After arriving Saturday night I spent most of Sunday wondering around Bangkok (BKK) and (purposefully?) getting lost and sidetracked into little streets. The thing that struck me most was the duality of Bangkok.
When I exited my hostel and crossed the street I was on Khao San Road. For those of you fortunate enough to have never seen Khao San Road let me try to squeeze the experience into the proverbial nutshell.
Khao San Road is a pedestrian zone street in the heart of BKK. It is full with anything a tourist/backpacker could want. And when I say anything I really mean anything. You can get a tribal tattoo, a fake drivers license, a massage, a `fresh fruit shake, fish and chips, a TEFL (probably they meant TOEFL) certificate, a ‘girlfriend’ or fried larvae and scorpions. If you want to take a picture of the fried scorpions you have to pay ten Baht. Nothing is for free and the smiles, if there are any, seem tired and fake.
Tourist-friendly hostels and bars that show football and sell a ‘bucket of strong cheap drink’ frame the road. When you go through this street in the morning or noon it’s quite empty. The whole street seems a bit tired and desolate. I’d almost say it’s a road that seems to have a severe hangover. Yes, let’s call it hangover road.
At noon there’s only a few red faced tourists, they either fall into the backpacker/hippie crowd, the ‘we’re actually in BKK for culture but we thought we had to have a look so we can be shocked’ group or the stag-night/hen-night category, though the latter is only seen later when they flood the bars in search for another night that they will not remember.
You need to be in the mood for hangover road and it needs to be night. During daytime hangover road just seems like anybody else on the morning after a long and hard night of partying: less colourful, less fun and slightly smelling of sweat, booze and vomit. Not somebody you want to spend time with in the bright sunlight.
I leave hangover road and flee towards the next best street. A few minutes and random turns later I find a little street were no other Farang is to be seen (my brain suddenly reactivated a few more Thai words from five years ago, Farang means foreigner).
An old man greets me in Thai, smiles and does not try to sell me something. A cat runs over the empty street and a bit further down I find a small temple where little bells chime in the breeze and the golden roof shimmers in the bright sunlight.
The serenity is the exact opposite of hangover road. Except for a few drivers that are holding a siesta in their minivans I’m the only person here. I sit down and let the wooden beads of my Mala run through my hands a few times, sending good thoughts to my friends and family.
From the temple I continue further away from hangover road and in the hours of the early evening I stumble upon the ‘golden mountain’. A small oasis of willowing bright pink bougainvillea flowers, shimmering green trees, large red and brown centipedes, cheerfully chirping birds, crickets and frogs. On the top of the little mountain there is a temple with a large Buddha.
I am content walking around the mountain and only walking up the first set of stone steps to the first level. There is an arrangement of bells and a small Buddha.
The evening sun is setting and colours everything in a warm golden light. Except for a little white gecko there is nobody else. I take a deep breath and think, okay, if I can find a lovely place like this in walking distance from hangover road I can spend two good months here.