Adjusting to ‘Kok

Here I sit, at Dean & Deluca (a coffee shop known only to me by my beloved coming-of-age-guide… TV series “Felicity”) sipping on a Thai coffe in complete and utter devastation.

This is Day 4.

When id doubt... write a blog on a map.
When in doubt… write a blog on a map.
Coffee and Trains
Coffee and Trains

I woke up from my well deserved “I’m on holiday and I’m tired so I’ll nap – nap” and shuffled off the the Vietnam Embassy. I was here once before- Monday, in fact- to turn in my passport and application and was told to return in 2 days time at 4:30. The slip given to me says 16:00 with a 3 written over the first zero.

To help the cause, of course I got on the wrong train when I bumbled out of the hostel in my post nap malaise and hurdled the Bangkok obstacles of street vendors and freshly released, uniformed, hormone riddled school kids. I didn’t realize on Monday, during my maiden voyage, that the platform at the train station is the same for both trains with spray painted color blocks on the ground identifying your direction and which direction the train is travelling to and from.

So unwittingly I stepped on the first gliding freezer expecting to be delivered to my destination soon. But, NO. I was going the wrong direction. Since I was still a little nappy eyed, it took me 5 stops to realize this. So no big deal, off at the next stop down two flights of stairs over the bridge, up two flights of stairs and onto the next train (as this was a normal station that has two sets of tracks for two sets of trains) (harrumph).

10 past 4:30 I arrive at the door to the embassy, cigarette in hand as my thought process included: Well even if it doesn’t close at 5:30 (which is what the website says as I googled it on the toilet before darting out of the hostel at a quarter to 4) this is Bangkok, so 5 at the earliest… because NO ONE would close at 4:30. Get to the door to meet the big green sign: EMBASSY CLOSED. They closed at 4:30.

Had I not had a ticket for Siem Reap booked for the very next morning, I wouldn’t have had the urge to cry as much as I did. It being a very busy street and me being a practically grown, super mature woman I didn’t cry. Instead, I turned around and walked sullenly back towards the train. After checking the door. Twice.

I couldn’t pull myself up the 3 flights+ of stairs to get back to the train, but instead spotted the familiar American name in coffee shop form and treated myself to an ice thai coffee for 120Bhat, which was more than most of my meals had cost, but I didn’t care. It wasn’t about money. It was about me failing. When I woke up that afternoon, my instinct was to just hop in a cab. I thought – it’s not lazy, it’s easy. You won’t have to walk 20 minutes take the 2 trains and walk another block. Instead you’ll arrive fresh pick up your visa and be on you way.

So then the “problem” was this – extending my stay at the hostel one more night, changing my bus to Friday and contacting the hostel in Cambodia to change my stay for the next night. OR ambitious option number two be at the embassy at 8:30 am on the dot to collect my passport and taxi to the bus to catch the 9am departure.

Today is Day 6… Still in Bangkok.

When I returned to the hostel I spoke to reception and we tried to change my ticket but you can’t change your ticket here at the desk, where I originally booked it. I had to go to the station. Then I asked what they thought about my plan b – doing it all in the morning – they didn’t recommend that either. So hot, tired, upset, disappointed and feeling stuck in Bangkok I shrugged off to dinner with my hostel mate and friend Angela. She herself was dealing with visa issues for her trip to China.

Apparently Chinese visas are a lot more complicated and include a letter of invitation, a flight in and out, a current employer reference and things of this very specific nature. I was just late.. and told the wrong information. It was hot and muggy and my dislike for Bangkok grew by the minute, especially after my commute back to the hostel which included being elbowed and pushed, cut off and annoyed by quite a lot of people on the train and on the ever present obstacle course that is any given street in BKK.

After our delicious Indian dinner I came back to reception and was willing to eat my 850 Bhat and just order another ticket because it was a quarter to 10pm and I didn’t have the heart or energy to go do what seemed like a chaotic expedition to the bus station. The guys at the desk thought I was ridiculous for willing to pay for my convenience and urged that I just take the 300 Bhat return taxi ride and sort it out myself.

So at 10 minutes past 10 in the evening, I did. And to my dismay, but not surprise the Friday bus was full and I had to book the Saturday bus. I felt gutted and completely cut off at the knees. Standing at the bus station, in front of the ladies who struggled to help me in English, there was a calm stream of tears gliding down my cheek.

