Southeast Asia, Day 5: The race against the clock to Bangkok

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

Today was a travel day. For me, it was time to head off to Bangkok. For Mom and Dad, it was time to head home after a two-week trip.

We enjoyed breakfast, and just like yesterday, we enjoyed the sight of yet another individual clumsily carrying a massive inflatable unicorn through the dining hall.

After breakfast, Dad and I wandered out to get some last minute souvenirs. The “you look at it, you buy it” attitude of the vendors was getting quite frustrating, but we didn’t need to spend too much time before Dad found the plate he was seeking while I snuck off to get 25 baht milk tea, my cool beverage of choice.

We returned to the pool and enjoyed one last dip, and then freshened up and packed before our late 2pm checkout. We gathered our things in the lobby as we ventured out to kill two hours before our arranged drive to the airport at 4pm.

“Are you guys hungry? Want to get a burger or something?” Dad said. Every day since I got here, Dad mentioned getting a burger instead of simply asking if we were hungry. We had yet to actually eat burgers. “Dad, it sounds like you want a burger. Let’s get burgers.” He seemed pleased, and immediately suggested a place he spotted a couple days ago, clearly having waited for this precise moment to give the suggestion.

We grabbed burgers at the restaurant boasting “best burgers in Thailand” (they were, admittedly, quite good), before popping into a couple more souvenir shops on Bangla road for postcards. Finally, we ventured off to get foot massages at the same place we’d gotten manicures a few days previous.

For a mere 200 baht, we got one-hour-long foot massages that concluded with a brief back, neck, and scalp massage. It was excellent, and our feet were well-rested for the airport adventures ahead of us. Just as we finished, it was nearing 4pm, with just enough time for us to hurry back to the hotel, where our ride was waiting.

Off we drove to the airport, and we pulled up to the domestic terminal, as we were on separate flights to Bangkok. However, as Dad tried to check his luggage, he discovered he and Mom had to go to the international departures. Our gates wouldn’t be near each other as we’d previously thought, so instead of an hour of hanging out near the gates before our farewells, we had to bid our adieus now before the security check.

It was upsetting, as I planned to get some more time in with them, and it was hard to say goodbye when we knew we would be in the airport together, albeit on far opposite ends, for the next hour and a half. We shared long hugs and teared up, not nearly as much as the farewell in Chicago I had last April, but just as emotional. We don’t know when will be the next time we see each other.

But there, just beside the security line, we said goodbye, and they rolled off to find their check-in desk as I went through security.

So long, farewell...

I’d been meaning to send out some postcards, so I looked near the souvenir shops in the airport for somewhere to send them. I asked the cashier of one shop, and without looking up, she pointed behind the register to a cut up cereal box with a sign reading “MAIL BOX,” written on a small piece of paper. I quickly wrote up the postcards, stamped them, and put them in this makeshift box along with a couple other cards from other travelers and wondered when they would arrive at their destinations, if they even make it out of this airport at all.

The area by the gate was hot. The place is huge, and several fans were plugged in near the outlets, but when have household fans ever made a warehouse-sized room comfortably cool? I sought out an outlet beside a fan to charge my tablet. Sure, it was a dark corner near the trash bins that the custodians were constantly filling with bathroom trash. But it was a power source!

The flight kept getting delayed, but I was near my gate, number 8, as the screens denoted upon my arrival. It was originally supposed to depart at 6:40pm, but it was delayed to 7:50. When it got near 7:20pm, I heard my name on the intercom. The flight was boarding at gate 8, so I walked up to the info desk and told the woman my name was called. She told me to go to the gate. I went to the gate, and the woman told me she didn’t make the announcement. I don’t care who made it, but it was made. Why is my name being announced? She said they were currently boarding the flight to Bangkok. Yeah, I am going there. I showed her my ticket and she said this was a different Bangkok flight and told me to look at the screen again.

