Adrian Gustar explains how he survived 12 hours of sheer Bangkok madness
En route to our desired destination – the Philippines – it was necessary to spend a night in Bangkok. When one arrives anywhere in Thailand, but especially in Bangkok, there are certain things that they think of doing; this is the story of our attempt to do all of that in 12 hours.
Right, so we started off lightly: arrive at airport. “Khaosan road please,” – done.
Next job, find a place to stay, a task made harder when the stalls cellophane-wrap all the Lonely Planet books. We lucked-out when we found accommodation priced at £2.50 each at the ‘My house’ guesthouse just off Khaosan. I use the term ‘lucked-out’ both genuinely and ironically, as it wasn’t all that nice inside but it was the best thing that happened to us that night.
Subsequent job, friend needs flip-flops, so out into the markets we went. Everyone looks forward to haggling on holiday, but some people are a bit rusty, like my companion. After knocking this little old woman down from £5 for a pair of Havaianas to the agreed price of £3.80, he then tries to haggle a further 30p off. It was met by an icy stare followed by a 100% blank, and no flip-flops.
Nine p.m., time for dinner. It’s got to be a large Chang and thai green curry for £2. I’ll get back to why this was a mistake later. In the restaurant we notice this guy sitting alone eating. Having travelled alone last year I know how nice it is to have someone strike up conversation with you. So, we go over and chat to him for a good hour, during which time we all order more drinks. Turns out he had been travelling for months with friends but had run out of money so was leaving early. It’s then that alarm bells should be ringing, but hey, he seems like a nice guy. We eventually parted with a “I’m just going to the loo” it was a good 10 minutes before either of us thought, he’s been in there a while… After calculating he’d left us with his dinner and 5 Changs we try to run as well, but it was no use, everyone was staring at us it felt. So after lengthy conversations with the waiters we got away without paying for him (if anyone knows a Matt who has just finished Marine Engineering at Southampton Solent, hit him).
That dealt with, we went to hit the Khaosan bars and get the famous ‘bucket’. After consuming the tub of ice which may have contained a coke and a splash of redbull along with a double measure of local whiskey, we calculated it to cost £10 and not the initial £5 rip-off we were using to chat up some girls who had branded us ‘posh’ the second they found out we went to “Prince Harry’s university”- I didn’t feel brave enough to correct them.
Another thing for the list: ‘chatting about travelling experiences.’ After informing three groups of people about my time in Bali last year ahead of theirs, my friend and I had our first drunken fall-out on the street over how I wasn’t including him. Admittedly hard to do since I didn’t know him back then, but from that moment onwards I had never been to Bali and had no opinion or preference of Melbourne over Sydney.
With our arguments behind us, a tuk-tuk driver offers us a free lift to what I gather was some local district’s table tennis tournament. With the Khaosan road seen we agree to let him take us to this event promoting recreational activities for local woman. Twenty to thirty minutes later we arrive in this anonymous district of Bangkok’s grimy centre. Upon arrival the tuk-tuk sped off and some butch woman informed us of the price: £20! It was then that the shame of all this set in and we said, “No, I won’t support this discrimination”, and we walked away with our heads held high. We proceeded to walk to find a taxi. Five minutes later we found one. You will be horrified to learn how many taxi drivers have either never heard of Khaosan road or refuse to take you there. It was 2am and we had just learnt we were located up Bangkok’s creek without a paddle. Staying very close to the glow of a reassuring 7/11 we waited until a taxi would take us back.
Arriving in bed at around 3 a.m. and not sleeping for thirty hours, the curry came back with a vengeance. Only after that night did I find out Bangkok was a descriptive definition of what to expect from a night in Thailand’s capital city.
Photography – Adrian Gustar