Three Days Travel in Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok seemed like a place I wasn’t going to anytime soon. But a few months ago, I raved about a job I had gotten in China at a school teaching English. At the time, I was just finishing Peace Corps and looking for the next opportunity. It seemed like I had hit the jackpot with this job.
On May 10th, 2016, I signed a contract with a local Chongqing School and agreed to start work on September 1st, 2016. That was nearly 4 months worth of time to begin the process of getting my visa, which I knew took a while. In my attempts to get a work visa in a reasonable time frame, I began doing whatever I could to speed up the process with time to spare before coming back to China from my vacation in America. Because the work visa process takes over a month to complete, and I was 8,000 miles away in Colorado trying to make this happen, they instructed me to obtain a tourist visa as a quick way back into China.
So why did I go to Bangkok? Long story short, this is an illegal practice, but in essence nearly unavoidable on China’s part given the ridiculous and heinous rules and regulations making it difficult for schools to hire a foreigner to work in China. I submitted my documents twice in Chicago and was denied under suspicion that I would work in China illegally. As a result, the company I signed with instructed me to go to a neighboring country to get my tourist visa. So I went to Bangkok, Thailand.
I know everyone must think I’m nuts, but this job seriously had me hooked up for the next year and allowed me a chance to save money as well as see places in Asia I still had not seen. I also had a big thirst for travel writing to begin with and felt Asia was such a ripe area.
On August 29th, I left DIA to SFO where I began the future 45 hours worth of travel time along the way to Bangkok. Now you must definitely think I’m crazy but I chose the longer flights because they are the cheaper flights. Someday I’ll be able to pay for a non-stop flight like a big girl. It was an unpredictable journey but by far one of the greatest.
First Stop – Singapore Changi International Airport. If I were to ever be stuck in an airport for 12 hours, this would definitely be the one I would choose, which actually happened. Prior to arrival, I had done my research on the Singapore airport known as the “playground of airports”.
This three-terminal airport masterpiece was awesomely equipped with lounge areas in all terminals with reclined seats, free massage chairs, free foot rub machines, free movie theatres, and your choice of a free stroll around a sunflower garden, cactus garden, or butterfly garden. And did I mention the giant slide in the public transit area?
Not only was the airport equipped with free sleeping areas, free massage chairs, and free gardens, if your layover was 5.5+ long, you had enough time to take a free 2.5 hours train ride from the airport terminal around Singapore for a tour of the city. What a grand way to kill time!
Did I mention the live game center targeted toward entertaining the kiddos? You can choose your choice of Xbox Kinect or PS3 in the terminal near the sunflower garden while mom and dad get massages and pedicures at one of the many airport spa and lounges.
But my favorite part of the airport was, of course, the food. At the local Tip Top, you can get a curry puff for $1.50 SGD and a hot lemon tea after a weary 19-hour flight from SFO. Needless to say, I ate a million of them.
I had never passed time in an airport so quickly in my life. It was by far the most enjoyable of all airports I had been to and yet sadly, I had to depart and make my way to Bangkok.
Second Stop – Bangkok. What I love about Thailand is that you don’t need to get a visa prior to arrival, but your visa is valid for 30-days upon arrival into the country. This made it incredibly easy for me to enjoy what short time I had in the country without violating any visa laws.
I stayed in a small and modern hostel around the corner from Ratchathewi sky train station, called the Bed Station Hostel. The hostel is one of the most preferred in Bangkok and was tucked between two streets and several buildings, but black in its façade with gold lettering making it easy to find.
I took a cab there, on account of all the luggage I had, hoping to be granted a Chinese Tourist Visa so I could arrive in Chongqing the following weekend. The cab ride only cost $15, a comfortable weird compared to the unsettling feeling of driving on the left side of the road.
When I arrived to the hostel, it was perfectly situated around the corner from a Pad Thai cart where you could get Pad Thai for $1.50. The hostel was active, bright and full of all sorts of interesting people passing through while on the journey.
I slept hard the first night, because 45 hour travel time. The following day, I organized my visa documents and walked two miles to the Chinese Visa Service Application center only to be informed I should go back to my country and get a visa. The reps said the Chinese official first need to consider the application before granting a visa and that this could take days or even weeks before I got a visa. I couldn’t extend my stay in the hostel on account of it being so popular, so I made a decision.
I withdrew from the contract that same day, due to the company’s inefficiency in getting me a visa to China. After that, I decided I would come back home, which was a shock to everyone. But I still had a full day before my flight would take me back to Colorado. I spent the next day going to Bangkok’s Chinatown, which didn’t seem as much like China as I thought. I was disappointed to find only one person there who spoke Chinese. Despite my disappointment, I was able to find Thailand’s delectable Mango and Sticky rice, a popular dish in Thailand.
When the evening came around, I went around the corner to order my very last authentic Pad Thai and came back to the hostel to enjoy it in the lobby. I came upon a few New York fellas who later invited myself and my Irish bunkmate out to Red Sky rooftop lounge. After a little drink there, we later went dancing at a spot near the Grand Palace. Together, we got all dressed up and took an Uber first to Red Sky.
Red Sky was incredible. It sat atop a hotel giving 180-degree views of the Bangkok cityscape. It not so oddly reminded me of my time atop the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but not as splendid. However, the cool air sweeping through the rooftop lounge while you sip on cocktails and local beer is a sensation worth experiencing and I highly recommend it. But after one drink, you can’t hold onto to your desire to dance, so we took our final trip via Uber to Khao San Road.
Khao San Road was jumping, and so were we. It was full of people sipping on buckets of Red Bull and Vodka and drinking endless bottles of beer. The streets were lined on either side with bars as far as you could see blasting bright neon lights to entice the eager partier to come inside. Outside, people were yelling at you to come drink in their bar for the evening and enjoy their compilations of today’s greatest hits. And if you were interested, there is a cart of candied scorpions, tarantulas, and centipedes you can indulge in.
Over the night, things can get pretty wild on Khao San Road after you have had a few drinks. The music gets loud and the crowds dance crazy underneath a sparkling Bangkok sky. The local Thai people definitely know how to dance, party, and overall have a great time. When 2 am rolls around, people are saddened when it’s time to take the party home. It’s really funny, I can’t remember a recent time I had had this much fun.
Sadly, the night ended and so did my night out with my New York fellas and Irish Lass. The following morning, I headed back home to Colorado not at all regretting the fact that I spent over $1,500 on flights and hostels for a wild visa chase. As unfortunate as that is, I think I needed that time in Bangkok partying with people and seeing what Bangkok was about. Maybe that was my real purpose of being there, to begin with, maybe this was the perfect place for my plans to fall apart.
I recommend a night or two like this to anyone experiencing a short trip to Bangkok. Make friends with people in your hostel and venture out into the city together for a night you’ll never forget. I certainly never my will forget my 12-hour layover in Singapore or my last night in Bangkok.