The instant I step off the airport metro is the instant the sky decides to open. I have never seen such a quick transition between a sunny day and a torrential thunder storm. The locals take this in stride, but of course, I'm the ridiculous white man clamoring for shelter, gawking at the thunder claps, and wrestling the plastic elastic rain cover over my oversized backpack.
An hour in the rain got me to a bus stop, where I was supposed to take the 503 to Banglamphu. Hard to pronounce, but home to the world famous and equally infamous Khao San Road. They've made movies about this place, that's how absurd it is. The reason I'm here is because the guidebook says it's full of westerners, tourists, people like me. 'Ease into it' I keep telling myself.
The place reminds me of a classy, tropical Tijuana. People on the street will not hesitate to become your best friend for 18 seconds while they try to sell you a tailored Armani ripoff suit.
Are you looking for discount dental work? Well holy shit, you've found the right shop! Disregard the hastily retrofitted power lines and sewer drainage ditch, this place is legit! Everything is cheap, cheap, cheap, this is the favorite word of Thais in Banlamphu. I spent all day walking as far away from my guesthouse as I could in the sweltering heat and suffocating humidity, only to get a tuk-tuk back to home base for 50 Baht. That's like a generous buck three eighty, sans change. I'm taking photos like a trigger-happy Parkinson's patient. At this rate, my hard drive is full in one week.
One thing I'm discovering is the power of the smile. I'm VERY American here - I don't speak Thai, and I'm pretty much mono-linguistic in general aside from two years of Spanish in high school. The glowering, toiling street cart owner stares at you when you walk down the street, but you flash her a smile and the world changes. A smile truly transcends human language, it is universally a positive symbol of good-will.
Where I sit now, at a Bar/Restaurant/Guesthouse/Bank on Soi Kambutri, I'm listening to a frantically organized playlist of late-90's hits, at a table aside a road that has existed for eight times longer than the USA has, drinking a Chang Draught for 30 Baht.