I didn't get my face stomped in by hordes of angry thai protesters. Win.
So let me tell you a little about my time in one of the world's great capitals, Bangkok.
A week prior to my trip, a client (Sasha) emails me. "Hey, wanna come to Thailand? My whole team is flying in."
Woefully unprepared, and my first time getting on a plane by myself. To one of the world's craziest cities, no less. Whilst said city was in the middle of historic protests.
Parents freaking out.
I was surprisingly calm about the whole thing. But I'm always calm, so I have that going for me. It makes people think I'm three to six years older than I am. Truth. I make people guess my age all the time.
February fifth. I packed up a single backpack, headed to Landvetter airport, and got on the plane. Sat next to a philosophy professor from Gothenburg University who was relatively uninteresting.
Switched planes in Amsterdam. I thought the airplane food was surprisingly good. That's not saying much considering my prior expectations. Couldn't sleep a damn second for the whole 10+ hour flight to Bangkok.
I arrived in one piece. I thought, this is supposed to be the biggest airport in the world, it doesn't feel that big. Where are all the people? We were all just walking down an endless, empty corridor.
Then I turned left into immigration. Oh. There they are.
Stepping out of Suvarnabhumi Airport you walk into a wall of humidity. Welcome to Thailand.
The heat wasn't as bad as I expected. Honestly, not entirely different from Sweden in high summer (my city has high humidity). But it was far from being high summer in Thailand, so not exactly a fair comparison.
I got on the Airport Rail Link into the city, a high speed train connecting the city directly to the airport. Cost of train ride: 45 Baht. About $1.40. Sasha's girlfriend, who arrived the day before, had gotten a taxi and paid 400 baht to get to the exact same location.
My client's apartment, where I was staying, was a 5 minute walk from the station. I found my way to his building, and tried to get some sleep.
Before my trip, I thought I would sit down each night to write about my experiences. I thought I'd get a lot of writing done. I'm a writer, this is what I'm good at! Writing about my travel adventures is what I've always wanted. Perfect.
Ummmm nope. Not a chance.
Maybe next time. I hope so. I'm an inexperienced traveler. I'd like to be able to get up in the morning and write for a couple hours, regardless of where I am. This time, there was just no way in hell that would ever have been possible.
Frankly I could have left the laptop at home. That would have been nice, since it constituted about 50% of the weight of my backpack.
Ryan had found a restaurant online with high ratings. Korean BBQ place called Salang.
We had it marked on Google maps. (Which we soon found DOESN'T HELP AT ALL if in Bangkok.)
It's a slightly confusing city. We knew we were on the right street, but we didn't know exactly where we were in relation to the restaurant.
We showed the map to a local and asked them to point us in the right direction. They pointed up the street the way we were already going. Great.
Eventually, way up the street, we got to a place which was like a weird mix of mall and market. There were regular stores and restaurants, and places like Dunkin' Donuts and KFC, but they'd also put up market stands all over. We went up and down the elevators. No Korean BBQ place in sight.
We figured the place was impossibly further up the street, so we headed back the way we came.
We asked more people for the right direction, and everyone pointed... somewhere. Eventually we figured out that Thai people are WAY TOO POLITE. Even if they had no idea, they'd still point in a direction. Any direction, apparently. Because they didn't want to appear not to be helpful. Jesus Christ.
Change of strategies.
Now, instead of asking which direction for the restaurant, we just brought up the map... and said "OK. We know we are on this street but we don't know exactly where. So WHERE ARE WE NOW?"
This time, we were met with shrugs.
Yes. They DIDN'T KNOW THEIR OWN LOCATION. Amazing. Discussions ensued between the four of us:
"So. How does mail get delivered?"
"It's amazing how no one knows addresses here. Even the address listed for our apartment building just signifies the general area of the building, not an actual precise location."
"We should order pizza with home delivery. And when they get here just ask them 'So... where exactly are we?'"
Someone joked, "I guess people 'just know.'"
Later, we met a local who actually spoke perfect English, who we asked about this.
Apparently, we were correct. He said "people just know."
Further, "Mailmen have like a sixth sense about where to deliver the mail... they just know, even when buildings aren't marked with numbers. They just have a weird kind of intuition about it."
"It's like a cultural thing."
Sasha lost it. "Come ON! It's not a cultural thing!! Everyone has addresses, it's just something you do! That's like saying 'Nope, we don't murder babies! It's a cultural thing.' No it's not, it's just something you don't do! Addresses are not a cultural thing!!"
It took us an hour to find the damn Korean BBQ place. IT WAS LITERALLY RIGHT OUTSIDE OUR APARTMENT BUILDING. Walking time from building entrance to restaurant: 30 seconds. We laughed at our dumbasshood.
It was worth it though. Place called Salang off Phaya Thai road. All you can eat for two hours for 330 baht. About $10. Amazing food.
They brought all the plates overflowing with meat and we said "there's no way we're gonna finish all of this." We finished all of it in less than an hour and didn't have to eat for the rest of the day. Check it out if you're ever in Bangkok. Show up early, they close around three.
Photos: First one is the view from our apartment balcony on Phaya Thai road. I moved out of here after a few days.
Second is from Salang.
Note: I was planning on doing a single big post of all my Bangkok stories. And I realized it'd easily be 10k+ words. So I'll just post them one at a time as they come back to me. Stay tuned :)