11:00pm January 5, 2012 – Ugh, finally out of the airport. As I walk through the exit or entrance in my view, slightly disillusioned into the humid air, I wonder, “Is this real?”
Then the swarm of taxi drivers closed in, yelling and pointing,” You need taxi, I take you,” and the honking of drivers who already have their prey sets in.
Holy Shit, I`m actually in Bangkok!
After escaping the hungry mob and taking a breath, I jumped in not a cab, but with someone who offered to drive me for 400 Baht. After working it down to 300, which is about 10 dollars, the roller coaster is off! For the first bit I was lost out the window. Then snapping back to reality the driver asks, “So where I take you bro?”That shouldn’t be a hard question to answer, most people have something booked for when they arrive, right? I had no idea, so I ripped open my travel guide for a quick fix. Not having slept much, if at all in rounding 2 days now, I just needed to collapse. The notorious Khao San Road (the backpacker haven) will have to wait until my return in a few weeks. A cheap, quiet place is in desperate need. The Atlanta is what turned up from my panic search, 600 Baht a night, good enough! I do my best to pronounce the address and assuming it was a terrible attempt at their language, I passed him the book and pointed to the address.
We got off the highway and started driving down some seedy looking roads, full of bars and hookers. I couldn’t wait to walk through it all. I found myself curious whether we were lost or if my driver had too much fun slapping my shoulder, pointing and laughing at ‘Lady Boys’. As much as I was enjoying the tour and interesting introduction to Bangkok, it was one in the morning and my hotel was around the next corner. Dead on my feet, I checked in and my bed found me before I found it.
6:00am – Noises of the city coming alive entered through my balcony. Without any idea of what to do so early, I listen to my instincts, in this case my stomach. I need fuel and the streets are calling my name. I head out to test my gastrointestinal tract on the local fare, in a ‘sure this way’ fashion. To say the least, I quickly become lost, but found as an intoxicating aroma encompassed me. At that point my schnoz did the walking, until stumbling upon a stall with meat hanging and a makeshift kitchen. Immediately grabbing a seat, a man came over and introduced himself as Sun. As we began talking, I almost forgot why I sat down in the first place. My stomach quickly reminding me, he noticed my eyes darting back and forth from him to the steaming pot of heaven that drew me in. I ask him if I could get a bowl of whatever was calling to me from that pot, and something else he recommended, since I had no idea what to order.
When the bowl is placed in front of me, I take a moment to bask in all its glory. Excitement kicks in! Tripe is very apparent (in this case buffalo stomach, which I’ve never had the opportunity to try yet) and what looks like some other odd bits. While losing my virginity to tripe, I forgot Sun was bringing more, which turned out to be barbecued pork, sticky rice and a chili paste like condiment. About to attack this head on, I notice an icy mug on another table. There’s no better time than now to try some local brew, so I ask Sun if I could get one. “Oh, we don’t sell… but I go get for you!” as he jumped on a scooter and rode off into the concrete jungle.
Not sure what to make of this, I turn my attention back to breakfast. A spoonful of chili goes into the soup, as I submerge some rice in the broth. The pork gets slathered in the chili. What a way to introduce the palate to Southeast Asia. Thinking my first meal couldn’t get much better, Sun pulls up with beer in hand. Just in time to quench my growing thirst. He grabs me a mug full of ice, opens the bottle on the side of the table and pours the sweet nectar. Mutually curious about each others backgrounds, we continued to talk while I finish my breakfast. As he was clearing my almost licked clean plates, I asked if I would be able to get another beer and if he wanted to join, one for himself. This put the day on a direct path of beer and Sang Som, the local Thai rum.
As I sat with Sun, savoring my sweating mug of Leo beer, taking in all the sights, sounds, smells and tastes, responsibility came to give me a quick slap. I remembered the one thing I needed to do was apply for my Vietnamese tourist visa, which unlike some countries can be received upon arrival. Also, I needed a bus ticket north in a couple days. Before the ability to make competent decisions picks up and leaves, I settle up with Sun, graciously thanking him for an unforgettable opening meal.
While packing up to leave, I ask Sun for some brief direction to a travel agency. “Ah, T.A.T. (Tourism Authority of Thailand) not far, I take you there,” insisting. I couldn’t resist and I was dying to get on a scooter. For someone who never grew up with dirt bikes and less than a handful of motorcycle rides, I knew this was going to be a wild one. Explains why I was so anxious to buy the ticket! The short 15-20 minutes got my adrenaline flowing as we wove in between cars and people I could reach out and touch. While watching the organized chaos, just holding on to the seat underneath my ass to stay balanced, I realized how extremely unqualified I am to even attempt at navigating myself on one of these. Although, poor decisions do tend to be made.
Slowing down to the curb, he points to the building, and tells me he’ll be back. Thanking him again, I walked inside. For the inexperienced backpacker, they helped me exponentially, answering all my questions. Providing me with pamphlets, ideas, a bus ticket with hotel pick-up and most importantly my tourist visa application was sent off after getting a quick set of photos taken. The process can take a little while, and turning over your passport is part of it. Hesitantly, I handed it over, after receiving a couple photocopies and determining my whereabouts in a few days time, so they could mail everything there.
11:00am – After spending around an hour getting myself organized, I entered the scorching street once more to actually find Sun there, waiting for me. He had done so much already I did not expect to see him. He asks if I would like to shoot pool. Of course I do, I felt better about getting inebriated now that it was at least closer to noon, and I had my ticket north with my passport meeting me there. On the way back, we took what seemed like shortcuts, through narrow alleys dodging people left and right. Suddenly entering the street again, we were back to the spot that had burned a place in my mind. Parking the scooter, we walked on down the road to the first bar on the left.
Developing quite the glow after half a dozen pints and games of pool, some lunch was in order. Leaving with some travelers in hand, I tell Sun I’ll have whatever he’s having, keeps things simple. Some sort of fish that had been grilled and some rambutan were set in front of me. I immediately jumped on the rambutan, ripping the clothing off to its grape-like flesh. Tears welled in my eyes, it was indescribable. Making sure I didn’t miss any sweet morsel of flesh, I watched and mimicked Sun as he tore at his fish. After comparing the carcasses, I didn’t do a bad job. As the plates went down so did the last of our beers. A sad thing indeed, this must be fixed.
2:30pm – Upon my return from what I grew to know as the ‘Happy room’, and grabbing another round for Sun and I, two of his friends sat down. With them, a bottle of Sang Som, which they kindly gave me a thorough introducing to. The remainder of the afternoon consisted of beer, Sang Som, cigarettes and blurred lines.
6:00pm ish – I noticed my eyes setting with the sun. Hoping to still be able to get up early, I decide to call it a night before things take a turn for the worse. The last thing I remember of my first 24 hours is stumbling to a cab and making a worse attempt at the address then the first time.