What happens when you put two software engineers â€“the usual dime a dozen ones; frustrated, overworked and convinced that they are put on earth to serve a much higher purpose than the computer stuff- on an IM conversation? They rant about work and debate on who is more unfortunate. A recent experiment showed that if you do that every day, in about 2 years these engineers will pack their bags and board a flight to Bangkok. And that, dear readers, is the story of how I found myself in Thailand in the company of an equally bored software engineer.
I set off with the quintessential backpacker guide- Lonely planet, a backpack and just enough Thai Bahts to last a few days. As helpful as the guide book was, there is a lot it doesnâ€™t tell you.
For starters the good folks at Lonely Planet donâ€™t tell you that there is really nothing lonely about that part of the planet. It doesnâ€™t tell you that being an Indian doesnâ€™t automatically grant you immunity to the multitude of stomach bugs as you thought it would. It does mention the extremely friendly swindlers but it doesnâ€™t dwell on how difficult it is to shake off the walk and talk variety of the above. Donâ€™t expect to find a mention of the pink eggs you find all over Thailand. Multiple attempts at getting a satisfactory explanation from the locals ended upÂ being colossal failures. I tried the time tested technique of pointing at the egg and twisting my handâ€™s into the universal sign language for what. And I always got 10 baht as the answer. There are more unanswered question involving exotic looking fruits and mysterious snacks
Clockwise from top left: Pink eggs, fried locust, weird fruit and mysterious snack
The backpacker bible doesnâ€™t tell you that just because something is spelled with a ph doesnâ€™t mean that it is pronounced as â€˜fâ€™. You learn that when you lose face trying to bargain a ride to â€˜fi fiâ€™ islands. There is no mention of the immensely popular and entertaining tour guides on the one day tours to the islands near Phuket(yep it is poo-ket) like the elfin guy who called himself â€˜Rockâ€™. â€œDawn forgeh your maneey and your haanney on my four enjun bot eh?â€� in his unbearably cute accent made us laugh so hard that it gave me stomach cramps for rest of the trip.
LPÂ doesnâ€™t warn you that a backpack and listless wandering (outside Bangkok) will often elicit a â€˜you come here to be like the bitch?â€™ question. I could not, for all the lemon grass in Thai food, figure out what about me offended them until someone started talking at length about the movie â€˜the bitchâ€™ with Leonardo Di Caprio. Nothing you read could prepare you for being dragged in by arm to watch a ping pong show at Patpong market. It doesnâ€™t prepare you to hide the shock when you get the question â€œDo you want hot Indian men?â€� from the street side vendor who just served you spicy phad thai.
There is a lot that a guide book cannot even start describing.-The feeling of utter nausea and elation after you sample your first fried locust; the trepidation and fear when you stand at the edge of a bungee platform; the joy of free fall and flight; The moment of hesitation before you reject the offered joint of pot on Khao San; The relief when you finally hitch a ride from the middle of nowhere to civilization; The disgusting taste of Chang and Singha beersâ€¦
A Sign to Sum up Bangkok. Click for a slide show
Thailand is a lot of thingsÂ to a lot of people. According to the 80 baht Â T-shirts sold at Banglamphu market, it is Â the land of golden faces and golden places. It is what your mother warned you about as the next T shirt says. It is the â€œbee knees for getting someâ€� according toÂ a stoned dude on Khao San Road. For me it will, however, remain a typographic wonderland first (Donâ€™t forget to check out the Slideshow)Â and then a backpackerâ€™s worst nightmare and paradise rolled into one. Kapunka Thailand!
PS: Thanks to people who enlightened me. The pink fruit is called dragon fruit.