Bangkok: Sleep, Eat, Leave

On the plane to Bangkok finally, I watch a movie and read my book and treat myself to a glass of wine until Thailand reaches out with mysterious patterns of lighting on the land: straight lines and curlicues of dots. The airport is modern, I exchange $100 for about 3,000 baht, walk up to the wrong customs desk (“visa on arrival” sounded like what I needed, but no…) and eventually find myself in the long, long line of foreign passport holders. 30 minutes later I’m wandering the hall in search of an information booth that will call the hotel for a pickup. A kind lady helps me with her personal cellphone, and after loitering at the curb for a bit longer than expected (am I in the wrong place?) the van arrives. The man at the wheel says nothing to my apology for getting him out so early, and so we ride in silence as the sky turns peaches and rose.

The hotel is a small oasis in a rather dense and working class neighborhood near the airport. Even at this hour, the lady at the front desk is gracious, and a young man shows me upstairs. In front of the chair at the desk in my room it says “Do Not Sit”. It seems a little bossy. At the toilet paper in the bathroom it says “Do Not Place Paper in Toilet”. I’m still wondering exactly how paper and water hose are to be deployed for anything but a pee. The whole thing just makes me anxious. A shower feels pretty good, the air conditioning blows right onto the bed and feels uncomfortable, but 3 pages into my book I fall asleep. Outside, a rooster sounds reveille.

Voices outside wake me at 10:30am and again at 2:30pm before I crawl out of bed and head downstairs. The tour group is out seeing Bangkok says the note slipped under my door in the night, and I’m slightly annoyed with myself for losing the opportunity. Instead I read and write and do some research on spas in Bangkok in case my Bhutan visa and tickets don’t arrive in time. Miraculously though, over the next few hours I get email confirmation of both. What should have taken a couple of weeks my host has produced in 3 days.

Thanon Lat Krabang 730pm

Thanon Lat Krabang 730pm

The tour group wanders in, some lathered in sweat from the heat and humidity, and the others just off a tuk-tuk. I guess that’s the way to travel around here. We all walk down the street to a restaurant for dinner, the place covered but outdoors and recessed from the street so that it feels wonderfully apart. I choke on my order (chicken and basil), but the guy next to me orders an amazing fish that arrives whole and way too large for him to eat alone. Wait, I don’t literally choke on my order: it was perfectly good. I just wasn’t very adventurous. The fish was delicious.

I’m awake at 4am the next morning, and the same silent chauffeur bundles me off to the airport. I wander around looking for Bhutan Airways and find it finally, do the ticket-visa-passport shuffle, get herded onto a bus, and get bundled off to the airplane. I’m unusually aware of Americans in this environment, and there are several. I wonder if we’re all trying to ignore each other, the shared language an immediate bond, but really not enough to simply chat with a stranger, everyone here for a different kind of experience anyway, not some flock of geese travesty. In the US you wouldn’t give it a second thought, talking to any one of these people or not.

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