Jan 19

Bangkok 1

by in Drawing & Writing

We’d forgotten to reserve seats, landing us right in the middle of the airplane. Dumb. Very dumb on such a long flight.

Suddenly Antje jumped up, totally alert. “I think no one’s sitting there!” Wait! What! Where? There!

The row in front of us was free!

In a flash we were there, and as the plane took off, we realized with certainty that we’d be flying for the next 12 hours in the Coach equivalent of First Class: the center emergency center. Antje stretched her legs, but couldn’t touch the wall. We were giddy.

By the end we were tired, of course – there’s no faking 12 hours of flying – but, unexpectedly, the humid air rejuvenated us. It felt electric somehow, and it might’ve been from the fact that we knew what we were getting into. It was time for a beer on Khaosan Road.

In Backpackia land, with its shifted values and passport credentials and organic vegan marijuana everything, it’s alright to like Khaosan road, but certainly cooler to find problems with it. The street’s been so overrun by backpackers for so long that its entire economy is based around the wants and needs of… what exactly? That’s hard to define. It’s mostly young backpackers, but there are enough middle-aged weirdos and rasta-residents to make it a pretty colorful swath of hot bohemia. It goes all night, every night, mostly outdoors, and smells like Thai food mixed with warm sewage and barbecued squid and god knows what else, all of which makes you kind of dizzy, and kind of sweaty, and once you start sweating, you don’t stop. Music blasts out from all directions, ill-considered quasi-buddhist philosophies blast out from all directions, and, in one of the newer developments, you can now pay a few dollars or euros and have any and all of these directly downloaded to your smartphone or iPad.

Antje and I had been there before, and the same (same) t-shirts and tank tops are still floating around, with the addition of Amy Winehouse prints and Steve Jobs RIP shirts and a woman snorting cocaine that reads “Facebook”. The most popular is a tank top that reads “Run DMC”, and I feel like there’s an in-joke I’m missing. These shirts are cheap by western standards, expensive by Thai standards, and according to my friend Peter, who lives in Bangkok, there’s an elaborate kickback scheme that goes from vendors to organized crime and back to the police, who protect the whole operation from idiot terrorists. A beer starts at $2.50, a one-hour massage, $7.

Overall it’s a sweaty death-trap of a time-warp for lazy western weirdos, young and old, and for reasons we can’t really define, Antje and I love it, absolutely love it.


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