Sun Rising in Bangkok

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Long haul buses are better known for being late than early. Which is why, when we booked a bus due to Bangkok at 5am, we figured we’d really be in around 6:30am. 6:30 felt like a decent time- at least it would be light outside. We could grab breakfast and find a place willing to check us in early. It sounded perfect. But to our surprise, the bus driver was particularly efficient last night. At 3 in the morning, we were woken up by him yelling ‘this is Bangkok, everyone get out’. It was still very dark. We found ourselves on the side of a long, clearly major corridor with no indication of our arrival point. This wasn’t a bus station, it was simply time for us to ‘get out’ on the side of a road.

We kindly declined the line of taxi drivers hovering outside the stop and instead decided to walk for a bit. It was early, we’d been on a bus for 8 hours, and getting into a cab with nowhere to go didn’t seem like the best idea. The drivers told us that Khao San Road, the budget traveler area of the city, was too far to walk at 2km away. We translated that to 1km and decided that was just fine for a brisk morning workout with luggage.

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The travel gods were kind to us. Aimlessly walking and taking turns towards busier streets, we went from dark busy corridor to the bustling district of Khao San Road in under 10 minutes. The place was a booming array of bright lights, street stands selling Pad Thai, and sidewalk bars blasting the worst pop music available. It was 3:30. At this hour we would be charged for the night at a guesthouse. We hadn’t budgeted for that, and didn’t want to face the process of winding through the tiny alleyways looking for a place to stay in the dark. We then realized that this was perhaps the only circumstance under which we would experience Bangkok at this hour, ever. Good idea or not, we surprised even ourselves and decided to join the party.

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There was a table open on a patio to our left, with people smoking from hookas and drinking shots of an icey blue concoction. At the next table a young man had passed out and the bartender was, rather tenderly, waking him up by rinsing his face with water. The location made for excellent people watching. We grabbed some food, ordered a drink and took in the madness of Bangkok.

The bumping music seemed to diminish in decibels as the sun rose. In the early light of dawn, the monks began their morning procession down the street. Food vendors gave offerings and bent in prayer. By this early hour, we’d been joined by a British traveler (who had forgotten where his guesthouse was), an Aussie flight attendant (nervous that his boss was ‘going to breathalyze him again’), and a 71 year old man enjoying a moonlight beer. We entertained ourselves with the contrast of watching the monks, and translating the drunken dialect of the others at our table. Definitely our strangest moment yet.

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If nothing else, Bangkok had us hypnotized from the start. No other city has offered such a raw first impression in such a brief amount of time. Whatever you have heard about Bangkok, it is true, if not amplified.

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