Despite having a one-year visa, Thai immigration law still requires that I leave the country every three months. This can be a simple trip to the border and back (what a dumb rule), but I figure that if I’m leaving anyway, I might as well use the opportunity to see somewhere new. My first Thai visa I renewed in Malaysia/Singapore, and the second in Vietnam. Now it’s time for Cambodia.
Besides, as my recent post no doubt made clear, I actually am aching to get out of Bangkok. Not because I don’t still like living here, but just because at the moment I’m in dire need of a quieter, less distracting environment to work. I need to escape the social limelight and the neverending temptation to slack off. The way I see it, it’s pretty ridiculous that I have the opportunity to live the life that I do – but that I haven’t been able to really enjoy it recently just because I’ve been so far behind. If only I could catch up, I could turn travel back into what it was meant to be: enjoyable. Not stressful.
Still, before taking off there’s one thing I’ve been wanting to do. As I also recently mentioned, I realized during these past few months that my little Soi 4 guesthouse just doesn’t cut it – and has been contributing immensely to my lowish morale during my stay. Its distance from the gym keeps me from working out regularly, making me feel physically poor; its dilapidated state embarrasses me whenever a friend drops by; the noise outside distracts me from work; and the hookers and incessant pestering of tuktuk drivers wear on my nerves almost every time I step out. Finding a better place to live wouldn’t eliminate the distractions of Bangkok, but it would surely alleviate a lot of them. This is why I’ve already tried to move twice – first to a monthly apartment and then to a beach South of Pattaya. Something just always happened that brought me right back here.
So with only a week and a half left on my visa, I’ve decided to change my tactic. For now, I’ve abandoned the idea of an apartment and spent a few afternoons looking at other guesthouses within the city center. The problem with an apartment is that I honestly just have trouble getting tied down – there always seem to be possibilities of leaving on the horizon, whether because of friends or floods or work or fun. Frankly, I just prefer having the freedom to come and go as I please. Yet every daily-paid place I’ve found has either been horrible, horribly located, or too pricey to consider long-term.
But now, something is different. I have a bike. Suddenly I can consider areas nearer the things I need to access but not necessarily near the Skytrain/Metro (which contributes hugely to cost).
It didn’t take long to find a godsend: the S2S Boutique Resort. So although I’m right about to head to Cambodia, I picked up my things and moved. It was an experiment. I wanted to see if living somewhere else really would make a difference.
It did. I cannot even tell you how things changed in a flash. S2S may be far from a Hilton, but it’s also far from Happy Inn – a place where for once I don’t feel ashamed to invite friends over. It’s a five minute bikeride from the gym (YES!!), a three minute ride from CentralWorld, and a three minute ride from Victory Monument. At about 15 minutes by foot from the BTS it’d definitely be inconvenient without a bike, which is why I’d never considered it – or any other similar places – before. But it just feels so much nicer than Happy Inn, like an actual proper hotel with a lobby, restaurant, a pleasant little garden by the entrance. The guests aren’t fat old men with scantily-clad 20-something-year-old Thai girls, they’re actual families of tourists. And although the online prices are quite a bit higher, in person I was able to negotiate it to 600 baht – the exact same as I’ve been paying all along.
The only downsides I see are that the room is quite a bit smaller, the windows are tinted pretty dark, and it’s located very close to a highway overpass. But by taking a room on the far side of the building I don’t hear traffic at all, and can leave my door opened to let the light in. My window faces a quiet residential backstreet – no bar girls and no tuktuk drivers. I even have a cozy little table outside so I can sit and enjoy the “fresh” air while coding.
Plus, the Internet is fast.
With a bicycle, and for my particular needs, it feels S2S is nearly the perfect place to live. And at the very least it should give me a refresher – a place convenient to work and stay fit that’s set slightly away from the packed, polluted center. The center which I both hate to love and love to hate.
To be honest, for the past few weeks I’ve been feeling so down that I was even secretly considering a flight home. But in a flash, I again feel great. I decided to stay until the day my visa expires, fully evaluating the place for a future visit. But at least for now, it looks like the possibility of a comfortable life in Bangkok – even without committing to a month at a time – is still alive and well.
Note: These posts are behind realtime; the above took place in January, 2012.