Thailand – Bangkok

Hello friends! My restless need for adventure has taken me to yet another small corner of the world. If you don’t care to follow my journey for the next three months as I travel through Asia, please send me a brief email and I will gladly remove your address from the list.

I flew from LA to Bangkok, Thailand on the 23rd of August, having made no travel plans. I met Jake and Kyle in Bangkok where the three of us finally reunited since splitting up in Costa Rica nearly 2 years ago.

Bangkok, like any big city, consists of a maze of disorganized streets cutting through endless concrete jungle. From the airport, my bus took me to the infamous travelers’ district on Khao San Road.
This area was made famous in the movie “The Beach” where the protagonist discovers a map of a secret paradise islands. I couldn’t help but think of the movie as I wondered down the street, past street hawkers, dingy guest houses, and travelers’ restaurants selling banana pancakes and hamburgers.

Thailand is my 41st country, yet I have never seen such an intense conglomeration of budget travelers in one location, nor have I ever been offered so many useful services – fake student ID cards, buses to everywhere, tours of this and that, etc, etc. We decided to immediately vacate the area and headed straight for the fabled paradise beaches of Thailand’s southern islands. A long night of bus/boat travel landed us on Ko Tao, the main island for scuba diving.

Paradise found: our ferry plied through calm cobalt waters toward the emerald water and white sand of a serene beach lined with coconut palms and jungle. We found a picturesque cabana ($6 for all 3 of us) facing the soothing ocean breeze. There’s nothing quite like sitting on a porch, reading a book, and enjoying paradise.

The next day, we went scuba diving a few times, seeing more of the island from the boat as we moved from one dive site to the next. The diving was good – especially seeing a shark and swimming through underwater tunnels. On the third day we rented scooters ($2 for the day) and explored the island on narrow dirt roads winding through the jungle. Imagine a road ending at a small, secluded bay, fringed by jungle and palm trees. Tranquil clear water, white sand, and a few thatched bungalows complete the picture, so you can really get away from it all.

Being pressed for time, we left the island that afternoon and took the boat/bus through the night back to Bangkok. With a day to kill in Bangkok, the three of us decided to have suits tailored. We got measured and fitted and will pick up the suits when we fly home. We also hired a boat to take us through the many canals and rivers intersecting Bangkok. We floated past picturesque wooden homes built on stilts. The local Thais, busy watering their many potted plants or fishing off docks, always waved at us as we passed. This journey ultimately led us to a bit of a tourist trap: a snake farm where we watched Thai men taunt cobras, vipers, and other deadly snakes. The men would tease the hissing cobra not more than a yard away from where we sat wide eyed. Each time the cobra struck out, the man dodged the venomous bite at the last moment, finally catching the cobra and putting it back in its cage.

For our evening’s entertainment, we planned to go to the local arena to watch Thai boxing, an anything-goes form of kickboxing, so we caught a cab and headed across town. Poor Jake was in the midst of a classic case of traveler’s diarrhea and was sitting in the back seat pretty clenched and uncomfortable. Still gridlocked in the snarled traffic, we decided to pay the fare and get out.

Just as Jake opened his door a motorcycle sped by, right into the open door. The bike careened off the door and tossed the driver onto the sidewalk. In that instant Jake jumped out of the car, saw the toppled bike and sprawled driver, and, compelled by fear, yelled “Oh Shit!” All of the muscle reflexes involved in reacting to the accident as it happened totally overpowered his clenched sphincter, resulting in an acidic burst of hot, liquid pad thai right into his khakis. “Oh Shit!” is right. The three of us just stood there, looking from the panicked cab driver to the motor-scooterist now struggling to stand up, to the gasoline leaking from the toppled scooter, to the long wet streak running from Jake’s seat to his cuff. Nanoseconds turned to seconds as we stood there contemplating the consequences of this turn of events as two competing instincts battled in our brains. Should we run to avoid the cops? Should we stay to help the scooterist? Should we get Jake a diaper?

The scooterist shrugged off our attempts to console him and indicated that he was fine. The cab driver inspected his door and determined the damage was negligible. So, we offered the scooterist some money for his trouble which he politely declined but ultimately accepted after we insisted. With things right in the world again, we briskly disappeared into a nearby market and, as we walked away, Jake was heard to say, “That scared the shit out of me.”

Anyway, I’m now in Cambodia – more on that later.