“LAST STOP, BANGKOK!” hollered the bus driver from the pitch black.
“What the –” mumbled Stevie from the bus floor where he had been fitfully sleeping on his balled-up pants for the past eight hours. Everyone else peered from under their face masks in utter confusion.
It was 3am. We weren’t supposed to arrive until 6am. “Can we just keep driving around?” asked a small voice from the back.
And yet there we were, then, under the glaring bus stop streetlights, haggling with the cab driver to take us to Silom Road to a famous hostel that we didn’t even know would take us at this time of night.
“Will you put on your meter?” asked Stevie, the carpenter from Wales, hardened from months of living in Thailand.
“No, no,” laughed the cabbie. “200 Baht. Cheap.”
“Meter.” Stevie began walking away.
“Ok, fine! Fine! Meter!”
80 Baht later (by the meter — smart Stevie!), we arrived at the famed Lub d hostel, named by The Observer as one of the 17 Coolest Hostels in the WORLD to hang out.
My young friend Jesse had raved about its awesomeness, using all his best 20-year-old Devon slang. “It’s mint, baby!” “It’s lush!” “It’s clahss!”
Indeed it was. The glittering lobby slurped us in and all our dreams came true. I was able to stay for free for the night in the dorm, even though my reservations weren’t until the next two nights.
Stevie was allowed to use the internet for free and snuggle up secretly in the giant “theater” room, which smelled slightly rank but was softer than the bus floor or the street.
Look how gorgeous these beds and shared bathrooms are. Ikea, incarnate! With the free night and the two-for-one-night promotion going on, all this goodness was purchased for $5 a night!
We will not speak of the every-two-seconds hacking cough of the girl below me all the night, nor of the German woman who threatened to beat her up, nor of begging the receptionist (successfully) to move me to a different dorm. All positive thoughts for Lub d!
The next day, Stevie took me to the swirling tourist epicenter of Bangkok: Khao San road. Colors! Tourists! Commerce! Note the highlights:
– Fish that eat the dead flesh off your feet
– Fake ID stands so you can become an official college graduate, journalist, driver, 21-year-old, DEA Agent, etc. (“NO PICTURES!!” screamed the owner as Stevie and I sprinted away)
– Heaping stands of 25 Baht (80 cent) pad thai, and juices of giant prickly fruit specimens
– A brass monkey clutching a brass penis pendant for 500 Baht in the middle of the street and 50 Baht two streets over. (I suggested to Stevie that this would be a classy gift for his girlfriend)
– 7-11 Stores every three seconds, many face-to-face across the street
– Bright magenta pink cabs!!!! Can you get any cuter???
– Fake dreadlocks, which a dreaded man intently crocheted from both plastic thread and real hair (and which my buddies bravely tried on) …yum.
– COLORS! Lights and colored lanterns, soft sarongs, dresses, hilarious and raunchy t-shirts!
– Tucked in the back of each store: a Buddhist shrine. This country is very religious! Each little shrine has small bowls of daily food offerings. On one street corner, giant rats were covertly nibbling Buddha’s food. He’s a generous soul, I hear — perhaps he won’t mind.
– Loving posters to the King and Queen, who are utterly revered and believed to be descended from divinity. (For this reason, you are never supposed to deface or mistreat Thai money, as it has the image of the royals upon it).
Time flew and Stevie hopped a taxi to the airport to meet his girlfriend in Indonesia. We didn’t exchange contact info, content with our happy companionship for the previous 24 hours, but I still had to choke down my obsessive need to cling to everyone forever!
So then I wandered for two seconds towards the river to catch a taxi back to the hostel, when suddenly– DREADLOCKS! ORANGE FISHERMAN PANTS! DANIEL the Israeli from Ko Tao!
We embraced, he introduced me to his Canadian jeweler friend who was in Thailand and China buying beads for her business, and we spent a lovely evening dining and watching the surging crowds going by and saying “no thanks” the hawkers trying to force us to buy frog noisemakers, rainbow hats, bracelets, lighters, etc.
Ok, well Daniel said “yes” to a rainbow hat, but how could he not? :)
Tomorrow I start to meet up with three of my buddies who have been living in Bangkok for years (ahh, delicious non-tourist-world for a time!) and will begin plans (and malaria pills!) for Cambodia.
It feels good to be moving!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!