From Lucca my father and I went to Venice and spent a couple of days there. Although, to our misfortune it was rainy and windy, but we did make the most of it and enjoyed our time talking and having some delicious food in various restaurants, like La Profeta. Yet, this is where my father and I parted ways.
He had decided to fly back to Spain and I decided to begin my Asian trip by flying into Bangkok. From the Venice Marco Polo airport my father was to head to Barcelona and I to Frankfurt, where I would then fly to my destination.
At the airport my father wished me luck on my journey and I gave him the biggest hug. It was a fantastic month traveling with him and I am truly glad to have been able to spend time together backpacking. It was really nice to be able to share crossing the Atlantic and exploring Italy together. But this was the end.
In the Frankfurt airport, I began to grow excited as I was eating some currywurst and enjoying a cold German beer. Finally, the country and region of the world that had eluded me for so long and the land that had been the subject of countless hours of daydreaming was approaching.
I was finally going to Thailand. The mysterious land of Muay Thai, misty mountains, delicious cuisine and friendly natives. The land of smiles was just 10 hours away and on the plane I was smiling the whole way.
Next to me were a young couple originally from Bangkok and they gave me the in’s and out’s of Bangkok and Thailand in general. They explained to me some cultural norms, some basic greetings and food recommendations. The flight was a bit long, but after some movies and a quick nap, the plane was just two hours away from the capital.
After landing, I collect my bag and thanked all of the flight attendants for their hospitality. I walk off the plane, into Suvarnabhumi airport and pass through customs and immigration. They stamp my passport and I had one full month to explore their beautiful country.
I had no real plans on how to go about my travels but I did have a rough outline of the places that I wanted to see: Bangkok, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai and Pai. I know from my previous travels that I almost always deviate from any original plan and go to a lot of small towns in between and learn about sites that shouldn’t be missed.
Or sometimes, I find a place that I like and stay there for longer. My aim is always to travel slow, talk with the locals, eat local, soak up as much as I possibly can and write down a good amount in my journal.
I take the Airport Rail Link, and make my way to the center of town by transferring to the BTS Sukhumvit line and get off at the Siam stop on Rama I Road. I had no cell phone service and no pre-booked hostel for me to stay at, so I walked into a large shopping mall called the Siam Center and come across a bubble tea kiosk on the second floor called The Alley.
Here I had my first bubble tea in Thailand, a delectable brown sugar and milk concoction with tapioca pearls. They didn’t have wifi, so I took off looking for another spot. And of course I found a Starbucks and used their wifi to connect and find a place to sleep for the night. I settle on a place called Lub d Hostel, which was right up the street on Rama I and close to the National Stadium.
I check in around 5pm, receive my key and was shown my room that had four beds in total yet was empty. The hostel was clean, large, had open air patios and was mainly blue in color. I get some much needed rest, since I had been non-stop from Venice and later in the evening do my laundry, because my filthy clothes desperately needed it and I was on my last pair of underwear.
Later in the evening I go out for a walk to explore the town by night and to find something quick to eat. I was on the hunt for my first street stall noodle soup and whichever would have been perfect. I stroll along the streets taking in the facade of Bangkok and was elated to have finally made it.
The buildings were old, lacked paint and had weeds growing from the cracks. Everywhere I looked, there were telephone wires crisscrossing and gathering into knots and locals making their way in and out of restaurants.
The night was damp and the moped traffic was fierce, which made crossing it a challenge. Each small restaurant that I passed by was like a little window into their business and world. The experienced elders would cook and the younger ones would take the orders.
From the stalls that dotted the streets, vendors would be chopping meat and all kinds of greens with their heavy cleavers making a loud “chop chop” sound or straining fine noodles into a bowl of steaming broth filled with morning glory and beef. All of the aromas filled my senses and I struggled to settle on a place, yet finally did.
A young girl no older than 15 approaches me as I sit at a small steel table and on a low plastic chair. “Sawadee ka” she says smiling and in a low voice. “Sawadee krap” I said and returning the smile. I then point to two plates on the plastic menu. Minced pork and tofu soup with some fried shrimp cakes on the side and a spicy plum lemongrass sauce for dipping. She jots it down on a paper pad and runs off quickly.
Thai, which I have only heard on occasion back home, now filled the air and it was melodious and exotic. Some would stare at me and some would smile as I ate, as I was the only foreigner there. It was all delicious and I pay the bill after thanking them.
Thailand had always captured my imagination and I always wanted to experience it for myself. And I could only dream back then. Every time I would hear stories from others that had been there, it only made me want it more.
I craved Thailand. All of it.
And now I was finally here. No real plan. No real idea of the city. No real sense of direction. And no knowledge of Thai. A guest in a faraway land. Alone and out of my element.
And exactly where I like to be.