I arrived in Thailand a day before Kim and went to our meeting point, a hostel across from the airport where I could sit on the roof and watch planes come and go.
I knew I made the right decision about coming to Thailand when the housekeeper handed me an apple, a mayonnaise sandwich (with just the tiniest sliver of ham) and a carton labeled “25% orange juice” and it felt like I had died and gone to heaven.
After a short nap in my room, which looked and felt like a prison cell, I thought I would take a walk. Until I discovered that I was literally trapped in the hostel. The manager was the only employee, and he works from 6pm – 10am and sleeps the rest of the time. The gates were locked, and I was alone.
I climbed onto the roof where I found the housekeeper, who was napping on the slanted roof boards. (The manager later told me that’s where she lives). She spoke no English, but I mimed to her that I was trapped and would like to get out. She led me down to the back gate. It opened onto a stream, where there was a very narrow, wobbly board that led to a sidewalk alongside a river. She crossed the plank first, gesturing to me the right way to place your weight on the right side and hold on to a well-placed tree branch so as not to fall in. I followed and set off on my walk while she lay down on the sidewalk to continue her nap, I guess waiting for my return. I had a nice long walk and passed many large reptiles and swimming dogs. I guess I was gone too long because eventually a man on a motorbike was sent to check on me and bring me back.
Back at the hostel I was wondering how I was going to pass ten more hours, when the manager appeared and asked if I wanted to go with him to 7-11. (People in Thailand seem to have a strange obsession with 7-11. I cannot count the number of 7-11 T-shirts I saw people wearing). We talked as we walked there and he bought me some snacks and some chicken at the market. Later that night he cooked green curry and we ate it as we watched the planes. He was very fatherly.
Afterwards I fell asleep and was awoken at 1am by a knock on my prison cell from my Thai father. Next to him stood Kim, my dear friend of four years ago, which all felt like a strange and wonderful dream.
Kim and I took a taxi into Bangkok the next morning and rented a room on Khao San Road, the main tourist street. It was refreshing to know that white people still exist and are carrying on eating meat, like usual.
We did a lot in Bangkok. We visited many beautiful palaces and saw many Buddhas and ate many delicious Thai meals.
We also got four different massages. The first was a fish massage, where a tankful of tiny fish ate bacteria off our feet. (I figured I could really use this after spending weeks romping barefoot through garbage, though I did feel bad for the fish).
The second was a full-body Thai massage, which involved my full body as well as the masseuse’s full body. At one point she was stretching me out by digging her heel into my groin. At another point she was swinging me around by my neck, making my back crack in a thousand different places.
Our last massage was an oil massage. My masseuse kept ordering me to take off more and more clothes until I found myself naked and covered in oil. Let’s just say… I need to update what I wrote before about the most intimate I’ve been with a woman.
At least my woman was young and gentle- Kim’s was large and harsh and when I glanced over, she was standing on Kim’s shoulders as he cried out in pain. We later nicknamed her “Raging Bull,” and she later threw us out for taking too long to drink our complimentary tea.
Great trip overall, and Kim ended it by sharing a final Korean proverb: “When you take a trip, where to go is not important. Who you are with is much more important.”
I was nervous as I approached customs back at the airport in India. According to my visa, I technically have to wait 2 months before re-entering India after leaving. I had read some online posts by travelers who said they got away with re-entering, so I’d decided to bring along anything I would need to take home, just in case, and hope for the best.
I intentionally switched to the line of a man whose mouth was formed in the shape of a permanent smile, assuming he’d be my best shot at shrugging off a visa violation. But he actually called me out on it, so I murmured something about the internet, and he murmured something about should have gotten permission, but ultimately he stamped my passport and let me through.
I actually couldn’t tell if I was relieved or disappointed. The crisis I’d feared had been averted, and yet I admit that a part of me had kind of hoped to get caught, shipped back to America, and be tucked safely in my own comfy bed within 24 hours.
But when I got back to camp and was informed by another volunteer that my students had been eagerly asking about my return, I felt glad to have made it back to India.