This morning I woke up and for a split second I forgot that today is the day I finally go backpacking for a year. I’m so excited but fear makes me want to go back to bed, return to my old job and carry on seeing my loved ones for next year. I make the choice to get up and do some last minute packing. Eventually there is no more packing to do and I’m just left with my fear. To distract myself I call my family telling them I’m fine, watch a 90’s tv series (Party of Five because I’m a total loser…) and for the third time, I try on my red backpack which cripples my back. I can hardly lift it off the floor.
Finally the taxi arrives and I’m on the way to Heathrow Airport by coach. I have plenty of time to spare as my flight isn’t until 21:30. I booked a one way ticket to Bangkok from London with Eva Air. I’ve never even heard of this company so my anxiety is asking me, “is this company even real?”. Turns out it is.
I get to departures and I take advantage of the free water using my refill bottle reminding myself I’m now on a VERY tight budget. The flight goes smooth; it’s all movies, pretty air hostesses and constant yummy Asian food. Finally after eleven hours I land in Bangkok. I look out the window and everything looks pretty normal, not like I expect. The sky is overcast. I’m somewhat grateful for this as I want to ease myself into the weather, being the white Irish ghost that I am.
I step off the plane and the humidity hits me. It’s HOT. I queue up for passport control which takes forever. I’m wondering what’s taking so long, then I see that the door beside the desk I am queuing for, has literally fallen off. No problem. The stern looking official clerk tells us to stand back and then three men come to weld the door back. There are sparks flying all over the place. Now I feel like I’m in Asia.
I get my visa waiver stamp for thirty days and collect my backpack.
Outside the airport is surprising modern. I march confidently however there is no need to do this as thankfully no touts come up to me. I go to the ATM and then collect a taxi ticket. About ten minutes into the drive, the taxi driver keeps laughing telling me he had no idea where my guesthouse is. I show him the map and sink back into my seat looking out my window as huge skyscrapers, pictures of the King and adverts for skin lightener creams whiz by. These images are mixed in with clothes being aired on tower block balconies and people squatting outside their shops.
The sky is darkening and my driver tells me this normally happens in the afternoon due to the humidity. He will try to get me near my guesthouse before it rains. I’m not certain this will happen as the traffic into Bangkok is gridlocked. He weaves in and out of the traffic like a fox and I’m glad I have my seat belt on. Finally he drops me on a street telling me Laksaweenari Guesthouse is down a lane nearby. It’s now belting it down. Reluctantly I get out. The whole street seems to stop due to the rain.
I dart down packed alleys and finally locate my guesthouse which houses feral cats, some other Europeans and is decorated in traditional Thai style. I freshen up and head out for food in the famous Khao San Street. Everywhere you look, tourists and Thais wander amongst sizzling street food, outside massage parlours, bars, and people walking around selling deep fried insects, scorpions, clothes and cheap alcohol. I settle on chicken Pad Thai street food flash cooked on a wok and eat it on the side of the street. It tastes amazing for £1.50 and I’m praying I don’t get food poisoning. I finish the evening off with a foot massage in an outside massage parlour watching the world go by. I head back to my room laughing as I spend twenty minutes looking for the light switch. The fear has left and I know I’ve made the right decision.