Wow Day 1 in Bangkok started with quite an adventure. Although I have never backpacked before, I have always considered myself a smart traveler who always figured out the logistics in advance. Well, I did this time as well. I did some research and learned to take bus 59 from the DMK airport to a bus station near Khao San Road where most backpackers stay at. Easy and simple right? Boy, was I wrong!
After I landed at the DMK airport in Bangkok at 5am local time, I followed the airport signs and quickly found out where to take the bus. As soon as I walked out of the door to the bus station, all I saw was traffic! Traffic was already busy at 5am in the morning (see video above)! That was intimidating but I managed to stay focus and wait for bus 59 to arrive.
As I stood at the bus station, I’ve realized that I looked like the only non Thai person who was taking the bus, but I seemed to blend in pretty well. As soon as bus 59 arrives, I got on the bus, took out my printed bus station listing in English and was so confident that this was easy and I would be able to find my station to get to my hostel quite quickly! Well, my confidence was basically shattered when we stopped at the first station and when I realized that the bus station names were all in Thai! There’s not a single word in English. What’s even crazier is that there are actually a gazillion number of stops rather than the simple 10 bus stops listed from my research. I still managed to stay calm at that point while being on a local bus and having no idea where I would get off. With quick thinking, I then resorted to Google Map. I know as long as the little blue dot on Google Map is moving toward the direction I wanted to go, then I would be good. “Thank God for Google Map working in Thailand”, I thought.
So everything was okay for a moment. The little blue dot kept moving closer to my destination. Then all of a sudden the bus stopped at one of the stations, the driver said something in Thai and everyone got off the bus. But that wasn’t the final stop! It was only half way to my hostel. I walked to the driver and asked him in English if everyone had to get off here. He kept saying things to me in Thai and that didn’t go anywhere. So I got off the bus as well with everyone else and I was standing in the middle of the city not knowing what to do next.
At that moment I felt extremely frustrated. It was only my first day in Bangkok! I just went through more than 30 hours of travel and had to deal with the missing luggage, and now I was being dropped off at a random place out of nowhere. I quickly realized that traveling in SE Asia is definitely several levels up in terms of difficulty in comparison to Europe. As I pouted, a kind looking older gentleman walked to me and said in English, “You look confused. I heard your conversation with the driver on the bus. Can I help you?” I felt relieved immediately at that point and asked him how to get to the bus station I was going to. With his help, I was guided to the closest subway station. I was then told to take line number one and then take another bus. I nodded and thanked him for his help and was recovered full of confidence in myself again.
I got on the subway and was soon taken to my stop where I needed to take another bus to get to my hostel. I used Google Map to help me find my bus station and followed the route the Map showed. After walking for 10 minutes, I got to the location where the Map told me to go, but there was no bus station! Now at that moment it has already been an hour and half since I got out of the airport. I just could not believe that it’s been taking me SO LONG to try to get to a place that was supposed to be only 13 miles away!!! I was furious, mostly mad at myself for not taking a taxi from the very beginning and trying to be smart to take on the local transportation system on my first day. What did I do next? I waved at a taxi, got on, and arrived at my hostel in 15 mins. By the time I got to my hostel, I was absolutely drained. I could not check in at the time because it was too early so I just passed out at the lobby instead with other tiring backpackers who seemed to have gone through some sort of exhausting experience as mine.
So why am I telling you this story? What I wanted to say for the fellow backpackers is that don’t be so confident in yourself and think you can manage the local transportation system so easily on your first day. Especially in SE Asia, the tranportation system is not as organized as what I have seen in other major touristy cities in Europe. So if any of you is researching about bus 59 right now to try to go from DMK to Khao San Road, ask yourself if you want to go through the same thing I went through or if you would rather take a taxi, which would probably cost a little bit more but you can sit back and relax with air conditioning to cope with your exhausted self and jet lag.