Our first day in Thailand started very smoothly: the flight was comfortable, rail transfer to the city was quick and easy, and the weather was not too sticky – even breathing the thick dusty air wasn’t as bad as we expected. The bilingual signs on every corner at the airport/skytrain/metro stops made our navigation quick and painless, however the further we got from the city, the fewer signs there were.
We found the bus stop with our bus number written on it, hoping for a 10, maybe 20 minute wait. 40 minutes later we still patiently stood there ignoring the hundreds of taxi drivers stopping in the middle of busy traffic and shouting “airport, airport, I take you airport”. An hour later, after asking a few locals around us, and being annoyed by hundreds of other buses stopping here, we decided to seek help from a smiley BTS staff member. Turns out they knew just as much as we did about the bus system, so 5 minutes later we were in a taxi to the hotel. Well, not to the hotel (as the taxi driver didn’t know where it was), but to a university close to it. We feared the hotel to be non-existent due to lack of reviews online, but hey, it was cheap and the rooms looked nice.
As we had prepared for the worst (we printed the precise address, phone number, Google map screenshots of hotel location, surrounding areas and nearby attractions, etc), the only thing we had to fear were loose dogs on the streets. However, an hour and a half into our search for the right house number, we were in the same spot the taxi driver dropped us off. But this time we had 5 kilometres of baggage dragging experience. We also bought a local SIM card and tried to ring the hotel – no answer.
It was a long day, we were sweaty and we wanted to eat. In despair, we started walking the OPPOSITE way from where the hotel was marked on the map. And guess what, right next to the house number 1483 there was our hotel with the number 1559! We couldn’t believe we found it. We stood there happy, looking at our hotel and thinking “shower time!”. But the shower didn’t happen. Neither did the hotel. We walked in to find an empty hall with no reception, and upstairs there was a guy with a machete (big Asian knife) eagerly cutting some palm trees on the roof of 1st floor. He went to get someone from upstairs. 20 minutes later a lady came down suggesting that we wait (of course both of them were speaking in Thai only). Another 20 minutes passed and neither of them had come back so we were on our way out. Downstairs there was the same lady with a taxi driver, trying to put our bags in the boot wanting to take us somewhere. We were pointing to the house number and the hotel name, then to our reservation hoping they would understand we were not lost, we were in the right place and didn’t need to go anywhere. However, the two of them were convinced we needed to get inside the taxi and after several minutes of having this Thai/English/sign language conversation the lady rung someone and handed over her phone to me. As much as I speak Thai (none), and as much as the guy on the phone spoke English (very little), I managed to understand that the guy had another hotel where the taxi would take us, as the one we booked had some problems.
Not only we had booked a hotel in a middle of who knows where, but we were on our way to, as best as I can describe, further from happiness. By the time we reached the second hotel it was already lunchtime. Please note that we landed at 7 AM.
We got off the taxi at the new (and I don’t mean the year of build) hotel and were told to wait. After a 10 minute talk between the lady and (probably) the receptionist they asked for a passport. As I was walking after my passport, staff were already taking our bags to our room, so Auste ran after the bags.
Long story short, the next 40 minutes or so went like this: I was having a “conversation” with who I believe was the manager, he wanted my passport, I was saying I had already paid and we didn’t want to stay as the room with the soviet-feel stunk of cigarettes (seriously, it felt as if someone was having a fag in the room while we were in), after another 10 minute wait we took our bags from the room and walked away, then the owner of the original hotel arrived and met us, he apologised many times, somehow magically offered us our money back, we took it, thanked him and started to walk round the corner, looking for some food, he stopped us again and offered a lift to the nearest metro, we agreed, we exchanged names and stuff (on a loooong drive – we were glad we didn’t need to take the taxi again) and finally said goodbye at the station. Phew!
After all the hassle it was getting dark, but we were in the city – Sukhumvit district. We were dragging our luggage up and down the area and finally stopped for a meal – a nice plate of noodles at a table right on the street. We found an acceptable hotel with free Wi-Fi for nearly 1000 baht per night (about £20). It was a bit pricey for a basic room but prices were similar around Soi 9, 11 and 19, and we needed rest. We also needed a beer. I went to the nearest 7-eleven and got a nice cold bottle of SiamPatron or something, at least it starts with ‘Siam’.
We were so excited about that beer, I think it was seconds of entering the room when we opened it. Any English person would understand that if you want a nice cold pint, you definitely wouldn’t drink ‘white star’ or ‘white lightning’ from the bottom shelf of a convenience store. So there we were after such a long day, finally sitting in a hotel room, sipping on a drink… I can’t tell what it was, but it was definitely not beer.
All in all, it was a good day. We are both glad that we experienced all those things, as it made us more open to how things work here. And things work differently.
Interesting note: just before we left Lithuania we were checking whether we could cancel this first hotel as we wanted to book another one somewhere closer to the city centre, but the charges were non-refundable. Be careful with what you wish for as it might come true in the least expected way…