I knew it would happen, it was inevitable. As I had mentioned before, I definitely hadn’t faced the reality of the extent of my trip and it all just seemed like a dream that would never be fully undertaken… until I peeped out the plane window and was faced with an alien Thai landscape. Then it hit me: the inevitable fear. Cue a mini stroke with the cold hand of doom gripping my stomach as “What the hell am I doing?” and “I. Am. So. Alone.” did some circuits in my mind. Everyone ‘oohhed’ and ‘ahhed’ at the sights, I tried to stop going blind from panic. I felt totally out of my depth.
From the plane to the taxi (the driver sneakily tried to not use his meter), it all went suspiciously smoothly and I was soon on my way to Khao San Road, the backpacker mecca. Apparently.
For in-experienced and first time travellers (like moi), look-up travelfish.org. They refuse to follow lonely planet’s well trodden path, and have their own researchers to find cheap backpackers/plush flashpacker accommodation, bars, top hang-outs, best beaches etc. I found my hostel for my first night in Bangkok there: ‘Shambara Boutiques Hotel’. I found it at the end of a dingy alley in all its quaint, dark wood, authentic Thai looking glory. The restaurant downstairs had an accompanying Koi pond, and the handful of rooms upstairs were clean, air conditioned, relatively comfy… for 400 THB per night I definitely couldn’t complain. I was just grateful I hadn’t been given some noisy hell hole with a neon sign blinking in through the window!
So trip and accommodation so far hadn’t traumatised me… but then what? I wasn’t that jet-lagged, and after a shower, I armed myself with baht and book and ventured into crazy Khao San Road’s Saturday night. After a small dinner of spring rolls (I was too spoilt for choice, and the thought of the immodium back in my room held me back from fully delving into the cuisine), I was at a bit of a loss. I finally stopped in my hectic adrenaline pumped ‘go go GO’ mentality, just picked up my book and watched the drunken, t-shirt and memorabilia touting world go by.
After batting off about a thousand market sellers as I sat in my seat, I spied Austrian Eva a.k.a my saviour for my first Bangkok night. It was her last night in Thailand, but she showed me around the area as I grilled her about her experience: boating between islands, fresh fish straight off fishermen, diving into the ocean when the heat became too much. It all sounded like paradise!
Eva had been traveling for a good seven months and had begun in China. It had been so hard at first as the humidity and lack of english speakers had fully dampened her spirits, but she pushed through: “It only gets easier” being her mantra. She then hit up New Zealand and Thailand before getting homesick and returning home before another brief Thailand stint, hence her being in Bangkok!
It all sounded amazing and I questioned her to death about details and any advice. It really drove home though that it wasnt going to be such a walk in the park. I had totally got caught up with transport, visas, meeting people, accomodation and top destinations that I hadn’t even considered that I’d get homesick.
My dad had joked that I would be back for Christmas…. could I really go the whole hog?! Luckily, tomorrow I’m joining a GAP Adventures tour of Northern Thailand. I’m so grateful for it now, even though at first I thought I was taking an ‘easy’ route by having a kind of package tour.
Anyway, the highlight of my night was undoubtedly a random little market near the glowing majestic Grand Palace. It was less touristy, more locals, with old shoes, clothes, tattoos, roadside massages… and baby rabbits in dresses. O my lord.
I crashed around midnight, staggered back to my hostel around the young Thai girls thrusting cocktail menus to tourists as the adrenaline rush of my journey to Thailand faded. Here endth my first night: exhausted, apprehensive, full of beer, anxious but alive.