I walked back in to the hostel 20 minutes later after another air conditioned ride, my home for another few nights. I was upset and sad and overwhelmed. Bangkok is all the things I don’t like about New York City – amplified. The rattling motors, the dirty streets, the shoulder to shoulder streets. The heat, humidity and inability to wander freely without the possibility of heat stroke were getting to me. I was wound, tight.

It hadn’t all been a bad go in BKK, but travelling is like riding a bike. They say you never forget how to ride a bike and really, how could you? Put your ass on the seat and peddle. However if you haven’t been on bike in a while it’s not the application of riding you forget, but the trust of being moved forward by your own man power. Will I balance? Will it hurt if I fall? What’s the worst that can happen?

So I remember how to travel – find a flight and book it. What is hard about travelling is the adjusting to being your own source of power. Yes, travelling is a community however there are moments when you can’t access the communal knowledge and there you stand, all alone, in a foreign country and no one speaks in your language.

My first day touristing I went to take the water taxi to the temples up the river. I bought my ticket and was told and pointed at “next boat go.” The boat pulled up to the dock and while idling and still sort of moving people jumped off and people jumped on and off it went. I was still standing at the ticket counter, confused as hell.

But I saw how it worked so I marched down to the dock and was the first one on the next boat. Uh, that was a blue boat, not an orange one. My ticket was for the orange boat, only. So I got yelled at in Thai and people stared. I shrugged and offered (and was slightly pushed) off at the next dock. That’s okay, I’m adjustable – it was the Chinatown stop, sweet, I’ll take it.

So the next day when I was returning from my dreaded, but necessary trip up the river to visit the backpacker mecca of Khao San Rd and returned to dock #8 to meet about 300 people waiting for the boat, I was prepared. 15 bhat and the one with the orange flag, flapping in the wind. I must have heard about 15 people lost and confused and not knowing what to do, so there I stood, just like me – telling everybody what to do. OK EVERYBODY LISTEN UP THE FARE FOR THE EXPRESS BOAT IS 15 BHAT YOU CAN PAY ON THE BOAT, WHEN IT PULLS UP JUST JUMP ON, IF YOU’RE GOING DOWN THE RIVER YOUR GOING DIRECTION LEFT IF YOU’RE GOING UP THE RIVER YOU’RE GOING RIGHT. IF YOU HAVE A BLUE TICKET THAT’S THE TOURIST BOAT AND THAT’S THE BLUE FLAG. ANY QUESTIONS? And then I sat down and waited for my orange boat.

Khao San Road
Khao San Road
standing room only water taxi
standing room only water taxi
Wat Arun
Wat Arun

Day was a day of lost, emotionally charged let down. I went to sleep and woke up the next day still slightly depressed as I had done all the touristy things I intended to do in BKK and was just left here for another 3 days. So I did what made sense – went and found some street food, had a massage and went to collect my visa.

Whilst early to collect my visa, I sat in the office knowing that it had all worked out when out of the heat, a friendly looking sweaty man sopped in, eagerly waiting to adjust to the air and fan cooled office. We didn’t speak, I just observed him thinking “ha! he looks like how I felt yesterday.”

When I got back to the hostel with passport and visa in hand, and some friend chicken from a street vendor for 20 Bhat, in walks sweaty man from the embassy. I looked at him, he looked and me we went “hey….” and we’ve been hanging out ever since. Turns out he’s quite the source of entertainment and we’ve become fast friends. Angela has come down with a little bit of cold from the hot outside, freezing inside climate, so Andrew and I have taken to the streets.

Last night wandering around before finding dinner at a street vendor with tables. And tonight we’re going to known best for it’s appearance in The Hangover 2. However I haven’t seen it and only know it from Pinterest as “the bar with a view” – 63rd floor, and we have to dress up.

Tomorrow – Saturday – is a 9 am bus to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Now that I had my burst of UGHHHHH I feel much more aligned and open. I had to get my feet wet in the travel game a little bit more, but off I go on yet another adventure of a lifetime!

3 thoughts on “Adjusting to ‘Kok

  1. I’m not sure who you are lady, but you have got to be my favorite travel blogger in the entire world! Have a blast in Cambodia! Don’t try to control the ocean, life’s a wave, ride it!

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