Sunday, March 28, 2010

One Night in Bangkok

It’s a well known fact that Bangkok has top of the line, outrageous nightlife for anyone willing to step out of their doors after dark, and I had been dying to get my first real taste. While going to go-go bars with my uncle and getting drunk off of incredibly strong margaritas at family dinner is all well and good, I knew I had yet to truly get a taste of the after-dark scene; probably because settings which either include my boss or my eight year old cousin don’t exactly scream, “let’s party!”. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to find out there was a fellow Yalie living in Bangkok, who, despite numerous shared friends and social scenes at school, I had never managed to meet, but according to my sources was a rip roaring good time. I facebooked Tan, my former classmate, immediately, trying to keep the desperation out of my message and I explained how I had been living in Thailand for over two months and somehow had managed to not to make any friends (minus Philippa, who is back home in England and very well may decide just to stay there) and could he please PLEASE take me out? Ok, so much for not sounding desperate, but I’m paraphrasing here, so really it sounded much better (I hope). Used to the immediate nature of facebook and the internet, I started to fret when I hadn’t heard back a day later, digging my ego into a deeper and deeper hole as I ran through the possibilities in my head: he’d heard I was a psycho from someone at Yale; I sounded like a psycho in my message; some time over the past four years I’d acted like a psycho and unwittingly insulted/maimed/ confessed deep embarrassing secrets to/ cried on him at some random Yale party and he’d remembered my name with a jolt of horror. Not that I have a tendency to insult, maim, confess deep embarrassing secrets to or cry on random people at parties, but you never know, maybe it was an incident I had long forgotten that remained clearly scarred into his mind. Let’s just say I was letting my imagination get ahead of itself, and was actually starting to mentally turn into the psycho I imagined him to think me, when I got a text from Tan asking if I wanted to join him and his friends that night at a beer garden then a club. Unfortunately, it was a Wednesday night, I had just gotten home from Bikram yoga (class at 40 degrees Celsius for an hour and a half) which had COMPLETELY kicked my butt, and it had poured out rain earlier in the evening, leaving my street a swampy, disgusting river of dirty rainwater that 1) did not flow down any of our broken street drains, 2) no motor scooter taxi driver willingly drove through to pick up passengers, 3) I had walked through once before and had been left with a highly disturbing itching sensation all down my legs which I had no desire to ever repeat again. After an intense internal debate over whether my health and job were more important than the potential to make friends, I regretfully declined the invitation, but made very clear I was interested in doing something over the weekend.

When Friday came along, my good man Tan didn't fail me- got a text around 4pm saying if I was in the mood to party, he was going to the bar at the Swiss Hotel and then a club with some friends that night, and I was welcomed to join. With not a cloud in the sky (just the normal layer of smoggy haze) and no work the next day, I skipped the gym and went straight home after work to get ready. Having recently returned from my Christmas and New Years escapades in New Zealand, I was able to bring another 30 or so kgs (I tried to bring more, but my normal airport luck seemed to have run out and my check in attendant was not letting me have an ounce over the weight limit) of my clothes back to Bangkok, and it feels like I have a whole new wardrobe (don't you love how leaving your clothes for a few months does that?!), so getting ready was actually quite fun. I pulled about 10 outfits into my bathroom, balancing precariously on the edge of my bathtub as I tried to turn the over sink mirror into a full length one, which is always fun considering my natural grace and agility (read: I trip over my own shadow... they don't call me baby giraffe for nothing). I decided to base my outfit around this ridiculous piece of jewelry I bought at one of the Bangkok markets- think 1920's meets punk rock, its a long piece of black flapper fringe attached to a chain necklace (yes Dani, I copied you, but you are just so damn stylish how could I not?), so I put on a cream colored tube dress and some black sandle heels, figuring it was an outfit that could work for somewhere fancy and casual, as I had no real previous going-out experience to base my look on. With that set, I wore my hair in a braid that wrapped around my head, since it had been drizzling out earlier and the thought of long hair sticking all over my back and neck in the disgusting humidity and heat which persisted even during a Bangkok winter night made my skin crawl. With my blonde hair and Swedish heritage I looked a little bit like a milk maid, but I just couldn't be bothered with trying to decide on another hairstyle- it was up and staying that way, and that was good enough for me. I had about 20 minutes till I was supposed to leave the house, so I poured myself a vodka redbull, rationalizing that it was economical to drink this at home since its always insanely expensive and I needed a little pick me up, plus, technically I wasn't drinking alone, as I went out to watch some TV and chat with Nicky, my best friend/ eight year old cousin (and in case you are wondering, i.e. Uncle Ron if you are reading this, of course I don't mean that Nicky was drinking as well, this is just another one of my rationalizing techniques, I wasn't alone if Nicky was sitting next to me). Twenty minutes turned into an hour, as Tan kept pushing back our meeting time since he was running late, giving me and Nicky plenty of time to get fully embroiled in our discussion about Star Wars, a shared obsession of ours. It always makes me happy when I think how living with Nicky when he is at such a young ages gives me the opportunity to shape him into a fellow sci fi/fantasy nerd, ensuring I will always have someone to discuss the newest and dorkiest literature with, because being family, he's stuck with me forever. I just hope I don't push him all the way over to the dark side and turn him into a roll-playing, medieval reenactment, LOTR (Lord of the Rings for all you non-believers) obsessed mega-nerd, but it's a sincere possibility as I know I, myself, was only a few steps away from such a fate.

