Then Down to Pattaya

Oct 20, 2010

I almost missed my friend Alex at the Bangkok airport. An expat with a never-ending curiosity, he had introduced me to Thailand a couple years back and had graciously volunteered to once again help me get oriented. But I was delayed waiting for my luggage to appear and he nearly gave up on me. Because it was close to midnight, I wouldn’t have blamed him for tossing in the towel and am glad he stuck around.

We took a long taxi drive to the area of Sukhumvit Road famous for its ladies of the night. Alex helped me check in at an upscale tourist hotel there, then took me out for a late-night walking tour. I was already dazed from lack of sleep and the groupings of beckoning women only added to the surreal atmosphere. A preview of my new lifestyle? Well, I guess I could get used to it.

None of the alluring girls accompanied me back to the hotel. Just Alex. As mentioned in another post, my prior visits to this country were limited by one month Tourist Visas, resulting in a sense of urgency in sampling the goods. Not any more. As Alex and I neared my hotel, I realized that with all my affairs back home in order and no sentimental attachment to Seattle, I could spend the rest of my life here if so inclined. There’s no longer any reason to hurry.

I got to bed around 4:00 a.m., local time, and could only sleep for a few hours, giving me the entire morning to get up and on the road to Pattaya (about two and a half hours south of Bangkok). I’d told the manager of the guesthouse I’d be staying in that I’d be arriving between one and two in the afternoon and wanted to give myself plenty of time in case I got lost (which has happened, by the way).

Checking out of my hotel, I had to ride the Skytrain a couple stops (per Alex’s instructions) to get to the Eastern Bus Terminal. The main challenge was not the heat, or figuring out how to ride the elevated train, but the luggage I was lugging. Thanks to my fastidious packing, it was not overly heavy and my knees held up without complaint the entire day. But it made me slow and clumsy. In exiting the Skytrain station, I was tardy passing through the ticket machine cattle shoot and got nabbed by the flipper doors, forcing me to fight my way free.

At the terminal, I made a mistake (as I sometimes do when jet lagged) by letting an official-looking guy take charge. As he hustled me out towards a departing bus, and I saw I’d have to make a final mad dash to catch it, I gave up the chase. I signaled this to my host by crossing and uncrossing my arms once in front of me. He appeared to get the message, promptly moving on to another confused tourist. I re-entered the terminal, found the booth for the buses to Pattaya and bought a ticket.

It was an uneventful ride down. Musing about my new life, I found myself recalling that early ‘80s Red Rider album, As Far As Siam. I took in the partly cloudy sky and imagined it was three decades ago and that I was moving to this country as an energetic young man with years of good health in front of me. What a different life that would have been! Mercifully, though my body has slowed down, the spirit of discovery endures unbruised. How else to explain packing up my life at age fifty-three and starting a new adventure? Lunatic Fringe?

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