Day 4: Monday, 20 April 2020 – Bangkok, Thailand (13.7563° N, 100.5018° E) (2,792 Covid-19 cases + 47 deaths as of today)
Thailand. A lot of memories start percolating up with just the mere mention of the name.
Of all the countries in the world that I have not lived in for any extended period of time (USA, Canada, England, Argentina, Spain, Italy & France), Thailand is probably the place I have visited the most. I fell in love with the place and especially its people (and food) on my first visit back in 1984; and have traveled from the hill tribes north to the stunning Andaman island beaches of the south, and from the refugee camps along the Mekong River to the east to the refugee camps on the Myanmar border to the west. I like Thailand, a lot. So it should again come as no surprise that our annual around the world event has also visited it a few times, Bangkok and Chiang Mai…albeit lately, only as a quick backdrop for one of our infamous 8-Hour Layover Challenges to be played out. BKK is of course a major global pit stop between here and there, that can be hard to avoid when you are anywhere visiting Southeast Asia and then heading west either toward the Indian subcontinent, Africa or the Middle East.
And so today, we have a three memories provided to us from our caring-enough traveling alum while in Thailand. First up are April and Travis, a team affectionately known as The Drifters, who have joined our adventure a couple of years, but this memory comes from their 2010 visit to Chiang Mai, Thailand:
“The last crazy thing we did Saturday in Chiang Mai was visit a fish spa. You soak your feet into an aquarium of small fish that eat the dead skin off your feet and this somehow improve your circulation. It was neat but it was creepy…I had to will myself to keep my feet in there the entire 30 minutes. Trav, however loved it (?). Ha, even though there were a ton of other spots in the spa, they sat us right in the window to do this. So for 30 minutes other tourists and kids were walking by and pointing at us, laughing and taking pictures…Karma I suppose for our visit to the Long Neck Village.”
The Drifters, all but invisible…
Next up today is Harriet, a member of our 2004 tribe (FYI: We didn’t have self-assigned team names until 2008!):
“We arrived in Bangkok (from Siem Reap) on a Saturday in late April, 2004 for a three night stay at the fabulous Oriental Hotel. (Arguably, the best hotel in the world!) At the Grand Palace, Raj, Carole and I met a gregarious woman named Jackie, a ‘tourist assistance government volunteer’ who warned us to be wary of our umbrellas with the Oriental logos that screamed “rich tourists” to crooks…She became our guardian angel, so we treated her, and us, to a delicious lunch at Suptra-by-the-Sea.”
Pictured from left: Jackie, Harriet, Raj and Carole
Our next memory is from Jenny, a member of the 2017 tribe from the team Thundersnow:
“Mark and I competed in the 2017 competition as Team Thundersnow. We were the only team that year to have met each other on Day 1 (which, ironically, is the day I’m writing this post! on April 14th – which was Good Friday that year). We only had an inkling of what the trip would be like, though it shattered every expectation. I never thought I’d be able to travel by camel to the Pyramids of Giza, or climb Sri Lanka’s mountain peak before sunrise, or bike through an outdoor museum in Antwerp.
But perhaps my favorite memory was from our third stop, a layover challenge in Bangkok, Thailand. We had only seven hours to complete ten scavenges, and this was the only challenge of the competition in which Mark and I took 1st place. But before the points had been tallied, before we learned that our photograph of “The Elephant” had reached Bill first, and before we joined the other teams awaiting our midnight flight (to Sri Lanka), we found ourselves with “DJ Tuk-tuk,” a tricked out tuk-tuk with bass speakers, black lights, and the Pussycat Dolls blaring through the warm open air. We had a mini dance party in the backseat as we journeyed to the airport, satisfied after a long day of back-to-back challenges, meeting a collection of kind strangers, and a creating few new Facebook friends.”
Team Thundersnow…with DJ Tuk-tuks badass soundsystem…
Bangkok evokes a lot of memories to be sure; some tellable, some not so much. A few I will recall include the year of Harriet’s memory, 2004. A little regression is required as a proper preface for this one. As I mentioned, I first visited Bangkok in 1984 as a grad student representing my boss, a sitting Member of Congress, on an unofficial fact-finding tour. I was traveling with Andy, my travel partner of that era–a fellow grad student, standup comic and Pan Am flight attendant–and after a series of adult beverages in a rather lively unsavory–some would say depraved–section of town, we employed a tuk-tuk on a late night race through the streets of Bangkok in an attempt to go indulge in another series of adult beverages at the famous Bamboo Bar of The Oriental. Southeast Asia’s best hotel, bar none. Well, much to our dismay, they would not even let us enter the haughty floral-scented hotel lobby, totally snubbing their collective noses at us and shooing us away, summarily escorting us off the property. Well, it was kind of ironic that this time when I visited The Oriental, Pamela and I were pleasantly escorted to the regal Norman Mailer suite by none other than the charming Kurt Wachtveti, the hotel’s illustrious and famous General Manager. (Mr. Kurt has a serious tell-all in his future!) Our wonderfully spacious 8th floor suite overlooking the bustling Chao Phraya river was bigger than our Santa Monica apartment, with three bathrooms and came complete with our own butler! I tell ya, those dry vodka martinis we had in the Bamboo Bar that sultry evening, albeit 30 years later, never tasted so sublime.
Not the real Grand Palace…any guesses where?
I also remember one time in 2009 when we arrived under a government issued Emergency Decree and State of Emergency due to ongoing Red and Yellow shirt protests and occasional flare ups of civil strife (read: riots). Of course, the Thai people were mad at each other and not us, their esteemed guests, and we had nothing to concern ourselves with really; and casually went about scavenging amidst the political dialogue taking place without a problem or delay. I also remember, on a more recent visit, our next to last time visiting Bangkok in 2017, that my poor Canadian-born winter-in-his veins hockey-playing son Lucca, all but melted away miserably in the extremely humid mid-day tropic heat as we buzzed the choppy river in a longtail boat between restaurants and refreshment stops. (And I am being extraordinarily kind with that parental memory…)
So…after these mostly fond Thai memories, your received memories are taking us to Malaysia tomorrow for a quick stopover.
Stay safe and well. Till tomorrow…
Please send any memories you want us to post to ringmaster (at) globalscavengerhunt (dot) com