After spending just over a year travelling between Nepal ,India, Sri Lanka and Sumatra, with a four-day stop in Singapore thrown in for good measure, arriving in Bangkok was a shock to the system. Travelling in the Sub-Indian continent and Sumatra we had gotten off the beaten path, we had gotten used to dealing with language barriers, overcoming cultural differences and usually being around more locals than foreigners, like us. When we did meet other foreigners, they were almost always travellers, not tourists and were on the same wavelength as us, we could share experiences and we could relate to each others point of view.
Arriving back in Bangkok was a shock to the system because suddenly we were surrounded by tourists, shopping malls, high rises and fancy hotels. This was a world we had become kind of disconnected from and it was strange to be back. An example of how weirded out we were by being ‘back in normality’, was when we met a friend not long after arriving.
After arriving in from the airport, we dropped our bags at our hotel and went out for dinner with a friend who has been living in Bangkok, working as a teacher for the last few years. We met at an Irish bar and when asked what I wanted to drink I froze. That’s right, an Irishman froze when asked what he wanted to drink! It sounds bizarre but it’s true. We hadn’t had much access to a full bar; it had been beer, whiskey or the local firewater in most situations for more than a year and now to have a full bar to choose from was overwhelming. In a panic I ordered a cider, (hadn’t had one of those in a while!) which ended up costing more than it would have had in Ireland. And there was shock number two; Bangkok ain’t cheap! While parts of Thailand are cheap, and Bangkok compared to Dublin is cheap, there are not many places on earth that are as cheap as Nepal, India or Sumatra. Even in those countries we had been travelling on a budget and to spend a whole days budget on a single drink seemed crazy.
The days passed us by in Bangkok, we were in a strange head space where we didn’t know what to do or where to go next. The money we had been travelling on to this point was running low and we knew we were going to have to go back to work soon in some way, shape or form. We started applying for jobs in Bangkok teaching but then decided against that idea. We thought about travelling on as far a Vietnam and working there for a while and then decided against that. China, Japan, Eastern Europe, South America, we went through every option under the sun and drove ourselves mad in the process.
After weeks of deliberation we finally decided going back to Korea was the best option for us. We would go home for a few months first to spend time with family because we didn’t know when we would be home again and we needed to get our documents in order for our Korean applications. Also, we convinced ourselves while we were at home we would take cheap flights and travel around Europe but in hindsight this was dreaming. All this decision-making took us the best part of a month and in that time we just lived in Bangkok which was a cool experience in itself. Now we know what it would be like to live in one of the biggest cities in Asia and we’re thankful for that experience.
Having been to Bangkok before we didn’t feel under pressure to get out and do the ‘tourist’ thing, we wanted a more real, local experience. Eating in local outdoor markets, walking down random streets and doing everything but the Khaosan scene was how we passed the days. In our final week we went and checked out a few of the areas of the city we had never been before. We took a trip to China Town, Chatuchak market, took a boat down the river and visited some temples.
When the time came to go, we still weren’t ready, we still didn’t know that we had made the right decision but it was the decision we had made and we had to stick by it. Bangkok was probably the stepping stone we needed before being immersed back into a western country. Our next stop was going to be London and I don’t think we ever would have handled that change if it hadn’t been for our time in the capital of the ‘Land Of Smiles’. Going back to Ireland was only temporary at the end of the day and it wouldn’t be long until we’d be back out on the road, out of comfortable surroundings and back to doing what we love; travelling.