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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.

 

 

 

Daily Life

Day 253: Back In Bangkok

I have travelled back to the other side of the world again. This was always loosely planned but what got me on the plane is that two of my friends from my hometown will be meeting me here in just over a week.

I got off the plane this time feeling a lot more at home than I did when I first touched down last September. So much so that I strolled straight past the mobile SIM card stalls in the Airport, hopped on the train and navigated to my hostel without needing any maps or Internet assistance. I’m going to head down to Central Mall today or tomorrow and get one from the official AIS shop.

Last night I tried to head straight back to my favourite pad thai restaurant in Bangkok, Boom Boom, but it wasn’t open. Not sure if it was because it was Sunday or if it was the eve of a national holiday here in Thailand (Royal Ploughing Day). Really hoping it hasn’t shut down, it always seemed busy when I was here last and they have decorated it some more since I last saw it so I don’t think it has closed.

I am loving this hostel so far. It was created by an interior design company based in Bangkok as a flagship of their skills and it definitely impresses.

I’ve come back to Asia the second time with a more western mindset. This time instead of going out of my way to save every baht I’m going to treat myself more and just enjoy the buying power that pounds sterling gives me over here.

The first step of this new approach was booking into MovyLodge hostel. It was a hostel that I’d walked past many times before but it was “out of my price range” when I was still paying rent in the UK. I guess it was just a game I was playing to see just how cheap life could be in Asia because this luxury works out to 450bt a night… About £11 in my hometown money.

The difference between the ~£6-a-night hostels and this is stark. This place is spotlessly clean, stylish and has a great vibe to it. It’s also overflowing with extras.

You get a capsule style bed which gives you the privacy of a room at the price of a dorm, there is a cool bean bag chill out mezzanine which I spent the evening on and look at that spread for breakfast!

I hit the breakfast up at 8 am… Could very much see me going for second-breakfast just before they close up shop at 11 😀

I have just stuffed myself with eggs, sausage, ham, salad, toast and OJ. Then I went back for toast with two jams, and one of those muesli & yoghurt cups you can see hiding at the back with the milk.

Didn’t even make it to the cereal stage today but I did finish up with a free refill of my coffee cup that I had first bought at 6 am this morning.

My jet lag has been gentle with me so far and despite waking so early I feel well rested. I think by the time I go to bed tonight I will have adjusted to the Asian time zone.

Update: Snuck back in at 10:45 am, just before they finished serving and had a second breakfast haha.

Daily Life

Day 252: Spicy Singapore

Well, I arrived for a transfer at Singapore Airport and forgot just how much of a kick dishes have this side of the world.

Ordered the spicy beef noodle soup and spent the next 15 minutes coughing, spluttering and crying my way through this dish, much to the amusement of the exclusively local crowd around me.

S$11, 1 Singapore dollar is 55p

#gotwhatiaskedfor

Daily Life

Day 247: Found another switchblade

Just found another switchblade at the next hostel. Have I been walking past switchblades all my life and never noticed them before? Is this a Greek thing?

Maybe I should stop touching all of them because if the police get involved there is going to be a trail of switchblades all across Athens with my fingerprints on them.

Not sure what I’m talking about? Read about my first switchblade encounter.

Travel Tip

Day 244: No beer with your meal

This one has been simmering for a while. I keep thinking about it but haven’t tried to do anything about it until yesterday when I finally said to myself:

Don’t order a beer with your meal.

Today I sat down and… yes you guessed it, ordered a beer with my meal.

Now I’m not against having a drink with your meal but when you’re travelling solo you need to invent reasons to leave your accommodation and go do things. It makes sense to go out for a walk, pick somewhere to eat, and have your meal. Then when you’re satisfied you can get up, go for some more of a wander, and then stop somewhere for a beer (or coffee).

This way you get to have a healthy walk and see some more of the city you’re in.

