“My name is Alex. So what else do you need to know? Stuff about my family, or where I’m from? None of that matters. Not once you cross the ocean and cut yourself loose, looking for something more beautiful, something more exciting and yes, I admit, something more dangerous. So after eighteen hours in the back of an airplane, three dumb movies, two plastic meals, six beers and absolutely no sleep, I finally touch down; in Bangkok.” (Adaptation of the first line in the movie The Beach.)
In this story, I’m going back to the beginning. The first time I stepped foot into the mysteries of the orient. After the longest air travel experience of my life amassing a whopping total of just over 30 hours in flight time and layovers flying from Denver -> Los Angeles -> Tokyo -> Bangkok, I had finally arrived. Unfortunately, this wasn’t even the end of the journey as I still needed to fly south to Phuket, an island in the Andaman Sea where I was to receive training to become an English teacher. However with the 30 hours under my belt and another 10-hour overnight layover in Bangkok I opted to find a bed for the night. Anyone whose ever stepped foot in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport can most certainly attest to this, but that place is absolutely nuts. With my blond hair, blue eyes and tan resistant English white skin I might have well been screaming “I’m not from around here, come try and scam me!!!” Delirious and confused from countless hours of the impossible task of attempting to contort my body into a comfortable sleeping position in an airline seat, I exited customs and quite literally became a magnet to Thai people. For a split second, I felt like Justin Bieber at a girl scout convention, as flocks of people locked eyes with me and quickly B-lined towards me so they could be the first person to talk with me. At first trying to be respectful, I eventually realized that if I gave the time to politely answer each Thai person trying to sell me tuk-tuks, suits, hotels and massages, I would probably miss my flight 10 hours from now. After unsuccessfully trying to locate a hotel within the airport I eventually gave in to an extremely persistent Thai guy who was dressed in a suit with an airport badge. He told me not listen to anyone else as they would rip me off, but he was official and worked for the airport.
Looking the part, I decided to follow him as he said he would give me a cheap deal on a hotel room just 2 minutes from the airport, and provide free transport there and back for my flight in the morning. Not really thinking straight I was ushered into an unmarked taxi, speeding through crazy traffic in the middle of the night. Slightly uneasy being alone in some random guys car that didn’t speak one word of English, the 2 minutes quickly turned into over a half hour of driving. With no way to communicate with the driver I just went along with it tightly gripping my backpack and preparing myself for a fast-paced exit if things started going sour. As the taxi pulled off the highway, we entered a series of neon lit alleyways with what appeared to be some sort of brothels aligning the streets. To my dismay, we stopped in one of these alleys outside of a dumpy looking motel. The driver just pointed to the front desk and although I attempted to tell him to take me someplace that didn’t look like I would be kidnapped in my sleep, he didn’t understand. The Thai guys has smiles on their faces, but I could sense I was being taking advantage of when asked to pay 1,000 baht for a room. To be completely honest I did not even know the exchange rate yet and all I had was a credit card, but I really had no other option.
After I paid I was taken into a room that was surprisingly nicer than I had expected with air conditiong and my own bathroom. Glad there was a deadbolt, I finally laid down in this strange smelling new world to take it all in. Just as my eyes were closing for the night I was startled by a phone call in my room. I picked up the phone and the front desk guy kept saying “mistake, mistake you need pay more money.” Mystified and confused I just played the dumb tourist card, hung up and hoped they would leave me alone. Minutes later pounding on my door and a Thai guy yelling for me to open it. In a delusional, exhausted state of shock I opened my door and the Thai guy led me back to the front desk. They told me they made a mistake and I actually owe 1,000 more baht or I had to leave. I asked how I could leave and they acted out walking. When I inquired why the sudden increase their only response was “mistake.” I seriously contemplated leaving and briefly inspected the dark alleyways surrounding the hotel. Realizing that money is never worth endangering my life, I eventually agreed to pay the outrageous doubling in price and finally get some sleep. Crashing hard I woke up to my first daylight in Thailand where I was provided a free ride back to the airport for my next flight. I never did see the airport offical again and accepted that I had been scammed my very first night in Thailand. When I arrived at the airport I quickly found out the exchange rate and realized 1,000 baht is equivalent to $30 US. So all in all my scam really only cost me $60 which is probably cheaper than a hotel of the same quality back home.
The definition of adventure is: An unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity. Being scammed and slightly scared during my first night fits into this definition so I accepted it as a learning experience and eagerly awaited my arrival to the island.