“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” –Benjamin Franklin
After traveling to a few countries, I realize that going on a vacation isn’t always sipping a martini on the beach. it requires a lot of preparation, research, and money. This year, I had envisioned the greatest vacation a 20 something year old could imagine: a full two weeks in Thailand, the land of smiles. I figured the following itinerary: A few nights in Bangkok, followed by an excursion north to the mountainous Chiang Mai, and my final stop the peaceful land of Pai near the border of Myanmar. I had done my research, had saved the money, and booked the hostels; but what I didn’t realize was that karma is a bitch, and she came to collect this holiday. This is my story of how my trip to Thailand went from bad to worse.
Let me start by saying I never miss Christmas with my family. 26 years and i’ve never missed it. Really, it’s kinda sacrilegious in my family to miss it. Not that we are the most religious family (we are, of course, religious that is), but Christmas really just represents the sacred time we have together to reflect and catch up on the differing paths we are each taking and our individual struggles therein –and we drown it out with silly board games that force you to say “apple” while holding your tongue, and we eat mom’s classic green-bean casserole, and if i’m lucky dad slips me a little Jameson in the garage. It’s the number one family holiday of the year. how could I possibly miss it? Well, my wanderlust eyes set their sights on something shiny and they couldn’t avert their gaze, especially on account of some friends being there to accompany me for the ride is the best explanation I could offer
But if the start of my trip isn’t any indication of how the rest would go, I don’t know what is. The Sunday before my flight to Bangkok, i checked my itinerary to find that I had booked a flight FROM Bangkok, not TO Bangkok. As I waited for my tinder date to arrive at the train station, I panicked. “How could I have booked it FROM Bangkok”, “You’re so stupid”, “that’s what you get for doing it in a rush”, such thoughts rushed through my mind as I frantically tried to repair the situation. I quickly payed the extra $170 fee and then tried to regain my composure for my date, sitting there waiting to meet someone i’ve never met before, which by the way is also nerve-wracking.
Thinking back, I realize that my solo trip to Bangkok was a huge step out of my comfort zone. I booked the tickets on my phone in a similar fashion to ripping off a bandaid of an old wound. I just wanted to get it over with. I did it thinking this experience would be good for me in the end –I’ve always wanted to do it after all –and contemplating about it any longer would only cause more suffering. Bottoms up, i figured. I booked the flight without checking the details closely, albeit important ones.
In general though, I’ve been in a foggy state of mind for months, due to stress and putting too much on my plate. I was quite busy planning classes that required me to be the main teacher. I had finally evolved from human tape recorder to lead teacher, which meant I would plan weeks of classes in advance, make the materials, make copies, and facilitate the classes. I was trying new things such as using Netflix to teach ESL. It was a lot of stress, and stress that I welcomed because it meant I was in control of my classes.
At the same time, I had a Christmas concert coming up at a local bar called Bar Fuckin’ Skulls. It would be our third time playing this sort of gig, but each time it brought considerable amounts of stress on me. I would have to carry my 25 KG piano without a car to a venue half way across the prefecture. Every year, i would practice for hours to just be able to produce simple Christmas songs because frankly i’m not a sight-reader. I’m a composer and improviser. Whenever I came home at night from school, i would just practice the same Christmas carols for hours to the point of burnout.
So, all of this is to say that I had little space in my mind for Thailand. I was juggling a lot and left little space for myself to breathe. Likewise, i did all my packing the night before, just a few hours before the train left at 5 AM. On the way there, i drifted in and out of sleep, thinking about how warm Thailand would be, i imagined what my hostel would look like and whether I would find any semblance of peace amidst my chaotic mind in a chaotic city such as Bangkok. I slept a lot of the way there.