I ended up meeting Tan around 9:30, he picked me up from the BTS (skytrain) station in his very nice SUV, and, as always, I was amazed at how he, or any driver, could mentally handle the stress of Bangkok traffic. As we drove towards the Swiss Hotel, I picked my new friend's brain a little, trying to figure out if I had a new and permanent friend here in Thailand. Lucky for me, Tan is here partying up a storm while trying to figure his life out (and being a 23 year-old recent college grad myself, I know that is no small or easy feat), so I'm guaranteed a friend her for a while.

Once we arrived at our destination, a swanky hotel with an equally swanky little bar, we headed inside where some of Tan's friends awaited us. While the individual drinks were somewhat expensive (compared to local prices, nothing in Bangkok is expensive compared to the US), a special open bar option was available for 700 baht. Obviously, we all went for this. We started out ordering individual cocktails, but realized quickly that this was not the best way forward as somehow it took twenty minutes to get a drink and we were the only people in the entire place. I was particularly put off on my second long island ice tea, which tasted remarkably like someone had just dumped a bottle of tequila and a bottle of coke together and mixed it around. Tan, using that Yale educucated brain of his, came up with a solution- along with ordering our drinks, why don't we just order trays of shots, 30 at a time, to compliment them? Since it was open bar, there was no reason the bar tenders could refuse us, so tray after tray of tequila, strawberry vodka, and some mysterious green drink came our way, getting every single one of us good and drunk.

After we were good and liquored up, we decided to go to a club and dance the rest of the night away. Tan couldn't join us, but I crammed into a cab with the rest of my new comrades to a near by club, which, although I have been to several times since then, can never remember the name of. Once inside, I realized I was drunk, tired, and with a bunch of people that I really didn't know, so I decided it was time to hit they hay and go home early. Or so I thought. On my way out the door, I was stopped by a young Italian guy who wore a look of recognition as he waved me over and said hi. I knew I had not met any young Italian men while in Bangkok, and I gave him a very "Stephanie" look which clearly says, "who the hell are you and how do I know you?" In response to my confusion, the Italian simply laughed and said he had seen me on my way out that night at the BTS station, and then it clicked. I had seen him on the platform, where he was still wearing his work gear, but since not too many young westerners live in my neighborhood, it was easy to recognize him once I had him placed. In case the enormity of how random this is, Bangkok has over 11 million people. I could tell my new friend wanted to chat and dance, but I had already made my decision to go home and now my bed was the only thing on my mind. So a half hour later I said my good bye, thinking I was still making it home relatively early. As I stumbled in my front door I looked at the clock, which read 4:45am and realized while I might have been going home early for the youth of Bangkok, I had definitely stayed out way later than I thought, especially considering I had promised to be somewhere at 8:30 am the next morning.

As my alarm went of way too few hours later, I actually managed to get up, shower, dress, put on my makeup and start for the front door when I realized that I absolutely could not go out because I was, in fact, still very drunk. Thankfully my engagement was nothing pressing, so I hopped right back into bed and spent the rest of the day sleeping off the strawberry vodka. All in all, my first real night out in Bangkok was definitely a success.