Motto: Mottos are good for intros, but can be vague or confusing
This column is dedicated mostly to things I thought about during my Thailand trip that didn’t necessarily really belong on the last post. When contemplating things, I almost always make mental pros and cons lists - so that is the theme for today’s post.
For my travels to Thailand, I flew Delta. Normally I book travel through a Expedia or Kayak or some other 3rd party travel site; but for this trip I went directly through the airline’s website. Here are some thoughts about that and about my experiences on this trip:
Pros: Going directly through the airline’s website makes flight switching and cancellations easier. Delta in particular offers a spectacular in-flight experience for international travel. Each passenger has a ~8 inch touch screen built into the seat in front of him. This screen rotates up and down to accommodate different heights. Things available for FREE: Movies. Music. TV shows. Games. And the selection was actually really good; and YOU got to pick what YOU wanted to watch/do WHEN and IF you wanted. Here’s a very incomplete list of what they had: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World All four Pirates movies All three Batman movies (the new ones) 500 Days of Summer Silver Linings Playbook Star Trek (the new one) All the Avengers movies (which I’m writing more about in my next column) The Watch Yes Man Wreck it Ralph The two most recent Bourne movies Brave Bridesmaides Crazy, Stupid Love The Departed Horrible Bosses How to Train Your Dragon In Bruges Les Miserable All three Lord of the Rings The Hobbit And probably a hundred more.
Cons: Delta is not impervious to delays. I had 6 total flights on this trip. 2 of them were delayed. I am so very fortunate that it happened to be the last leg of the journey both times (I didn’t have subsequent flights to miss).
The Metric System & Money:
Thailand uses the metric system. Thai money is called “Baht”, and each baht is roughly 3 cents in American money. Here are my thoughts about both of those things: Pros: When pricing things in stores, baht makes more sense. You want a candy bar and a water? That’s 30 baht. It’s not “$1.98… but really $2.27 with tax”. The system is easier and more logical. Another thing I came to appreciate is how the value of their coins and bills is weighted. In America, $1 doesn’t get you much of anything. If you want a cheap meal, you usually need a $5 plus some additional bills or coins. Baht is different. Baht comes in coin form, then there are 20, 100, 500, and 1000 baht bills (that I saw). This translates to ~$0.66, ~$1.33, $16.67, and $33.33. Things over there are a little bit cheaper in general, so these amounts work out pretty well. A 20 baht bill gets you a snack. 100 baht bill gets you a meal. 500 baht gets you a new outfit. 1000 baht will feed you for a week at the grocery store. The value their bills are broken into makes paying for thing with physical money less of a hassle. I like kilometers. They are more useful than miles. A mile is a loooong distance. Within a city, miles are almost useless. You have to say things like “half a mile”, “quarter of a mile”, etc. The precision you get with Kilometers is useful in urban environments. Also for speed. Kilograms and grams make more sense to me than pounds and ounces. Why is there 16 ounces in a pound? Why is base 10 wrong all of the sudden? And why 16? If you’re going to break base 10 for anything - choose base 12. Or base 2. The electrical engineer in me makes me have to include that (I’m neglecting to mention that base 16 is also important for EE work).
Cons: Their bills are all different lengths. The higher value bills are longer than the smaller value bills. This makes sense, but it’s not as convenient for bill storage. Meters aren’t as useful for measuring height. For me, it’s easier to break down height into X feet and Y inches, instead of just Z centimeters. It’s kind of the opposite of the money situation. Celsius is only 5/9ths as precise as Fahrenheit. In my life, the relevant temperatures exist (except for the extreme cases) between 0 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In Celsius this roughly corresponds to -18 and 38 degrees. Fahrenheit makes more sense in terms of daily life. I am not water. I wish the whole world ran the same system… that I got to orchestrate.
