Saturday, March 2, 2013

SURPRISE: Welcome to Bangkok

If  I were to make a movie about the life of a backpacker in Bangkok, Thailand, this is how the opening scene would play out...

An alarm goes off at 6am and a girl rises quickly in an attempt to dismiss it without waking the other 15 people asleep in her room, and  more specifically the thirty year old German man sleeping unnecessarily close to her who has a very specific fear of spiders. She trots to the bathroom and gets cleaned up for the day ahead. Sometime between 7 & 730, she is supposed to be picked up by a bus en route to the floating markets just under two hours south of Bangkok. She slides on her shoes, clicks the sunscreen shut and checks her watch. 6:47. Always better to be ahead rather than behind. Being that she is the only one awake at this hour, in a hostel on the outskirts of Khaosan Rd (a backpackers drinking paradise), she silently slips down the steps and out the door and takes a seat on the sidewalk in front of "Born Free Hostel." She waits. 7:00. And she waits. 7:30. And she waits some more. 8:04. In the mean time she swaps Malaysian coins with a boy from Germany, smiles at the local Thais biking by, chats with a friend in America, and sits with her feet plotted in front of her, only interrupted by the sound of passing motorbikes and the frustration building slowly inside her head. 8:17. She starts to wonder if the bus is ever coming when the hostel owner swings open the door and greets her with a smile. The girl questions him and the man and his girlfriend make some phone calls only to realize that the transport reservation had gone unseen the day before. She is assured, "Wait ten more minutes and they will come. Their mistake." The hostel owner slips out and rounds the corner to seven eleven. Three minutes later a Thai man semi frantically busts through the door, "floating market, floating market!" At this point the scene is picking up pace. The girl rounds the corner and exits the doors  only to see a motorbike sitting in front of the hostel with a Thai man saying "you come with me, let's go." She points to the bike wide eyed and says, "Mini bus?" The Thai responds back, "No, no. I take you car. Let's go."  You can sense the hesitation in her demeanor but she hops on anyway. WHEN IN BANGKOK. Off they go, all the while, passing the hostel owner with a wave, and riding on and off streets and sidewalks. They pull into a back alley (it's eight am.. do murder scenes take place this early? NAH. Relax Mom). The Thai man points to his car. The girl looks at him, then back to the car and questions him, "you and me.. together only?" He answers back, "Yes we go. Let's go. Okay, okay?" Zoom in and freeze on the girls face. At this point you can actually SEE the hesitation written all over her face. She asks again, "Floating market tour?" He reassures her, "Okay. Let's go." She gets in and eyes the papers in his hand that she verifies as a list of tourists signed up for the same tour. A good sign. She skeptically asks the man, "We drive all the way there together? Only two? You drop me off.. how do I get back?" The Thai guy puts on his pink sunglasses, pops in a piece of double mint, and shrugs, "Hmmm... Maybe, I don't know yet?" The screen freezes on the girls expression that can only be described as somewhere between what the hell, this is hilarious, and I'm gonna die. The title fades into the screen in bold letters, "SURPRISE: Welcome to Bangkok," and the song "Don't worry, be happy starts to play." END SCENE.

This is what my life seems to be in south east Asia. If I had to come up with a one word slogan to explain what life is like here, simply put, it would be "SURPRISE!" I have only been in South East Asia for a week and it has already taught be something that I THOUGHT I had already learned in Korea. In Korea you get things thrown at you here and there, but in these south eastern countries, it's more a fly by the seat of your pants place than anywhere else I've ever been. And so, I believe it has taught me something already, and that's NOT to stress about things that you cannot control. In this country if you make it a habit of stressing every time something doesn't go as planned, you will spend 80% of your time stressing.

The story above really did happen this morning and although I spent at least 50 of the 90 minute drive there planning my method of escape and plotting out a way to get back to Bangkok if I got left in the middle of nowhere, he really WAS with the travel agency and he got me there in one piece (although barely, the driving on this country gives me nearly the same rush as bungee jumping). I knew he was an okay guy at one point when he hit the brakes too hard and outstretched his hand in front of me.  Sold.

The situations I've been in lately have been absolutely absurd. It's no wonder to me that Bangkok has a reputation of "crazy," but as it is teaching me to relax about things more  I'm really starting to like it. I think finally, after a passing week here, I'm starting to mellow out and  join in on the backpackers vibe of, "just go with it."

Oh and just a small brag worthy update: I have eaten a grass hopper and a scorpion. I have also held a 20-30lb boa constrictor around my neck. I have done wheelies on a tuk tuk ride AND fish ate dead skin off my feet. WEIRD.

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