Once Halloween had come to an end, Peder returned home to Norway and my life in Bangkok more or less leveled out. I stayed for a total of three months this time around, but unfortunately, things never quite went as planned.
Even after the “critical” flood risk had passed and it looked like central Bangkok would stay dry, I never really had the opportunity to settle in like I’d hoped. For the first six weeks or so nobody knew how severe the effects would be, so I didn’t want to sign an apartment lease and end up stuck in a bad situation.
And even once the city’s long-term stability was more or less certain, all of the monthly apartments I’d picked out were still overflowing with ‘refugees’ from the inundated outlying districts. Thus, despite my extensive hunting last time I was here, I still found myself stuck in good old sleazy Happy Inn.
Honestly, this was a pretty big morale-killer for my stay. I know I said before that I liked Happy Inn, but after awhile I started really wanting to move.
The location may be central, but it’s also noisy and polluted. It may be near the clubs, but it’s far from the gym. It may be cheap, but it’s not exactly a classy place to meet up with friends.
For a rowdy vacation I still think it’s great – but I soon realized that if you’re trying to settle down and “live life” in Bangkok, a cheapo guesthouse on a sleazy bar street really just doesn’t cut it. The constant screaming of bar girls and neverending chorus of “tuktuk?” – aside from being annoying – just makes it far too hard to concentrate. Let alone sleep.
(Note: I actually did move into a monthly apartment at one point, but it only lasted for a weekend, another long story in and of itself…
In brief: it was located in a very tall building where the only Internet available was their own. Unfortunately, they’d capped the per-unit speed so outrageously low that almost nothing worked. FTP and VPN both always timed out. Watching a video on YouTube in realtime – yeah, right! I spent something like five days going back and forth with the staff, talking to telecom companies, and trying to figure out what to do.
In the end, I had little choice but to demand my deposit and move out. So after nearly a week of lost productivity I found myself right back where I started – at Happy Inn. I was pretty disheartened, especially because the place was otherwise so nice: a stone’s throw from the BTS, a few minutes from my gym, right next to a park, and even a rooftop pool. But if I couldn’t work, how could I stay… 🙁 )
And even aside from the living situation, I must admit that my morale wasn’t generally all that high this time around. After a month of intense travel with barely a moment to myself, I’d fallen so desperately behind on life that it almost felt hopeless. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t make enough headway, a big weight on my shoulders that made it impossible to just sit back and enjoy all the things I once loved about living in Bangkok.
If you’re interested, these are just some of the unexpected hindrances that made it so hard to put even a dent in what I’d hoped to get done…
• My iPhone. I didn’t mention this before, but one of the things that happened in Vietnam was the theft of my iPhone – yet again. Traveling without it was inconvenient, but I figured that since the 4S was right around the corner I might as well wait to replace it. However, getting one out to Thailand turned out to be HUGE ordeal that ultimately cost a ridiculous amount of time. And even once I did get it, setting it back up still took quite awhile. A jailbreak wasn’t yet available so I had to find alternatives for a ton of the basic functionality I need.
• Unanticipated projects. My main employer recently brought a new R&D guy onboard, which meant a sudden deluge of work requests. Of course this was productive time spent, but it wasn’t time that crossed even a single item off my already overwhelming ToDo list. Instead, it only made the list longer.
• Health. This was a big one. The plan for my stay was always to combine fun on the weekends with work during the week, but a seemingly endless string of health issues kept me foggy-brained, lethargic, or in doctor’s offices during many valuable days.
For example: after exploring the floods (as in the photos above), unclean water apparently got into a small cut or zit on my face. This soon grew into an infected cyst that required a hospital visit and an injection.
Another example: the color contacts I used for my Halloween costume were the first I’d ever worn. Inexperienced, I wasn’t careful enough about washing my hands and ended up with a severe case of conjunctivitis. I could barely open my eyes for several days. What fun.
• Visitors. Because I was in Thailand during the peak travel season, there was a pretty consistent stream of out-of-country friends passing through. Ordinarily this would’ve been great, as I really enjoy showing people around a city with which I’m familiar. And even though the time spent with these friends was very enjoyable – and my own personal choice – it was still an unexpected factor to nudge back the schedule ever further.
In light of all this, you may be wondering why I didn’t just leave Bangkok and go somewhere quieter and with fewer distractions. Well, I did!
Once I’d finally gotten ahold of my iPhone and the stream of visitors had ended, some local friends and I went to Pattaya to celebrate the New Year. After they left, instead of returning to Bangkok I found myself a nice quiet place a bit farther down the coast.
…For two nights. Then my hard drive failed and I had no choice but to go back and get it replaced – killing several more days reinstalling my system.
Told you I’ve been having bad luck… 😛
Anyway, you get the idea. And again, I really don’t want to give the impression that my stay was all bad – it just wasn’t nearly as overwhelmingly positive as last time, the visit which more or less made me fall in love with this city and country.
Because even despite the inability to truly settle in and the weight of feeling so far behind, some aspects of my stay were just fabulous.
For instance, as if it hadn’t been good enough before, this time my social life really blossomed.
Given my current situation, this might be seen as both a gift and a curse. On one hand, with no social life I could’ve easily worked weekends as well. But on the other, if I eliminated every hint of fun what would be the point of coming to Bangkok at all? It seemed ridiculous to toss away invites to all the best events in town – so despite my frustrating weekdays, Friday through Sunday was almost always a blast.
No surprises there – that was always part of the plan 😉
From VIP tickets to world-famous DJs to a spot on Bangkok’s inaugural Chao Phraya riverboat party, one thing I’ll say about Bangkok is that there really is never a shortage of fun things to do. Only of time to do them.
Another major lifestyle change this time around was a bike: I finally bought myself one for use the city. Finding and picking it took quite a bit longer than I’d hoped, but oh my God was it worth it. The ability to get myself anywhere in an instant really put the whole city at my fingertips. There were no more long walks, no more worrying about how far I was from the BTS, and no more sitting in traffic.
I found myself zipping around to places that’d taken ages the last time I was here. I could pop over to the park for a quick jog, head into the center for a bite, or just get away for a short break from it all – without making a big long ordeal. Even my day of exploring the floods was all done by bike, save for just a few exceptionally deep sections. Just indescribably liberating.
So I guess that about summarizes my second stint of living in Bangkok. You probably wouldn’t be surprised if I told you that I still have a full forty pages of blog notes from my stay – and that this post is just a very, very condensed summary. Partially-written drafts include everything from “Guide To Bangkok Nightlife” and “Guide To Buying A Cheap Bicycle in Bangkok” to the more usual-style “Exploring The Floods,” “New Year in Pattaya“, “The King’s Birthday,” and “Deeper Bangkok Observations.”
But for now – just like the posts from Vietnam – they’ll just have to wait 😛
Note: These posts are behind realtime; the above took place in from October 2011 to January 2012.