Discovering the world on $20 per day ......................

Post 125: Bangkok, Thailand

It’s the 8th of August 2008 and by the time I’d retrieved my ragtag assortment of luggage from the airport carousel and cleared customs, it was too late to consider even a cheap hotel for the remainder of the night. The £10 that would have been spent on a room for the night could easily be invested elsewhere. Bangkok is an amazing city, it’s been too many years since my last visit and although the buildings and transport systems have changed, …… the atmosphere is unmistakable.

The plan is to find a rental bike, get out of Bangkok as soon as possible and head north. I’d hoped to ride to Aranyaprathet and then make my way across the border on foot into Cambodia. Unfortunately due to a major cock-up the evening before leaving Seoul, I’ve arrived here with an empty ‘Emergency Fund’. Unfortunately it appears that a journey into Cambodia will have to wait until a future date. The first challenge here would be to find a rental bike. Hiring a car in Bangkok is easy, hiring a bike in any of the Thai resorts is also very easy, ….. but in Bangkok, bike rental is either scarce or prohibitively expensive. I’d heard of a man in Bangkok called John Moriarty, an American expatriate who helps travellers with motorbikes, …… but the information I had was old and my emails to him had remained unanswered. Tomorrow I would seek help in tracking John down, ….. but I had time to kill until dawn.

The 24-hour food stall was busy, the food and drinks were cheap and delicious, the life around me was eclectic and vibrant. Bangkok is the city that properly defines ‘The City That Never Sleeps’, it’s a perfect place to explore but a poor place to relax. I sit waiting for dawn to arrive with a Jonny Depp look-alike and rotating groups of hyperactive ‘Taxi Bike Riders’ in their once fluorescent orange vests. They speak a form of Thai that I cannot understand, they are red eyed and suspiciously too awake for this hour of the morning. These guys ride their Honda Waves around this chaotic city at break-neck speeds, ferrying passengers who have neither the time nor the money to take a taxi, they make London Couriers look like Health & Safety enforcers. I suspect that the redness of their eyes and speed of their chattering owes more to chemical stimulation than to any love of their jobs. It passes the time, ….. it also plants a new seed of adventure in my imagination, …. but more of that later.

My Thai was never ‘good’ and nowadays it’s practically nonexistent, .. I needed help in finding the elusive John Moriarty, I needed to start riding again, Poor Circulation had been ‘pedestrian’ for two long weeks, …. I was missing my Tiger, I needed a bike. If you need a good guide or interpreter in any strange city on a low budget, find a college. At the college you’ll find a student, .. hopefully a student studying English. Thankfully here in Bangkok, colleges and universities are everywhere and English students are plentiful. Whatever this support will cost you, …. it will save you time and money and allow you to discover things that other tourists will undoubtedly miss.

Around midday, I find Ae, an English student who is bright and full of life, … she agrees to help me for the sum of 400 TB (£6) per day, …. one day will suffice. By 3pm, I’m in an unfamiliar district of Bangkok looking at an even more unfamiliar motorcycle. It’s a Honda Phantom, it looks like a ‘Cruiser’, …. it looks too large for it’s tiny engine, …. but at 400 TB per day with insurance included, … it’s bang-on budget. I agree four days, …. I hope that will be enough. I take John’s number just in case I need to extend for an extra day. John hands me a map, he looks at the beautiful Ae and gives me a wry smile (wrongly I might add), ….. he’s seen too many wide-eyed travellers like me before, ….. he can probably smell my fear, .. he wishes me well. I familiarise myself with the bike by returning Ae to the college where we had met. Riding a new bike on the left side of the road in a city this busy is not easy, ….. but reading road signs written only in Thai is impossible. By 7pm, Ae is safely back at her college and I’ve unsafely secured a backpackers room with parking for the bike for 300 TB, .. £5. Overnight I suspect that the bike is slightly more secure than it’s rider, ….. but tomorrow is a big day, an early start and a journey that I fear more than the Amur Highway, … I fall asleep clutching my wallet and passport.

1 comment:

madmonk said...

i am the John Moriarty that you seek. 02-391-5670 in Bkk;

still have bikes for rent.