The words “easy” and “reliable” have no place in a conversation regarding Thai transportation. Bangkok in particular is quite the Bermuda Triangle of well laid transport plans. I have never made it out of Bangkok on the day or via the mode of transport originally intended. However, last week I was on an especially tight schedule for my BKK visit and there was no margin for error. My options were, beat Bangkok or beat it out of Thailand.
I stepped off the plane in Bangkok, into the terminal which Ben so aptly described (and as all visitors to pass through since concur) as the seventh circle of hell. I had a 2 hour window to make my appointment at the US embassy which is 7 miles from the airport. On paper it looks like there’s plenty of time for mid morning fish balls and bean tea, but in practice I knew it was going to take a miracle to make this appointment.
Dear God, despite what all previous experience tells me, I still have faith that there is at least one cab driver in Bangkok who knows where the US Embassy is. I won’t even ask that he not be eating pungent fish curry out of a banana leaf while smoking and repeatedly spitting fish bones and phlegm into his lemon tea…..that’s your call.
You may consider my level of anxiety over this 7 mile jaunt a little over the top. Given the short distance and large time frame it all looks so manageable. If you take this point of view, you either A. Have never been at the mercy of a Bangkok cab driver or B. Haven’t read my last post.
The short version of the story is: I made it. The long version is: I barely made it. Here’s the play by play.
3:45am- Woke up, drove an hour and a half on a moped through drizzle and construction zones, without coffee, fun.
6:15am- took my chances on a “puff n pie” airport breakfast…lost
8:30am- arrived in the seventh circle of hell otherwise known as BKK and said one last prayer for a competent cab driver.
8:35- reaffirmed my faith in prayer when the first cab driver I approached asking “American Embassy?” responded, “Wireless Road?” No small miracle.
9:45- arrive at the US Embassy after minimal wrong turns but maximum traffic jams. The line to get in is Embassy is around the block. The cab driver laughs and says, “chok dee” (good luck)
9:45 – 10:45 – Disney style lines, TSA style security checks, and at the end you pay them $84.
11:15 – left the Embassy with 48 shiny new passport pages and an unwanted friend from Montana.
11:20 – Decided it was time to ditch Mr. Big Sky by any means necessary and in mid sentence jaywalked Frogger style across a street that I shouldn’t have…but hey, no risk no reward.
11:45 – arrived at Siam Paragon because the kiddos told me they had an indoor ski slope there! Come to find out what they really meant was ice skating rink. It was tiny and in a dark corner of the basement. Not one person there was able to stand without the children’s training aids. There is a reason Thailand doesn’t have a large presence in Olympics.
11:45 – 1:00 – went to the International Food Hall and ate anything and everything that I’m normally deprived of given it was under $2. The list includes, bagel, olives, espresso, pepper jack cheese, chips and salsa. It was a solid hour.
1:00 – 1:15 – take the subway back towards the seventh circle of hell. Of course it doesn’t take you all the way there…that would be way too easy.
1:15 – decide there is time for one last mistake and take a gamble on the #59 bus.
2:00 – admit failure and get off the # 59 bus at the same subway station I started from. Time to try this again, except this time it’s POURING rain. This does wonders for my mood.
2:28 – get to a taxi stand where everyone is charging triple on account of the torrential downpour.
2:40 – boarding time…..still in the cab. Thinking if I miss this flight, I’m just going to fly home and live with Mr. Theodore in Josh’s garage.
2:55 – get dropped off with no time to wait for change for the already overpriced cab fare but reason its cheaper than missing my flight.
2:55 – 3:05 – blow past Starbucks, restrooms, and Duty Free liquor…..all places I would have benefitted from stopping had I not gambled on the #59 bus and subsequently lost all my money to an opportunistic cab driver.
3:05 – FINAL BOARDING CALL. I board the plane just as they’re announcing that cassette players are prohibited for the entire duration of the flight. Since this announcement ruined my plans to be lulled to sleep by Kenny Loggins side B on my Fischer Price record and play, I ordered a beer instead.
To Bangkok, you hot dirty dishonest hussy, you nearly had me again. I can’t say I executed this journey with any adeptness, but finished is better than perfect and this, thank Buddha, is finished. [shotguns beer]