreen tv’s mounted up in the top corners of the room. When he started the procedure they sprang into life. It was deliciously hideous. I was both repulsed and entranced at the same time. And I could not look away. The tool he was using had a camera mounted and I could see what he saw inside my ear. It was a mess but he worked to extract the bad bits. There was no pain. He said that there were no pain receptors in there so he could get on with it no worries. The sensation when I saw him remove the bad bit was utterly unique. It was like watching one of those standard medical procedure tv shows but as he pulled it out it coincided with an enormous sense of satisfaction as my hearing came back after being lost for the past three days! I kind of wish I could have got the video.

Ok, the gross details are done with now. After that, in Bangkok, I was then quizzed by the Dr about my knowledge of the safety, living cost and university quality of varies cities back in England. He was Thai, but it turned out his child was going to be going to uni in England and he was worried about which one would be the best but safest place to send her to. In the end, he applied a sort of bubble sort to reach his decision. Manchester or Leeds? London or Leeds? Leeds or Birmingham?

I think he was happy with his advice, and after the wonderful work he had just performed on me I was more than a little bit in love and would have helped him with any questions he had whatsoever.

Wrap up

After the fun was over the nurse takes you back out to the main waiting area. They prep your details on the system, transferring the notes the Dr has just passed along, so the next stage is ready for you. The nurse then took me over to the payment desk.

Payment

Even if you have insurance you still have to pay now, claim later. They have an announcement system which reads out the numbers in Thai. I sat there silently cursing myself for still having not learned the numbers yet. But they were ready for me and when it got to my number it switched to farang mode, doing the whole announcement in English.

Waiting to pay

At the desk, I pulled out my credit card to make the payment. The prescription was printed off with the rest of the invoice paperwork and was whisked over to a window in the wall which opened through to the on-site pharmacy.

The total bill for this wondrous service? 1989THB. That comes to roughly £47. Pretty reasonable in anyone’s books! And it includes the cost of the prescription as well.

As you might be able to make out, if you squint, the first 700THB was the Dr’s fee. The prescription medication cost 1029THB and then the remaining 200-300THB is the cost of the bits, the nurse and general hospital costs.

Prescription

I kind of like the way the prescriptions are presented here in Thailand. You get a little goodie bag and walk away feeling like you have just been to a children’s party:

You get a goodie bag from the pharmacy

They prescribed me Ibuprofen, which I was already taking. This costs about 10thb for a packet in a Pharmacy on the street. The ones in my goodie bag are Neurofen brand name ones. If I had realised that before I had paid I could probably have turned them down and maybe saved a few bt. Not the end of the world but I just feel compelled to try to optimise things so that sort of things niggles at me.

Healing

So I am on antibiotics for the next week, alongside ibuprofen and ear drops. The ear drops have to be done to both ears which means I can look forward to doing my best impression of Plug, from The Bash Street Kids in the coming days:

Looking like Plug from The Bash Street Kids

And that’s it. A pretty simple process, great value for money and super clean and high quality throughout. I recommend you cultivate your own medical situation as soon as possible so that you can have this experience too! (Disclaimer: If I actually have to disclaim this you are probably already a write-off).

Review

Day 285: The Glass House, Chiang Mai, review

Nomad friendly? No.

Not every day can be a glorious winner as a digital nomad. I somehow messed my sleep up and woke up early, then went back to sleep and slept until gone 12. After that, I had my breakfast and just never really managed to get into the swing of things.

I’ve said this before, even if I get my 8 hours in, unless they are at the right time, with me waking up in the morning, they don’t seem to count. Despite knowing this I have run the worst-managed sleeping cycle that I possibly could for basically all of adult life.

After wasting most of the day I decided to at least stay true to my new plan of trying out more mid-range cafe’s. I had walked past The Glass House so many times, during my first visit to Chiang Mai and during this return trip, always peeking over the fence at it and planning it for “one day”.

It’s not hard to catch your eye as they have got a great setup with lights in the trees and stylish surroundings throughout:

Now maybe I’m not being fair on the place as I ordered beef burger and wedges. I know it’s western food and maybe they do some really tasty local dishes, but it’s one of the things they advertise outside on a specials chalkboard and they have a broad range of western food items on their menu so I think they brought this upon themselves.

