Our time in Koh Samui at an end, it was time to move on. We caught an early morning flight in to Bangkok and took a shuttle to our overnight digs – the nearby Novotel Airport Hotel. We would stay there the night so as to get as much sleep as possible before catching our early morning flight to Hanoi. The only catch being, we realised after checking over our flight details, that our ongoing flight to Hanoi did not actually leave from the airport in to which we had just arrived. It departed from Bangkok’s second airport, which was across the other side of the city.
Crestfallen at our discovery, but relieved it was picked up very early, we enquired about transport to the other airport. A shuttle bus ran from Suvarnabhumi Airport across to the distant Don Muang airport, but it started at 5am and would take about an hour and a half. We needed to make checkin by 6am at the latest. The concierge told us that a taxi would definitely be the best and quickest way to go, and so we booked that in for 4:10am.
Resigned to a day spent in the hotel so we could turn in early, we made use of the time to swim in the pool, do some exercise, reading and blogging. One perk was discovering one of the restaurants did a fantastic pizza that we could easily share between the two of us which made meals a little cheaper than we initially expected.
After a decent night’s sleep in the biggest bed I have ever slept in (also very comfortable), I got up at our pre-arranged time of 3:50am. Amanda was already up and doing last-minute packing. Feeling surprisingly refreshed, I dressed, collected my gear, and we headed downstairs to check out and grab our cab. He didn’t take long to arrive; we stowed our gear in the boot and headed off.
The flight in to Bangkok had made it quite clear that the city is massive. The sprawl from the centre stretches as far as the smokey haze which permeates the city will allow you to see. We sped towards it along one of the many highways which seemed to criss-cross the city when viewed from above.
Being a taxi passenger in Thailand is certainly an interesting experience. For some, white-knuckled. Personally, I love the element of chaos that seems to be part of their driving culture. On the islands (Koh Samui and Koh Phangan) there are no lanes marked. Generally, people stay to the left and pass on the right. They sound their horn to let people know they are there, and about to pass by them. At least twice I can recall being overtaken whilst overtaking someone else. Driving towards oncoming traffic while overtaking is common. Once I saw a 4WD scream past us, and several other minivans, and only just made it back in to the left lane before oncoming traffic passed him. Pretty sure I saw him fishtail a little as well.
In Bangkok, wide highways and marked lanes don’t seem to make as much of a difference as one might expect. Our taxi driver lazily drifts from one lane to the other at 120km/hr. He never uses his indicators. Very few drivers do. Lanes seem to be general suggestions for where to drive. Our driver often drove between lanes, waiting until he was upon other cars before making a lane decision. A black sedan swerves in to our lane to overtake us, then suddenly brakes. As we’re almost tail to bumper, our driver is quickly forced to do the same, causing our hearts to jump up in to our throats. The black car speeds up, brakes, speeds up, brakes, swerving erratically in its lane, before finally flooring it and zooming off down the highway. “That car crazy,” our driver says to us, shaking his head and chuckling. There’s still limits to the chaos, it seems.
Out past the well-lit highway, the city zooms by. Immediately by the highway are small businesses, run-down residences and local stores. In the distance, the central city, with skyscrapers dotted in amongst the gloom. The most interesting feature is the red lights on the taller buildings, marking their presence in the darkness. Some kind of signal to airplanes? The red glow, foreign language on curved street signs and the general feeling of decayed, not-yet-finished infrastructure puts me firmly in mind of cyberpunk classics, the like of which are often set in neo-Tokyo. It suggests there’s a dark, exciting underbelly to Bangkok below the massive billboards advertising clothing sales at Grand Palace and the twisting highways that reach up in to the air. Well. That’s what it feels like, anyway. I won’t know until we return in a couple of weeks. Until then the dark city is a flirtatious wink and a smile, a hint of what might be.
Our driver delivers us quickly to Don Muang Airport and we go through the familiar cycle of checkin, security and immigration. Our flight to Hanoi, Vietnam would shortly depart and deliver us to the next chapter in our adventure. So long for now, Bangkok – be back to explore you soon!