One of the really nice things about this blog is that it's mine and I can write what I want when I want to -- that's why sometimes I'm going to post more thoughtful essays and longer-form content and other times just write updates as I see fit, without worrying about whether or not they adhere to some important structure. It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to, etc., etc.
I arrived last night in Bangkok around 1 am after many, many hours of travel. The flight between San Francisco and Hong Kong was 14 or 15, which didn't seem like such a big deal when I booked the ticket (after all, a flight between SF and Europe is usually close to 12) but I was literally ready to get off the flight in about hour 5. Seeing that there were 9 more hours to go on the flight info screen was not exactly encouraging.
We landed in Hong Kong and I discovered my flight to Bangkok was delayed by an hour and a half, so I ate a tiny Starbucks sandwich, then followed the lead of the Asian woman napping near the gate and did the same.
We finally landed in Bangkok around 1 am and I exited the airport and found a cab around 2:15. Maybe it's because it was late at night but things went fairly smoothly -- no long queues at immigration, my bag was the last to arrive on the luggage carousel, then I managed to get money at an ATM and get into a taxi quickly.
So, right before I left, I realized that the hotel I'd booked for my stay here in Bangkok didn't have 24-hour reception and was in fact closed from midnight-6am. In a moment of panic before heading to the airport, I quickly made a reservation at the first hotel I could find online that promised it would be open when I'd arrive. It seemed kind of expensive, so I found a cheaper hostel for the next two nights.
And man am I glad I did.
As I said, I didn't do a whole lot of research to find the hotel (or a whole lot of research for this trip in general, for that matter). I just went with what popped up that seemed to have decent reviews. When I showed the address to the taxi driver, he said "Street closed. No traffic." He made a little legs-walking motion with his fingers. "You walk. Street closed."
OK, I thought, as we flew down the highway towards the city center. I hope it's lit and not a dangerous street to walk down. What if I'm mugged? As I began to spiral into all the possible conclusions that begin with "what if I'm mugged in a foreign country", we began to drive through urban streets, amidst the shuttered shops and street markets, there was still the occasional café open, where Thais were gathered chatting or cleaning as the night wound down. (I read somewhere the Bangkok has a curfew, so I'm guessing this explains the limited number of things still open and people around.)
Then we rounded a corner. I'd heard Bangkok described as a shithole many times before, and so far nothing we'd seen on our trip from the airport seemed to match that description. The buildings weren't crumbling like Mumbai. There weren't hordes of homeless people sleeping everywhere like San Francisco, or rats scurrying from mounds of garabage bags on the streets like New York. There might be pollution in the air, but everything seemed orderly and functional. When people were using the word "shithole" to describe Bangkok, they must have been talking about Khao San Road, a mess of drunken foreigners raging into the wee hours of the night. I paid the cab and flung on my backpack. I wasn't going to have to worry about being mugged on a dark street. I was going to have to worry about being accidentally vomited on by British girls. Or being caught in the flare up of some fist fight or shot glasses hurled in the air. Or just tripping over the abundant garbage littering the street.
I pushed my way through the crowd. I've found the Isla VIsta of Southeast Asia! This is like manuevering down Del Playa on a Friday night! I mentally thanked my parents for my college education as I stepped around a woman offering shots of laughing gas, and pushed my way past hordes of teenagers making their way into a bar. I finally made it into the hotel lobby, where the man at the front desk took pity on me and gave me a room sheltered from the noise.
I slept well, and after I'm done with this and a shower, I'm setting off to get settled at my next hotel (actually a hostel), located in a completely different section of town. And then get some stuff figured out for the next leg of my journey -- hope to head to Cambodia on Friday.
Glad I got the Khao San experience out of my system within seconds of arriving. I think Bangkok may actually have a lot to offer, but it's definitely not here. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go find it.