It started off well, stylish table, koi friend swimming in the pond next to me, water feature gurgling away. They brought me a free little shot of something to welcome me. As soon as they delivered though I was greeted with the sadness:

The plate looks like its missing some stuff with that huge gap. The burger was basically the size of a 99p one in Burger King. The bun had a chewiness to it that betrayed the fact that it had just been defrosted in a microwave. The meat was actually quite tasty but it was one of those ones that are processed frozen meat like you would get at a fairground in the UK.

I opted for the cheese upgrade which was a good job because if I had not then it would have been a lonely burger. Inside that bun was exactly two things, a cheap patty and an unmelted cheese square. You can see it was joined by a total of about 9 wedges.

Food scoffed. Tummy rumbling. Wallet 175thb lighter.

Sample Menu Items

Didn’t get a photo of the menu, it was too dark as I was leaving. I might be able to update this with a day shot later…

Most items were in the region of 100thb to 250thb with a 350thb steak outlier.

My beef burger was 150thb, with a 25thb cheese upgrade.

They had a pork/chicken burger option for 125thb.

I remember seeing Chicken with Cashew Nuts for 165thb.

Nomad friendly?

It was a proper restaurant setting so definitely not feeling nomad friendly. They did have free WiFi though.

Recommended?

Not highly. It seems like it could be a good place to bring your parents if they were over visiting but for standard nomad life, I don’t think I will be returning.

I don’t know why I feel bad for it, but I kinda do. I feel like I’ve kicked a puppy. I’m sorry restaurant but you just didn’t deliver and if I’m not going to be honest then what’s the point in this?

Bonus snaps

I snapped a few scene setters to try to show off the awesome decor. There was also a huge cross-section of a tree trunk that was for groups down the middle that I didn’t get a picture of. And a little wooden swing outside.

 

Review

Day 284: Lyceum Camp, Chiang Mai, review

Nomad friendly? Yes!

I came back to Thailand with a renewed determination to spend more money than I had last time. Everything is so cheap here. I use an app to track all my money and it is just so tempting to play little games with myself to get a lower and lower score. Over the last few days I spent hardly anything on my food for the day. It went 166thb, 135thb, 112thb, 60thb and then finally last night 50thb. For reference £1 is 42thb.

I was going down the rabbit hole again without even really trying to.

I had joked just the night before while messaging with my Mum that 60thb was really the lowest score I was going to get. The next day I woke up late, like lunchtime late, but the wonderful Pii Pum still cooked me my “breakfast” as part of the daily package here at In The City Hostel. That evening after stopping off at a food market for some food, I was walking back when I realised I had just spent 50thb in total for food that day.

I had to take action, so the first thing I did was buy some cakes from the 711; just to break the chain and bump the numbers up. Then I made a commitment to inject some more variety into my daily rituals. To spend more time eating at the mid-range cafe places, instead of just heading to the nearest roadside food seller. Visit spots with nice interior design, free Wi-Fi and some unique menu items.

So that’s how I ended up here today, at Lyceum Camp:

I was walking around looking for somewhere and as I went past this place I saw the menu, on a stand outside. Straight away it met my budget aims. There was something I liked the look on, right on the opening page: chicken steak with black pepper, side salad and chips for 149thb (£3.38). I decided to go in and pick something.

I had commented recently how the change over from a public to private space in Thailand is seamless. This restaurant was not an exception. The place has got some nice styles to it. To my left, stylish tables, decorated ceilings, intricate windows. To my right a few more tables and then it just changes over to a kind of office. A wall of filing cabinets and an office with people busy working on something. When I approached the counter, a lady got up from this table and came over to hand me a menu. It makes sense I guess to maximise the space but it just seems strange from an English upbringing seeing these places mingle together without any kind of partition. I saw the same in Koh Lanta in a supermarket and then later on in a coffee shop though so I wasn’t too fazed.

The whole place was laid out nicely, with a central area for casual sit down customers, a nomad / study / solo customer area to the left, a big fancy round marble table in a conservatory-style setup and also a section out front with some laid-back lounging chairs to watch the world go by. I greedily sat down at the 4 person marble table to enjoy its luxury haha. What?! There were no other customers at the time!

