I arrive in the middle of the night. Uber clean airport. No touts. No hassle. No fuss. Taxi rank give me a 300 baht drive into Kho San Road, the backpacker place to be, so I’m told. The Lonely Planet suggests 400 baht. Result. Always a positive when coming into a country for the first time and not being harassed or ripped off immediately.
I immediately like the place. The roads are straight and flat. The taxi is new, bright pink and spotless. It has a CD player. I chuckle to myself as we hit 90km an hour on the motorway. This would never have been possible anywhere in India. There’s pavements, and they are not used as toilets. There’s no smell of urine or excrement. No open sewers. No cows. No shacks. Brand name shops are everywhere. MacDonald’s. Starbucks. KFC. There’s high rise buildings and motorways. They even use traffic lights. And Thailand employs street cleaners. No rubbish fires. The streets are empty apart from a fish market getting early trade. It’s 5am. Culture shock in full effect.
As we pull up to Khao San Road I notice many white tourists, staggering along the walk ways. Drunk and shuffling like zombies, I recognise the look in their eyes, these are British people, drunk and disorderly British people. It’s 5am and the street is alive with bars smashing out cheesy dance music and messy dribbling Brits eating Khao San Road’s famous street food, Pad Thai. Nice. Neon lights. Lady boys. Pimped out tuk tuks. Gangnam style. Kids selling roses. My hippy trousers and dirty t-shirt are suddenly inappropriate for my environment. I should have brought my Fred Perry and Lacoste day glow gear with me. A northern fella approaches me. He’s disgraced that the German girls behind me thought he was a creep. Slurring his words, I nodded in agreement and made a quick exit. A girl vomits her guts up outside the police station. Just the cultural dose I needed from Thailand. This takes me back to my misspent youth. This place screams lads holiday. Welcome to Malia, Thailand style. Culture shock is in advance stages.
I turn in the opposite direction and wander. I crash at the Wild Orchid Villas on Soi Rambuttri, near the mayhem but not too close. It’s quieter here.
In the morning, I’m brave and venture outside. 7eleven’s in abundance, t-shirt stalls, pink cabs, street food, restaurants and bars cater for the western traveler on and around the Khao San Road area. These back packers seem very upmarket compared to my Indian journey. Flash packers. Everybody seemed to be trendy and fashionable and noticeably cleaner. Some even shave. The men wearing vests and t-shirts with fake brand logos printed on them seemed to be the norm. Why someone would want to endorse the 7eleven brand on their vest is beyond me. I wouldn’t wear a Tesco or Sainsbury t-shirt in England, in all honesty, that’s a bit naff. They even sell Starbucks vests. Street stalls sell a bizarre selection of weapons and bracelets with ‘wrong’ phrases on them. I noticed the tuk tuks are noticeably flashier, a lot bulkier and safer looking, making their Indian relatives look a little pathetic. Tourism has obviously brought great wealth to Thailand. I’m not sure if I like it.
A walking down Khao San Road I noticed lots of groups of people socialising and drinking, but I was alone. The first time I’ve been alone and not wanted to be. I wanted to have a beer and go see a ping pong show with some fellow Europeans but didn’t have the energy or social confidence to go and make friends. I didn’t know how to interact or even talk to these people. I know. Motor mouth, talk to anyone Mike, was speechless. Looking back, I was shocked, stunned at the transformation from India to Thailand. I loved my Indian experience. Thailand bewildered me with its western ways and full on drinking scene, something that has been alien to me since I left the UK back in October. I think India suited my expectations of adventure and exploration, Thailand seemed too easy, lots of English people drinking with other English people. And it was expensive. Not compared to England but compared to my beloved India.
After lengthy walks around the Khao San area I returned to my hostel, which was spotless and rather trendy. The restaurant and bar downstairs was almost luxurious, compared to India. Clean and fresh bed linen with a fan for £6. Well worth it. I booked my ticket to Koh Samui in the south of Thailand. I found a fellow Brit traveler and sunk some Chang beers before learning some basic Thai phrases from a very friendly waitress.
The following day I went t-shirt shopping. I hunted through the array of cheap t-shirt shops that Khao San Road offers. I think I angered a man in one shop, maybe because of my persistent haggling. In India you must haggle for everything, in Thailand it’s possible but when the price is already cheap and they have a ‘no discount’ sign, it usually offends them if you attempt a cheaper price or deal. I was chased out of the shop by an angry man shouting ‘fuck off cunt’ because I wanted two t-shirts for 200baht rather than his 240baht asking price. I was happy to pay 240B but he wouldn’t listen, repeating his ‘choice’ phrase. Tourism has really screwed with these people. Thai’s must think of British people as disrespectful and drunk twats, running riot in strip clubs to all hours. I left the shop a little shocked. Did he just call me a cunt? Did he really tell me to fuck off? Top sales technique. What a charmer.
I didn’t stay long in Bangkok, I want to head to the islands for Christmas. The ticket I’d purchased cost me £20 to do a two bus and a boat ride transfer to Koh Samui. The ticket gave me everything I needed. No haggling, no waiting list, the bus was only for tourists, picked up from my hotel, no hassles. This traveling was going to be a hell of a lot more expensive than India but a hell of a lot easier. Thailand has taken full advantage of the insane numbers of tourists that flood into its country, especially over the Christmas and New Year period. Hopefully the southern islands will give me a bit of peace and quiet, and a few pals to go drinking with. I’m adjusting.
The bus had air-con, I had my own designated seat and a complimentary blanket. The roads were straight and flat so sleeping was a possibility. The bus was clean with no standing passengers, nobody sleeping on the floor. This was the cheapest bus ticket going but it was plush. Everything in my life had changed. The first comfortable bus journey of my adventure so far. Even the service stations were immaculate and served decent food. A lovely Dutch girl kept me company. Things were going to OK.
Missing my family and close friends at Christmas started to get to me. When you’re on the other side of the planet, you start to realise how much you really love people.
Destination Koh Samui.