October 7, 2007

All Roads Lead to Bangkok
Bangkok, Thailand

Oh Thailand, how I've missed you…

Bangkok is the travel-hub in SE Asia, and I absolutely love how most every budget traveler in the region will inevitably take a stroll down Khaosan Road. The convergence of cultures, backpackers, locals, vendors, and everything crazy-sexy-cool is like nothing I've ever seen anywhere else in the world.

The energy is inescapable. It radiates out of the bars and hotel lounges, and surges off the streets—permeating the air, like so much charcoled smoke waifing above the sidewalk grills.

It's the place to run into old friends and lovers, or make new ones. Every manner of food is available, whenever you want it—day or night. From students to social perverts, all are welcomed with open arms in this place of organized chaos.

I'm happy that Tatiana's exposure to Bangkok occurred at this stage of our travels together, instead of at the onset. After travel in nearly a half-dozen countries that have fallen short of the mark in far too many categories, Bangkok's delight that's even sweeter tasting because of our contrasting memories from the path that lead us here.

Bangkok booties

I'm always one to suggest that Bangkok be put at the end of a travel itinerary, if not for the inexpensive onward flights, then for the plastic bags full of loot travelers accumulate shopping in a city that seems to know no limits for such things. Even the baby in Tatiana's belly got his first piece of clothing here in Bangkok.

Tatiana is really enjoying little tours and insights into the city I've been giving her. I've spent enough time in this city to have figured more than a few things out, and am entertainingly greeted by name (Samson) with enthusiastic smiles at a handful of locations.

An entertaining surprise came as we were strolling down Khaosan Road yesterday evening, an hour or two after arriving in town, when I heard a faint "Craig?!" come up from behind us. A girl that I'd met in Malaysia some months ago came up to us in the crowd, all smiles, and just wanted to say congratulations to Tatiana and I, and how much she loved the photos on Travelvice. Tatiana felt a bit like a celebrity, this woman knowing all about her and us (having never met her), but thought she was the absolute sweetest of people. I can't help but smile myself at the thought of it.

A particularly fun Bangkok bonus for me has been the arrival of Andy of Hobotraveler.com a day or two before us, fresh out of a seven-month sojourn in West Africa. Although we've corresponded often, I haven't actually seen Andy in person since our travels together in the Caribbean during early 2006. A few things have changed a bit since then: He's gotten thinner and is focusing hard on a big project (Hobohideout.com), and I've got hair (instead of a clippered head) and a pregnant Tatiana by my side.

Andy loves to get reactions out of people by injecting provocative statements into conversation and observing/analyzing the results. I warned Tatiana ahead of time, and she seems to be taking the girl-laden conversation topics and "Mrs. Heimburger" jabs in stride. But this comes as no surprise to me, as a decade of teaching English in Peruvian classrooms has seen her deal with plenty of students who've attempted the same.

With a flight recently booked to Vietnam for October 14th–November 1st (US$165 round trip on AirAsia), we've got about a week to continue catching up and chitchatting before leaving town. I'm not sure if he'll still be in Bangkok when we return, but even if he is, we won't get to chat for long (as it'll be high time to get Tatiana back to Peru).

It's good to see him again, back in this city, and share it with a very happy Tatiana.

Note: Comments are open to everyone. To reduce spam and reward regular contributors, only submissions from first-time commenters and/or those containing hyperlinks are moderated, and will appear after approval. Hateful or off-topic remarks are subject to pruning. Your e-mail address will never be publicly disclosed or abused.