Rob Emrich

Entrepreneurship, Philanthropy, Travel

Bangkok, Thailand

The original plan was to travel directly to India, but I flew into Bangkok instead. I researched Thailand, and it seemed like an amazing place, very friendly to travelers. Bangkok was a rude awakening though. Most travelers come into this city on the way to somewhere else; many are middle-of-the-night-delirious from long flights and time changes. I was no exception. I hadn’t gotten more than two hours of sleep since leaving Columbus. I was feeling pretty rough when I first got to Bangkok, and that only worsened as a few days passed with no sleep. Everything is a blur. Still, I decided early on that I would make haste out of the city and start the rest of my journey.

These are my blurry and vague recollections of a sprawling metropolis that seems like a country unto itself.

I arrived at Suk 11 Hostel at 3 AM. It’s on a small side street off of Sukumvit Road, the major thoroughfare. My cab driver had no idea how to find the exact address. Outside Suk 11, the scene was apocalyptic. Dozens of Thai women cat-calling, "Ooh come here handsome man," among more explicit requests. The street was filled with older European men with very young-looking Asian women. I realized that in my quest to stay out of Khoasan Road, the very touristy backpacker zone, I inadvertently booked a room in the middle of an expat/red light district. I was standing in the middle of the street, my huge backpack and camera bag slipping off of one shoulder and a gargantuan duffle of clothes packed for India in my hand. With my laptop backpack over the other shoulder, I was essentially incapacitated by luggage and needed to make my way 100 yards to get to my hotel to escape this den of iniquity. My particular hotel did not cater to the 'sexpat' crowd. After a Herculean effort of balancing my bags and having the entire street laugh at me, I finally made it into the hotel. I climbed the four floors to my room, turned on the AC and collapsed on my bed, only to sit there for hours in a daze. I got no sleep that night.

It was also around this time that I realized how much I hate hauling around luggage and the whole 'moving' part of traveling by backpack.

My hotel was pretty cool actually—a VERY old, wooden structure in the middle of a concrete jungle. There were many cool travelers of all ages staying there, and it was a great place from which to explore the city.

The next day I went to Pantip Plaza, the computer mecca of Bangkok, to pick up some accessories for my laptop. Pantip Plaza is an indoor shopping mall which specializes in electronics. Stores carry computers, software, DVDs and games. There were four to five floors of electronic everything-you-could-imagine. Surprisingly, the prices for laptops were similar, if not slightly higher, than I usually see in the US. There were tons of accessories manufactured in China though, and those were significantly cheaper. I was particularly interested to see a whole floor of computer-nerd vendors offering on-site computer repair. Considering the number of people who have problems with Windows-based computers in the US, I’m surprised that we don’t have much more than Best Buy’s Geek Squad.

Being a street-food aficionado, I can tell you that my favorite part of the city is the food. It’s by far the best city I’ve ever visited for street food. My meals have been simply amazing. The streets are well represented with Thai food and cuisine from all over the world. The Thai eat small meals all day long, sampling many different dishes. People eat from small Styrofoam trays that are loaded with everything from Thai curry vegetables to ham and cheese sandwiches.

I can see how Bangkok could be a very cool city to live in. If you know where to go—and maybe more importantly—where not to go, you could explore this city for years.

That said, I’ve hated my time in Bangkok, because the city is a hectic, nasty, chaotic metropolis. After two sleepless nights, I changed hotels. It took me more than 2.5 hours to travel 1 mile, because the traffic was so awful. I grew impatient sitting in the back of a cab during a traffic jam, and decided to walk it instead. Naturally, after maneuvering myself, my giant backpack and day pack out of the cab and into the pouring rain, the traffic instantly cleared. It was a dreadful experience.

After changing hotels and getting around six hours of sleep, I started to feel a hell of a lot better. I’m still not totally with it, though, and I’m realizing how little I like hauling around my stuff. Still, I love exploring new places and I’m starting to think about what I want to get out of this experience. Going and seeing sites is fun and interesting, but I don’t want to spend all of my time doing that. I’d rather keep some of my daily routines (and not forgetting to exercise) while living in interesting places. I am also learning that I don't like dawdling and doing nothing while traveling any more than I do in the US. And back home, I absolutely despise it.

I resolved to catch the first train south out of Bangkok, because I want to start an open water SCUBA certification course as soon as possible. I was able to catch an afternoon train from Bangkok to Chumphon, where I’ll take a ferry to the island Ko Tao, one of the best and least expensive places to learn SCUBA in the world.

©  Robert Emrich. All Rights Reserved.