- Bangkok -

12th September '11

It's incredible what ten months in the US will do to you. You literally become oblivious to obesity.

I could look around "restaurants" there (McDonalds), and not see a single person who could hope to be less than 40% body fat. You just become numb to it. Fat people are the norm.

One thing that I notied before I was even on this plane to Taiwan though: No fat people.

I was looking around and I was like shit. I'm going to be the fattest person on the plane. Gay.

Those ten days of McDonalds and Subway were coming back to haunt me now. But seriously, whatever the Hell these Taiwanesers are eating, I've got to get me some of that. There's no fat people!

Stupid America. Set the bar of physicality rather low.

Now en route to Thailand, I had this transfer in Taipei, Taiwan. Which was around thirteen flight hours from LA. And although I've done significantly longer times than that in transit before, I'm kind of out of practise.

No 50+ hour bus journeys for me in a while. And I really wasn't looking forward to thirteen hours in the same seat. How does that even sound fun. Especially when I'd only got this flight because of the price.

I wouldn't normally say something like this in a blog, but if you ever... ever find yourself flying to Asia or thereabouts, go with EVA Air. They, are, awesome.

I'd been talking to this Vietnamese woman back in the line to check-in back in LA. And she was saying that she really didn't rate China Air (the other airline that had cheap flights), and that EVA really look after you well.

What a great flight. Worth coming to Taiwan just for the flight. Slept half the way. Got a good dinner, a decent breakfast. The staff were smiling all night. The flight was on time (fuck you Obama). This little Vietnamese woman, she wasn't lying.

Loving Taiwan right now.

It was kind of a head-fuck to see on the screen that the 'Local time at departure: 1:58pm.'

But the sun's only just coming up. About at that moment I became aware that my body-clock is all but non-existent. And that I'm about to experience a serious dose of jet-lag.

Whatever. I'm in fucking Taiwan!

Well I'm in Taiwan airport anyway.

What a weird fucking country though. Or place. Is it its own country? I don't know.

As we're flying over Taiwan, I kept on seeing these multi-storey buildings. Mini sky-scrapers almost. Like you'd find in any big city. It's just that these ones were in the middle of fields.

Like, I thought that the whole point of multi-storey buildings was that when there's no more space to expand horizonally, the only way to go is up. I don't see the justification for building sky-scrapers on the middle of fields.

That's Taiwan for you though. They're innovators. In their little hats.

What a great airport though. Seriously. The people on sleepinginairports.net don't know what they're talking about. They said it smelt bad. They said it wasn't that clean.

I could live in this fucking airport.

They had a "green relaxing zone." They had free PCs for open use. They had a video game store with PS3s hooked up so that anyone can go in and play. They had wi-fi throughout the airport.

What a great fucking airport! My hopes are up for Thailand. Because if Taiwan's airline, and Taiwan's airport are anything to go by, Asia is going to be fucking awesome!

I was actually happy when I got to board the next plane as well.

"Sweet... I'm going back onto the plane again. Awesome!"

It's possible that the jet-lag was making me delirious by this point.

That flight was just as good as the first. And still no fat people. It's so much better than America.

There, you get normal people, you get fat people, and you get ugly people. And you get fat, ugly people. But because like, 99% of the population are obese, you generally get repulsed looking at most people. And half of those that aren't fat are ugly.

There are no fat people here though. So you just have to avoid looking the ugly ones to save your eyes. And that's much, much easier.

America had just numbed me to hideousness. Because everyone there is obese you just forget not to look at them. But here no problem. Ugly people can be persecuted. And that's what God intended when he invented gingers.

Now I don't know why, because I've never had a problem with any of them and never even been seriously interrogated, but foreign immigrations terrify me. They really do. And like with any fear, the worst thing that you can do is postpone the inevitable.

I was about as prepared for this immigration as I could be. I was clean-shaven, clean clothes. I'd rewritten my hostel address in my neatest hand-writing on the plane. Anything to look like a respectable, non-terrorist person I had done. But technically, to enter Thailand I need a flight back out again. And I don't have one. So any border official that feels like being a dick and rejecting my Thai entry, he pretty much can do. And I was anxious to get this over with as soon as possible.

