Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Night in Tunisia and a Day in Bangkok

Actually the night was not spent in Tunisia, but on 30-minute catnaps during my bus ride from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. Unfortunately it only took 9 hours and I arrived in the capital at the rocking time of 4 in the morning. So I took an overpriced cab ride to the airport where I took 4 more 30-minute catnaps before taking an infinitely cheaper train into the city center.

City center is a...misleading term. Bangkok is sprawling, kind of like Seoul on a smaller scale and with shinier temples and more poverty. So I had to walk for a while and then hail a taxi. When I pointed on the map to Phara Sumain Fortrees[1], the driver made me a little nervous by saying, “Mmm. Okay. Very expensive.” Luckily he meant less than $2.

As you can see, various modes of transportation quickly became a theme of the day.

I chose the fortress for its proximity not only to a couple of temples—tourist-friendly, good for traveling alone—but to the river as well. It was perfect. The fortress itself was a simple white structure of three battlements, all decorated by fake cannons and greying with age. The grass around it was emerald green and wet—not from the picturesque morning dew, but a bevy of groundskeepers working on it. They call it winter, but even at nine in the morning it’s hot.

The river was disgusting, of course. Bangkok is very polluted by trash. Like Korea, Thailand refuses to condone public trash cans as a necessity and the waterfronts suffer for it.

I only mention the river and cannon’s faults for honesty’s sake—and because I don’t want to sound like a kid in a candy shop. But the truth is, when it comes to traveling, I very much am six years old facing a wall of chocolate-covered somethings. The sky was blue! The grass was green! I spent the morning in Bangkok—Bangkok! I grew up in rural-ish Indiana! Suburbia!—eating chocolate-flavored bread, reading my kindleBible and writing in my journal. If I weren’t so self-conscious I’d write a poem about it and then not show it to anyone.

So, the river, the grass, the excitement. So.

Then I ran into an extremely outgoing tuk-tuk driver. For 10 baht (about 30 cents), he drove me to the different sites he recommended for an hour and a half. Of course, part of that hour and a half was going to three places (only 5 minutes each) where he gets commission to bring tourists too. I paid my dues—in time, not baht—and took his recommendation of a boat-ride back to the airport. It was an excellent choice—even though I missed my stop to the airport train. I had time to spare so I hung out on the boat for an extra 45 minutes, before jumping ship.

And you really did have to jump ship because sometimes the people in charge of the boat didn’t actually stop. I chose my disembarking spot with my usual half-fast-travel-themed thought process that seems to work pretty well in general and found myself at a mall with plenty of taxis and people that spoke enough English to tell me I had traveled so far that I was no longer on my map.

Yet another taxi ride later, I’m back at the airport and ready to finish the day off with a flight and maybe a tuk-tuk ride.

My travel pattern for this 24+ hour journey:

Chiang Mai: SongTaow—Bus—Taxi—Train—walk—Taxi—Tuk-tuk—Boat—taxi—plane—Tuk-tuk?—Pnohm Penh

[1] Never a day without a typo. 


  1. Don't worry about it. Sometimes I read over my stuff and I am like "What the crap!" because I've written a few things funny. I'm sure you've noticed.