Thursday October 15, 2015 (Asia, Southeast Asia, Thailand, Video)
Sadly, it’s time for us to leave Bangkok. For the last time. This is actually our fifth time in Bangkok on this trip! But the only occasion on which we did any real exploring to speak of.
Our first order of business was running a half marathon. The Empire Tower We Run 2015 half marathon. Robin ran the mini-marathon (a 10.5km race). Immediately after arriving on our flight from the Thai islands in the south we headed to the Silom district to pick up our race kits. And after picking up those race kits, we headed straight home to bed. Why? Mostly due to the fact that the wake up time for our race was 2:30am. I guess that’s how it goes when it’s so hot in the city that races start at 4:30am. After waking up, eating some food, and taking a cab down to the area we didn’t have much leftover time!
Sandra and I finished the race with… reasonable times. Nothing spectacular, but that’s OK. We were taking it pretty easy and checking out the sights along the way. Oh, and I can also blame the fact that the run went through some of the busiest parts of the city. The race was literally traversing on- and off-ramps for highways and overpasses at certain points. At other times, we’d be held back by a police officer while he allowed some traffic to move through an intersection. In other words, unlike other races we’ve completed in cities, they really didn’t shut down traffic in this case. Bangkok mostly kept operating as super-busy Bangkok, just with the added feature of a thousand runners roaming the streets. Bizarre.
Somehow, the next day, we were convinced that it would be a great idea to give the Hash House Harriers another shot. I mean, the Bangkok Monday Hash is our mother hash! So we owed it to ourselves to try again after our initial attempt turned into a bit of a forest survey instead of a run.
I checked out the route to the start point. It showed a 30 minute estimate to get there via taxi. I gave us an hour to be safe. Of course, one hour and fifteen minutes after we called the cab we arrived at the start location to find it empty. The run had already started. Now the thing is, even for experienced hashers it can be a daunting task to start the race more than a few minutes after the rest of the group. We didn’t know that – it’s only our second hash! So the three of us bounded away down the trail. It was easy at first because we could see lots of footprints. Follow the footprints and stay on the trail. It was all so easy. Then we hit the first checkpoint.
Now, my understanding of Hash House checkpoints is that they were written on the ground as a big ‘X’. It’s funny – I actually noticed three X marks on a bridge that we encountered but somehow didn’t connect that with the concept of the checkpoint. We were convinced we had somehow lost the trail. After a good fifteen minutes of searching, Sandra discovered the route continuing about a hundred metres away from our present location. Back on the trail! Excellent!
And that lasted for about another five minutes. The paper trail took a left away from the river we were running alongside. As we ran down the path, a man walking toward us with a very grumpy look on his face was waving us away. “Don’t go down here”, was the message. Again – this is only our second time hashing. We can still see that we’re on the trail because we are still seeing the torn up paper bits identifying it every now and again. But he’s waving us away. We continue a bit past him and encounter a closed gate. Dead-end. It looks like private property. Now our group comes to the conclusion that we must be on some false trail or have made a wrong turn. We run back to the river and continue in the direction we were going previously. Eventually we try crossing the river and find more paper. But it seems to be facing the opposite direction. Almost as if we’re running the end of the trail backwards. Well, in retrospect, it’s a lot like that. Because it was exactly that.
The light is now really beginning to fail. We have no phone and no money. I forgot that part, but it’s important. We’re running on a reasonably slippery elevated platform above the river, but we can’t really see the paper marking the trail anymore. As we hit a junction in the road, we encounter two white ladies running. And they speak English! One is from Canada! They have no idea why we’re running in this random area, but they live around here! They will take us to the main road and help us grab a cab! Everything is wonderful!
So we follow them. They have phones and show us a map of where we are. And the direction they start running in is directly opposite the way back home. But they’re a confident pair, and they seem like our best chance for salvation. They run for another five kilometres with us – but again, in the wrong direction! We pass cabs on the run and I’m a bit confused as to why we’re not getting in them. We’re just running farther away from a group that could possibly be going out and looking for us. We’re very late at this point.
Eventually we arrive at “the main road”. I check the map again. OK – I can point on their phones to exactly where we need to go. But this is with their phones. We don’t have a phone, and we don’t have money. I invite them back to the Hash House dinner with the hope that they’ll take the bait and come with us. Celebrate with beer! Nope. They’re waking up early and can’t come with us. Then one of the two ladies departs. She wants to finish her run and has to go to the bathroom. We’re entering a slight panic mode. We try to show the map on the phone to the Thai taxi drivers, but nobody really uses maps here. They don’t know what they’re looking at and can’t take us back.
Eventually we manage to pull over a third cab. And wonder of wonders, the driver has a working GPS on his phone. We are saved. I hold my shaking finger on his map. A red pin appears. I hit the ‘Navigate Here’ button. We are saved! We can pay him when he returns us to our stuff back at the start of the run! All is right with the world.
So that’s the story of how we almost got stranded in a little-known suburb of Bangkok. It was called “Perfect Place”. No joke. We didn’t think it was so perfect. The amusing epilogue to the story is that the cabbie became more and more concerned as we approached our destination. The area is quite rural, since the Hash House runs are often in less-developed regions. But I could sense our driver’s apprehension. His driving slowed to a crawl as we got within a couple of kilometres of home. “You know?”, he kept saying, trying to make sure I’d seen this area before. “Yes, yes! It’s right! Keep going!”
“You know? Right?” He definitely thinks we’re trying to murder him in a field in the middle of nowhere. His eyes are darting left and right to check for threats. The car is barely moving. Finally, his headlights catch our group of hashers long returned from the run and drinking beer in the middle of the street. The driver becomes elated. He breathes an audible sigh of relief.
“What? This? Yes?!” “Yes! This is it!” “Oh my God! Oh my God!”, he says.
We pay him double. He saved the day.
The remainder of our time in Bangkok was mostly spent relaxing. We shared a mojito “bucket” – a sandcastle-quality bucket filled with alcohol. We scooted around town on water taxis to visit markets like the Chatuchak Weekend Market. And loved it so much we made the trek back again a few days later to find it completely shut down. You see, we didn’t know it was the “Weekend” market at that point in time! But regardless: get ready at Christmas time. Some of you may be receiving the fruits of our market exploration.
Robin checked out the Grand Palace, but Sandra and I were too cheap to do the same. Instead, we spent our time mingling with Rilakumma – a Japanese storybook character now coming to Thailand. We’ve been seeing his beautiful face on 7-11 discount stamps for a while, but now we’ve met the little dude himself.
I’ve got a story about visiting the dentist in Bangkok that I’m going to split into a separate story. Suffice it to say we didn’t have the best experience. I’ll write more later. And if I forget, just remind me!
We flew into Bali today and are now comfortably ensconced in our tiny hotel here in Ubud. We had one hiccup wherein I managed to get both our brand new bottle of sunscreen and toothpaste confiscated. Sorry, Robin. Damnit. Won’t make the mistake of packing my toiletries in the carry-on bag again. You’d think I’d know this by now. But apparently not!
In Bali thus far the temperature has cooled down a bit from Bangkok highs (thankfully!), the people have been lovely, and the food has been great. I could really get used to this place! Tomorrow we’ll be visiting the Monkey Forest. Spooky? Thrilling? Lame? You decide!