What I got

I spent a borderline embarrassing amount of time flicking back and forth (Thai wait staff seem to expect you to order very quickly). Originally I had set out on the walk with the notion of a burger, but I want to try new things when I could and this creamy red noodle dish had instantly caught my eye. The menu said it was a dish called Korean Noodle Kimchi Soup. I’m very glad I tried it because it was delicious. It was very spicy but just right for me.

In that bowl, there was noodles, some tofu, a scrambled egg, various greenery bits, onions and a creamy red spiiiiicy sauce.

I think it was probably too tasty to have been healthy so I just refused to look that up.

There were multiple other things on the menu that I definitely would like to try. My aim is to go to at least one new place a day now but maybe I can work around this imaginary limitation I’ve set myself. If I exploit the loophole of going back to work there for a few hours then that’s legit, right?

Sample menu items

As I left I stopped to take a few shots of the menu so you can get a feel for what’s on offer and the prices:

Lowest price: 55thb for fried rice with pork

Highest price: 149thb for a chicken/pork steak with chips + salad

Average: around 100thb for ramen bowls, spaghetti carbonara, or a chicken teriyaki, omelette and rice bowl.

Nomad friendly?

Yes, it seems to be. I didn’t have my laptop with me so I didn’t actually do any work but if you look on the picture below you can see it is set up as rows of individual / 2 people tables and each one has a power socket right at table height on the wall:

They also gave me this WiFi code which clearly stated a 1.5hr expiry. I would say that’s the maximum you should wait before either leaving or spending more money but that limit + the sockets at least set-out boundaries that are encouraging.

It was school finishing time when I arrived (I knew this because I had just passed the school which is further up the block). While I was eating, two separate school girls arrived and set their tablets up in work mode and started revising:

The place was pretty empty apart from that so if nobody else is trying to get sat I would definitely feel happy working there for an hour or so.

UPDATE: I went back a week later and worked there for a few hours, nobody batted an eyelid. I got something to eat and kept my WiFi code in my hand. Then after I’d finished eating I got a coffee, logged in (starting the countdown) and worked for the full amount. I was writing a particularly tricky quote and actually ended up overstaying a little bit.

Recommended?

Yes!

Story Time

Day 274: He was a snakey boy, I said see ya later boy

🎶 He was a snakey boy, I said see ya later boy, he wasn’t slithering up on me. 🎶

First sighting for me in Thailand. Only popped to the 7/11 for a cheeky packet of biscuits and ended up dodging 3 cockroaches, 2 rats and 1 snake.

I mean I call it dodging but they actually had zero interest in me, they just wanted to get from one place to another.

But therein lies the rub.

You see, just the other day I had found a silly little cockroach that had flipped himself over in the bathroom. Given the choice between sending him on his way or having to clean up squashed critter in my bathroom, I selected the charitable option.

But when it comes to memos it appears that cockroaches are a little behind on the times. No, it would appear for all intents and purposes that no memos whatsoever are delivered to the cockroach kingdom.

Yes, I’m quite confident about their lack of memo receiving because when I took an empty water bottle and tried to tippety-tap it over, back to the side that gravity prefers in this region, it didn’t stop to read any memos.

It disappeared.

But Matthew, I hear you say, cockroaches can’t just disappear.

And you would be right.

I first started to realise this when I felt the tickling on my arm. It turns out my brain was a lot slower than the cockroaches, because when it found that all of a sudden its many feet now had friction at their disposal the first thing it did was not flee the scene, exposing itself to a squishing, but run straight up the bottle and onto my arm.

It was so fast and so gross that, well, I’m not sure if my brain couldn’t or just wouldn’t admit to what had happened. Instead, it looked at the bottle confusedly, twisted it around a bit and wondered if I had accidentally squished it. Where did it go? Why didn’t it run away?

And then there was no more putting it off. We were all on the same page. The cockroach knew where it was. My brain knew where it was.

It was on my arm.

I let out one of those screams that start off with a clearly audible version of disbelief and work their way up the tonal scale. The bottle went clattering across the room and my arm started whipping backwards & forwards faster than Ali-G saying booyakasha.

