Bangkok, Thailand 2017 / by William Bryan

This is the fourth post in a five-part series from a trip to Southeast Asia in May, 2017 with Sach and Goose. Check out the first three from Hong KongHanoi, and Ha Long Bay if you haven't already and hang tight, the next story is on the way!

We’d been in Thailand for maybe two hours before Goose pointed out a food stall filled with scorpions. Sach and I looked at each other with wary faces, I had no need to prove anything by eating a deadly bug on the street and Sach didn’t either. Goose, however, had a different idea. According to him we hadn’t really experienced Thailand until we got outside of our comfort zone, and the first way to do that was by eating a scorpion right then and there.

Goose eyeing his future.

Goose eyeing his future.

Sach and I hesitated for a second too long which gave Goose the only opening he needed to pull out some cash and grab a scorpion before we expressed any more misgivings. Once he had it in his hand, though, he hesitated. “How the hell am I supposed to eat this?” We all laughed—none of us had any clue. What was the best part, the claws, head, maybe the tail? After some deliberating Goose brought the insect to his mouth, lined up a claw, and crunched. We looked at him waiting for him to drop dead before he coughed and said “not bad.”

After we all tried it we agreed it was like chewing on a plastic toy: crunchy, flavorless, and hard to swallow because little bits got stuck in your throat. We tried to cough up scorpion crumbs as we walked up the market street in search of the next food stall.

The street food was perhaps the best part of Bangkok. On every other corner we found chicken strips or pork meatballs, kebabs or pad thai, spring rolls or fried dough-balls, dumplings or a 7-Eleven with a world of snacks; and I can’t remember a single thing I didn’t love.

While in Bangkok we decided to experience another quintessential Thai pastime: Muay Thai. $30 tickets got us into the economy priced betting level of Thailand’s national Rajadamnern Stadium for three hours of brutal, bloody, super-featherweight competition.

After stuffing ourselves with street food outside we made our way into the 65-year-old stadium, up a pee-filled concrete stairwell, through a humid hallway lined with cigarette-smoking Thai men and out into the stadium’s upper level. We were instantly engulfed in music, shouting, and waving arms, the end of which all held up a number of fingers that seemed to mean something to everyone but us. It became immediately clear that we were the only foreigners who hadn’t bothered to pay for courtside seats.

An attendant handed us each an English flyer with the night’s bouts and we found an empty stretch of concrete to sit down where we could take it all in. We spent the evening betting beers on which of the two scrawny looking teenagers would still be standing after seven rounds of savagely pounding on each other. I chose solely on who I thought had a cooler name and managed to win five out of the seven bets.

Pounding the pavement in search of something other than street food is rewarding, too. The city is an amazing mixture of lawlessness and beauty. The busy criss-crossed power lines make a good example of what the city as a whole feels like until you step into the grounds of one of it's many temples. They feature an amazing attention to detail and craftsmanship that is hard to fathom until you see it up close. Mural's reenact a Hindu epic, The Ramayana, and perfectly placed stones and tiles only get more beautiful the closer you inspect them. An authentic Thai massage at the Wat Pho Thai Massage school inside the temple walls definitely helps take away the fatigue that's inherent in a long day of exploring Bangkok's holy sites.

Getting a taxi in Thailand is always a negotiation, so for our flight out of Bangkok we decided to avoid the hassle and book a van from our hostel. When we paid in advance they asked us which airport we needed to go to: DMK or BKK. I paused for a second and confidently said “BKK, same one we flew into.” And didn’t give it a second thought.

We piled out of the van at BKK and went to the info-screens to figure out where we needed to check in for our Air Asia flight. That’s when I slowly started to doubt my decision from earlier—there wasn’t an Air Asia flight anywhere on the board, let alone our flight to Phuket. I looked at Sach and Goose as it dawned on me.

“Guys, we’re at the wrong airport,” I said.

They looked at me dumbfounded, they didn’t believe me, or didn’t want to.

“No seriously. Air Asia has no flights in or out of BKK. They must be with other budget airlines at the old airport.”

I pulled out my folder full of flight information and confirmed my suspicions. I looked at my watch.

“We’ve got two hours.”

We all grabbed our bags and ran back out to the curb that we’d just arrived at and looked for a taxi stand. I jogged up to the first taxi I saw and asked how much to get us to the other airport. The man laughed and looked at his friend who smiled back at him, this wasn’t the first time a tourist had been in this position and this taxi driver was ready to capitalize on it.

“2,000 baht,” he said.

We’d dealt with this every time we ordered a taxi or tuk-tuk. They start the price ridiculously high and are typically willing to take you for half of their first offer. With this in mind the negotiations began.

“Ha! No way. 1,000,” I said, as confidently as I could manage knowing how little time we had to make it to the other airport.

“No, no, no. 2,000 baht, no less,” was his retort.

“Way too much! 1,000 at most!”

“No! I take you for 1,000 I lose money. Your flight is so soon I need to speed and I get ticket for more than you pay me,” he said in broken English.

I turned to the others and consulted with them in hushed tones. We looked at our watches and weighed the risks. We had no idea how far the other airport was, and besides, 1,000 baht was only about $20, definitely not worth missing a flight over. As we deliberated I noticed another taxi driver that had been watching the whole negotiation take place and thought it couldn’t hurt to ask how much he would charge.

“How much to DMK,” I asked as I walked towards him.

“1,000 baht,” he responded with a knowing smile; he’d just obliterated the competition’s offer.

This was our guy.

I called the others over and we all piled into his cab as the other driver turned away in a fuss. We laughed as we drove across Bangkok, commending ourselves for not being suckered into the expensive cab fair. We made it to Don Mueang Airport and got to our gate with 30 minutes to spare.

I'd rather not scar you with stories of a Thai "Ping Pong Show" in Phuket, so check out photos from that part of the trip below instead.