I did the maths. The overnight bus from Vang Vieng in Laos bound for Bangkok was going to be averaging some kind of record-breakingly slow speed if our arrival time on Khao Sanh Rd was to be believed. Due to park up at 8am on the narrow street that's been the hedonistic centre of Bangkok's backpacker district for decades, at least the sun would be up.
Or not. Because at 5am the bus stopped, the passengers opened their bleary eyes, straightened their shoddy seat-backs and disembarked on orders of the driver.
Apparently we'd arrived. Only this wasn't Khao Sanh Rd.
As packs were heaved on backs and obligatory checks done to make sure no mug-you-while-you-sleep malarkey had happened, it soon became obvious what was going on. We were at a bus depot — possibly an unofficial one — and had a welcome party of taxi drivers to take us to where our bus tickets said was our destination. And predictably enough, they wanted extra money for it.
I heard somebody arguing with the bus driver: "The ticket says Khao Sanh Rd! This is not Khao Sanh Rd!" But it was Bangkok and I vaguely recognised the area, feeling it probably wasn't all that far from where we were meant to be.
Together with three other travellers, we spoke to one of the taxi drivers. "100 baht to Khao Sanh", the driver said, a figure that sounded suspiciously cheap (approximately $4). "Is that 100 baht for all of us?" I responded, doing an over-the-top, circular arm gesture, "... or per person?" "Yes! Yes! 100 baht total!"
We then got in his car and sure enough, just 15 minutes later we were on Khao Sanh Rd. "OK, 400 baht!" said our driver in what was quite possibly the least surprising sentence I'd heard in my entire life.
The whole thing made me laugh. The lies about arriving at 8am, the fact the bus driver and the taxi drivers were in cahoots with each other, the 5am drop-off to ensure maximum tourist disorientation, the false mix-up over total taxi fares versus individual fares; all of it was so very, very lame. In fact, so lame it cracked me up.
Mouldy Hotel Pillows
Bali, 2010, and I needed to rest my weary head and preferably at a competitive price. This was the Big OE and having spent the previous month with Intrepid Travel on a group tour from Bangkok through the south of Thailand, down Peninsular Malaysia, to Singapore and then right across Java in Indonesia to Bali, I was suddenly on my own again. With a night to kill in Kuta before flying back to Singapore, I made the mistake of checking into a place that had a great looking pool, appeared decent from the outside and cost about the same as a glass of wine in downtown Auckland. Sure, the room was small and the shower smelt vaguely like a wet market with catastrophic hygiene practices, but I thought, "hey, it's the 90s!" Using my favourite outdated interchangeable expression for "what the hell!", I decided to hunker down for the night.
Lying my not-quite-dry head on the pillow, a musty smell distracted me from sleeping.
Flicking the light on to do some reading, I sat up and the wetness of my hair had turned the pillowcase a clearly detectable shade of green. Nervously removing the pillow from the case, as neither a pharmacist nor a botanist I felt spectacularly underqualified to deal with the heavy fungal bonanza I'd unearthed. Terrified, even an attitude of, "oh well, it's the 90s," couldn't save me here. It was 2010 and I needed my $14 back.
Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's The Two, Coast Soul on Coast and writes theRoxboroghReport.com.