I had to get up at 4:30am on the Sunday morning to get a boat from Naifaru, Maldives to a domestic airport which would fly me to Male. The sea was extremely choppy which I embraced as a sort of roller coaster ride for about 10 mins before the constant soaring then crashing into the waves became quite uncomfortable for my stomach. It also meant the boat couldn’t go as fast as normal so once I jumped off the boat I had to run to the airport. But I made it with 20 mins to spare and hopped on my plane to Male, arrived and waited for my departure flight with Bangkok airways (which was good actually, especially the food, I recommend).
I landed at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport on Sunday evening and went to stay with my cousin, Hannah, and her husband, Will, who have been living in Bangkok for 10 months whilst working as teachers.
Landing in Thailand, I got ripped off straightaway by the cabs at the airport who were all demanding 600 Thai Baht (TBH) instead of 300 THB to take me to my cousins! But after a 30min taxi ride and 15 mins waiting outside of their apartment building (having forgotten to save their number and I was without wifi) I arrived safe and sound.
First impressions of Bangkok – holy crap it’s big!! Skyscrapers here, there, and everywhere, dotted across the skyline so I couldn’t figure out an apparent city ‘centre’. It was quite intimidating but impressive as well.
The apartment I stayed in was 25 storeys up and had a really nice view of Bangkok. My hosts and I wrote a list of sights to see in this vast city which I could do after I collected my tickets to Koh Tao on the Monday morning. They were going to be working so we’re unable to show me around so I went out into the city on my own.
With a paper list of things to see in my hand I got a cab to Hua Lamphong station to get my train tickets, easier said than done because the collection point for these tickets wasn’t actually in the main station as I had thought, but a 10 minute walk underground away. A minor blip but it made me feel really lost, out of place and anxious. Once my tickets were collected I went back to the main station area, sat down and stared at my paper list. I felt too shy to try anything on the list alone so after half an hour of sitting and fretting I chose a safe option and went to a shopping mall to attempt buying a new rucksack whilst trying not to get ripped off again by taxi drivers.
I knew going there was a safe option and I was kicking myself for it but even being in the mall alone was tough. I was trying to blend in by acting like I knew what I was doing and where I was going whilst wasting my time in a shopping mall so I could call it a day, go back to the apartment and have an excuse not to go anywhere else alone. Once I purchased a nice and cheap rucksack, I headed back to the apartment, put the TV on and sighed in relief but also at myself for being such a wimp.
After a lovely Thai dinner and a couple of cocktails with my cousin and her hubby I lay in bed and promised myself the next day would be more successful.
It was pouring with rain first thing in the morning so I took the opportunity to look into some attractions in Bangkok and settled on getting a tourist boat for 150 TBH which takes you up and down the river and allows you to hop on and off at different sites. I managed to see the Grand Palace and go for a little shop around all by myself in the rain. I still couldn’t quite relax into being alone and I did keep thinking how much easier this would be if I had a friend, my boyfriend or my mum and dad with me. But I persevered because I didn’t want to waste my last day in Bangkok and I didn’t want to shy away from having a potentially good time even if it risked getting lost or ripped off on the way.
In the end I had a pretty good day and managed to see quite a few sights in this crazy city, I even walked back to the apartment from the boat pier because I was feeling ballsy and couldn’t be bothered to find a taxi. On my walk it struck me how big the difference between rich and poor is in Bangkok. One second you’d be in a dodgy street, the next you’d see big homes and fancy commercial offices. You can see the difference even more from the height of the apartment where you can overlook slums with mansions next door.
Later that afternoon I packed my things and hopped on the night train which took me to Chumphon where I got a coach to the pier then a ferry to Koh Tao, a small island hailed for its diving on the Gulf of Thailand. When I was lying there on the train bed I was feeling pretty pleased and chuffed with myself! It may not seem like much to anyone else but I really pushed myself and my nerves on that day which had paid off and I don’t have to feel any guilt for wasting time because I didn’t sit around watching films all day in my comfort zone.
In hindsight I think the cause of my shyness or fear of exploring Bangkok was feeling a lack of control which, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, gives me a lot of anxiety. Bangkok is a huge maze and crazy busy so it’s not surprising I just wanted to stay where I felt safe and relaxed.
I did enjoy Bangkok and as a solo traveller with mental health issues I am really stretching myself which makes me proud of what I am achieving. Even “normal” people might struggle or wouldn’t do this on their own, at least that’s what my mum tells me!
Happily, I was really looking forward to getting to Koh Tao. Being on a smaller island where it’s a bit more laid back appeals to me a lot more than a hectic, big and bustling city like Thailand’s capital. More about Koh Tao in my next post!
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