Kind of like running towards a bullet speeding towards your face, I got to immigration as soon as possible.

I figure that the sooner I can get there, the earlier in their shift they'll be and the less people that they've had to deal with, so the happier they'll be and the less likely they'll be to reject me.

So I got there. And there wasn't one universal line like in many airports. Here you can pick and choose the official to serve you. And I picked a guy, I got in line, and then instantly regretted it.

Firstly, he was wearing glasses. Which means that he's going to be envious of any person that doesn't have to wear glasses. And secondly, he doesn't look gay. So how am I going to flirt with him to get me into the country. And I was looking at how quickly other officials were letting people in, and... fuck.

Is it too late to change lines? Would that not make me look like an obvious terrorist?

I had to stick with this line. And get rejected by the hamster-faced four-eyes.

Thank God for black people.

There was one at the counter next to the one that I was at. And they seemed determined to give the black guy a hard time. Which meant that my border-official was more concerned about intervening with this black guys interrogation than he was with me.

The black guy wasn't even wearing glasses so he really fucked up there. That's just asking to get rejected.

But when they reluctantly have to let him through, it's time for my officers break or to go home or something. So he doesn't even ask me any questions.

As I'm still standing there waiting to get interrogated, he puts a closed sign up on the counter, stamps my passport, and walks off. Much to the dismay of the people behind me in the queue, who I guess have to go and join a new line again. But I got into Thailand. Zero interrogation

See. Black people do have a purpose. I've been saying that for years.

I remember back when I cleared immigration and got into the country back in Colombia, I was like, "WTF?"

I didn't know where to go, I didn't know what to do. I was in this foreign land where I don't speak the language. WTF?

I didn't get that anxiety here though. It was all a lot more Western and developed than I'd been anticipating. And not too different to when I was in LA or Fort Lauderdale airports recently, I just strolled through like Chuck Norris.

I was disappointed.

One of the things that I loved about South America, was I felt like I was doing something different. Something different to what I would normally do. It was almost like going into a new and unknown world to me. And I liked that. And I was hoping Thailand would be the same.

Perhaps it's just because I'm better travelled now than back then, but I just felt so comfortable.

I didn't feel like I was stepping foot onto this new and mysterious continent. I felt like I would walking out of London Gatwick. Which I really didn't want. I came here for the new. And instantly Bangkok hit me as very Western influenced. And I didn't want that.

In the taxi to the hostel I see giant billboards of Wayne Rooney. Lots of traffic. What's new?

I had to scrap that attitude immediately. South America was amazing. Colombia was amazing. And I'd foregone the opportunity to go back there to come here. Which meant that my expectations were through the roof. And I immediately had to wipe any expectation that this was going to be just like Colombia. Because if I came here with that attitude, I would only be leaving disappointed.

I had to appreciate Thailand as Thailand. And nothing else. Otherwise I'd only regret.

It was raining. The streets were full of cars. But few people or life. And the taxi-driver got lost on the way to the hostel to the point that it was lucky that I had the phone number handy so that he could call them and find out where to go. But I can't communicate with him.

We don't even share an alphabet. So it's a pretty silent journey.

Just like in Bogota two years ago, I was giving myself five days in Bangkok to get climatised to my surroundings. To learn how things are done in Asia. But as I'm looking around out of this taxi and seeing nothing that looks unfamiliar to me, I'm thinking that I don't even need it.

Maybe it was the jet-lag. Maybe it was the rain. But I didn't take to Bangkok right away.

I was expecting new and exciting. And this could have been any city in North America.

I get myself settled into my hostel and go for a wander around. But what is this? Where's the Bangkok that I hear so much about.

I need food. But, man I'm feeling untravelled. I'm feeling like a person who's spent the last four months shacked-up in a fancy Western hotel.

Admittedly I was working there. But I don't feel like a seasoned traveller right now. I feel really green. I'm letting overcomeable obstacles, like language, affect what I do. And that's not what I do. But hungry and wanting something Thai, my lack of language is scaring me away from all the vendors that you hear so much about. That cook you a meal for a dollar right in front of your eyes.

In the end I have to settle for a croissant from 7-11.

