Stickman Readers' Submissions February 21st, 2006

Bangkok N00b


How exciting, my first trip overseas and Thailand was the destination, with a brief visit to Vietnam on the agenda as well. It was 18 months in the making and leaving the international airport from my home city was I guess exciting but thinking back it
was most probably anti-climatic. I was twenty one years old and had spent the last year saving every dollar from my shitty security job I had at the railway.

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It was September 2004 and the return ticket was dated just shy of four months into the future. After a twenty six hour stopover in Singapore which is a very clean, modern, hot and humid city state, that while nice in its own way did nothing for me, I
arrived in Bangkok, Thailand.

Flying over Bangkok for the first time I was amazed at the sheer urban sprawl of this concrete metropolis. It was night time and the lights never seemed to end. I didn't know what to expect as far as the language barrier was concerned, and was pleasantly
surprised that the lady in the taxi booth spoke English well enough to say “yes Lembrandt” I would later discover that Thais cant pronounce the R sound very well and substitute it with the L sound. The cab ride to my hotel was my
first taste of Thailand and driving down Sukhumvit road that night was pure eye candy. Arriving just before midnight at the Rembrandt all I wanted to do was sleep, and so it wasn't until the next day that I was at street level again.

First thing on my agenda was to explore the surrounding area on foot, but try explaining that to a handful of frenzied taxi and tuktuk drivers all squabbling over your hard earned baht.

Lesson number one began ten meters from the lobby entrance. Usually there is some kind of pecking order amongst taxi and tuktuk drivers that hang out the front of major hotels. That is unless you're fresh meat and have yet to have one of the little
buggers attach itself to you like a remora fish to a shark. They will be your best friend and guide to this big city. You will be over accommodating with all the gem stores and tailor shops they take you to, because you're getting around
Bangkok so cheaply. It doesn't take long for the relationship to turn sour, and you get sick of the over priced gem and tailor shops, never getting where you want to go and being stalked as soon as you leave your hotel. So you put your foot
down and your “best friend” Mr. Tuktuk turns into an ex that still wants a little piece of you. It's funny how all of Mr. Tuktuk's friends know exactly where you have been and how much you have spent. You might find it
funny but because I was staying at the same hotel for seven nights, and every time I left the safety of the lobby there he would be, I would actually try and sneak past him.

I remember one day quite clearly. He was sleeping in the back seat of his tuktuk which most of them do in the down time. So very quickly and quietly I walked strait past him and continued down the soi. Thinking I was home free and almost on Sukhumvit
Road itself I couldn't help but glance over my shoulder. To my horror one of his tuktuk mates had woken him up and he was coming towards me in his tuktuk. I turned on to the footpath on Sukhumvit and he got caught in traffic, so I was home
free by a whisker. I look back and laugh at it now, I was so green back then.

On another note it seemed I was always being asked “which hotel you stay at?” by the touts. I soon learned not to mention I was staying at the Rembrandt dew to that fact that it's a four star hotel and you could almost see their little
eyes light up with $ signs. That was lesson number two.

Anyway what can I say about Bangkok? The first thing that pops into my head is that the city pulsates energy. That was the first thing I noticed, as well as the headaches you get from the fumes. That first week in Bangkok was so exciting for me. To be
honest I didn't really do much but I seemed to chew up time none the less, like the one day spent wondering aimlessly around MBK, the first of many. Bangkok is hot, smelly, dirty, polluted, ugly and beautiful.

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My first opinion was that Bangkok is a shit hole, but like crotch rot in a tropical summer it grew on me. Is it just me or are all of those mangy stray dogs inbred? They all looked the same to me. I remember a few times I shared some of my food with them
and surprisingly they are a fussy lot. That and the beggars kind of stood out a little bit as being not so nice. Seeing those mothers with their kids lying on the concrete, or some guy dragging himself along the pavement with missing body parts.
After a while when the initial shock wears off you stop giving them your change, but it was quite disturbing to begin with.

To me Bangkok is good in small doses, but after awhile I just feel claustrophobic, but again this slowly wears off the more you visit. Being surrounded by thousands of Asians is an experience in itself and I found it funny how I would try and spot a Caucasian
face in the crowd when I was out of a major tourist area.

I found Thai people very friendly in Bangkok, and was actually invited to a birthday dinner that a large group of TAT employees were having for their boss. It all happened so fast, I was at their place of business, one of the many TAT offices in Bangkok.
I had booked my trip up to Chiang Mai through them a month earlier and had just flown back to Bangkok earlier that day from Hanoi Vietnam, where I had spent the last 3 weeks. Anyway I was headed to Phuket for the remainder of my stay and again
booked my bus trip and 1 month accommodation with the same employee. He struck me as the number one guy, and invited me as a kind of guest of honor that the birthday dinner that was held at the office once they closed up for the evening. I will
always remember that gesture of kindness and how friendly everyone was towards me. I was kind of nervous being the only non Thai at the party but everyone there could speak really good English. I was just a little upset with myself for eating
a massive feed at McDonalds a couple of hours earlier and could not eat much.

Stickman's thoughts:

I'm sure most of us can relate to your experiences.

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