I landed in Bangkok at 1 am. It’s not a city that sleeps, but not having any plans for a hostel or even a direction to go, I went straight to find food and a cold drink. I asked the taxi driver to take me to a hostel that didn’t exist, as I couldn’t remember a single one I had seen on the list of recommended backpacker hostels and my phone wouldn’t connect to the airport WiFi. The driver was confused, frustrated, and eventually agreed to begin driving towards Sukamvit Rd. It’s a crazy night time scene with locals and tourists about until the sun rises. I was carrying my backpack, didn’t really know where to go, and eventually landed on a patio restaurant called Hillary 1.
There were expats with Thai “bar ladies” draped on their arm, being impressed by new men visiting the city. The food was tasty and drinks cold, but I was a little exhausted from the flights so only really wanted to sleep. I got up from my meal about 3:30am and processed along Sukamvit Rd to search for a hostel I read about online. Luckily everyone provides a WiFi connection so you can quickly look at a map and find a destination. Of course, after walking around for 2 hours, unable to find my planned hostel I took a seat outside another dorm nearby, but it never opened. I waited nearly an hour, but decided to get coffee and move on, search online again and hailed my first tuktuk to a different part of the city, closer to the temples and attractions I was planning to visit. At this point, I decided to stay awake as the sun was rising, ultimately finding a great hostel near Khaosan Road, a hub for nightlife and surrounded by sites in the daytime. I dropped my things, grabbed my camera and set out.
Bangkok is alive and bustling at night, all night, but in the morning it’s hard to find an open restaurant or place to grab coffee, so a tuktuk driver took me around to some nearby temples, the Standing Buddha and The Golden Mountain Temple. Both were filled with locals practicing and worshipping, and Golden Mountain has droves of tourists, but both were beautiful and filled with history and artifacts. I was taken to a tourist agency and made plans for Chang Mai (north) and Ko Pha (an island further south). I’ll be taking planes, trains, ferries and buses and have plans to trek and rest in both cities and I’ll continue to visit temples and local markets and sites.
I decided to avoid the heat of the day, finally rest for a few hours and begin again as the sun was setting. After a nap in the A/C of my hostel, I walked along Khaosan road, ate delicious street food and snapped some photos. I sat down near some other tourists and met Patricia, a solo traveler from Spain. We decided to make our way around the two paralleling night markets, sit for Thai foot massages and share a few beers, avoiding the loud nightclubs and sitting across from an American playing guitar.
I was reminded the best part of traveling, meeting others along their journey. She had returned that morning from Lao and was leaving the next morning, but it was great hearing her stories of other travels and having someone with whom to discuss the Thai culture. She had an early bus, so we split around 12:30am and I continued down the street. I sat down to some live reggae music, made some more friends in a group of 5 Germans, four brothers and one of their girlfriends who were on holiday in Bangkok. We shared laughs, stories and became fast friends. The younger of the 2 brothers, 15 and 22, were talked into henna tattoos to mock their apparently strict father and we enjoyed seeing the chaotic and fiery Thai nightlife. We eventually parted ways as the younger Germans had consumed their quota of beer and I started back towards my hostel. It was now 3 am and I stopped only to eat a serving of Chicken Pad Thai along the road, snapped a few photos and called it a night. Traveling alone, as Patricia and I discussed, is so unique to any other journey. You’re forced to branch out, take risks, and it always turns out for the best, you meet the greatest people and connect over things you could never imagine; eating scorpions off a stick, avoiding car sized rats in the alley, and watching the largest, oldest German brother be rejected by a Thai bar lady on the street. All in good fun. Tomorrow holds local ferries along the river, the city shutting down for the arrival of the new King and a over night train to Chiang Mai.