Mr Roach was now in for his turn at being surprised as he suddenly found himself bouncing against the wall on the opposite side of the room and landing back upside down again.

I HAD TOUCHED A COCKROACH.

There was an immediate and intensive session of soaping my hand and arm up while keeping an attentive eye on the upside down guest over the way.

This time he either finally got the memo or just applied some classic cockroach common sense because he managed to flip himself and took the wise decision to flee the scene.

I did the same and locked the door behind me.

Now, I know I gave him mixed signals by holding hands with him so quickly but I am really hoping that neither he nor any of his friends attempt to get a second date…

Daily Life

Day 271: Kittens in need

Met a kitty by the side of the road 😻.

Got speaking to a nearby shop owner and turned out there was four kitties plus a mommy and they were all really hungry.

It’s a tough time for a smol kitty at the moment as it’s low season here in Koh Lanta. The ladies shop was one of the only ones open. Everywhere else had their shutters down and wouldn’t be raising them for several more months.

The nice lady had taken to feeding them in the morning, but couldn’t leave her shop until it closed at 7pm so they were all super hungry little meow boxes when we arrived on the scene.

Obviously, as soon as we heard this we turned around, went straight over the road to the supermarket and picked up a bag of kitten nibbles. It drew quite the kitty crowd. That little grey furball must have eaten about twice its weight in nibblets!

We left the lady in charge of the rest of the bag so these kitties have a few days of good eating ahead, hopefully, more kitty fans will come along to keep things going…

Bonus selfies:

Story Time

Day 257: Always make sure you have the correct cutlery for the job

Really wished that the ground would just swallow me up at dinner this evening.

Ordered noodles and pork. Chopsticks in a pot on the table. Scoffed it down with them but at the end the bits were small and I didn’t want to be a farang and ask for a spoon so I pushed forward. It got more and more fiddly, so eventually, I just got the bowl up and was tipping it into my face but the spices caught my throat and I did a huge cough right into the bowl, spluttered stuff everywhere, made even louder because the bowl was cupped right to my face. Totally lost control of my body for about 5-6 coughs, and didn’t have any water to fix things with.

Looked around absolutely mortified, expecting to see disgust on everyone’s faces, but nobody was batting an eyelid. Wait staff still on their phones, family next to me still just eating their meal.

I’m not sure if it was really just something that happens to every Thai sooner or later, or if I had blasted so far through the social norms that they didn’t even know how to deal with me any more.

As a British person, I absolutely need the eye contact of at least one person to roll my eyes and shrug off the faux-pas or it just makes it ten times worse.

Decide its time to make a hasty exit as I’m going bright red, and as I stand up I realise that in the same pot on the other side of the chopsticks was a stack of the spoons that I now realise everyone else in the room is busy using to correctly eat their food.

I guess the lucky thing about Bangkok is that you are very unlikely to ever see the same person twice.

Review

Day 257: Sitting on the dock of the bay… At Jack’s Bar, Review

Nomad friendly? No.

If you want the pretty location you have to pay the prices. I dropped 200bt (£5) on the beef curry and naively thought for that price it would be a bigger portion, more than the basic street restaurants. I was wrong. And then she asked me if I wanted steamed rice which ended up costing me another 20bt.

Food was tasty though and it gave me a few photo ops.

I actually ended up there after a recommendation from a girl I met in a cafe a few days earlier. She said it was the absolute best the area had to offer and she ate there most nights after finding it.

Personally, I was tense the whole time as it was over the water and there were gaps between the floorboards. I’d already spotted it but the waitress even pointed it out to me as a warning. I spent the duration on guard, fearful that if I relaxed I would do something stupid like knock my phone or wallet to the depths of the Chao Phraya River. 😂

Everything survived and I did spend a nice few minutes watching a flock of marauding sparrows combing the tables and chairs for dropped scraps.

I guess in conclusion I’m just a bit sour I paid a fiver for a meal that would have been about 60bt around the corner. If I’d found a deal like that back home I would have been stoked, but here it just rustles my jimmies 🤣

Also, I did not get to meet Jack.

Nomad friendly?

It didn’t have that vibe. I don’t think they would have stopped you but it seemed more like just for eating.