After getting the beer with my meal for the second day in a row I found myself bloated and not wanting to do anything after that. Hopefully, posting this tip will make me remember when I next sit down at a table.

Update: The next day I went for a meal and didn’t get a beer. During my post-meal walk, I actually decided against the after meal beer this time but I felt less bloated and I had the option!

Update #2: It worked I have now stopped ordering drinks with my meals for the last week and a half.

#officeoftheday

Day 242: Nubian Hostel, my new home in Athens #officeoftheday

I’m happy to be settled in here at Nubian Hostel. It is one of those stylish new builds that have sprung up in many places and absolutely wipe the floor with most traditional style hostels.

The only problem is, it doesn’t have 24-hour check-in so last night after my flight got in late I found myself in one of those very same traditional hostels, where you feel a bit icky about touching anything. All the quilts were floral randomness and they had a pile of mismatched, donated towels to use. The shower was hanging off the wall and the beds creaked really badly.

Anyway, let’s just forget about that place. I’m here now and today I have decided to set up on a small table in the corner, overlooking my new kingdom. I’m booking just for two nights at the moment but I can see myself extending for the full 10 days tomorrow.

Probably upcoming #officeoftheday shots are on that sofa peeking on the left and out in the secluded area, you can see (or imagine) through the windows.

Story Time

Day 242: I’ve never been so happy to find a switchblade next to my bed

I had flown my parents out to see me for a week in Rome and with their arrival, they had brought me a pack of goodies. Things that I had ordered but hadn’t arrived before I left my hometown and some things that I had decided were needed to optimise my daily life on the road.

So they had loaded me up with new things, we had spent a lovely week together and they had got on the plane back home. It was back to business as usual for me, doing solo travel. I had packed everything up and my suitcase was now creaking and weighed in at 19.9kg.

For me personally, this is too much. For RyanAir, it was .1kg under their limit and totally fine. The luggage was checked in as normal and I boarded my flight without a problem.

At the other end, it was late in the evening (we landed at 00:30) and I grabbed my suitcase back from the baggage collection conveyor and headed out to find the transfer bus. Athens is pretty great as they have a bus that runs every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day. I bought my ticket and climbed on. When I was sat down I looked at my suitcase and a knot of panic entered my stomach; the TSA approved, combination lock that was supposed to be keeping my suitcase locked up was gone!

Instead in its place was a tiny piece of plastic wrapped metal twisted through the two eyes of the zips.

I was crammed (literally crammed, sat sideways to fit) into my seat so I couldn’t start mounting a full suitcase investigation. I had already left the airport so there wasn’t any helpdesk or anything I could go to, assuming one was even open at this hour.

It was a problem for another day.

After navigating my way to the hostel it was tickling 3 am. I was tired, everyone else in the dorm was in bed. I went without brushing my teeth, made my bed and climbed into it.

In the morning I woke up in a hot room. I had only picked this one for a single night because at the time I believed the other hostel I wanted to book didn’t have 24hr check-in. This meant that even though I had gone to bed super late I was still going to have to be out by 11 am. Time to get ready.

Now I remembered, my suitcase was locked and within its silver protective shell lay all of my life. I had worn thick jean trousers to fly in which had been fine for walking in the night but weren’t going to cut it heading cross down with a suitcase in the mid-morning sun. I was desperate to brush my teeth, waking with that thick taste in my mouth that usually greets me after a big drinking session. I wanted to have a shower. The answers to all of these problems were the other side of this makeshift lock.

I was the nomad equivalent of being locked out of my house.

Looking around the only tools I had at my disposal were the dorm keys I had been supplied. I spent about 5 minutes scratching away at the tightly wound metal. I managed to make some tiny progress but it was going to be an hours work at this pace and I had already stabbed myself twice with the frayed metal threads I was producing.

Dragging my suitcase out to the reception, the girl on the desk mistook me for somebody who was checking out. I explained my situation and asked if they had any tools I could use. She was in the middle of checking somebody else in and said she would have to ask the building maintenance guy.

