1979: New To The Kingdom

The newlyweds flew in from Hong Kong that early monsoon morning from Kowloon, Hong Kong.

We’d met a fellow traveller at KaiTak airport who told us of the wonderful land of Thailand, a place full of green tropical jungle, rice paddy, Pagodas by the score and the river city of Bangkok.

The greeness filled our eyes as the plane circled over the Cobra Swamp before descending towards Don Muang airport.

The rich aroma of Asia filled the big DC10 as we dropped below 15,000′.

Customs was routine, the kind agent inquired if I was US Military, I told him I was USArmy Special Forces retired, he grinned and quickly mentioned that he had also been in the Thai Army and had killed several Communists. We shook hands and he bid is well on our way.

The commotion outside the airport was chaotic to say the least, the taxi driver encirlced us quickly as we walked thou the doors and out into the 90% humidity and the ever constant 90F temperature.

Some of the drivers decided to “help” us with our luggage and push my wheelchair towards their fleet of againg Toyota Corollas! We finally made a deal as to what we considered a “fair” price to haul us the short drive to Bangkok.

The road was two lanes, crowded to 4 or 5 lanes of traffic, depending on what vehicle filled the way.

Horns honking, motorcycles by the thousands, large overloaded trucks, huge buses, all filled to the brim, samlors, tuk tuks, bicycles, and those that pushed wheeled carts,etc filled the “superhighway” from the airport all the way to town.

The heavy monsoon, it was after all June, also filled part or all of the road, hear and there, sometimes you’d see folks with throw nets fishing the side klongs, but most were trying to navigate the flooded streets without bogging down. Those few drowned out vehicles just became another hazard to go around, honking honking honking was necessary, otherwise someone behind might forget where they well.

Our crowed, non air conditioned taxi finally got us to our destination in the capital: The Hotel Myjestic! Our driver had mentioned that it was “almost” 4 star, at least “Number 1” and he could get us a great “deal” there!

We made our way into the aging hotel,its best days far behind it. The desk clerk cheerfully logged us in, told us about the “Number 1” pool they had,etc,etc,etc.

The bell man carried our one suitcase and pushed me in my wheelchair at the same time, squeezing in the intricate, almost french Victorian elevator.

He made it squeak and holler like a rat with it’s tail caught in a trap. We started and stopped, jerking all the way up to our “suite” on the 4th floor.

Showing up inside our room, Raymond Chandler must have stayed at this place! It’s interior designed decades earlier, the hot Asian sun had turned nearly white, the once elaborate red curtains. The bed, complete with “lumps” didn’t leave us with much hope for a good nights sleep, but we were more tired from the taxi drive from the airport, than we’d been from the flight from Kowloon.

We gave the driver a buck, and he’d said he’d be on call anytime we needed assistance, just to call the desk.

Looking out, past the moldy curtains, I could see far down below, the green infestation the desk clerk had called a “Number 1” pool. The moss was growing thickly around its edges and the thought of a refreshing dip were soon drowned by Pattys yelp as she noticed the rather large lizard in the bath tub.

I managed to corner the pesky foot long creature with one of my crutches, only to have it slip thru a small crack behind the toilet. With our safety now guaranteed, we left the room and made the elevator screech for several minutes, landing us in the lobby once again…

Enquiring at the desk where the TOT[Tourist Authority Of Thailand]was, the jovial bell captain informed us that it was “just a little ways down the street”…to be continued…

4 responses to “1979: New To The Kingdom

  1. Please keep this story going! I also first arrived in Bangkok in 1979, but stayed over at the Malaysia Hotel off Rama 4, when it was the backpackers favorite spot (before the rise of Khao San Road). The Malaysia was an American GI hotel during the war.

  2. actually, I think we stayed at the Malaysia! but after 25yrs, I couldn’t remember the name of the place, but will never forget the “atmosphere” there in the late 70’s…

  3. Thanks for the story. Always nice to compare how things differ twenty or so years later.

  4. Yes, I think it was probably the Malaysia Hotel on Soi Ngam Duphli, off Rama 4, and just opposite the Thai boxing place. Small pool, large coffee shop, small elevator, famous bulletin board with all sorts of notices. Everybody stayed there back in those days. Cost $10 per night. And yes, faded red curtains.