Recommended?

I’d be tempted back to have some drinks there in the evening if I was with people. From the wine bar to the big chalkboards with beer prices on, it seemed like it was a bit of a drinking place later on.

I must have missed something because Christie was passionate about sending me there, but from what I experienced, no.

Story Time

Day 256: First 7/11 haul back in Bangkok

I stayed away for a few days, I really did, but this evening midnight had come & gone and my tummy was a-rumbling.

My legs took me there almost on autopilot. It’s not hard to do this in Thailand it really isn’t. The 7-Eleven is the national corner shop here. In Germany, you have your Kiosks everywhere but in Thailand its the 7-Eleven store. It’s the same company that is also all over America.

There is a joke in Thailand that involves giving directions to a friend and goes something along the lines of:

“Go out the door, turn right at the 7/11 then head straight down until you pass a 7/11. Keep on until you see the 7/11, then turn round the corner, go down there until you get to the 7/11 and it’s just there.”

It’s almost a joke but not really, because you could actually follow these instructions in most areas of Bangkok that I’ve been to.

Last time I surprised and intrigued my Facebook friends with a steady stream of photos of the 7/11 treats. There was a smorgasbord of new cakes just waiting for me to delve into. It became an addiction. I would find myself stopping off most evenings to quickly grab something sweet after my evening meal.

The problem with this habit was that instead of limiting what I bought to a sensible calorie count, I actually ended up buying them by the total cost. The fact that everything is so cheap in there meant I would often end up with multiple products from each category. A few packs of biscuits, a few types of cakes, a few selections from the fruit and nut, maybe a beer, maybe a milkshake. It was bad. For the belly, not the wallet.

So this time around I mentally distanced myself from that habit.

Now some may say, Matthew, you are only on day 4 and I would say back to them… yes, that seems like an accurate count of the days. But in my defence, I at least tried to get some of the healthier options from the shelves this time.

Here is the haul:

Let’s have a chat about these.

Obviously, on the far left, we have normal plain water. The tap water is not potable here, which means you can’t drink out of the tap. It’s ok to brush your teeth but you shouldn’t be gulping it down. Most hostels let you have some but my bottle got scooped up today so I needed a new container.

The green packet at the bottom middle are sunflower seeds. Most of the nuts that you can get here have been interfered with. They are roasted with sweeteners or salt or some other kind of coating. Getting plain food is tricky. I thought I had found some in this case. I thought wrong. My first mouthful instantly told me this. Looking back at the packet now you can see in the top right what looks like some coconut shells. That is exactly what they are, the list on the back reads spices, then sweeteners, then coconut for its top 3 ingredients. They were tasty, and 190 calories in total if I had eaten the whole bag.

To the right, we have what I think is cuttlefish, dried, put on skewers and then undried a little bit by being coated in a sticky sweet flavouring. The flavouring did little to mask the very impressive simulation of what it would be like to eat cardboard dipped in ketchup.

In the middle, the thing that looks like an apple is, in fact, dehydrated guava. I was about to grab the mango in the shop which I love but remembered to keep pushing myself to try new things and grabbed this instead. This hasn’t been eaten yet so I have no report for it yet.

Above that at the top is chocolate biscuits filled with matcha green tea cream. I bought them to have them over the next few days. They may have been more than nibbled at this evening though.

The milkshake looking thing is a bit of a mystery to me. It comes in pink and yellow varieties and has a kind of sour taste to it. I don’t know what it is but its kind of nice. The price of this little bottle is so insanely cheap I don’t know why they bother even charging for it. 7THB. That’s 16p in pounds sterling. It hardly seems worth the bother of ringing it up.

The Japanese cheesecake is not what people from England would taste and say “oh that’s a nice cheesecake”. No, they would take a bite of this and go “oh, that’s a nice almost plain sponge”.

And that leaves us with the strange looking triangle thing in the middle. What is it? It is Onigiri. Its white rice, wrapped in seaweed with some tastiness in the middle. Some might say this sounds like sushi, but for technical reasons, no it is not. This one came with teriyaki salmon in the middle and it was very tasty.