I woke up to the sight of a beautiful flight attendant who would become my gatekeeper into Thailand. She looked at me and smiled big. Her eyes were a creamy brown, and she long black hair and long legs. I was sitting in the emergency exit aisle, and she was sitting opposite from me. We had to face each other, almost awkwardly. But she kept smiling at me. I felt the urge to speak to her. “You going home for the holiday?”, I asked, trying to get a conversation going. Her eyes lit up. “No, I have to work through the holiday”, she pouted. “Where you from?” I pressed. “I’m from Thailand, and you?” “I’m actually going to Thailand, myself, but i’m from America.” (we had a layover in Taiwan)
She then went on to tell me all about her job, how she likes it and dislikes it. She opened up to me about so many details of her life it was so nice compared to what i’m used to. That level of vulnerability is really attractive. She was also very motherly, asking me if i wanted extra blankets or pillows. She picked up my pen that I dropped almost instantly, as if to say “I got you”. And i felt a connection with her. sSometimes her coworkers would look at me and giggle as if there was some secret that I was oblivious to. I started to wonder if she was into me.
we talked more. She told me to be weary of taxi drivers cause they will rip of foreigners. She said even people rip her off cause she looks foreign (although she is fully Thai). I said let’s get a drink in Bangkok –and she said sure. I asked for her Facebook, and she seemed hesitant. She wrote something on a piece of paper, but then she needed to do something else. She quickly got up and left for another part of the plane.
By this time all the passengers were getting off the plane. I felt I would be overstepping my bounds if i asked again in front of customers because she’s working in a professional capacity. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I made conversation with the passengers who were mostly Japanese. I showed off to her by speaking the language; she only knows a few phrases. I don’t know what I said, but everyone laughed. I felt I made a good impression.
After all the passengers left, I grabbed my bag in the aisle. And I was gonna ask again when no one was around, but she said real firmly, “have a safe flight!”. I said thanks, and left. Did my moment pass? was she letting me down easy? i wasn’t sure, but all I could think was how beautiful she was. I guess i’ll never know the truth.
Getting off the airplane I felt a wall of warm air smack me right in the face. It felt good in comparison to the frigid state of Japan. Upon entering the airport, there are many different booths set up to accommodate tourists: guided tours, SIM cards, money exchanges, etc. I needed a SIM card so I approached the booth. I was unfortunately denied the SIM card because my phone was region locked, which meant I could only use my phone wifi hotspots.
The guy at the money exchange made me feel uncomfortable as he was infatuated with me. He was acting like a school girl who was talking to his crush. It was a bit weird for me. I enjoyed the laid back energy of Thai people at the booth, but I was a bit shocked at the outward sexuality shown. Homosexuality is pretty open here. He blew me a kiss as I walked away with my money.
I then inquired about taking a bus to my hostel. I met someone who didn’t speak English well, but who was also traveling alone. She is from South America. She has been to over 27 countries; it’s her hobby. I also met a guy from France who is a police officer. He also is traveling alone and said that he will be heading to some islands a few days later. His English was much better than the girl’s so we talked a while longer. Eventually we got to my stop and i got off with my stuff to look for my hostel. I checked the map and knew it was along the river. At the third bridge I would take a left to find my hostel. Without a phone, I had to memorize these directions.
Walking alone through the city I felt a little unsafe. I realized the vibe is much different than Japan. People are harassing you to buy their foods, to take a taxi from them, and the traffic is heavy. more open. I needed to cross the road ahead of me, but I didn’t know how cause the traffic never seemed to stop, even on green lights. I then saw a man walk through the traffic. I see the traffic swerve around him and stop for him. I then realize exactly what I have to do. I walk through the traffic hoping people stop for me. And they do. It was a weird trust exercise with the general public.
When i arrived at my hostel, i was shown to my room. I’m the only one in my shared room, which is kinda nice, but it’s also kinda lame cause that means I can’t meet any new people. I was so tired from traveling though, I lied down and took a nap. When I woke up a friend texted me insiting that I come get a drink with him at his party hostel. I couldn’t resist as it was my first night in Thailand. i felt I had to see the town a little more before going to bed.
When i arrived I thought, “Beer pong and too many dudes”. It felt like a throw back to a college frap party. But in the mix i met my two friends from Japan, and a lawyer from California, who said I seemed like a lot like his colleagues in law school I thought to myself, “could i really be a lawyer?”, “Do i have such an ambition?”. He said that there is no rush to go to law school and what I’m doing now is a really cool way to see the world before such a big undertaking. i felt like I still had potential to do anything I wanted in the world. Three beers and two hours later, and it was time to go. I called the cab as my phone died, and met him outside the hostel / bar. He took me home, and we chatted about his hobby of scuba-diving. I payed him 200 baht for a 20 minute drive ($5)
I realized when I entered my room though, my phone must have fell out of my pocket in his taxi. But unfortunately when i called him, he said there was nothing in his car.
That concludes day one in Thailand.