I looked at the screen and my flight had big red letters beside it saying, “LAST CALL” beside the words “GATE 81.” WHAT. They changed my gate. And that sounded a ways away from gate 8. I raced off, bolting past people, not taking the time to seek out a person with a walkie talkie, afraid any wasted moments trying to gesture what I needed to a non-English speaker would be futile.

Thankfully, the gate wasn’t as far as the number would suggest, but I was apparently the last person boarding the flight, and I basically threw my ticket in the woman’s face as she opened the glass doors leading to the shuttle outside. I ran into the shuttle, which was empty and only waiting for me, and as soon as the doors shut it raced to the plane. I boarded and though I’d imagined a hundred angry faces staring at me for being THAT girl, everyone was just going about their business tucking their belongings under the seats and choosing which movie they were going to watch on their phones.

I sat down, sweating. God, that was close. The flight was about ninety minutes, and I think I finished catching my breath about ten mins before our descent.

I hurried out of the plane and got to the taxi queue, a well-organized situation for a foreigner to get a cab. Using the airport’s WiFi, I connected with Ted, another PCV who happens to be here for medical reasons, but he was too tired to go out this late. It was understandable, as I ended up arriving at my hostel around ten.

I thought the night would be a bust, but they never are in a hostel, and I quickly met some new people in the hostel, one of whom was a young guy from Ravenswood in Chicago, Kyle, who had been traveling around Asia for some time now, and was very familiar with the area. He offered to lead me and a couple of my hostel roommates, Nicole from Canada and Michael from Australia, to Khao San Road, so off we went.

The road was hopping, with tons of young people pouring into the street, dancing to the music spilling from the nearby bars’ speaker systems. We first went to Golf Bar, and quickly lost Kyle to one of his thousands of acquaintances in the streets. But it was okay, since Michael, Nicole and I got along quite well and were all experiencing the sights on our collective first night in Bangkok.

Nicole and I enjoyed the menus at Golf Bar which, on one side, said VERY STRONG DRINKS 100BAHT, and on the other side, WE DO NOT CHECK AN ID CARD. The two things you need in life.

The whole area was filled with young people, and as we bopped bar to bar, Michael and I danced to the music. It was seemingly less trashy than Patong Beach, instead giving a vibe that attracted locals and tourists alike. People on the street still tried waving you into their bars, or advertised ping pong shows or sold fried scorpions on sticks. Food vendors were plentiful on both sides of the street.

The street allows for open carry, so we grabbed our drinks and meandered about to a seemingly unnamed bar (“bar with trees and lights” so says Nicole) to sit and drink some more. A few girls at a table nearby gave us half their pepperoni pizza as they left, since they couldn’t finish it. Offering free pizza to bar patrons is an act for which there is not enough gratitude. We enjoyed the pizza and the music, which wasn’t too great as the DJ kept changing songs too quickly. At one point, I watched s group of girls get super excited as Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” came on, and just as they were about to do the booty bounce, the song changed. The collective disappointment in their faces was amusing but also saddening.

By now, Michael’s friend Max had joined us with a date, a local woman named Lena. It was great to hear a local’s perspective, even if she didn’t truly call Bangkok home, having only lived here two years while studying hospitality. She was gorgeous, but continuously complimented Nicole and me on our beauty. The grass is always greener, I guess.

We went to a techno club per Max’s suggestion, where they sold more drinks and also balloons filled with laughing gas, because that’s a thing here. After the group got their beers and were about to cheers, I held up my empty cup from the previous bar to join in, and Lena spontaneously poured half her beer into my cup. Not what I was expecting, but sure, why not?

Eventually Nicole, Michael and I headed to another quieter bar to chat and sit on their second story balcony to people watch. We meshed really well, and we all seemingly hit our drink quota at the same time, and it was no problem heading back to the hostel as we were all collectively tired around one in the morning.

Tomorrow I have plans to meet with Ted at the largest market in Bangkok. I’m excited.