I awoke in a pitch black room which was cooler than a moonwalk on the sun, and rolled over to see a white dude getting out of the bed that the black guy was sleeping in when I entered. This place sure can change a man overnight, I thought, before introducing myself to him. His name was Braden Bryan and he was from Colorado, Which is the same place that the first best friend I made on my American adventures, in San Francisco’s Green Tortoise, Zach Lauffenburger, is from. Another good coincidence, which turned out great. He was automatically appointed as my best mate in Bangkok, a role which he undertook admirably. I needed a new backpack as mine was broken in India, a fact I’d forgotten to remember until I packed my bag, an hour before I had to leave London. A worker from the hostel who said hello to us as we hit the street told us that one of world’s largest malls named MBK, which contains over two thousand shops, would be the best place to try. I asked him if there was anything else good to do around there and he pointed out the Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre which was next to MBK on the map. It was cloudy but extremely humid as we walked to the Sky Train station, and were blessed by the coolness as we got on. It started to rain as we got off, and we ran into the arts centre, which had a spiralling interior, not dissimilar to New York’s Guggenheim. Brady and I strolled around getting to know each other, already ‘getting’ each other’s in-jokes and admiring some amazing paintings and sculptures. My favourite was a piece called The Noah, by Prateap Kochabua which depicted a chaotic scene of a ship in the midst of a storm and apparent kraken attack, with multiple half-human, half-fish characters all fighting for their lives. We hit the mall, and were instantly overwhelmed by its length and size. My knees went weak at the thought of navigating it in search of what I required, but I fought the urge to turn and run, and within half an hour I had found a nice looking knock-off North Face black backpack, large enough to carry a cut up corpse or two. Not that that’s what I’m planning for, but it’s comforting to know I have something suitable, just in case.
We made our way back to our hostel, got showered and cracked open a few brews out front, whilst chatting with the growing gang of travellers about plans for the night, and beyond. I said I was planning on heading to Vang Vieng in Laos, then travelling down through to Cambodia to visit Siem Reap and then fly back to Bangkok from Phnom Penh, in order to obtain a fresh thirty day visa and meet my lover for another adventure. One of the girls at the table said that she was planning the exact same thing, so I said “Let’s do it together then”, to which she replied “Yeah!” and we high fived. I hadn’t even caught her name (Maddie), but already I had found a travel buddy. We were joined by Alex and Scott, two guys from Middlesbrough that had just flown over after working in Australia. We quickly gathered more and more guys and dolls, finally deciding to hit the Khao San road. There were roughly fifteen of us, so we lined up three tuk-tuks, clambered on top of each other, over loading the small vehicles, and told the drivers that the first one there would get an extra 100 baht. There were seven of us on one, three seated, two squeezed into the narrow foot well, one guy sat on the battery and the crazy Thai guy driving. It was ten minutes of pure madness as we flew through traffic, bellowing with constant laughter and abuse directed towards the other tuk-tuks. “Come on Tony” people kept shouting at the driver, which clearly wasn’t his name. We left the others for dust, and arrived a good few minutes before they rolled in to see us all checking our watches.