Bangkok is an absolutely sprawling city filled with beautiful art, friendly faces, delicious + cheap (but oooooiiiillllyyyyy) street food, everything you could possibly think of to buy + scams at every corner.
Literally everywhere we turned there was another fabulous piece of clothing or art or spring roll that I wanted + another tuk-tuk driver offering to take us, “Anywhere10baht.”
Our slogans for Bangkok where, “If I had aaaaall of the monies…” + “No, thanks!”
Luckily, thanks to Lonely Planet, we were well aware of the popular scams + were able to prepare ourselves for what was billed as a recovering-shopaholic’s-worst-nightmare (the boutiques at Siam Square, anyone!?).
We haggled as much as we could + aside from surely spending more on some souvenirs than we should have (which is just an unavoidable part of travel, as far as I’m concerned), we made it through our trip scam free! Well… we did have to get out of a few tuk-tuks + cabs when it became clear that they were trying to take us for all we had!
The next time I go to Bangkok, I plan to stay somewhere with easy access to Bangkok’s public transportation, because we were kind of limited by the lack of options near our hotel. From Khao San, pretty much our only options for getting around were cabs + tuk-tuks.
In the cabs we almost always had to beseech the drivers to turn on the meter, just to sit for ages in horrifyingly dense traffic. In tuk-tuks, our luck was even worse, so we spent most of our days wandering around the “foreigner ghetto” part of Bangkok, close to our hotel. However, had we not been on Khao San Road, we never would have come across an awesome Reggae bar run by a super cool Cambodian cat named Jimmy.
Christian + I planned to take day trips out of Bangkok to explore more of Thailand, but we didn’t realize how difficult it would be + just how much time travel between places would take. All of the places we were interested in going were just toooo far. Even the closest beach would have taken 5 hours to get to. Of course we weren’t in Thailand to be beach bums, but once a day trip was ruled out, we opted for a day of poolside reading on our hotel’s roof.
As it does for most travelers, enjoying the delicious foods of Thailand came with a price. + on our last night, Christian was too sick to go out. With her permission to get out of the hotel room (thanks, C!), I hung out with Jimmy + some of his buddies who showed me how to properly get down on Khao San Road: fried scorpions, buckets, pad thai, hookah + all.
For those who don’t know, a bucket is how people in Bangkok do. It is literally a bucket (like picture beach, sandcastle bucket type-bucket) filled with ice, Thai Redbull, soda, liquor + straws for the table. Make no mistake, Khao San is the place where all of the foreigners are all of the drunk all of the time.
But then there was Runi.
Runi is a Singaporean of Indian descent. He works an engineering job that requires him to live + work abroad on 2-year contracts. He was in Egypt during the last revolution. He ended up caught in a crossfire. An Egyptian stranger jumped in front of him, taking the bullet. This stranger died in Runi’s arms.
Runi, who has remained in contact with this man’s family, has set up his pension so that he will be able to send money to this man’s family for the rest of his life. For Runi, it is the least he can do. But now he struggles with survivor’s guilt. Why should this man have died for him?
Before he died, the man let Runi know that he believed that Runi, a foreigner, should not lose his life in a conflict that had nothing to do with him. That was why he became Runi’s human shield.
Runi has now made a point to live his life to the best of his ability. He believes that he owes it to the stranger who shared with him the most intimate moment you could ever have with another person. He gave Runi his life.
Runi told me over + over, that this was now his “duty:” to live his life to the best of his ability so that the man who saved his did not die in vain.
After Runi told me his story, he looked a little surprised + said I was the first traveling stranger that he had ever told. He made me promise that while it was his duty to live his life to the best of his ability, it was now my duty to share his story with the world. This is my start.
One of the reasons why I love to travel is because I love to observe, I love to bear witness, I love to learn.
Within hours of meeting Runi, it was time to leave Bangkok. For some reason, I never exchanged contact information or proper names with any of the fellows that I spent my last night with, Runi included.
And now the thing I am still struggling with is what to do with such brief, honest encounters. In the scheme of things, I can barely say that I know Runi. Maybe that is the very thing that allowed him the freedom to share with me what has become his life’s pulse.
He knew that I am a storyteller because I told him. He knew that I would spread the word. That is just what I intend to do.
I can’t say it more: if you have the chance, if you have the means, travel, travel, TRAVEL! Do so with an open mind. Try everything, talk to everyone (well, be safe about it, please!)! And, please, the next time you’re in Bangkok, check out the Reggae bar around the corner from Khao San run by a tattooed Cambodian named Jimmy. You’ll meet some awesome people. But don’t forget to get his email addy and give it to me!!
MTV China played this a whole bunch while we were in Bangkok. We love Snoop. We love Miley. We love the message.