Khao San: Vegas of the Tropics?
Bangkok’s Khao San “backpacker ghetto” certainly isn’t the “real” Thailand, but I wasn’t looking for a culture fix after Beth left. Really, I just needed a place where I could work uninterrupted for hours on end. Where a healthy, delicious, cheap snack was never more than 100 steps in any direction. Really, I just needed a break. “A break from traveling?!,” you ask. “How could that be?!”. Well, as Peter Moore says in No Shitting in the Toilet,
“[Travel is] about throwing yourself in the deep end and hoping like crazy that you don’t drown. The world ‘travel’ for example, comes from the Latin word “travail” – meaning spending ridiculous amounts of money to be miserable, homesick and frightened.”
I wasn’t homesick, or frightened, but a break-neck travel pace will always threaten one’s sanity and bank balance. Kanchanaburi, nearly a month prior, was the last time I was able to work obsessively (my preferred mode for working) on large projects. The writing, emails, phone conversations, number crunching, promoting, researching and reading on my to-do list had reached gargantuan proportions. Also, one of my favorite to-do’s had cropped up: helping my little sis with a paper for school.
It was during my uninterrupted, obsessive work fest that I came to realize Khao San is basically the Vegas of the tropics. Bright lights, hedonism, fun, easy ways to part with your money, nothing ever closes, the city never sleeps. There are people having the time of their lives at all hours. (When we departed early one morning, the streets were filled with revelers!) In fact, the quietest time of day is about 9-11 a.m.
After moving into the sweltering Green House, I completely unhinged myself. Sometimes I’d work until 4 a.m. A concept of time eluded me completely. The closest I got was “The getting dark time.” “The getting hungry time.” I loved operating on my own rhythms, having the freedom to tackle the items that most motivated and energized me. Working a desk job in the U.S., my life was so out of balance that I never felt like doing anything more than laying around the house in my bathrobe on my days off.
When I ran out of steam for my work craze, I rejuvenated by going on river walks or checking out the theater festival in a nearby park. The city’s soft evening skies amazed me. Bats cruised the river’s airspace for bugs. Breakdancers put on an impressive show that looked like improv-power-yoga on speed. I got up close to the iconic bridge – Saphan Phra Pin Klao – that I could see from the window at “My House Guesthouse” (where I’d moved to be farther away from the Israeli-only Chabad House after terrorists hiding in the city accidentally blew themselves up while planning bomb attacks against Israeli targets). I enjoyed the mango trees, historic buildings, courtyards, elaborate temples, and funny city animals; asian squirrels, crows, and geckos that flocked to the lights at night. Even amonst the Banglamphy hub-bub, I could still hear the sound of “frogs” croaking as the roaming vendors peddled this particular souvenier.
Khao San, you’re not so bad after all. ♣
Photo link coming soon.