Saturday, October 13, 2012

One Night in Bangkok and the world's my sketchy oyster

In an attempt to avoid feeling completely overwhelmed with the life choice I just thrust myself into, I decided my best course of action was to take things one step at a time. Step 1, deplane at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. Step 2, go through immigration and grab my backpack. Step 3, change over my American dollars to Baht. Step 4, get a cab and go to the hotel my sister booked me through The hotel received good reviews, only cost $16/night and had a free shuttle to the airport I was flying out of the next day. I figured I was golden.

Things had gone smoothly up till this point. I'd made all my connections and flights. I even had my own row from Tokyo to Bangkok and was able to lay out completely to sleep.
(In case you were wondering, YES, I did remember to wear my Hello Kitty socks to Japan)

Despite the haze that accompanied 30 hours of travel, I was feeling pretty confident about all the steps I needed to complete. In fact, I was completing them with ease. It wasn't until step 4, when I showed the taxi driver the address of my hotel that things started to get a little hairy.

Amongst a bunch of Thai chatter between different cab drivers questioning where I was going, I started to get a small pit in my stomach. They not only seemed unfamiliar with the area, but they almost sounded concerned. I convinced myself that was probably just Thai inflection that I didn't understand yet. Eventually we started driving and I asked my lovely cab driver, Mr. Nakorn, how long this ride would be.

"40-50 minutes, Miss."

Oh crap. Where was I going? Suvarnabhumi Airport is close to many hotels. It's not far from the city center of Bangkok either. I was overshooting these Western friendly areas by at least 25 minutes and it was already 12:45am.

After several failed attempts at dialing the phone number the hotel gave me in my confirmation email and some very unsuccessful communication with Mr. Nakorn, I found us driving in circles around some seedy looking areas. Ok, you may be thinking "isn't Bangkok supposed to be seedy?" Well, my friends, double that seediness that you're imagining and you will begin to comprehend just where on earth I'd found myself.

What was supposed to be a 40-50 minute ride suddenly turned into over an hour of driving lost in dark, industrial looking Bangkok. Mr. Nakorn finally pulled over to ask for directions under a train track. I heard a woman screaming and when I looked across the street, I saw her sitting on a trash can half-dressed, barefoot and bleeding from the neck and elbow. There were a lot of people around but no one really seemed to pay her much mind. Many questions began brewing within me. Is this a normal sight for this part of town? Is my hotel really close to this scene? Am I going to find myself sitting on a trash can crying and bleeding in the next 12 hours I have to spend here?

My heart began palpitating. I heard my father's disapproving voice echoing in my head that this year abroad was a foolish idea. I'd be lying if I said that at that particular moment I didn't completely agree with him.

30 minutes and two detours later, Mr. Nakorn finally pulled up to the red neon lights of my hotel. There were a lot of scantily clad women hanging out in front of the lobby and the men they were with eyed me and my big periwinkle backpack. I paid Mr. Nakorn and asked him if I was safe there. He giggled then gave me a wai, the traditional salutation goodbye, before driving off.

The bellboy didn't really speak English but he showed me to my room which was clean and simple. Aside from the shower being over the toilet, it wasn't bad at all. I locked and bolted the door, checked the closets for bodies (there weren't any), then took a lukewarm toilet shower.

I slept with the light on and my fanny pack tied underneath my tank top. All things considered, I slept rather soundly. I didn't hear a peep from anyone the whole night. It became clear to me in the morning that was because I was the only tenant in the entire hotel. Next time I'm springing for a better part of Bangkok...

(My hotel in daylight is still no gem, but far less scary.)

(This shadowy man was my cab driver to the airport for my flight to Chiang Mai. *Remember how my hotel promised a free shuttle? Yeah...didn't happen.* His name is Toyporn. Although I was less than a 5 minute drive to Don Meung Airport and probably could have hit it with a (crack)rock from my hotel's front door, Toyporn managed to drive past it three times making the ride close to 20 minutes. He deserves his birth name.)

(Then I met this chair. We are in love.)

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