Places · Self · Travel

To Bangkok, the city where I first traveled solo

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You were a crazy place, I was a crazy girl and that was a crazy thing to do – flying all the way from Manila to meet a boy for the first time, bringing with me an average-sized shoulder bag (inside it only a couple of shirts and shorts) and arriving at 2 a.m. without any idea where I can find him, what will happen and where I will stay for the following three days. No one knew I went there. I’ve only told two of my friends of my whereabouts on the day after I came.

So I met the boy. I was disappointed (but oh well, reality bites). He was disappointed, too (not of me but of what I did before we met). He got pissed off, he said he wanted to walk alone in the streets because he’s that kind of person (someone who likes solitary walks at night). I refused to be left on my own so we ended up with the agreement that we’d just find a guesthouse for me where I could stay for the night and the remaining days (the initial plan was for me to stay where he would be staying). We walked along the streets for a while, spoken with the locals, asking if they knew of a cheap place to stay nearby.

Needless to say I was heartbroken and shocked, confused. It felt like I’ve been abducted by aliens who suddenly decided to open the bottom of the spaceship and drop me in the middle of some strange place. Things and people looked familiar but essentially different. People looked like me but didn’t speak my language. I couldn’t even read most of the fucking signs in the streets.

Your people saved me, though. The old man from the guesthouse was nice, even the hookers I’ve spoken to were all nice. I surprisingly felt safe walking in your streets even in the middle of the night in the outskirts of the red light district (though foreign men looked at me, perhaps thinking I was a hooker, too since I was loitering in the sidewalk while waiting for the boy). Actually I felt quite comfortable walking alone, going back and forth the same streets, amused with myself for looking so foolish. I tried speaking with the people but most of them couldn’t understand English.

I decided not to meet up with him the following day even though we initially agreed to hang out in the evening in a bar nearby. Instead, I badmouthed him while we chatted (it was futile, I know). I spent the next day aimlessly roaming the streets.

To make it more dramatic, it was actually Valentine’s Day. I didn’t have enough Baht or US dollars and the currency changers won’t accept Philippine Peso (I was stupid, I know). I remembered eating only a piece of bread for a day, that was  before I found myself in the middle of a protest rally the following day where I fell in line to get some free lunch complete with desserts and drinks.

Could you just imagine that? I was alone in a foreign place; heartbroken and hungry on Valentine’s Day.

Miraculously while I was looking through my belt bag on the second day, I found another 200 Baht. So on my third and last day, I was able to afford a spicy Thai soup and an all-day ticket pass to their metro train. That enabled me to enjoy the places along the Sukhumvit line. I was able to go to Siam Square, a couple of temples and the tent city. I also went inside the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center since it’s free (by that time I knew my trip was worth it, I was having a good time). I was even capable of buying myself some street foods. The highlight of my trip would be Chachutak Night Market were I even got to treat myself some square Durian ice cream in a paper cup and bought a vintage elephant necklace for myself and a Siamese cat key chain for a friend (I felt so rich because I’ve managed to actually do some shopping!). I left my stuff in the package counter at the mall early that day so I just came back to pick it up after enjoying myself in the market.

After picking up my stuff, I freshened up and changed clothes. I felt good. I was only a few hours away from my return flight to Manila. It had been a success for me that I enjoyed my trip despite what had happened (or rather because of what had happened).

However, I got a scare when I found out that the ticket to the airport was different from the all-day pass which I’ve already got. Again miraculously, I still had enough money to buy a ticket (I was left with 4 Baht after that. Whew!)

I wouldn’t know what to do if I didn’t have enough money. Maybe I would find myself begging. WTF, FTW.

I immediately had my peso changed to Baht the moment I arrived at the airport. I bought myself some nice, full dinner, pretending like a normal tourist. I freshened up again and decided to find a spot somewhere where I could sleep. It was my first time to spend the night at the airport. I felt asleep easily but woke up at around 2 a.m. because it was freaking cold. I went out to the smoking area because it’s warm there only to get bitten by mosquitoes. I went to sleep, anyway. I woke up again at maybe 4 a.m., slept again then woke again at 5 a.m. People were already staring at me so I decided not to go back to sleep anymore.

I had my rice meal breakfast beside a monk at 6 a.m., checked-in at 6:30 and left the city at 9:30. You wouldn’t imagine my relief when the plane took off…more so when the plane landed in Manila. I came back as a complete human being. I was safe. I survived.

It has been absolutely crazy but I knew it’s the universe’s way of saying:

You’ve always said you wanted to travel solo but you haven’t really tried it. If I had to use some boy (being the boy crazy that you were) to get you going, I’ll do it! Now that you’ve done it what could you say? You had what it takes, right?! It felt good, huh? You were a street smart ass after all. You were also independent and you could enjoy your time alone. There were a couple of things you didn’t know about traveling, especially about traveling solo, but you were a fast learner and every travel will teach you new things about the world and yourself. That was not about meeting “The One” or having great, wild sex (haha!), it was about knowing who you really were and taking that first decisive flight! I didn’t leave you alone, after all. Those miracles you’ve mentioned, of course those were my own doing.”

The universe was both a bitch and an angel and she’s right. It was my debut as a solo traveler. I just had to learn it the hard, strange, dangerous and messy way.

Besides, looking back, I realized that that boy indirectly inspired me to travel. I even got a few tips about traveling on a budget from him.

Most of all, I learned not to need anyone to be happy. I could be happy alone.

It’s strange how the universe leads us to the path where we should go. After that I was more confident and wiser to go around the world solo. I’ve stopped speaking to that boy, of course, though I’ve already forgiven him and I’ve been secretly thanking him since then.

I’m coming back for you, Bangkok. I have to enjoy your drugs and night life. HAHAHA! I’m certainly coming back. I’d take the bus from Cambodia, maybe? Thanks for being gentle towards a crazy girl like me. Maybe you’re not that crazy after all. *winks

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