Jolts of excitement and adrenaline rushed through me as I sat on my train to Bangkok. My first impression of the city was that it was old and like many developing cities, Bangkok’s skyline was a mix of jagged glass skyscrapers and short concrete buildings
My train to Bangkok glided smoothly beneath me, passing many intricate highways with green and pink taxis. I sat across from a man who stared at me like the monkey at the zoo. I was painfully obvious as a tourist. My giveaway? A backpack, half the size of me. I wondered how many backpackers he sees on his daily commute.
A half-hour later, I arrived at Phaya Thai, the last stop on the line and where I’ll have to catch a cab to get to my hostel. I stepped off the train and carefully weaved my way through. I descended onto the street and waved at the first taxi I saw. He looked at my guesthouse address and drove off. Did he not know where my guesthouse was or did he not want to go there?
I tried again and this time a smiling middle-aged driver greeted me. I made sure he turned on the meter and hopped in.
Folk Thai songs blared through the stereo. Thai sounded strangely like Cantonese-Chinese but not quite. I tried to see if I could make out any words, but I couldn’t. All of a sudden the driver turned around and shouted at me.
“Me! Thailand! You?”
“Me? New York.” I replied.
Out of nowhere, he produced a New York City subway map and a postcard of Niagara Falls.
I stared at him wondering if he was telling the truth, or if this was just a ruse he played for all the tourists. I decided that he was genuine, so I nodded and smiled.
About twenty minutes later, we arrived at my hostel. I counted my Thai bills carefully and handed them over to my driver, and waved him goodbye. Then I dragged my fifteen-pound backpack to the entrance of the guesthouse, where a metal gate with several pots of plants and a tree greeted me.
At the back of the guesthouse, I found the receptionist. She greeted me in Thai and checked me in. I slumped my bag onto the ground and looked around the hostel, noticing baskets of toiletries other travelers left behind. She handed back my passport and led me to a tiny 4×7 room with no air conditioner. This was my first and last night in a non-air-conditioned room in Thailand.
After I closed the door behind her, I flung myself across the bed and breathed a sigh of relief. I had finally made it to Thailand, the place I’ve been imagining myself in for months, no, years. And now I didn’t know what do.
I decided to quickly text my parents to know I was alive, take a shower, and slumped back onto my bed. I thought about going straight to sleep but it was only 7pm and I was hungry. In the room next to me, a bunch of German guys chattered away.
I was scared to go out but decided to boldly brave it anyway. I needed food but most importantly, bug repellent, before I become food. So as the sun started to set on this little alleyway, in this part of the world, I stepped out into my first night abroad alone.