I’m here in Bangkok after 2.5 nights. I call it 2.5 nights because I arrived VERY late/early on Wednesday and was extremely jet-lagged after 19 hours of flying, after an early wake-up in San Diego and 3 hour train to LA to catch the first flight.
When I traveled to Asia for business 2 years ago, it wasn’t a problem. I’ve decided the solution for jet-lag anywhere, especially for a night-owl like myself, is simple: Ignore your fatigue and get hammered the first night and fall asleep at an hour that fits the time-zone.
On this trip, I didn’t do that. I also paid for it. (The lesson? Drinking is useful on at least 3 continents, probably 7)
I slept a whole 1.5 hours on the flight(s) and when I arrived in my hotel room at 4 in the morning, I decided to stay up even later watching a terrible Wesley Snipes movie on some action movie channel. (I loved it of course).
But lets back up. When I arrived in Bangkok, it was 3 in the morning and the airport was surprisingly quiet (and clean) and before I reached any kind of taxi stand, a woman asked if I wanted a private van, and when I asked how much, she quoted me a price a bit too high so I scoffed. She asked “how much you willing to pay?” and I kept walking, but then she pointed me to another guy that quoted a price which seemed more affordable so, being a proud gullible moron, I followed him.
We proceed outside and wait for 15 minutes, where he appears to be telling me a driver will pick me up, and a sign in front of this stop says “drop-off only, no pick-up”, but I wait since that’s what idiots do and eventually a bus shows up.
I realize it is a bus to off-airport parking, where his car may or may not be parked.
When we arrived at the parking lot, there were some relatively nice looking vehicles waiting. Of course, he walks right by them and walks 5 more minutes to his “car”. It is at LEAST 30 years old, has no air-conditioning, and has tires more bald than me.
Oh and the brakes were suspect as well…and I’m fairly certain it was running on 1 cylinder, though he still managed to drive like a complete lunatic.
You would think I had a bad time with this. Of course not! After 30 hours of travel, I enjoyed the shot of adrenaline! After all, I had embarked on a new region.
When I finally got dropped off at the hotel (which he couldn’t find, even though it is rather popular) the bell-hop guy heard me arguing with the taxi-driver, as he was trying to swindle me for more money since he didn’t have exact change.
I eventually gave him more than he quoted (like $3 dollars, which I had planned to give him anyway as a tip…damnit it’s the principle!)
The bell-hop was cool and after dropping off my bag, he gave me a lot of advice on things to see in my short trip to Bangkok. Sure, I had my Frommers guide, but I like to hear it from locals.
(And you know what? I continue to hate travel guides of any kind. It helps to read them here and there, but living and dying by them assures you have the most touristy itinerary possible, sights and lodging included. No thanks. I’ll just rely on google and the wonderful benefits of being totally uninformed)
Lec (Leck?) the bell-hop even invited me out with him on his day off to see some sights and have beers at some truly local watering holes. But that would be 2 days later. (And no he was not hitting on me)
Anyway, after Wesley Snipes tucked me in at 5:30am that first night/morning, I woke up bright and early 3 hours later, wondering how I could possibly feel well-rested.
I caught some sights but not many, as I really just wanted to walk around a few miles like I have done in many cities on the first day. But here’s the thing in Bangkok: They have NO sidewalks!
Seriously, no semblance of sidewalks, and my hotel was in a very nice area. I was wondering why so many shady fellows were stopping me and asking “where you going”, all waiting by their 0.005 cc motorcycles.
I soon figured out that not only are these guys not altogether shady, they were more expensive than regular taxis since the traffic in Bangkok is TERRIBLE. You sit in a car for at least 10 minutes on any given mile traveled. The motorcycles can weave in and out, which makes them a premium ride. (Note: I have yet to take a motorcycle as I would have to sit perpendicular to the driver and I’m convinced I would break a tibia)
Anyway, after my minimal touring my first day, and some excellent Thai food, I was incredibly tired come 9pm and I decided to take a nap.
I slept until 2 in the morning, which left me with another evening with the action channel and yet another series of cat-naps to get me through the night.
The next day, I got fitted for a suit, since it is the thing to do in Thailand, and frankly I don’t own a suit and haven’t bought a suit since 1995. (actually my parents bought that suit)
I agreed to buy a suit and 3 shirts, and the price seemed pretty reasonable. (I have since found out I paid about twice as much as I should have, but frankly that is still a 4th of the price that you’d pay for a custom-made suit in the States)
Later on, I once again got tired as hell after dinner and took a nap that lasted far too long. I woke up about 11 this time and called down to Lec the bell-hop to ask for a place a bit closer than the areas he had suggested since it was getting late.
