I arrived at my hostel soaked through. My taxi driver had robbed me of 500bht and dropped me off at the wrong spot, a good 3 miles from where I needed to be. But I was happy, I had made it to Thailand!
I wandered around for almost an hour with 17KG of luggage on my back in the rain, stopping every now and again to instill the help of kind locals. One of whom, God bless him, actually walked me to the ferry I needed.
On the other side of the river I still didn’t know where I needed to go and neither did anyone else. Spotting a man giving directions, I marched over.
‘Walk up, take left, then right. About 1.5 miles.’
1.5 miles in 32C heat with 17KG on my back and 3 hours sleep – I could do it.
I could not do it. A tuk-tuk driver saw my face and offered to drive me. After a minute of hard bartering I was on my way, whizzing through Bangkok streets.
Tuk-tuks are fun.
I thought I had bartered well until he dropped me off on the corner (literally), rather than outside the hostel which was further down the street, then whizzed off again.
No matter. I strode forwards. Thankfully it was only a brief walk.
Stepping into that air conditioned lobby I thought I was in heaven. My t-shirt was literally damp with sweat; there wasn’t a part of me dry. A member of staff greeted me, ‘may I take you bags ma’am?’ ‘Here have a seat.’ I fended for a while, thinking they may want money, before giving in and flopping into an armchair.
Who knows what I looked like. 13 hours of travelling on no sleep tends to make one look a bit wild.
The hostel is nice, very clean and fantastically located. The staff are also fantastic. I won’t go into detail as you can find it all online. For anyone interested it’s The Printing House Poshtel in Khao San. On arrival they upgraded me to a female only dorm, no extra charge and so far there’s only myself and one other sharing.
The hostel has a bar and restaurant on the rooftop which overlooks a good portion of Bangkok. I ordered vegetarian Thai noodles with a beer and ate overlooking the bustling street below. I felt tired but very lucky.
The next morning I woke late – 9.45am – and quickly dressed for breakfast although not hungry. They gave me the menu and my stomach churned. I asked for a banana.
‘Just a banana, you sure?’ He looked very surprised. It was the same man who served me the night before when I didn’t finish my beer.
I nodded and passed him the menu.
He came back with 3 bananas on a plate.
‘I bring you three because you are my friend.’ Bless him. I think he could tell I was not 100% and that one banana in his book does not a meal make.
I forced myself to eat one, then took the other two to my room for the fridge. About 15 minutes passed before I found myself on the toilet; a likely combination of jet lag and dietary adjustment but out it came. Feeling slightly better I got into bed and slept 6 hours straight.
Waking up around 3pm I spent the rest of the day making plans and looking around. By chance, I found an award winning restaurant not 10 seconds walk from the hostel; Kruna Apsorn. It’s famed for its hosting of Thai Royals and was packed full of locals, and more importantly, women (if women can stomach it then so can you). It looked like good food, good pricing and clean so I took myself back for dinner.
The menu was packed with good stuff and I ordered the Stir Fried Garlic Chicken with Rice from the single menu (one normal sized dish).
The food was delicious and I gobbled it in 15 minutes. Nothing about it was overpowering or overcooked. I’ve found in Thailand they don’t leave salt/pepper on the table, but you really wouldn’t need it. The garlic was well balanced with the peanuts, chicken was cut into nice chunks, and the rice was perfectly boiled. It was full of flavour and some of the best food I’ve had. All in all 10/10.
The walls are adorned with ‘winning’ plaques and articles from journalists all around the world praising the food and it’s not hard to see why. I actually can’t wait to go back tomorrow. So far, it’s all stayed in too!
Happily full, I finished this evening on the rooftop listening to live music with a Pink Lady cocktail and chatting to a German student finishing his travels. My 3-banana-friend, enjoying his little match, even brought over fresh grapes. Once again, I felt very lucky.
Some things I’ve learned so far:
- Crossing the road is like a game of chicken; who will be the first to stop? I’m reminded of that scene in Mulan where the grandmother closes her eyes and boldly steps into the road holding her lucky cricket. It’s that, minus the cricket.
- Thais are lovely people. There’s a smile for everyone and always a helping hand without the expectation of money.
- Thunderstorms last for hours. And the thunder is so loud your bed vibrates.
- As a single woman in a big city, I’ve never felt safer walking down the street with a money bag wrapped around me. Yes it’s early days still and there’s plenty of time to be robbed, but I get the sense that’s just not who they are.
All in all, I’m actually loving Bangkok. Yes it’s busy, and hot, and so humid you don’t know if that’s sweat rolling down you or water from the air. But for such a large city it’s full of friendliness and kindness. A rarity.
Tomorrow: palace time.