I'm just not feeling myself right now. I don't know what it is.

Jet-lag maybe.

A croissant from 7-11 wasn't exactly sufficient to satisfy the appetite of someone who's been sat on aircraft for the better part of 24-hours (and was unable to purchase anything in Taiwan through a lack of local currency). So I soon again find myself out on the street, trying to muster the courage to go and talk some Thai.

Sign language, pointing, like how I did in South America when I first arrived there. I'm reluctant to do it though. I'm reluctant to go and eat the food that I want to eat, to do the things that I want to do. Scared off by a language barrier. And I don't know what's wrong with me. This isn't me.

Whatever the fuck happened to me in Nantucket, it changed me from being the person that I am. That I want to be. This isn't me. But I'm letting little things like language get in my way. And I don't know why.

Just a guy down on his confidence for some reason.

My first meal in Asia: McDonalds.

Yes, that is what happened. McDonalds has numbers, and it has pictures. I can do that. I can point at a picture or show a number of fingers. So my first meal in Asia: McDonalds.

It's fucking embarassing now I say it. And I was so looking forward to getting out of the US to get off that unhealthy American diet.

(You can get McDonalds delivered to your house here!)

I've got to eat, you know. I've got to eat. I've got to get over this... I don't even know what it is. What's the worst that's going to happen if I go and try and talk to some Thai people? I'm just... I don't know. I'm low on confidence. I don't know why. But this isn't me. I never shied away from a language challenge in South America. Why the Hell am I now?

I guess that getting my first proper Thai food was going to have to wait for day.

I was jet-lagged to shit right now. Maybe that was playing a part. A lack of energy perhaps. And my entire plan for the day had just been to remain conscious until 10pm. No matter what. Just get my shattered body-clock onto Thai time as quickly as possible. And that meant staying up until 10pm. That was all that I wanted to do. Just got to keep myself occupied until then.

About the only thing going on was I could join some people downstairs who were drinking beer. I didn't anticipate myself being the best company seeing as my lack of sleep meant that I couldn't even hold a thought. But what the Hell. My logic was that beer'll help me sleep longer. And that's exactly what I need. So a Chang or two. What's the worst that can happen?

This in Bangkok. Two 6.4%, 840ml Chang's and you're set. Paricularly short on sleep and only McDonalds lining your stomach. And I don't know what it is about alcohol, but alcohol does to me what coffee or Red Bull does to most people. It just energises me. And what? People are going out tonight. That wouldn't be very sensible of me now would it, what with this lack of sleep.

How many first nights am I going to have in Bangkok? And I want to spend it sleeping?

I won't go into great detail on this night. But everything that hear about Bangkok, it's true.

The red-light district wouldn't have been my first choice for the night. But I was tagging along with ten or twelve people from the hostel. And this was where we went. And it's true. It's all true.

If you know what I mean about Thai ping-pong, then yes that does happen in the bars. And not just with ping-pong balls. With fire crackers, darts fired at balloons, and a banana that hit me.

Well half the banana hit me. I don't even want to know what happened to the other half.

And how many of them were once men? I don't know. But there were a lot of girls in lingerie with rather large hands and Adam's apples.

It was a fairly harmless night in the end. More disgusting than anything. And you can forget about Vegas, if you have the intent you can really do some sinister stuff here. But we were here more for curiosity than anything. How can you say you've been to Bangkok and not the red-light district?

I've been there. I've seen it. It's true. It's disgusting. I've probably been traumatised for life. And now I have no intention of going back again.

I don't feel the need to go into any more detail than that. Just believe the things that you hear.

At least now I had a first night in Thailand that I was never going to forget.

I wish that I could, but I never will. That shit's going to stay with me forever.

Thailand had somewhat endeared itself to me though.

I wanted something different. And I can assure you now that stuff goes on here that I'm hopefully not going to see anywhere else in the world. And I woke up this morning with one intent.

I have more time in Bangkok than it rightfully deserves, because defiled with the threat of jet-lag, I don't want to be forced into doing things when I don't feel like doing them due to a lack of time. And so all I wanted from this day, was I wanted some fucking proper Thai food.

