Reach airport well in time. Don’t take anything for granted. You may be nailed by “custom control” for various reasons. The airline may bump you to accommodate full-revenue-passengers. You may be turned adrift by the immigration for want of a document you may not be aware of, or, singled out by “security staff” if they smell a rat. Do not argue or resist but submit in good grace. They have a machine to x-ray, dogs to sniff, stool pigeons to surprise, touts to testify and recipes to spill the beam. Nonetheless, stay put and undaunted; you are no carrier, no fugitive, or a culprit on the run. Better take it as rehearsal to face such eventualities abroad.
BEFORE YOU START ON A TRIP
by Hafeez R. M.
Are you in good health? Can you take a couple of weeks off your work or business? Have you got a moderate amount of money to spare? If you are happily nodding “yes”, you can be a globe-trotter, a wheel dealer or a jet-setter though for a while. Never mind the size or scale. Haven’t miniature, itsy-bitsy, and teeny-weeny models made headway? Why can’t you? Let us set the ball rolling to show you Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka in one go.
FITNESS TEST BEFORE TRAVEL
To start with, weigh yourself. You may be under-weight but slim, strong and peppy. Take a fatigue test; put a 10-kg sack on your back and run for a kilometre or two. Then with the sack on, expand your chest, pull in your stomach, flex your arms, bend your legs and limber your toes. See what happens? If you find your ankles turned legs twisted, back inverted, shoulders stooped or neck slanted, so much the better. Stay at home and watch movies like “Panic in Bangkok“, “Shanghai Knights” or “Eagles in the Sky“.
If you are overweight, hold your horses. Obesity is a deterrent to hard work. It makes one easily tired and miserable on a jaunt. A tired person faces boredom and disappointments. He loses his poise and disposition. So shape up and taper down. Take extra fat off your body and improve stamina. Also discuss with your doctor any precautions you might need to say hale and hearty.
While you jog, make plans to shop around different airlines like Aeroflot, Sri Lankan, Biman, PIA and ThaiAir. There are many inducements and incentives. Settle around Rs.40,000 for Karachi-Singapore return with stopovers at various destinations. Arrange another Rs.25,000 roughly @US$20 per day for two weeks to cover expenses on boarding, lodging and land transport. In addition, one must have an extra US $ 500 as “show-money” for obtaining visas-on-arrival or to meet any emergency. You may borrow this amount as there are 95% chances of its safe return provided you don’t set your eyes on something tender, rare or expensive.
Look for an ordinary bag, a flour sack would do. Fill it with matching clothes, all cast-off and rejects, drip-dry and wrinkle-free, not more than 2 shirts, 2 trousers, one night-suit and 4 undergarments. Top it up with the shaving kit and a medical box containing tablets for travel sickness, diarrhea and indigestion besides mosquito-repellent, foot-powder and pain-killers. Keep passports, identity cards, health certificates, tickets, credit cards and cash in various secret pockets. Camera, watch, sunglasses and binocular are optional.
HANDLE IT DIPLOMATICALLY
Obviously, your activities would not go un-noticed from your family but don’t disclose your plans until firm arrangements have been made, money paid and you are ready-n-steady to go. Be diplomatic while informing your wife. First, show her a star or a can full of beans. Sing out job prospects of a well-traveled person and narrate coveted perks and privileges like company-maintained car, luxury villa and foreign excursions with family. Shut your trap when you see a gleam in her eyes and announce your departure. She would certainly repack your bag with love setting all the ‘trash’ in order as her humble contribution towards your grand designs.
ARRIVING AT A STRANGE LAND
Reach airport well in time. Don’t take anything for granted. You may be nailed by “custom control” for various reasons. The airline may bump you to accommodate full-revenue-passengers. You may be turned adrift by the immigration for want of a document you may not be aware of, or, singled out by “security staff” if they smell a rat. Do not argue or resist but submit in good grace. They have machine to x-ray, dogs to sniff, stool pigeons to surprise, touts to testify and recipes to spill the beam. Nonetheless, stay put and undaunted; you are no carrier, no fugitive or a culprit on the run. Better take it as rehearsal to face such eventualities aboard.
