Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cab Rides, Curfews, and Curry!

We arrived safely into Bangkok! Ruben, Elliott, Christa, and I were "warmly" welcomed on the tarmac by HOT and HUMID weather, but no complaints here. It was only to be expected, and honestly, it was breathtaking (to say the least). Unlike the numerous times I have deplaned at the Phoenix airport or in the Middle East at the beginning of a deployment, I embraced the new climate with genuine gratitude because I am on vacation for the next five weeks with new people, exploring new countries, and enjoying absolutely incredible (and CHEAP) food.

We found our backpacks at the baggage claim--backpacks that have, mind you, been loaded to the brim with some seriously unnecessary clothes we believe are going to be essential during our travels around Southeast Asia but work only to incredibly weigh us down. My backpack contained at least 4 or 5 pounds of goodies and gifts (Twizzlers, Mac 'n Cheese, games, etc.) for Rachel and the kids at The SOLD Project, so it was a rewarding haul. However, after about 10 minutes standing at the pick-up curb, searching and waiting for our hostel's shuttle van, we threw up our arms and grabbed a taxi. We managed to hail an ordinary taxi with an extraordinary driver.

Now, in an ordinary taxi around the world, passengers typically find difficulty in trying to make a Westerner backpack fit into a Toyota Corolla-sized trunk--let alone FOUR--but with an extraordinary taxi driver, the options are limitless. Short of tying Ruben's rucksack down onto the hood, our driver managed to rig his overloaded trunk closed using a few worn bungee cords and a prayer was said for a smooth road to the hostel!

You might be thinking: why are you writing about the taxi ride from the airport to you hostel? Easy answer: This taxi ride and driver was NOTHING compared to the one we were finally able to catch around 7:45pm in downtown Bangkok with a mere 15 minutes to spare until the government-imposed curfew kicked in. Now, before I get to the "Curfews and Curry" part of this blog and the long answer to your question, let me photoblog you with some highlights of our first accommodation in Thailand. It's pretty swank for 13 dollars a night (thanks Elliott!):

As you can see, our first arrangements were nothing short of incredible. Christa and I managed to sneak in an hour massage right next to the lobby ($10/ea), and we all enjoyed a decent breakfast earlier this morning. So now, let me get back to our adventures going into the night--our first in Bangkok.

After staying close to our hostel upon arrival, feeling out our new location, playing Rummy 500 in the parking lot, and catching some rays, we decided to each take cat-naps in order to get our heads on straight and overcome the jet-lag. Christa was the only one that truly managed to nap, but we eventually got our rears in gear for a trip into Bangkok for a nice dinner and some casual walking/window-shopping. Our anticipation upon arriving in the city (as well as with our requests for a taxi into the city) was met with confused looks and closed vendors during our entire cab ride into the city of Bangkok.

Many of you may already know, I am a chatty, easy-going, communicable kind of guy, but in all honesty, it has been nearly impossible to communicate without some prior understanding of Thai, or vice versa. However, we managed to make signals using our hands with our taxi driver, and by sounding out a few words, we found ourselves in a nice shopping/retail district of Thailand.

It didn't take long in the city to decide that we should just get some dinner and head back to our hostel by 8pm. As we walked block after block, we were constantly reminded that Bangkok is still a very much alive and bustling city--despite the political unrest.

We took in as many different sights and sounds of Bangkok as we could, we made our way to a little spot just east of downtown Bangkok called Ana Garden. Needless to say, we feasted at our new location, eating Pad Thai, Green Curry Chicken, and other authentic Thai food, but the situation near blocks away kept us from enjoying a longer, later night out in the city. As we ate and drank, we couldn't help but take in the exquisite setting of the restaurant, its greenery, and the flowing waterways throughout the restaurant.

The crux of this post ultimately rests with our decision to savor our surroundings in the Ana Garden a bit longer than we all expected to. Once we made our way outside to hail a cab, taxis were whizzing by in the night, loaded with passengers also intent on making it home before 8pm. We only had 15 minutes to spare before the curfew set in and had no real hope in sight (unless you count the numerous mopeds that slowed down willing to let us jump on the back).

We managed to hail a cab after a few minutes of persistent waving but had no luck; he turned us away proclaiming that he did not have enough time to take us back to our hostel and be home in time for the mandatory curfew. So, we unloaded out of his cab and got back onto the curb.

Low and behold, another ordinary cab with an extraordinary driver approached and stopped to listen to the plea we gave the last cabbie: "Here's the address we need to go. We know it is 20 minutes away and it is already ten until 8pm, but we will pay you good Baht!"

Whether it was our desperation, persistence, charm, or all three, we found ourselves whisked away towards the Silver Gold Garden Hotel at an approximate 130-140 km/h in another gold Toyota Corolla sans backpacks.

Next time, I opt for the mopeds, and according to what I saw around Bangkok, I shouldn't shave my moustache just yet.

Next up on The Dandygram: Chiang Rai, My Cousin Rachie, Nate, and OOSHKI!

1 comment:

  1. This is incredible, Trev. Your detail is like being there...helping me experience every heart was racing with yours on the 8 pm curfew...plz, puleezz do not take any chances...I don't imagine the Thai police will take "I don't speak or understand Thai" as an answer...I love you. Dad