The year was 2004...I was 25 and after several years “in the internet business”, I decided to do some backpacking in Thailand. I was getting kind of tired of my normal routine, working as a designer for several years and was kind of pissed that all my friends were traveling all over the world while I was stuck behind a desk, working. I was young goddamnit, I should have been hopping from one exotic place to the other, enjoying every minute of my youth, not stuck in an office!
Unable to leave work for too long, I managed to squeeze a little over a month off, packed my bags and flew to Thailand.
Landing in Bangkok was exciting. It was my first time in South East Asia and was very different than anything I was use to. If you haven’t been to Bangkok, it’s MASSIVE. Just driving from the airport to the city is an adventure. The busy highways, the smog, the tall buildings that extend as far as the eye can see. It kind of reminded me of the Fifth Element, but in a smoggy, Blade Runner, edgy kind of way. It was thrilling.
A good friend was backpacking through Thailand, at the time, and was in Bangkok the day I arrived. Before each of us left home, we decided that when I arrive, we would try to meet in Bangkok. The minute I landed, I was to directly head over to our pre-planned rendezvous spot, since my friend had a plane to catch in the evening and we only had a few hours to drink a beer and catch up. It was 2004 and we were backpacking in South East Asia, the thought of even carrying a cellphone with us was ridiculous.
Well, Bangkok completely blew me away, and I allowed myself to get swept in the moment when I got there. Instead of going to meet my friend, I took the tuk tuk to one of the local flea markets and just enjoyed wandering around. I didn’t even care that I was carrying my entire backpack on me. The smell of the mystery meat skewers coming from the street food stands; the bars, spilling happy people out to the streets; the various stands selling asian statues for a few bucks and the beggars, begging for some change. Oddly enough, I felt at home, and completely embraced the environment.
Losing track of time
After a beer or two and some friendly chat with the locals, I suddenly remembered about my friend! Fuck! I completely forgot! He’s gonna kill me… I gobbled up my critter on a stick, gulped down my beer and ran to catch a tuk tuk to our point of rendezvous, hoping that he would still be there. In Bangkok’s notorious traffic, even with my crazy tuk tuk driver, it took us about 40 minutes to get to the place we set to meet. I was expecting to be greeted by a pissed childhood friend, who was going to knock me back to reality after the amazing daydream I was in.
After a crazy ride, I tipped the driver way more than I should have and ran into the building. We planned to meet at a well known hostel compound that had pretty much everything: A nice chill restaurant (perhaps restaurant is a glamourous word, more like a place to eat something), rooms for backpackers to sleep in, a place to rent scuba diving gear, a place to store your luggage and more. It was pretty chaotic in there, and I was starting to get the feeling that I had missed my friend. After looking around the compound for a good half an hour, I started to give up. I decided to sit, calm down and have a nice cold beer. It was super hot, and there was no AC.
That turned out to be a good decision, because the people sitting in the table next to me were super friendly and we started a nice conversation. I told them what had happened and asked them if they had seen a tall bald guy with a smallish head and dark skin (description of my friend). They said they had not, but it would be worth checking out the wall. “The wall?” I asked. They pointed to a wall situated behind the bar. I got up and approached the wall, noticing, as I got closer, that it was filled with hand written notes. Most of them headlined by a name and then some text. I quickly realized that in a world with little communication devices, people used this wall to connect with their friends, in case they needed to deliver a message of some sort. Boy was I excited. I frantically looked all around the wall in hope of finding a note from my buddy. It was like I was a kid again, searching for hidden treasures.
There it was. On the bottom left part of the wall, almost at the edge. A note with my name in large letters. I carefully removed the tack and started reading my note. It was short and sweet. It said:
You bastard, where you at? Ah no worries! I’m sure your out there enjoying yourself. The only thing I can say is that Thailand is AMAZING! Have fun, seeya at home.
P.S. go do cliff jumping in Ko Phi Phi, it’s pretty amazing.
That was it
That was all it needed to be. A simple note, a one liner. Today, this would have been waiting in my inbox, but this was different, I had to work for it. I had to be lucky enough to find it. My friend wrote it with no certainty that it would ever reach my hands, kind of like a message in a bottle hoping it would reach land. It wasn’t a virtual txt message flying invisibly through the air straight into my pocket making a ding dong noise. There was no convenience to it, which made it almost romantic (in a manly way of course). It was a feeling that I had lost in the last decade where cell phones became a common thing, and the internet was in every house hold. I suddenly felt more alive than I had been for years.
I continued to travel throughout Thailand, and had many adventures. Yes, I did go cliff jumping just like my friend suggested, and eventually broke 2 ribs and cracked a vertebrae. No worries, my tolerance to pain is high and I never realized that I broke anything and continued to travel. True story. One day we'll grab a beer and I can tell you all the fun adventures I had in Thailand. But for some reason, the moment that made it all real was the one I had at that hostel in Bangkok, on their “wall”.