I specifically asked for places not wrought with hookers, as I’m sure you know is a big part of Bangkok, even if you’re knowledge doesn’t extend beyond Falco music. (actually "One Night in Bangkok" was not Falco but Robey. I suck)
Somehow Lec interpreted “I don't want hookers” as “I want strippers”.
He had suggested Patpong, which I thought sounded familiar, but it is basically an entire road of seedy strip-clubs and NO regular pubs.
So it being midnight, of course I stayed!
And worse, I had a pretty good time!
However, I quickly realized the strippers were prostitutes as well, as the first conversation I had with a “dancer” that approached me went like this:
Where you come from?
Oh! American! You so handsome. Why you not married?
I am a loser.
You want suckie fuckie?
Hey, what kind of place is this!?! I don't know what kind of sleaze you take me for, but I just came in here for a table dance!
Joking aside, I was truly in no mood for this kind of place. However, after shooting down the first 3 gals, word spread that no profit could me made and instead I began making friends with the waitresses, who really weren’t hookers(I think) and were pretty wholesome gals.
Before you know it, I was buying rounds for all the waitresses, who were sitting with me as the place closed down. It was a darn good time.
And no, I didn’t hook up with any of them, as it wasn’t really like that. I couldn’t be sure if they weren’t hookers and I was a bit off by this point (read: “completely hammered”) and after a night of buying them drinks and ignoring the dancers, they simply found me fun and harmless (read: “gay”).
The last day…
As promised, Lec the bell-hop took me around. We hit two Buddhist temples, which were pretty amazing and then went to the mall of Bangkok, where I bought very little but everything was amazingly cheap. I expected something like canal street, but this was pretty much a very nice mall complete with every knock-off fashion accessory you could ask for.
After that, I went home and showered and ate, then met back up with Lec, who took me to some local nightlife spots, and later his friends joined us.
It was rather excellent having this inside track. Sure, we first hit Khao San Road, famous for being filled with hippy backpackers and tourists, but we didn’t stay long (thankfully) and then we went to the authentic Thai hang-outs.
I was roughly 3 feet taller than everyone else, and the beer was much cheaper than what I’d run into at places near the hotel. There was also a band that was covering rather terrible American music, which surprised even Lec, as he thought it would be a DJ. But there certainly weren’t other westerners there, which I loved.
And the women wanted nothing to do with me. (How authentic indeed!)
The most fascinating aspect of the evening may have been Lec himself. While touring during the day, we took subways and taxis everywhere and he basically seemed like a relatively cool local.
When he picked me up in his car after I washed up, I got to know a different side of him. Not a dark side, just the fact that as far as I can tell, Lec is living a life remarkably similar to American life in 1990.
While he’s my age (okay 4 years younger), his car, a comically souped up Mitsubishi Lancer, complete with chrome rims, side-curtains and spoiler, is his pride and joy. I don’t say this to make fun of him (okay maybe) but even the way he drove, hunched to the left (they drive on other side of the road here) with the underside of one wrist slumped atop the steering wheel, really took me back.
He was even sporting a hat cocked on one side, with absolutely no bend in the brim, and a pair of Nike hi-tops.
Had he played Vanilla Ice, I would have been certain we were on the way to basketball practice, where my pedophile JV coach awaited with whistle in mouth. (No, my coach never molested me…but it would explain a lot wouldn’t it?)
Lec did love his hip-hop though, and I must say his knowledge of the genre is better than mine damnit.
After going through a mix-CD or two, he threw in some local hip-hop artists, most notably “Thai-tanium”, the most famous Rapper in Thailand.
While I didn’t rush back to download Thaitanium, it wasn’t bad and was darn interesting to hear Asian rap, especially with Lec keepin it real next to me. And please google Thaitanium, as he looked like a Thai Little John.
I can’t remember any of his songs, though I do remember one chorus repeating “We gettin Yaki!” over and over again (which I can only guess means Titanium really enjoys Japanese noodles)
(quick note from the last day: I even caught Thaitanium on Thai MTV just now, performing a single I can't even do justice called "Do the Duck Walk". Please google that immediately as well)
So I consider Bangkok a success, though reading above I complained nonstop. Call it cranky jet-lag. Next is Phuket! (a beach for sure!)