I was hoping to post this before now, but I just got back from over a week of my winter vacation in Bangkok, Thailand and apparently was so exhausted I crashed for about 18 hours. Yikes. I’m a little sunburnt, my allergies are running on full force, and apparently I’m rather sleep deprived since I could fall back asleep at any moment, and I’m cold. So cold. But that’s what I get for choosing a tropical escape and coming back to snowy South Korea. The temperature change is remarkably shocking. I’m already on my 4th cup of tea since I woke up.
My vacation to Bangkok was decided on a few reasons. One, everyone I knew was busy or already had their vacations planned. Two it was cheap to get to from South Korea. Three, this was my first solo travel and it was on a lot of “safe solo traveling” lists. No one I knew lived in Bangkok or was anywhere nearby. Unlike Korea. So I panicked a bit while packing, loading books onto my nook, and downloading “Death of A Bachelor” for a bit of a background boost anthem. (It helped.)
My way to Bangkok was pretty bad. My flight was at 11am which meant I had to be up and out of the door around 5am. And I was! I was so proud (and I didn’t forget anything), but as I refreshed my bus app multiple times the app went from saying the bus was 45 minutes away to silence. No buses. So I stood outside of the bus stop in the dark, with large snowflakes falling and all the nearby shops closed, including the 711. I had hoped something would be open so I could at least hold my phone out and ask them to call me a taxi. But nothing. Only one house had lights on, some roosters were crowing in the distance and that was it. My footprints were the first in the snow. I watched every car go by with my best forlorn look, hoping someone, anyone would maybe try to help. I even watched a bus or two go past the other way, but none came to me. One car pulled over, stopped for about 5 seconds then drove off taking with it most of my hopes.
Why did I let this happen to myself? Well months and months ago in summer, I asked a coworker, “how early do the buses come?” And I was told “5 am”. But either that was a lie or I just had terrible rotten luck. But wait, I did say I just got back right? Yes, and that’s because a couple pulled over, waited, then reversed back to me to ask where I was going and to get in. At almost 6 in the morning, still pitch black. I got in, set my suitcase next to another one and learned that the husband was dropping his wife off to catch a bus in Gapyeong to the same airport, as she was off to Japan. I was so grateful that she helped me with the machines (all in Korean) to get a ticket for an airport bus to Incheon and showed me the best ways to stand on the somewhat crowded bus so my arms didn’t just fall asleep as I held on for dear life.
So I made it to the airport with time to spare, skipping the trains completely and all the transfers I’d been worried about. And I learned my first valuable lesson, I have to stay in Seoul the night before if I want to leave in the morning. Never ever again.
I said goodbye to the woman who helped me get to the airport and feeling so utterly thankful as I checked in through Air Asia and headed off to my gate to grab something to eat and wait for a bit. Everything went well until I realized as the food and drink trolleys went by that somehow I’d missed the memo that those weren’t included and required you to book ahead or shell out money onboard. My flight to Tokyo spoiled me. I hadn’t even packed snacks trying to keep my weight limit low since the heaviest my carry on could be was 7 kg and it was already 3 kg just filled with air. But even if I had snacks I couldn’t have enjoyed them, Air Asia has a no snack/drink policy. Though I don’t think it includes first class as I watched an older man pull out homemade snacks and pass them around to the other older men on the other side of the curtains. 5 hours with only a piece of gum my neighbor gave me and a determinedness to not cave in and order anything. I got a lot of reading done since there wasn’t any on board entertainment and listened to “Death of A Bachelor” on a never-ending repeat. Second valuable lesson: check about food for flights.
I was so relieved to land in Bangkok and to get out of there. My check in at the hostel I booked was at 5pm and we had already landed almost an hour late. I tried to keep my eyes open for anything to snack on or order quickly but didn’t really see much on my way to the airport taxi desk. So I waited and was extra thankful to the couple that picked me up and got me to the airport in time so that I could at least have breakfast.
The DMK airport (Don Mueang International) is vastly different from Incheon and I was a bit surprised at how dim it was. I got in line after asking for help to the airport taxi’s. There were several lines and all long, but I waited, checking my watch many times. I was worried that no one would be available to help me check in at my hostel since I was late, which happened the first time I stayed at a hostel in Seoul. (I waited outside buzzing in many many times to no avail and eventually had to have a friend call them to get them to let me in.) The taxi went a fast as it could go since it was rush hour and I was happy that it was still light out at 5 almost 6. Since in South Korea the sun is gone after 4:30pm. I enjoyed seeing all the palm trees and the gardens on top of buildings.
Luckily my hostel had a 24 hour front desk which made check-in easy though a bit rushed since there was only one person working and I picked a popular check-in time.
My first plan was to drop off my things and hunt for food. I was told to check out the nearby food stalls and after meeting a French woman who showed me the cute things she got for her nieces and nephews I headed out. At first I didn’t see much street food. I wanted something kinda cold because I’d barely been there long at all and was already dying from the heat and humidity. I found a small area of stands and looked around, there was a long line for chicken so after waiting awhile I gave up and went back through picking out a salad that other foreigners had picked out and was shown this bowl with ice and colorful packets I picked out a purple one unsure what it was, then ordered a yogurt and strawberry smoothie before walking back to the hostel so I could sit and eat.
I sat down outside hoping to chat with the people outside smoking in the hopes of making friends, then realized there wasn’t a fork with my salad so I immediately packed up and went inside. After looking around for a bit I found a fork in the pantry. Unsure if there were any specific rules like “Don’t Eat in the Rooms” which is a popular one here in South Korea, I went to the empty and dark common space, sat down at a table and tried to eat as quietly as I could, unsure where the lights were. My salad was interesting, a mixture of sweet potatoes, beans, corn, tomato, egg, and carrot. There was also onion and lettuce and I ate the other things before getting to the lettuce and just being disheartened by the flavor so I just sat it aside. My yogurt strawberry smoothie was delicious and I decided it was time to try whatever was in the purple bag, thinking maybe it was a dessert, but I didn’t have a way to open it so I punctured it with the fork after fighting with it for ten minutes. I had a taste and then realized it was salad dressing. Clearly I was exhausted and after trying one lettuce leaf with purple sauce I gave up, washed the borrowed fork and went off to bed.
The stress of having to hitchhike my way to the bus station to get to the airport and missing lunch just all added up. The rest of my trip was a lot better. But hey, there’s got to be some misadventures on a trip.