Updated: 06/09/19 | Posted: 11/17/11
It’s been 18 months since I was last here.
As I rode the new train into the city, I wondered what else would be different. The last time I was here the political parties were fighting. There were protests, bombings, and citywide violence that turned one of my favorite cities into a war zone. Since my last visit, many of my friends have moved on to new destinations or returned home.
But as I listened to the people around me and looked at the faces on the train, I felt at ease. I was comfortable. I knew I was home. Though I’ve been away a long time, Bangkok and I are as close as ever.
I checked into my guesthouse, dropped my bags, and practically lept out the door. I needed to explore. I needed to be outside — in my city. I wanted to wrap it around me like a blanket.
I had errands to run. I had food to eat. I had friends to see.
As I made my way down the main street of Sukhumvit, I marveled at the new buildings. I felt surprised seeing new derelict buildings, after being there for more years than I can remember, had finally been torn down.
Bangkok was changing.
The sights. The sounds. The smells. The pace.
Everything was familiar.
I was practically skipping down the streets.
I moved to familiar haunts. I ate near my old house. Fried rice never tasted so good. The guy I buy movies from gave me a big hug and asked why I’d been gone so long.
“I went home,” I said.
We make small talk, and he smiles, shakes my hand, and tells me not to stay away for so long again.
“I’ll come back more often,” I promised.
I move on with my day — there’s a lot to do. Walking into my old hair stylist’s, I ask how much for a cut. “150 baht,” she says. Same as last year.
“Where have you been?” she asks me. “It’s been a long time.”
She remembered my face better than I remembered hers. I feel a bit embarrassed.
It would be hard to explain my last year. I simply tell her I went home. It’s partially true.
“Oh really? You go home to work?”
“Yeah, I work on the Internet, though, so I can work anywhere.”
“Why don’t you work here?” she presses.
We make small talk in a mixture of Thai and English. I’m impressed she remembers so much about me. She compliments me on how good my Thai still is, though I think she’s just being polite.
It feels good to speak Thai again, but as I stumble over my words, I know I’m rusty.
In typical fashion, she asks me if I have a girlfriend.
“No,” I say. “I’m not looking for one.”
She tells me Thailand is a perfect place to find one.
She laughs. I laugh.
As my haircut finishes, she admonishes me. “If you don’t come back more, I’ll raise the price of your haircuts. Thailand is your home.”
Later in the evening, I head to my favorite bar, Cheap Charlie’s. It’s the home of many good memories. “Sawadee Krap Satit,” I say. “I’ll have a gin and tonic.” Looking up from his CDs, the bartender smiles a big grin. He too remembers me. “Of course,” he says.
That night as I have drinks with friends, I can’t help but think that my hairdresser was right.
I am home.
Part of me belongs here. Like a piece in a puzzle, I fit perfectly. There’s nothing unfamiliar about Bangkok and every part of it feels normal to me. It always pulls me back.
We may not remain in a place forever, but sometimes places forever remain in us.
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Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines, because they search websites and airlines around the globe, so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com, as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use it all the time. My favorite hostels in Bangkok are:
- Lub d Bangkok Silom – Lub d Silom is more of a European-style hostel than a traditional Asian guesthouse. It’s in a popular spot for backpackers looking to stay somewhere other than Khao San Road, is safe (they use electronic key locks), and the staff speaks fluent English.
- Golden Mountain Hostel – This small, family-run hostel is one of the newest and nicest hostels in the city. The dorm beds are actually cubbies built into the wall for added privacy, and each room sleeps eight people. This is a great hostel if you want some peace and quiet.
- Mad Monkey – Mad Monkey is a backpacker institution near Khao San Road. It’s is probably the best hostel in Bangkok if you want to party. It has a restaurant, pool, and tour desk with some of the cheapest and most competitive prices in town.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
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