The bittersweet part of backpacking is saying goodbye to the people that you just shared a living space with twenty-four hours a day for X amount of days. I said goodbye to everyone at Lub D Hostel and waved down a cab outside. I would be switching districts today and staying in Old Bangkok in the Banglampoo District near Khao San Road.
Once I got in the cab I asked for a taxi meter only and made sure I said the address in Thai so that he would think I knew where I was going and not rip me off. The driver had never heard of my hostel and was unsure of the street so I told him I would find another taxi. He shook his head and said he will take me. I rolled down my window and called for Gemma on the patio and she came up and spoke to the driver in Thai to ensure he was using a meter and knew where my hostel was located. He nodded his head and said he will take me.
As we approached Khao San Road he began asking me questions in Thai and I shook my head that I didn't understand. Now he began talking fast and pointing in confusion and told me I could get out. We were in the middle of what appeared the most run down market and was afraid my bags would be stolen so asked him to wait and called the hostel on my cell. I could tell he had no clue where to drop me and just wanted to collect my fare and get the next customer. The host at the hostel picked up my call and I asked if she could tell the taxi how to get to them. I handed the phone to the driver. They talked in Thai for a few minutes and by his tone it did not sound promising. He drove around for another ten minutes, stopping several times to ask vendors if they heard of NapPark Hostel. I was surprising myself because I was growing more aggravated then nervous in this situation. The lesson in this was to always have your phone pulled up with a map so that you can instruct a driver where to take you when you're in a foreign city. The Internet on my phone was moving so slow and I couldn't get the page to load on Google maps. I called the hostel again and handed the phone back over to the driver. He did appear to be more willing to help me find my hostel but the meter was running higher and higher as we circled around the markets. Finally I saw the sign for NapPark, pointed and my voice displayed relief to him. I high fived him and told him that we finally made it and he laughed. I looked at the meter and he asked what I owed and he waved and said to not worry about the price and he would charge me less.
Walking into my next hostel, I saw that this was going to be more of the Thai experience. The last hostel was very modern and chic with tall ceilings and stunning structures. Upon walking into NapPark Hostel, the host motioned me to remove my shoes. There are no shoes allowed in the building. The lobby was a lot smaller than the Lub D Hostel in Silom with low ceilings and Buddha's. With what little space was in the lobby lay three extra-long mats with triangle pillows.
After check in they put wrist band on me with a code reader that you wave in front of the doors for entry. They instructed me of the rules of the house and told me I would be staying on the third floor. Now operating on only an hour and a half sleep in twenty four hours, I decided it was time to lie down for a few hours. It's very easy to get wrapped into the backpackers high where you stay up late hours due to the time change and wake up in the early morning with the urge to explore. You know that you only have a limited time in a once and a life time opportunity to see as much as possible. Your body is on a sleep diet, trying to soak up as many experiences as possible. Unfortunately, after checking into NapPark, my mind was slowing down on me and I knew before I headed out through this new district of Bangkok, rest was going to be mandatory.
I climbed the old narrow wooden staircase up to the third floor and waved my wristband in front of the door that read 300-322. There was one hallway leading east to west with bunks lining both sides with only a foot in between. The ceilings were low and it was a bit claustrophobic in this hostel. I unloaded my belongings into the locker 302 and climbed up into my bunk to take a rest. I found a string that dropped blinds between my bunk and the bunk inches away from mine. I crawled to the foot of my bed toward the window and dropped the shades to block the sunlight as well. I was the only one in the room full of twenty two bunks this afternoon. Everyone else must have been out and about.
I closed my eyes and began to sweat. The air was tight and there was no air conditioning flowing. One of the things they say you must always look for in booking hostels in Thailand is to ensure they have air conditioning. I made sure of this on the website when booking this hostel. Air or not, I was so exhausted I knew in a matter of minutes I would soon fall into a deep sleep. I tossed and turned and began to feel claustrophobic again. It was so uncomfortably hot, I couldn't stand another minute. I climbed down my bunk and headed downstairs to ask the host, I was beginning to wonder if maybe it was just broke because I knew the website read air conditioning.
One thing you don't do in Thailand is complain. It's not only considered disrespectful and frowned upon but if you lose your temper in situations, you could easily wind up in a serious situation. I know that sounds extreme, but in our country we practice freedom of speech to a whole new level. In Thailand, if you argue with a taxi cab late at night, they can take you in an alley and kill you. If you complain at a restaurant, there's no comment card to leave behind for a manager, you just don't eat. Most importantly, if you talk negatively about the Royal Family, you can face up to fifteen years in prison. This is a very real danger for visitors to Thailand. The country has very strict "lese majeste" laws that forbid speaking ill of the King, the Queen, or Royal family. This is something they warn you about and take seriously in the hostels. Am I saying I'm going to be arrested for complaining about air? Of course not, but you think twice about the things you complain about when you're traveling in a country like Thailand. You learn to be a little bit more lenient on the things that are for the most part, unimportant. When you're back in the states and you check into a Marriott, you may call down to the lobby if you're missing sugars for in-room coffee. Here you would just be glad to have bed let alone a complimentary beverage. Your perception of what you expect and what you are grateful to have changes after time in Thailand. Now I was rolling back in forth in my bed suffocating which was a little different then sugar for coffee so decided to go downstairs and just ask the host of the air was possibly just broken. When I asked the question, she smiled and reached under the counter and placed little framed plastic sign in front of me that read: "Air conditioning in guest room will be turned off between hours of 12:00 and 18:00." I tried to disguise the smirk that grew on my face, something an American traveler would not consider. I thanked her; at least there was a light at the end of the tunnel. It was 16:00 so in only two more hours, I would be able to breathe again. Now it made more sense why there was not a single soul in the room earlier.
I took the stairs back up to my bunk and tried to fall back asleep. The air was so stuffy that I could hear every thought that crossed my mind. Getting your mind to turn off in heat is almost as bad as telling yourself to relax when fish are nibbling on your feet. I gave up after a few minutes and came back downstairs. The lobby was air conditioned. I skimmed the lobby on something to distract myself until I could crash but my body was in disagreement. I didn't have an ounce left of energy in me and needed to get some sleep. I glanced back over at the mats on the lobby floor with the triangle pillows and decided that would be my solution. I curled up in a ball and closed my eyes, I would be taking a nap right here in the lobby. I realized that's why they had these long mats just lying in the middle of the room. They save money on air during certain hours and provide extra sleeping areas for people who can't sleep in heat during the day. Maybe that's why they call it NapPark because you have to park yourself in the lobby to take a nap.
Despite these learning curves, I think it's what I like most about traveling to a country like Thailand. You have to learn to think differently. You have to learn to embrace things in a new way and you have to make decisions quickly on your own. Every scenario I've been involved in could have possibly been a nightmare but I'm learning to think on my toes and realizing that the true lesson will be when I get home and everything will be so easy. Will be glad to be in my air conditioned apartment again? The level of comfort we have become accustomed to is something that I've noticed most in this country especially after staying in this next hostel. Maybe that's why we get so stressed out back at home because we expect perfection all the time and when it's not delivered we're unsatisfied. This is something I hoping to recognize more and carry over when I return.