Thailand marked the first time I got to use my Maxpedition Sitka the way I always envisioned it being used. It was an illuminating experience and it made me aware of some things I didn’t know I liked about the bag and some things I didn’t know I didn’t like. My thoughts: Pros: My bag has some security features built in that I never really appreciated before. The zippers of all three main compartments can be pulled to a single point of the bag. At this point is a tie-down system that you can corral and cinch down all the zippers in. This system is subtle and its use is entirely optional. If you choose to use it, to get into any of the compartments, you have to uncinch the tie-down cord, loosen it, then do the zipping. This theft deterrent was much appreciated when I had a bag containing everything important in my life behind me on a very crowded bus or train. It adds some confidence that you’d notice if someone was trying to get into your bag. The integrated water bottle holder is fantastic. Nalgenes fit like a glove and hold a LOT of water. There are two different places within the bag that perfectly accommodate my tablet. This allows for some flexibility with packing things. The one-shoulder sling-around design is awesome. When sitting on public transportation I didn’t have to stop and awkwardly flail my elbows around to remove my bag before sitting down. I just slung the bag around in front of me and plopped down with it on my chest. When I did that, I could easily get in to my stuff. The Sitka is the perfect size for your “personal item” on an airplane. It is small enough to slide easily under the seat in front of you and leave some foot room, but big enough to carry entertainment for a 12 hour flight. I think the bag looks kind of cool. In pictures it looks like it is meant to be there, at least moreso than a bookbag. It seems more of a “part of you/your outfit”, and less of an afterthought.
Cons: The one-shoulder design causes back pain and more shoulder fatigue than I expected. You can mitigate this by packing lightly, but it only helps to a point. Even with only the absolute bare essentials, your shoulder and back will hurt after a few hours of walking. This could be aided by a bag that allows you to switch shoulders… but the Sitka doesn’t. Cinching the whole bag tighter to my torso and using the supplemental stabling strap helps… but not enough. I had to strap it on backwards or take it off and carry it like a briefcase to give my shoulder and back a break on a daily basis. Originally I thought the Sitka was the perfect size for every occasion… but I was wrong. It’s too small to pack for a 3 day trip (where something the size of a full bookbag would be perfect) and packing for a day of walking around leaves a ton of empty space (the main compartment was usually empty - all my storage needs were met by the smaller compartments). It sits at a kind of awkward in-between stage. It definitely excels more for “put your stuff in a bag to take to your friend’s place for the night”-type situations. Doing a bit more research into this area I find many of the same bags I considered originally almost a year ago. I even ran across a couple in Thailand:
5.11 Rush 6 - smaller & lighter but with and overall wonky appearance and without a waterbottle holder. I am not going to get a new EDC Bag. All the ones I looked at were flawed. My Sitka is the least of all evils.
A Week Without the Internet:
Preface Pros: I was a little more in the moment. The nagging thought “you should check your phone” subsided not too long after I removed my SIM card. I had to make peace with “not knowing”. This is something you don’t have to do much when you have a fully functioning smartphone. How many fluid ounces are there in a cup? I didn’t know. I couldn’t know. I just had to be okay with not knowing. I was more connected with nature and each of the environments I found myself in.
Cons: I had no refuge for when things got overwhelming. If I get too stressed out by any given situation, I can usually look to my smartphone for a distracting and stress-reducing minute or two. Without it, when I was uncomfortable and Melissa wasn’t available to chat, I had to sit there with my discomfort. This could be looked at as a good thing, a growing experience… but it certainly made a few occasions harder. During the multiple occasions we were lost or hungry, I was completely unable to help. This was the cause of some of those stressful occasions I just mentioned. I couldn’t talk with anyone who wasn’t directly in front of me. If I wanted to send a message to my parents that I was alive and doing fine, I had to go through Melissa. I did this on a couple of occasions - but it would have been nice to be able to send pictures and notifications when I so pleased.
One final note: Blog News! Google just integrated Google+ Comments with Blogger. Now, the comments you post of the Google+ announcement of each post will show up underneath the actual post!
Top 5: Pretentious Ways I can Start Sentences With (and will!)
- When I was with my Navy SEAL buddy the other day, we were talking about our mutual Division 1 National Champion friend who…
- Ah, I remember when I was getting the personal tour of CBS Studios I …
- When I was in New York visiting my my sister at the D1 school she played volleyball for I remember…
- My fiance, the former beauty pageant contestant and current US Ambassador in Asia is…
- Oh yes, when I was snorkeling in the Andaman sea off the southern coast of Thailand I…
“He’s standing on something, right?” A fellow farang (foreigner) said this to her friend while we were all standing in the monorail running through Bangkok… I don’t think she guessed I would hear her and chuckle about it later.