Tuesday, September 13, 2011

exploring FREEdom

it will always be there. the rag of horses galloping inside my chest drawn by uncertainties. but the unfamiliar scent of the boarding area i took that day made me realize how different it was from the other lane i usually take.

the departure area was way more silent; almost barely empty; as if it was indeed a living machine brewing loneliness and griming farewells. i can just imagine how many people cried in this sea of waiting and lonely benches. while the lane at the other side was full of people excited to be reunited. honestly, being inside the departure area, didn't really help me with the fact that i will be going out of the country alone and for the first time.

the three hour flight was spent mostly of reading the same magazine (i've been reading in that airline for almost two months that time); writing mental notes and itineraries, practicing some commonly used local phrases and convincing myself that everything will be alright as long as my sense of direction will not fail me, that i know how to read and i have enough money in my pocket.

so as soon as the captain welcomed us to Suvarnabhumi Airport , i knew its wanderer mode on. so the first thing i did was to exchange my money to the local currency; buy a local sim card since our receptionist forgot to activate the roaming service of my line; and find a local map.

but never did i imagine that i will be welcomed by an immediate challenge.
looking my way out, the sign boards and maps made me felt like i was a five year old kid again just staring and figuring out what those doodles meant. so i thought of asking for directions instead.

from the airport, my plan was to get to khao-san road, where most of my friends recommended me to go because of cheap accommodation. just to realize later that its recommendable if you are coming from bangkok airport and not from Suvarnabhumi, which is like 2 hours away from khao-san during non-rush hours.

nonetheless, i politely approached and asked a man who was waiting for the shuttle service.

"sewasdi!" the first word i learned. the man warmly smiled, bowed his head while both palms are together. unlike here in the philippines, people in thais are more welcoming to people who looks like them.

pretty cool and nice, i thought.

but the moment i asked, "would you know how can i get to khao-san road from here?" his warm face turned into something that resembles into fear. he immediately waived his hand as a sign of rejection and immediately just move away from me.

what did i say wrong? is khao-san road a very dangerous place? and prohibited in this country to be talked about? did my friends just throw another prank at me?

that incident made me a bit paranoid. it felt as if i missed out something in the picture. it took me another thirty minutes just sitting on one of the airport's benches to come up with another strategy. luckily, i was able to spot a tourist assistance center. for travellers visiting thailand, these centers are friends!

the receptionist told me that there is no direct route going to khao-san from that airport and just take a cab from there.

but i told her, no cabs (still brave enough to keep up in challenging myself) and will just take local transportation.
she smiled and told me to take the shuttle service going to the bus terminal and from there take another ride going to this place and then i just totally did not understand what she said next. so i just did what i understood. i bravely took the shuttle service passing the airport and just told myself to drop off where the bulk of people are dropping off. luckily, the strategy worked. i reached the bus terminal and immediately looked for the bus going to khao san road. unfortunately, the ticketing officer told me that there was no bus trip going to khao san that day and asked me to ride another bus which was later on objected by one of the dispatcher. and the story got more complicated and complicated. regardless, he told me to take a van ride going to victory monument. so again, i did what i was told and understood--- the last.

there are a lot of backpackers during that time, august. since most of the schools abroad are on summer vacation and classes resume by september. i met a lot of backpackers along my trip.

probably the rule of backpacking is always accommodate questions when you know the answer because almost everyone pays it forward and they know the dilemma one traveller faces in each trips.

on my way to victory monument, i met two korean girls who just came from another backpacking trip in indonesia and headed to the same route i am going. though difficult in communicating in english, there were sweet enough to give me tips on how to go by bangkok.
we bid goodbyes when we reached victory monument. the place at 7 in the evening is like cubao. buses were everywhere. crowd are coming from different directions. and even the people's faces were almost the same faces you don't seem to notice whenever you commute.

it was already 8:30 in the evening and i still cannot locate the bus number, the korean girls told me to take going to khao-san. actually, the moment i started reading and locating the bus numbers on each of the waiting sheds i passed, i kinda forgot the bus number they told me to take.
but im pretty sure it was 18. so when i finally found it, i immediately jumped on a bus number 18 and find myself the nearest empty seat. the bus conductor was holding like a piece of bamboo where in all the coins and tickets were place. i told her, "khao san." as i expected, she asked me again. i repeated. then suddenly a man sitting in front of me, waived the same hand gesture as the man from the airport gave at me. i am now really developing this fear of talking about khao-san. the man talked to driver in thai then informed me that i took the wrong bus. he instructed the driver to drop me off to the nearest waiting shed and advise to take bus number 32. i felt a bit relieved.

the moment i stood up, i bowed at him, made the amen gesture and said, "kub kun kup." just to realize eventually that "kub kun kup" is thank you when refering to girls. it should have been "kub kun krap" since i am thanking a man.

it was total a disaster believe but all i can do that was to laugh at at myself the entire time. it was already 9:30 in the evening. so that will be 10:30 in manila since the latter is an hour ahead. it was really a long day and all i can think of is just to get a hotel and sleep the entire night. i figured, i just have to give up and hail a cab. so i tried. surprisingly, i noticed that it seemed like all the cab that pass by happened to have someone seated in the passenger seat. then i remembered, vehicles here are right-wheel drives! argh!

so already desperate, i hailed a tuktuk instead though i know they are far more expensive than taxis. eventually, we agreed with the amount and headed to khao san road.

to be continued.


rudeboy said...

Oh, ewik!

First time out of the country? Congratulations, and sawasdee khrup!

Bangkok is one of my absolute favorite cities in the whole wide world, and I see you've already had a taste of the language barrier hehe. Khao San isn't really a seedy district - that honor is reserved for the Silom area, where the legendary Bangkok nightlife happens. I think the locals making that face when you asked about Khao San were just uncomfortable because their supply of English had run out.

Anyways, Khao San is cheap and affordable, which is why it's been a backpackers' haven for decades. It's also nearer the Grand Palace and the major temples than the more-expensive Rajprasong area (the local equivalent of the Makati CBD).

Anyway - enjoy Bangkok. I know you will. And try a foot massage. And the local cuisine. And then some ;)

Nate said...

@rudeboy: i dunno if it's just me, or i'm thinking of a different "local cuisine".. hihihihi..

@ewik: honestly, na-stress ako sa adventures at misadventures mo... good luck and enjoy!! :)