Thailand For Thanksgiving – Day 2 – Getting Lost In Bangkok

I can feel the depth of my heart grow and fill as the branches of these imaginary stories develop and weave in & out of each other, occasionally grazing one another in moments of serendipity, forming new branches as old ones wane, and in a matter of moments as the busy streets are left behind us the tree of stories fades from my mind.

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I don't sleep well. It's probably a combination of that damn cold I started coming down with and being in an unfamiliar bed, but after waking up just about every hour I get out of bed around 8.

I put my shorts on along with my blue Fortius tank and Vibrams so I can go for a run outside and see how this place looks in daylight.

As I exit the alley I am greeted by life.

 

City Life

Bangkok Traffic

Cars and scooters driving up and down Sukhumvit 38 Alley (the street the hostel is on which intersects Sukhumvit Road, the longest road in Bangkok), the occasional person walking down the sidewalk, and businesses opening their doors. I turn to my left and start running south at a moderate pace. I pass several street food carts along the way, serving chicken on a stick to patrons passing by. It smells wonderful, like the grilled chicken you can buy at any Chinese restaurant back in the states (not an insult, I love that smell). I keep running to check out the area.

My running turns into walking as I get lost and wander around, ending up back on the main street, Sukhumvit Road, and admire all the little shops and watch the business owners and employees interacting with customers, the bustling sidewalks, and the "gangs" of scooters and their drivers shooting the shit until their next fare.

Ah, yes, the scooters of Bangkok.

Not only can you grab a taxi, but for an even cheaper ride you can hop on the back of a scooter and entrust your life to the guy 3 inches in front of you.

Helmets are optional, and they do allow you to get on while carrying groceries, flat screen TV's, and human babies.

Some other interesting sights from the day:

Spirit House

An interesting feature of the properties and structures here in Thailand are these miniature temples (called Spirit Houses) mounted on pillars or a raised platform (referred to as a dais) outside just about every residence and place of business. Spirit houses are usually found in the corner of the property and are intended to provide a shelter for spirits that may cause problems for the residents if "not appeased." While wandering around in the morning I saw many instances of people walking out to the spirit house to leave incense or food on or in front of the spirit houses as offerings to the spirits. 

Most buildings appear to be brand new from afar, yet the closer I got to them they seemed more and more run down. It's as if once the building was completed there was no plan to actually maintain the external appearance. There are huge luxury hotels and residences with letters and numbers missing from the names, overgrown foliage, rusted fences, and broken/dirty windows. Even government buildings have ornate fountains out front with no running water and cracked statues.

After taking a break to retreat inside a nice, air conditioned cafe (it's hot-and-humid as balls outside) to catch up on my writing I head back to the hostel, and by the time I arrive I'm exhausted. I had considered checking out one of the rooftop bars tonight, but I think a nap is in order so I stand a chance of staying out after my first drink 700 feet above the city.

Bangkok is renown for its rooftop bars, which are scattered across the city and range from smaller "locals only" establishments situated a few stories above the ground, to majestic restaurants atop skyscrapers, to the most popular one, Moon Bar, which provides a 360° view of all of Bangkok.

You can see some examples below courtesy of bangkok.com

Sky Bar Rooftop

 

Octave Rooftop

 

Banyan Tree

 

 

The Nap

My nap, not to my surprise, turns into me sleeping until midnight. More out of an inability to fall back asleep than a desire to actually go out, I get up, shower, and put on a simple button down and jeans. I make my way down to the street to grab a taxi.

Bangkok at Night

Pro-tip: to hail a taxi in Bangkok, first look for taxis with the red light turned on toward the left side of the dashboard, and do not signal the driver by holding your hand out with your fingers facing upward, as it is considered offensive. Instead, hold your hand out with your fingers horizontal or pointed slightly downward. Luckily someone showed me the correct method before I provoked a taxi driver into running me over.

Earlier in the day I had a conversation with an Australian chap while grabbing some pad Thai from a street cart (less than $2 and fabulous) and he told me about some of the nightlife in Bangkok, but all I could remember was his mentioning of "RCA" (short for Royal City Avenue), so that's what I told the taxi driver when I managed to grab one.

On the way to RCA I'm in awe of all the activity (remember, this is close to 1 AM on a school night): all the street carts serving tables full of patrons, tiny hole-in-the-wall bars that might hold 5 or 6 people, scooters rushing up and down the streets swerving in and out of the busy nocturnal traffic, and all the individual humans going about their lives, consumed by their own unique universes complete with their own histories, families, love stories, and daily challenges.

