I landed at Don Mueang International Airport (DMK) in Bangkok before the sun had even risen. I first landed here in 1996, the first of what would be many trips to the Kingdom over the past few decades. I lingered in the arrival’s hall soaking in the nostalgia.
New Year’s morning: the roads were empty, and I arrived at my guesthouse just after the sun came up. The always felt excitement of returning to Bangkok had been replaced by the exhaustion of traveling the past 24 hours.
I arrived and was greeted by a somewhat disheveled young man. Perhaps hungover from the night before. He immediately informed me there was no room for me because they were fully booked – despite my reservation. After the blah blah blah of the back and forth exchange he finally admitted they had one room on the top floor, and I could crash there.
Entering the room immediately reminded me of the ‘night after’ in The Hangover Part II. The floor was covered in standing water including around the bed, the pipe, connecting to the toilet was spraying large quantities of water, the shower was completely broken, so was the AC unit covered in mold, and probably needless to say, there were no towels. A barely running fan was squeaking, it’s blades slowly moving.
Just walking into the room made me feel grimy. I had to take action despite the nonfunctioning shower. I grabbed the toilet bowl sprayer and was delighted to discover that it sprayed out a healthy stream of water when I pressed the nozzle. I ended up taking a shower from the toilet bowl sprayer and then collapsing on the stain infested hard bed.
Later that day I woke from my stupor and was surprised when reception assigned me another room. It was definitely an upgrade, but that is not saying much. About as far from my hotel room as one can get, that evening I enjoyed a bottled of Chandon with friends over a lux meal at Osca & Blanco Restaurant on the banks of the Chao Praya River across from ICONSIAM.
Wandering around the streets of Bangkok the next day, I began thinking about all the changes to the city I’ve seen since my first trip. Buildings seem to come and go like fall leaves on the wind. But there’s a lot more than just this.
The Skytrain was under construction during my first visit. It has now grown significantly to multiple lines covering vast swaths of the city. Bangkok did not even have an underground metro then.
If my memory serves me correctly, street vendors used to be everywhere. Now in certain parts of town, and especially in the core part of the city, they are hard to find.
And more recent developments including legalizing cannabis has resulted in a proliferation of dispensaries in certain parts of the city.
One change that is much appreciated, albeit maybe a temporary one, was 45 days given on my passport stamp instead of the normal 30.