musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Bangkok’s Chaotic Comforts

I returned to Bangkok on Thursday night after spending the previous four days in Kuala Lumpur. I had scheduled this trip (a combination of business and pleasure: book buying for my shop, and CD buying for myself) several months ago, before my friend was hospitalized, so I debated whether to go ahead with the trip or not. My friend remains in hospital here in Bangkok and they have scheduled a biopsy for this week. Not an ideal time for me to be leaving town, but it was only for four days, so I decided to stick with my original plans and go, but not without a bit of guilt.

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I’ll post something separately about the KL trip later, but once again it was fun and productive. Getting around that city is such a breeze thanks to the various train lines that are in operation. I flew Malaysia Airlines again, so I was also able to take advantage of the KLIA high-speed train to and from the main airport. I also used the convenient check-in service at the KL Sentral station, which was a BIG plus, seeing as how I did two bags full of heavy books to check for the return flight to Bangkok, in addition to my bulging backpack.

Upon arrival back at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok there was the usual indecision: taxi or train? With all my heavy bags I thought taking a taxi would be the better option, but it was raining and not far past rush hour when I arrived, so I chose the train instead. I would still need to get a taxi from the Ramkamhaeng station to my home on New Petchburi Road (without the heavy bags it’s an easy walk actually), but in the end I think saved both time and money by choosing the train option. I managed to rustle my collection of bags through the turnstiles, with the help of a friendly woman on duty, and didn’t have to wait too long before the arrival of the City Line Train.

But, after arriving at the Ramkamhaeng station, it was still raining. Not heavy rain, but enough to dissuade me from attempting to walk home and trying to balance all of my bags. I waited for about 5 minutes under the station’s roof, plotting my strategy. I was on the wrong side of the road for a taxi back to Petchburi Road, but with a slight bit of maneuvering and crossing the train tracks (not the airport train tracks, but the regular train tracks), I was able to get in position to flag down a taxi. Except there was another problem: with the rain, traffic was at a standstill, bumper-to-bumper gridlock. I walked a few yards down the line of idling vehicles, found a vacant taxi and told him my destination. Now all we had to do was wait!

This taxi driver was one of the good ones; a pleasant, agreeable fellow who eagerly filled me on this week’s weather conditions in Bangkok. The sun hadn’t come out all day today, he marveled. Luckily, traffic soon started moving and we were able to turn down a side soi, down another street, and then make a U-turn under the overpass and onto Petchburi Road. The meter only read 41 baht when we arrived at my apartment, but I gave the guy a 100-baht note and told him to keep the change. He looked shocked and reached over and patted my arm in thanks. I think he would have hugged me except for the headrest between us! But hey, I was happy that I didn’t have to wait long in the rain, and he was a nice guy, so I was more than happy to tip him a bit extra.

I always enjoy my trips, no matter what the length, but inevitably I relish returning to the familiar comforts of my own apartment. Bangkok may be a crazy, chaotic mess of a city — and with more political protests slated for this week, things are sure to become even more chaotic — but the people are mostly kind and friendly, and living here remains a distinct pleasure.

Now I need to get back over to the hospital.

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