I'm sitting in my Bangkok hotel room, and I'm completely torn right now. On the one hand, my body and my mind are completely exhausted. Yesterday was one of the strangest and saddest days of my life. Yet it's all juxtaposed with the fact that I'm in Bangkok, with my closest mates and the prettiest girls in Hong Kong, and we are just having a grand old time. I'm brooding while I'm riding in a motorcycle taxi. I'm pensive while I'm gorging myself on pad thai. I'm melancholy while I'm on a dragon-tail boat, speeding past some of the most beautiful and intricate temples on the planet. It's a twisted, strange dichotomy.
Friday night, we ended up at one of the coolest watering holes I've ever been to. Tucked away in traditional Bangkok style, the Saxophone Pub is one of my new favorite places in the world. It's a two-story pub, covered in jazz paraphernalia, that specializes in one thing- live jazz. The drinks are absolute rubbish, the food is good, the staff is friendly, and the music will knock you off your chair. If you haven't seen an all-Thai band perform Earth, Wind, & Fire's "September," you haven't lived. It was spot-on cover after spot-on cover, with the whole place dancing and singing. Under an awning, seeking shelter from the nightly torrential downpour, one of the girls and I met the lead singer, who we were told was a famous Thai actor. We also met a pair of young newlyweds, who were from Poland but had met on exchange in Hong Kong, and a Polish ex-pat, who had lived in Hong Kong for many years but had relocated to Thailand for business. He gave us his business card and told us to give him a call later.
It was a spectacular night, that culminated with members of our group dancing with the band in front of the entire place, and a slew of yelling and waving from the place when our group turned to leave.
Saturday was our tourist day. We set out with the intention of seeing all the major temples in Bangkok. We made it as far as the Grand Palace before we were swindled, and ended up in some Bangkok waterway, looking at dilapidated houses and komodo dragons.
To elaborate. Outside of the Grand Palace, there was a man. Who was well dressed. And friendly. He kindly informed us that the Grand Palace would open at 2pm, as there was a special Buddhist ceremony going on and visitor's weren't allowed. Instead, he suggested that we take a boat ride on the river. He gave us directions, and even flagged down a taxi for us and haggled for a good price. We thought nothing of it.
Next thing we know, we're all on a long boat, feeling the putrid river water on our face and skimming along the murky substance. We go off the main river, into a set of waterways that link many of the houses to their various occupations- fishermen, fruit vendors and hawkers. It was actually a very cool experience for me, seeing how these Bangkok residents live along the water, and the culture that comes with it. Eventually, we get back to the river, and are dropped off at a temple for some sightseeing.
We had thought that the priorities of our boatman were a little off, but weren't too upset. Because we didn't know the truth.
The truth is that he was lying. The Grand Palace is open all day. There was no Buddhist ceremony. That man stands outside there for a bit each day, convincing tourists that the area is closed, and offering them alternate forms of entertainment.
After a meal and some shopping, we set out again to see Wat Pho, a temple that is home to the world's largest reclining Buddha. Outside, a man hurriedly came up to us, insisting that the temple was closed.
Nice try, grifter. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice... well, you ain't going to fool me twice.
We pushed past him and walked into the beautiful (and very much open) Wat Pho.
Saturday night offered spiritual libations of an entirely different sort. We kicked off our evening by ordering a grotesque amount of room service, something that I've never done before. After some brief haggling, we were in a taxi bound for Bangkok's other major point of interest- the nightlife. As college students, we feel that we have a social duty to experience this.
After many drinks and a few trips to the seedier side of BKK, there are only two of us left. My buddy and I met up with an American Air Force veteran from Kentucky, a very likable guy who now works in private security out of Kuwait. His buddy manages a club in the area, so we once again brave the rain and roadie-run to Nana Liquid, the only bar in the area that stays open past 2am.
After shouting along to a cover band and many more drinks, we're in the car with our Kentucky friend and a Thai bar singer. The roadways are covered by about two feet of water. Cars have become boats. Mopeds are now jetskis. Shopkeepers are sailors and cats are fish. It's 5am in Bangkok and I'm worried about capsizing a Prius.
We arrive at our hotel and wake up at noon the next day.
Life is absolutely strange. Most of the time, I love it. Some days, I just have to hold fast. I often repeat a phrase that I picked up from Meghan McCain (sue me, she's wonderful).
"Buy the ticket, take the ride."
It can be a damn bumpy ride sometimes.