Don't care about seeing the city. Don't care about being productive. I can do all that crap tomorrow, when I'm a couple of nights removed from this day in transit crossing multiple time-zones. I just want to get over this ridiculous fear of communicating with the locals. Afterall, that's why I'm fucking here. To experience their world.

This morning I finally started to see a Bangkok, to see a Thailand, and to see an Asia that was worth foregoing South America to see. This place had come alive.

Yesterday was crazy weather. Sudden and heavy rain showers at regular intervals. On a Sunday. The streets were dead.

But today, on a Monday, Bangkok was alive. Thailand was alive. This place all of a sudden had life. It became a place that excited me. A place that I wanted to see. A place that I was happy to be. It became a place that people lived rather than existed. And that was what I wanted. That was all that I wanted.

Perhaps coming here on a Sunday wasn't the best idea. Because now, on this day, the city lived. I walked down the street feeling this energy. This city, the vendors and the people that were out, they had this... life. And that was what I wanted to see.

Yesterday was a miserable and dead first day in Thailand. Where I was already questioning why I'd come here instead of Colombia. But last night, and then today, Thailand breathes. It really has this life. And today I'm glad to be here. Today I'm excited for what I'll see walking down the street. I'm excited for what I'll do tomorrow.

And accompanied by someone from the hostel, I finally overcame my fear of talking with the local vendors, and I got my lunch sat on this garden furniture setup on the sidewalk. Just like all the locals do.

Turns out the vendors speak English anyway. Way to make me feel stupid.

I don't know what happened. I honestly don't know what happened. I noticed for a while that the person that left Nantucket wasn't the same confident person that arrived on Nantucket.

Somehow that place just crushed my confidence. Perhaps all the politics there bothered me. I don't know. But I remember particular events from right when I arrived, and I remember similar events from before I left. And I did not handle them the same way. I couldn't handle them the same way. For whatever reason, my confidence on Nantucket just got totally shot. And it's translating to the way I am here.

I've got to get it back.

I've got to talk to the people that I don't want to talk to. I've got to do the things that I don't want to do. Because facing your fear is the only way to overcome your fear. And it's like a fucking, psychological or mental block in my mind right now. Almost a paranoia about the way that I look to others that's got me acting all shy.

I don't care how I appear. That's not me. That's not what I do. And yet why am I scared to talk to these local people?

I'm scared that I'll make a twat of myself.

I don't know why. I don't know why I have that fear. I'm not someone that ever gives a fuck what other people think. I'm someone who'll stand at the side of the road with my thumb in the air with 99% of the cars driving by me saying to themselves, "get a fucking job you bum."

Some of them even say it out loud.

I'm not a person that cares. I just don't care about embarrassing myself. I don't care about what other people think about me. And yet here I am. Caring and scared.

Nantucket did that to me. Maybe four-months of having to carry myself a certain way, having to dress a certain way, maybe that just made me conscious of myself. But whatever it is, I don't want this. I don't want to be like this. I don't want to live conscious of how I look to others. That's not me.

As good as it tasted, that was why I wanted the fucking Thai food. I've got to get that arrogance back that I usually travel with. That swagger that say, 'I don't give a fuck what you think because I'm better than you.'

That's me. That's how I think. And I've just lost that absolute confidence in myself. And one way or another, I'm going to get that back. I've got to get that back.

South America wouldn't have been South America if I was scared and timid. And Asia won't be what it can be either. And having the balls to order a fucking rice, chicken and vegetables, that gets me one step back to where I need to be. To where I should be.

Just taking a little time to adjust to being out on the road again I guess.

Discounting Miami and Montreal, I haven't been out on the road like this since I left Paraguay. And that was a long time ago now. And I didn't realise that it had, but that break has really impacted me. Mentally. And there's just a little adjustment time I guess.

But Bangkok has endeared itself to me. Now it's up to me to get back to the person that I should be. To get my confidence back up again. Because once I've done that again, there's no reason that this can't be South America all over again. Better.

It's very weird for me to think that less than two weeks ago I was carrying rich peoples bags in Nantucket. And now I'm in Bangkok getting hit by vaginally-propelled bananas.

No wonder my confidence it down. These have been a whirlwind two weeks.