In truth, I should have walked in there, grabbed the onigiri, the water and then paid and left. I let my belly do the buying with only a minor consultation from my brain. Oh what a terrible waste of money, and now most of this is sat there in a bag next to my bed.

But how much do you think the entire bag of goodies came to? Well if you walked in there with 130bt tucked into your pockets you would have left with 9 spare. So 121bt total, that comes out at just under £3.

It’s amazing the kind of haul you can get for such tiny prices, and you can probably now see why I vowed to steer clear of this place. Just imagine what damage you could do if you turned this kind of spree shopping into a daily cake and biscuits adventure!

#officeoftheday

Day 255: Working from a converted cinema! Prince Theatre Heritage Stay #officeoftheday

I’ve found an amazing hostel that is converted from a 100-year-old cinema. It’s further down south than I have been before in the Bang Rak, Silom area of Bangkok so there are some new nice places to explore as we well.

This hostel is amazing and I plan to write more about it but right now here is my #officeoftheday from a really well-themed hostel:

Travel Tip

Day 254: Tourist SIM card buying guide for Bangkok, Thailand

This was the second time I had arrived in Bangkok. I was emboldened and feeling a lot more at home than I did when I first touched down on day 1 of my digital nomad journey.

Because of this, I decided I would head to the store after getting settled in rather than buying my SIM straight away at the airport.

The transfer-in from BKK to the city centre couldn’t be more simple. You get on the train on the bottom floor of the airport and it is one long single track. A ticket all the way to the end costs just 35THB and if you need to get somewhere else in town it stops at stations along the way that connects with the BTS train system that goes around the city.

I already knew where my hostel was. It was a place I had gazed through the window with curiosity many times on my last trip, but I hadn’t booked before now. I had been caught up playing a game of how-cheap-can-I-live on my first visit to Asia. Enchanted by the incredibly low prices of everything I got addicted to seeing just how low I could get my daily outgoings down to. This time I was here to treat myself better, so I was booked in to a style hostel and knew exactly where I was heading.

I felt confident enough to step out into the world without having data on my phone and if you do too and want the best deal then this is the

Anyway, back to the SIM card you are here to learn about!

Which telecoms provider?

The big 3 are AIS, DTAC and TrueMove.

If you are travelling around Thailand and want to visit the various islands then it could be worth doing more research on other websites. I have seen pages with coverage maps and depending on where you want to go, your choice of SIM provider might be influenced by their reach.

For me, I found myself emotionally tied to AIS and that’s who I have used each time I have been here. How did they get me? Well, I read about their hotspots, for example in CAMP, Maya Mall, Chiang Mai, where you can connect to their superfast WiFi if you have an account with them.

As there was not much to choose between the big three providers this is what swung it for me.

AIS Flagship Store in Central World, Bangkok

The day after I arrived, I headed over to their flagship store to buy my SIM. I was within walking distance so I took a short stroll, but depending on where you are you might want to jump on a train. You are aiming to get off at either BTS Siam or BTS Chit Lom, they are both a short walk to Central World (CTW) which is a huge multi-story mall in the Siam area of Bangkok.

The shop is located on level 4 so head up on the nearest elevators and then walk around until you find it, it will just take a few minutes. If you open the map above using the View Larger Map link then you will see an extra feature which doesn’t appear on the embedded map – you can click the floor on the right-hand side to see which stores are on which floor and where they are exactly located.

You will know when you see it, it has the AIS logo plastered outside and all around, and is made up of floor-to-ceiling glass panes with the full AIS range of products inside.

Here’s a shot of the store entrance:

The buying process

One of the nicer things about buying from the flagship store is that the staff all speak a high level of English. You are also buying directly from them so you aren’t going to get tricked with any prices.

Finally, the other nice option is you have the full range of contract varieties available to you – often the resellers that you find around airports and streets will strip back the number of options available to you in order to get you to make a quick decision and not be overwhelmed.

A salesperson will approach you pretty quickly when you arrive. Tell them you want to buy a tourist sim and they will guide you over to a desk directly. If it’s a busier time of day you might get given a number and asked to sit down for a moment. I’ve experienced both but never had to wait that long.

