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Running away from Home

Getting There is Half the Fun-the Road to Ko Phi Phi

THAILAND | Thursday, 21 January 2010 | Views [436]

I am thoroughly embarrassed by my neurotic behavior today, but if you ever book one of the all-inclusive travel packages through an agent in Khao San road, you might want to give this a read.

When the minibus to Bangkok pulled up to my Kanchanaburi hotel at 1:40pm, I was one of many backpackers climbing aboard. The minibus had a trunk the size of a shirt box and I was certain that the driver was not going to be able to get nine people (there were already several in there) and their huge packs into that vehicle. I heard myself start to whine and openly express my doubts, but the man knew his business better than I did and somehow, he did it. He couldn’t see out the back of the van, but we were all packed in with our stuff. The minivan smelled like a combination of body odor and bad breath. I focused on whatever I could to keep my mind off of that smell. The backpackers that boarded at the same time as myself were Irishmen and they kept me amused for a while with their, “fook this” and “fook that”, but pretty soon they settled down and I was left with the smell again.

The driver pulled up to Khao San road in and proceeded to unload all of our packs. I had been told that I was going to have to wait an hour for my next bus, but I was not told where or how I would identify my next ride. I started to whine again. The whining turned into full-blown panic attack when he didn’t have a clue as to our next leg of the journey. His job was just to get us this far. He made a few phone calls and in about ten minutes two young women showed up and told us to follow them. The Irishmen seemed to be good with it so I followed along. The two young women didn’t tell us anything as they weaved through back alleys. I started to think that this was a scam and that they were leading the young Irishmen to a massage parlor. I turned around and went back to the spot where we had been dropped. I called the travel agent that I had booked with. I started to ask her where the next ride was and I told her that if she had cheated me (yes, I used those words) I needed to know so that I could get to a bus station. I couldn’t believe that I was acting this way. I knew better. Loss of temper and blatant accusations of wrongdoing are a sure way to lose face in Thailand.

The two young women came back to get me. This is where I really flipped out. I said, “you didn’t tell us anything. I thought you were leading those guys to a brothel!“ It was like I was watching someone else lose her cool, but either they didn’t know what the word “brothel” meant or they get accused of this on a regular basis because they didn’t seem shocked by my behavior. In fact, they were very understanding. The two young women must deal with neurotic westerners on a regular basis. The mysterious flow of circumstances was aggravating the control freak in me. I wanted details, dammit! I followed them to a small guesthouse in a back alley. I discovered that the reason why they were taking us on the “bowels of Khao San” route was because there was a special fundraising event that day for the earthquake victims in Haiti. It included elephants and a marching band and it was just easier to go a less direct route. When I got to the small guesthouse, I put my pack in a corner with the Irishmen’s packs. I had about an hour and a half to kill so I took off for some exploration. Khao San road is known for its inexpensive guest houses and it’s continuous party atmosphere. There are bars, tattoo parlors, massage parlors, vegetarian restaurants, young people, hip people, and older people who are trying to be young and hip. The appearance of the elephants only enhanced the festive spirit, especially when the elephant started dancing to some music being played over a loudspeaker. He stood on his front legs and his hind legs did an elephant jig, it was incredible.

I got back to the guest house by 6:00 pm, just in time to shoulder my pack, and follow the two mysterious girls to my secret rendezvous with the bus. We took a winding path through the neighborhood, stopping to get other tourists who were also going to be bus passengers that evening. One of them was a woman who asked me if this was my first trip I had booked with a travel agent from Khao san road. She must have been able to read the anxiety on my face because she told me not to worry and that they don’t tell you much, but it all works out in the end. We ended up in a traffic circle somewhere in Bangkok and 20 minutes later a double-decker bus pulled up and those of us heading south boarded to a known destination with an unknown route.

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