I grabbed a towel and returned to my room to wait. Armed with the hand washing liquid soap dispenser taken from the sinks I managed to have a shower. I have stayed in a lot of basic hostels but this one must surely win an award for tiny showers.

I could barely turn around inside of it, I’m not even exaggerating. It had a zig zag compressing slide door which you just sort of put in place rather than locked. There was no space inside for a towel to live. I can only assume if I had gotten up a few hours earlier with everyone else I would have seen a lot of naked bodies walking around that bathroom. I put my towel on the only hook available (on the far side of the room) and got my shower routine over with.

When I came back out my suitcase was still locked and I went so I went back to reception and she told me they didn’t have any tools. I suspect she had been too busy to do anything about it and just bailed on trying to help me as they would surely have at least a screwdriver.

Anyway it was back to the key method so I spent another 10 minutes trying to scratch my way through metal. It clearly wasn’t going to work. I had to just give up, accept I was walking through town in my jeans with a mouth like an ashtray and try to solve it at the next hostel.

As I went back over to my bed I had one final search around for anything that could possibly help me out. Then my eyes saw it. The room was quite dark at the back end of it (the room itself was a very long 16 bed dorm room and mine was the furthest from the window). On top of one of the lockers was a tray of crap that had been left behind by other travellers. Some kind of stopwatch, a bracelet, either tablets or a film reel, some American money and what looked like a switchblade.

I’ve lightened this photo up considerably which is why it looks funny but there it was, waiting for me! An actual switchblade!

I picked it up wondering if it was a toy one, or if it was broken or something but no, it was the answer to my prayers. A fully working, sharpened switchblade with a serrated, fish gutting style edge on the backside of the blade!

To put it in a very British way – I couldn’t have been more chuffed.

While trying to move quickly (it was almost check-out time) but safely (I didn’t want any more cuts or stab wounds) I expertly cut and sawed away at the offending steel threads. Then it happened, the final thread popped and I managed to get back into my suitcase. In short order I was changed and handing in my keys, heading out into the midday sun.

I’d never been so happy to find a switchblade right next to my bed.

But what had caused this invasion of my privacy in the first place?

Well when I had finally gotten it opened up I had obviously looked for something missing. They had not taken anything. I was half expecting some kind of note to be left in there saying that the suitcase had been formally opened for XYZ reasons but no, there was nothing like that left behind and no evidence that it had been tampered with, it was still packed how I had left it.

So why would they be in there? Well I figured it was either simply a broken lock which they damaged accidentally or the secondary x ray checks had shown something that had caught their attention.

Now there is something that I have deliberately left until the end to tell you (unless you have read my earlier posts about what’s in my suitcase). Of these new goodies that my Dad had brought to me, one of them was a hecking great big 23cm kitchen knife.

Yes, yes this might seem like an obvious reason for them to be inside my suitcase but I had actually checked this out beforehand and it is generally fine around the world to pack such things as long as they are in your checked luggage. Why did I want this? I had grown frustrated trying to cook on the road as there was either no chopping knife at all in hostel kitchens or there was a totally blunt one. I figured it made sense to carry my own.

After relaying this tale to my dad he didn’t think it was this – he said he always took a knife with him on self-catering holidays and never had any trouble – so I started wracking my brain for some other culprits.

My next idea was maybe my new laptop tray that he had brought had obscured the x rays somehow. It was only bamboo though so not a likely reason. Then the final idea my brain alighted on was that just before my parents left they handed me an oversized box of tic tacs. Could airport security have suspected me of trying to smuggle some drugs through the country? I had seen this type of thing before on those trash tv shows so it was plausible I suppose. That coupled with the knife could have been enough to trigger a secondary examination.

The (un)likely culprits

I guess we will never know, but just for fun here is a poll for you to share your guess as to what really happened:

  • The kitchen knife
  • The laptop stand
  • The tic tac’s
  • Just a broken lock
  • Something else

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