After 36+ hours of travel, including 3 plane rides, 22 hours in flight and a missed connection, I made it safely to BANGKOK!
BKK- Suvarnabhumi Airport
I landed in Bangkok at 11pm. By the time I made it through customs and got my bag, it was after midnight. My hostel reservation wasn’t scheduled until the next night because, being on a backpacker budget, I didn’t want to pay for a room when I’d only use it for a few hours. And probably not even to sleep because of jet lag. I have to be honest here, when I was booking the accommodation a few days prior, I was also unsure if I’d have the courage to leave the airport in the middle of the night. So, BKK, was home for my first night in Bangkok.
Suvarnabhumi Airport is big and bright and resembles a modern mall. At 2am it was as bustling as if it was 2pm. I sat for awhile, sipping on a mango smoothie and writing in my journal. When that got old I found a convenient store where I purchased a kit kat and a water. I used the restroom several times (which is not fun with backpack) and rode up and down the motorized inclined walkways, visiting each level of the airport. At 4am I couldn’t be there any longer and headed to the taxi line.
I handed the cab driver a piece of paper with the address of my guesthouse printed in Thai. I’d printed it out at home before I left thanks to the advice of an International TEFL Academy staff member who lived in Bangkok for 4 years (thanks Erika). He looked at it for a moment. Unsure, he walked away to ask a fellow cab driver for clarification. When he returned he asked, “Near Khoa San?” I nodded. We both got in the car. I didn’t realize they drove on the left side of the road in Thailand, like Australia. It dawned on me in that moment- I’d done massive amounts of preparation to leave behind my life in the states but not much research on what it’d actually be like when I got here. Mystery is part of what I love about traveling though.
It was still very dark, I was nervous and deliriously tired. I had the map app opened on my phone to ensure the guy was going the right way. Every few minutes I’d nod off then startle myself awake to check the map.
After almost 45 minutes, the cab driver stopped the car on the side of the road. He motioned for me to hand him the paper with the address on it again. I did. He hopped out of the car, heading towards a man on the sidewalk. They exchanged a few words and the man pointed up the street. In a patch of ground illuminated by streetlight, two very large rats scurried by. I became uneasy about the whole situation. It was dark. I was alone in the back of a running cab, stopped on the side of a road and rats seemed at home on the streets of Bangkok. What had I gotten myself into?
The driver got back in the car and we drove a few more blocks. I knew this is what we needed to do all along, considering I had the address plugged into my phone, but it was easier to let him do it his way.
The car stopped again, where, according to my map, we should be taking a left. It wasn’t actually a road though, it was a narrow, and very dark, alleyway. He pointed down it and said “that way” as he got out of the car, opened my door and handed me my bag. Bewildered, I gave him 500 baht and he took off.
There I was, in Bangkok, standing on the side of the road, about to walk down a dark alley. It was 5am, not even a sliver of sun had broken the horizon. This is it, I thought, between the dark alley and fat rats, my story is going to end right here… With no other choice, I began walking down the alley.
Several ladies were preparing food along the alleyway, the only light came from the burning coals underneath their pots. I was still nervous, and getting more tired by the second, but something about these ladies was comforting.
Luckily, I found the guesthouse quickly, but it wasn’t open. There was a pad lock on the outside gate. Through the fence I could see tables and chairs that probably served as a patio restaurant during the day. Behind the restaurant setup, against the front of the house, there was a desk covered in papers and books. Behind the desk, on the front of the house, there was a clock and a sign that read “Open 08:00 to 20:00.” Shit.
Standing outside the gate, in the dark, I read through my paperwork again. I had indicated I’d be arriving at 06:00, it was only 05:15. I pictured a guesthouse to be similar to a hostel, with a 24 hour front desk. It isn’t. My worst case scenario of crashing in the lobby until check instantly turned into a fantasy. I couldn’t stay in that dark alley until 08:00 so I headed back to the main road.
24 Hour McDonald’s on Khoa San Road
Khao San Road was quiet. Nearly everything was closed. The only people on the street were a few food vendors preparing for the day and a handful of staggering drunk people still living in last night. After walking for a few moments, I stumbled into the only storefront with lights on, a 24 Hour McDonald’s. I was immediately comforted by the 10 other people in there, accompanied by large backpacks. Travelers.
I couldn’t tell what anything cost or if the workers would even insist I buy something so I sat down. I asked one of the other travelers if there was a bathroom. She said no but informed me that Starbucks had one and that they’d all be heading over there at 06:30 when it opened. Ok cool, I can hold it until then I thought.
Four of the travelers, two girls from Sweden and a couple from England, were waiting to catch a bus to Cambodia. Another girl, from Reno, was waiting until the doctor’s office opened, hoping to get medication for a parasite she’d picked up while traveling. Yikes. Learning we were all there to avoid hostel rent for the night was reassuring though. At 06:30 I followed them to Starbucks where we continued to chat.
At 08:00 they headed to the bus stop and I went back to the guesthouse. The gate was open and a woman was sitting at the desk. Sweet! I couldn’t check into my room until 1 but she directed me to a couch in the main part of the house where I passed out for an hour before taking a shower.
When I finally checked into my room I was so happy to see a real bed that I slept until 9pm! So much for getting my body clock adjusted! Oh well, I made it to BANGKOK!