The shoe story

Trip Start Oct 04, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Tuesday, February 28, 2006

My first day in Bangkok, someone stole my shoes. I had left them outside the Shanti Lodge, my guesthouse for the next couple days, because no shoes were permitted inside. And when I came back out to get them the next morning, ready to explore the city, they were gone. Every day for three days I looked for those shoes whenever I left or returned to the hostel. I was convinced that whoever took them grabbed the wrong pair of black flipflops, since there were about twenty others that looked almost exactly the same as mine, and would return them when they realized their mistake. But, in the meantime, I needed some shoes. My walking-hiking shoes were too hot and not broken in yet, so by the end of the day I had sweaty, blistery feet - not pretty. After two nights of perusing the stalls on the famous Khao San Road, I finally settled on some "Birkenstocks" thinking that they'd be better for walking around the city anyway. But the next day, after walking in them for approximately 15 minutes, the blisters had me limping down the street. I made it to the ferry that would take us down the river to some of the Bangkok sights, but at the gate of the Grand Palace I could take it no more. I found a little stall and bought perhaps the ugliest shoes I've ever worn in my entire life. But comfortable shoes are well worth $1 and a visit from the fashion police. So, after a day of sightseeing and getting hopelessly lost, I returned back to the hostel tired and eager to just get out of the crowded, smoggy city that is Bangkok. And then, I saw them. My shoes!!! My faith in humanity and Bangkok and the shoe god was restored. No more blisters, no more fashion disasters; I had found my flipflops! And then, amazingly enough, Bangkok seemed so much better. The next day I went to get my last visa for Laos and it was ready in only one hour. I went to the train station from there, first getting dropped in the middle of nowhere by a lazy taxi driver who apparently decided that taking me all the way to the station wasn't worth his time. But before I could get really upset, a nice old man picked me up in his taxi and gave me mints and told me stories as he made sure I got to the right place. The woman at the STA office actually smiled at me when I bought my ticket to China, when the day before she had been quite rude. So, the day I found my shoes was the day I started to like Bangkok. Maybe I was just in a better mood, maybe the stars were in alignment, but maybe it was just that I had given the city a chance. Most travellers hate it, dismissing it as merely a stopover to greater destinations, but I think it's one of those cities that one has to pay their dues in before they can enjoy it. Everyone must have a bad taxi or tuk tuk experience, everyone must get ripped off at least once, and everyone must have some sort of upset stomach. But once you get through all that, once you survive the hazing, Bangkok suddenly becomes a friendlier place. Only then can one really get to the heart of the city. I'd like to think that I'm on my way to loving Bangkok, but we'll see what happens...
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