My own pain is consumed in the overwhelming effort of imagining the lives of everyone I pass. The smiles on their faces, the outbursts of laughter and the way people close their eyes and throw their heads back when something is especially funny, the conversations they must be having, the celebrations they're partaking in, the tears they might be hiding beneath a pleasant facade as they force themselves to get out of the house, the stresses of life they're trying to get away from… I can feel the depth of my heart grow and fill as the branches of these imaginary stories develop and weave in & out of each other, occasionally grazing one another in moments of serendipity, forming new branches as old ones wane, and in a matter of moments as the busy streets are left behind us the tree of stories fades from my mind.

It takes about 15 minutes to get to RCA from the hostel. I give the driver 100 Baht (about $3) which includes a generous tip, and I embark down Royal City Avenue.

Thinking back to my weekend in Hong Kong where the party literally doesn't stop because the bars only close for an hour or two around 7 AM, I expected something similar from one of the nightlife hubs of Bangkok, a city known for its partying.

However, at 1:30 AM, walking down Royal City Avenue, many of the bars were closed or closing.

Toward the end of the strip I found Route 66 and Onyx, the two major nightclubs in the area, and they, too, seemed to be winding down. I already had little interest in drinking so the dying energy in this area certainly didn't spark any desire to start. In all honesty, it just felt like I was back in Los Angeles so after looking around for a bit I headed to the area at the end of the street where the taxis wait for the victims of the night just wanting to get home.

There is a group of what I assume to be taxi drivers standing around talking. One of them sees me approaching and takes a few steps in my direction.

 

Haggling

Bangkok Taxis

"Hey! Where you go?" he says to me.

Already looking forward to getting back into bed, I reply, "Hostel. Near Bangkok Marriott."

I don't know why I keep referring to that hotel. No one knows what the fuck I'm talking about.

He looks at me with a facial expression which tells me he's not sure where it is, before putting a smile back on his face, clapping his hands together, and saying, "Yes, Bangkok Marriott, I take you there."

He turns around and starts walking to the line of taxis, waves me to follow him, and says, "Come! This way!"

We reach his taxi and he turns back around to face me, "How much you pay?"

Here we go, I think to myself.

It's after midnight and people will be trying to leave so the drivers will be doing their best to get a good night out of it.

"What's the price?" I ask, making sure he gives me a number first.

He laughs, most likely as a defense mechanism because he's Asian and I'm forcing him to put himself in a place of lower value.

"300," he says after thinking for a moment.

"No," I reply. "Too much."

"It's after midnight," he says after tapping his left index finger on his right wrist, implying he can charge what he wants because of the soon-to-be high demand.

"Too much," I repeat.

"How much you pay to get here?" he asks.

"฿83."

He laughs again, "How much you willing to pay?"

"100," I say firmly.

"250," he counters.

"No. 100."

"200."

"100," I repeat.

He calls over to another driver who quickly responds and runs over.

The "leader" I was just haggling with looks at this second guy while pointing to me and says something in Thai, but I catch the phrase "Bangkok Marriott."

The second guy nods, says something in Thai, and the leader turns back to me and motions to the second guy while addressing me, "He will take you."

I clarify, "For ฿100?"

He nods his head regretfully, "Yes."

Once I'm in this guy's cab I show him where to go using my phone. While we're driving and I'm once again admiring the amount of activity at this hour, the driver tries to make small talk. At one point I hear him say, "You want ready to go to hotel?"

At first I just nod with a fake smile, "Yes."

Of course I'm ready to go back to the hotel.

Then he asks me a couple more times and I eventually I look at the question in context of the situation: this guy is picking up an American, alone from the bars, and dropping him off at his hotel – alone. Emphasis on alone. I also remember at this point that Asians do not have the "L" sound in their vocabulary. Taking all of this into account, the question I thought he was asking me, becomes: "You want lady to go to hotel?"

AKA – "Do you want to fuck a hooker tonight?"

Red Light

Ah, yes, sex tourism: the other most popular "secret" of Thailand.

It's funny to think there was a time when I would have at least considered it just to make for a funny story, but now… now it has lost its appeal. 

"No," I tell the driver, "No lady."

I go back to staring out the window, imagining the infinitely intricate universes everyone seems to be engrossed in as we drive by.

 

Have you ever been to Thailand? What was your first day there like? Where did you stay? Comment below and tell me about it!

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