One Night in Bangkok

14 Commentsby   |  06.01.11  |  Chiang Mai, Thailand

I’m not sure what day it is. I believe it’s very early morning on Tuesday in Bangkok. That makes it about 2 p.m. in Denver, which probably explains why I’m wide awake even after sleeping only about six hours in the last 45.

So now, having taken perhaps the most needed shower of my life, I’m sitting crossed-legged on the tiny, tiled patio in the room where I’m spending the night in Bangkok until my flight leaves tomorrow. Earlier, when I stepped outside the impressive new terminal of the Suvarnabmuni (“Su-van-a-pum,” go figure) airport, the heavy tropical air met me at the doorway and hung in my hair and recurled my unwashed curls all the way to the hotel. The air condition in the van and the room was welcome.

Now, I don’t want to go back inside. The air condition feels so sterile and, in a very cool, refreshing way, strangely stuffy. Outside, I’ve never smelled air like this before. I suppose it could just be the smell of pollution, but the tropical air is heavy and muggy; the crickets are chirping, just audible above the hum of the air conditioner; the occasional insect buzzes between the palm trees while they rock back and forth in the breeze; and the city lights make the clouds glow like giant rolling sheets of mist. Motorcycles are passing by in the street just beyond where the hotel is tucked away from the highway, and Thai music is pulsing from one of the neighboring apartment rooms. It’s almost a drugging effect, all of this. I would like to sit here for a very long time.

But about the trip. The Pacific Ocean, as it turns out, is rather expansive. That translates into a very long flight. But I did sit next to two very friendly girls from Singapore on the way from LA to Tokyo–they’d just spent a few weeks studying in Oklahoma City. A thrilling study abroad experience, I guess.

We landed in Tokyo, and the Narita airport is either nothing too exciting or I was half asleep. Our flight left in the evening for Bangkok, and I watched from my window seat as twilight fell over Japan, the cities lighting up all along the islands that are surrounded by this great wall of ocean on both sides. The water literally looked like it was having to be held back.

On the way to Bangkok, I sat next to a woman from Thailand who has lived in Oklahoma for years. Apparently Oklahoma is a popular place nowadays…who knew. She was telling me all about Thailand and teaching me a few Thai phrases. But since landing in Bangkok, people’s faces seem to get this amused smile each time I say hello or thank you, so I wonder what I’m actually saying.

Strange feeling #1: landing in the airport, tired, taller than just about everyone, and clearly a tourist with a confused, half-awake stare that, I assume, had a lot to do with why everyone was being so overly helpful.
Strange feeling #2: actually considering asking the three-year-old Thai children for help when I overheard them speaking Thai fluently.
Strange feeling #3: chasing down the terminal after a well-intentioned shuttle driver from another hotel very quickly whisked my suitcase away. He was smiling and apologetic every time he walked by while I waited for the right shuttle. I assured him it was quite all right.

Oh, and it’s started thundering now–long, rolling swells through the sky like a soundtrack to the lightning show in the distance. Yes, I think I love this.


  1. Denny
    12:50 am, 04.07.23

    Tim Rice, Benny Andersson, and Björn Ulvaeus’ concept album and eventual musical, Chess, has the song “One Night in Bangkok.”

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    6:53 am, 04.26.23

    You reminded me of the song “One Night in Bangkok” with your story, a classic pop song from the 1980s that continues to be popular today. The song tells the story of a world-weary traveler who finds himself in Bangkok for just one night, experiencing the vibrant nightlife and exoticism cities. As my friend wrote in a controversial essay , this song has become a cultural touchstone, evoking images of adventure, excitement and the temptation of the exotic thanks to its catchy melody and famous lyrics “One Night in Bangkok”

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    5:26 am, 09.01.23

    This song is a song from the concept album and subsequent musical Chess by Tim Rice, Benny Andersson, and Björn Ulvaeus.

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