Once on board, fling up your bag, take your seat, strap yourself in, clap your hand and have a hearty laugh. You have escaped at last. You have out-smarted all & sundry. You were not born yesterday, after all. Flying 3,700 km in about 4 hours, you reach Bangkok and step out of the plane to a tunnel leading to an immigration hall, no stairways, no coach trips, no guides, and no guards. You encounter signs in all designs and colors, hanging information boards and public address system gurgling in unknown voices. In foreign languages and strange dialects, this is a nightmare – both signs and sounds mean nothing. Don’t panic, there would certainly be indications for airport facilities, shop fronts, banks, postal services and way-out. You cannot get lost.
directional -signs-at-the-hong-kong-airSource: http://blog.asiahotels.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/directional-signs-at-the-hong-kong-airport.jpg
FINDING YOUR WAY OUT
You get 15-30 days visa on arrival provided you establish your bonafide: a valid passport, a return ticket and show-money. Your luggage would be checked casually and soon you would wind up in the “Arrival Lounge.” First change a small note, not more than US$10 into local currency and then ask for “Tourist Counter”. Request the staff to write on your diary, both in English and Thai, names of the areas favored by the tourists along with bus numbers. “Where there is a smoke, there is fire”, you would surely find cheap food and in-expensive accommodation in and around the main tourist areas. If you reach safely, you have saved yourself from a major hiccup of your journey. Have showers and go to sleep to catch the jet-lag.
A PIECE OF ADVICE
Get up early next morn and be ready for a long walk. Bangkok is famous for temples, great relics, emerald and golden Buddhas, floating markets and night life. In general Thais have good manner but they do not shake hand, they regard head as the highest part of the body and don’t approve anyone patting there even if it were a child. They can be very ferocious if ridiculed. They are all expert in “Thai Boxing” where they use their fists, elbows, knees and feet like the wrestling legend “The Rock”.
If you feel “home-sick” or “dull”, just go to a nearby hotel serving “Pakistan-Indian Foods” and meet visitors from the Indian Subcontinent. Listen to their stories. My God all will be identical. “ I’m duped, I’m robbed, my recruiting agent had left me high and dry, a con-artist has deprived me of my money”. “My goods have been confiscated, I’m in a fix”. ‘Brother, I know of a sure way we can all make up what we lost”. Run away before you fall for any get-rich-quick proposition, you have a long route ahead and family behind.
A special version of Tuk Tuk [the threewheeler public taxis or rickshaws]. Bangkok tuk tuks are spacious and are an economical mode of transport. They are a perfet fit in your travel programme while you quench your thirst, your wanderlust in the city of canals and temples. But you should negotiate your fare beforehand. Don’t be surprised if the first offer sounds outrageous. Image Source: http://www.thaiwebsites.com/kosichang.asp
ROAMING THE TROPICAL GREEN
Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore form part of the same Tropical Green. These countries are well-connected through an excellent railroad system. Take a train for Singapore and have a “long winded arm-chair travelogue” in its real sense lasting for 48 hours and 1,900 km. Go city to city or beach to beach on any of the trains, buses, taxis, tuk-tuk, boats, sampans or Junkets suiting your pockets and itinerary. There are nominal restrictions on border crossing but don’t foam with anger or even feel offended if you are stopped by the officials while letting Gringos and Johnnies go scot-free. Maybe you resemble someone who threw dust in their eyes last summer. Generally, the border officials are polite and decent. Don’t shatter their confidence by taking a load of “iPods, Digital-Cameras and Three-in-One” from duty-free shops. They may get rough and tough.
Small and inexpensive hotels are in plenty and finest local foods are available “alfresco” in open-air stalls to appease the appetite. Keeping handy a card saying in local languages “No Pork” and you would not get any even if “You asked for it”.
Image courtesy National Geographic http://images.nationalgeographic.com
There are beautiful coral islands, golden beaches, swaying palms, picturesque landscapes evoking a sense of awe and wonder. While you may swim, stroll, sleep or “make waves”, you must not forget your commitments and high-bright sun back home. Return to Bangkok well before scheduled departure lest you get stranded and eat up your “reserve” Spare some time to marvel tailor-made clothes. You may get within 24-hours a bundle containing one three-piece, one safari, four shirts and four pants plus gift of a leather belt and two ties.
A nicely stitched suit would certainly reflect favorably on your worthiness. On your way back you can have, flight schedule permitting, a stopover at Colombo or Dhaka returning home rich with knowledge and experience. This would be no small achievement, mind you. Even Marco Polo and Ibn-Batutah could not see that much in such a short time. Boast it out and plan with more zeal and zest your next trip to East Africa. You know all the ropes by now. You are a gem.
More from Hafeez R. M. on Wonders of Pakistan:
1. The Shrine of Hazrat Ayub Ansari in Istanbul 2. Sacred Crocodiles 3. Shalimar Gardens, Lahore 4. Gorakh Hills, A pleasant surprise 5. The tomb of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi 6. Thar coal – hope or despair [in three parts]
The writer Hafeezur Rahman Malik is an ex-Bank Executive. As says Hafeez, he now whiles away his time in teaching and traveling. Each year in summer and winter holidays, he goes on a footloose and fancy-free safari to a new country or to a new area of a large country like USA. His travel tales are published by various websites specially www.hubpages.com & http://www.cstn.org . He lives in Karachi, Pakistan, with wife and a cat.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author(s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this post.
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