“Excuse me miss, but where are your shoes? In order to enjoy the breakfast buffet you will need to wear footwear.”
I’m a backpacker, and as far and wide as my travels have taken me shoes have always been optional. In fact, sometimes even traipsing around barefoot has scored me ‘traveler’ points among the hostel world social circles. This was a new environment. A private butler was on call 24/7, my bathroom was the size of the most splurge worthy accommodations I had enjoyed from time to time after a few too many night buses, and I was graced with a view more spectacular than any sky bar I had ever been to. Luxury to say the least was not something I was accustomed to, or even to be perfectly honest, something that I craved. These two nights were free, my friend had invited me to stay, and despite the fact that all my clothes were slightly pungent (and it costs 9 dollars to wash a single shirt at this luxury hotel) I was not about to say no. So for two days I took advantage of every single ounce of pampering that I could.
My spectacular view of Bangkok.
I’m not going to say I didn’t enjoy it, who wouldn’t enjoy loose leaf tea accompanied with a personal jar of honey and a tray of cookies brought to your bedside? What I will say is that when I hoisted up my bulging backpacker for the hundredth time I didn’t even think to complain.
Backpacking has gotten a bad rap; we are known as the fools who drink too many buckets, sport dreadlocks out of circumstance instead of desire, and steal toast from the breakfast buffet in order to fill our bellies later. With all of these backpacker clichés thrown in my face I was slightly disillusioned with the whole backpacking lifestyle. In truth I was happy to escape the throngs of 20-somethings for a bit even if it meant I had to wear shoes.
Good thing I put on appropriate footwear, the spread awaiting me was well worth it!
However, after two days I was wonderfully reminded of why I have chosen to travel this way in the first place, and no it’s not simply because it is one of the cheaper options.
While at the hotel I spent 60% of my day inside the walls of my plush Western comfort, I could have been back home on the East Coast while I passed the hours reading The New York Times and sipping a latte. When Saturday night approached I opted to watch How I Met Your Mother before falling blissfully to sleep instead of taking in the neon lights that grace Bangkok’s skyline at all hours. The result? Nothing happened, I slept well but that’s about it. At the breakfast buffet, four rooms of endless early morning treats, I found myself lost among the 14 jam options, Nutella, and peanut butter, desperately searching for cream cheese. Cream cheese however, was not a choice and I felt disappointment creep in. They did offer goat cheese but that’s not a worthy bagel topping. I even felt myself grow impatient as my request for room temperature water took a whole five minutes to be delivered to me. Didn’t they know I was thirsty? The hotel had no bubble bath so I used complementary body wash infused with bath pearls, which left a scum on the tub that I found irritating.
So many jams… but no cream cheese!
And here was the strangest part, I actually felt a little bit anxious as I packed up my bag and prepared to leave what my friend and I had dubbed ‘the nest.’ Bangkok was daunting, dirty, scary…..but it was also a place that I had called home for the past year and had never once hesitated to jump into.
Goodbye comfy bed, the world awaits.
Alas, I left with my complimentary slippers, slipped out the twenty foot tall double doors, and waved goodbye to the emotionless doorman (where oh where I wondered was the ubiquitous Thai smile). I was after somtom (papaya salad) and found it quickly at a street stand. While the girl at the table next to me got her hair shampooed and dyed I sweated through a plate of the notoriously spicy Isaan specialty, was rewarded with an invitation to join some Thai women munching on a plate of pineapple, and tried my best to spit out a couple phrases in Thai. This was more like it.
Written by: Tyler Protano-Goodwin