At the desk, they will have a chart with all of the tourist sim options currently available. It should look something like this:

Prices valid as of May 2018

As you can see, this table has many options and you can go for your preferred style. First, you pick how long you want the sim to last. You can buy limited or unlimited data packages. If you buy a limited package then check the After Used Up column which tells you what happens when you run out. Sometimes its the end of the line, often your speed is just reduced for the rest of the days of your contract.

You should also pay attention to the Speed column. This is the maximum download speed. I opted for the 6mb package which was more than fast enough for my needs, but if you plan to use it a lot then you might want to splash out on the 3g/4g packages. This means that it will go the maximum speed the network can handle. This could be up to 30mbps on 3g and 50mbps on 4g, but those top end speeds are rare. Either way, it should be quite a lot faster than 6mbps, which is why there is quite a significant bump in the cost between the two top end prices (6mb, unlimited data, 30days was 600THB and 3g/4g unlimited data 30 days is 1650THB as of May 2018).

The 600THB package is what I got and it was perfect for my needs.

When you have told the sales assistant which one you want they will take your phone and the money. They will want the price on the list + 49THB to buy the sim card.

I suspect if you were savvy enough you could do this all for yourself because what happens next is they take your money, walk out of the store, and around to a set of fancy touchscreen vending machines.

One machine is used to convert your money into vouchers, then a second machine will be used to order and dispense your sim card. The sales assistant will do all that for you while you are sitting and watching through the window of the store. Then they will come back, load it into your phone, do the activation/setup process and hand your phone back to you.

There is no extra fee for getting them to do this so you don’t need to go out of your way to be a hero and try to do it all yourself.

Pro tip – get your messages in English

The first time I got my SIM I was inundated with messages written in Thai. At first I thought they were spam but then I got curious and started translating them with Google Translate. It turns out that AIS is regularly running promotions, so you will get notifications with things like “1gb free internet this weekend, activates Friday night” sent to your phone.

This was confusing and after a while I realised I could probably change these messages to English. Searching on the AIS website I managed to track down the codes and with a few attempts, I got my messages to arrive in English.

You are a professional traveller though! Do not put yourself through this mini ordeal. When the SIM has been configured and the salesperson tries to hand you back your phone, just ask them to put the code into convert the text messages to English and they will do this for you. Tada! What a seasoned expert you are, effortlessly navigating this hurdle.

Pro tip – tether to share with your laptop

These AIS sims will let you create a hotspot using your phone. This means you can share your phone data as a WiFi network to your laptop and you can be productive even if you don’t have normal WiFi. If you got the unlimited data package then this is perfect. If not then be careful about what you are getting up to. Streaming YouTube videos will soon chomp through your data.

It’s also unlikely your laptop will realise what type of connection it’s on and it might start downloading system updates in the background or otherwise accidentally abusing a line which it normally expects to be unlimited data.

Pro tip – keep your SIM afterwards

You will probably be back again and you can save the 49THB / 100THB fee when you arrive the next time. Just show the salesperson you already have a SIM and they will reactivate that one instead of selling you a new one.

Added bonus, if you gave your mum your phone number for emergencies then she doesn’t have to add another one this time!

Walking to the SIM card shop

Buying at the airport

If you really want to hit the ground running then you also have the option of buying a SIM at the airport. You will find yourself walking past stalls at multiple stores that you can buy a SIM from.

In Bangkok BKK, there is one that is right after you get off the plane before you even go through immigration. I used it when I first arrived because I was a scared little puppy and I wanted to feel safely connected to the world before I ventured forth. If memory serves they don’t do an AIS card though so I would skip that, head through immigration and get one from the main hall. In the main hall you will see generic mobile phone shops at first, and if you walk further along you will also find an official AIS store.

If you have arrived at the other airport, DMK, then you will find an AIS store just before you exit to the taxi area.

The number of options available is usually reduced down to about two or three simple choices. The staff don’t usually speak great English so this makes sense. Price wise you will pay a little bit more but not much. When I looked they wanted 600THB for one of the slightly lower packages, and the SIM you need to buy will set you back 100THB instead of the 49THB at the flagship store. Not a huge amount and if you need it, for example, if you plan on getting a Grab, then its worth just grabbing a quick card.

 

 

 

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