Some years ago before everybody had smart phones and GPS-powered live maps in their pockets, my friend Tommy* and I took a trip to Thailand and Vietnam.
This was my first time exploring Asia, and despite being skeptical at first, this particular trip turned out to be unforgettable. Especially the time I got lost in Bangkok, and what was planned as a normal evening escalated into the wildest party night of our trip.
First we went out to eat. The group consisted of Tommy and myself from Germany, Mike* from Norway, and Rick* from Switzerland, who lived in Thailand at the time and spoke Thai fluently. The food was inexpensive but delicious, and we had plenty of beers with it.
After dinner, our cab ride, which I thought was homebound, suddenly took a different turn, literally, when Rick advised the driver to bring us to a club, the name of which is lost on me. I think the only reason I remember this particular night at all is the aftermath.
The club was full of women, and I can’t remember a day I danced more than that infamous night. All of us were separated on the dance floor and surrounded by Miss-Thailand-hopefuls we bought drinks for all night.
One by one we lost each other and when one of the girls asked me if we wanted to party somewhere else, the only person I could find was Mike. We all drove to another club and the night kept getting longer and longer until I woke up with crusty eyes in a room I’d never been in before.
After a night of club hopping, I had no idea where I was. I said goodbye and stumbled out of the small bed & breakfast. I tried to orient myself, but unsurprisingly I was completely lost and out of cash. All I had was some change amounting to something close to nothing.
I managed to hail a cab, but there was another problem: I didn’t know the name of the street where we were staying. At first we lodged in a small hotel, and I always carried its business card to present to the drivers of the Tuk-Tuks and cabs that brought us around town. But we had moved into Rick’s place for the rest of the week, since we spend all our time together, which is why I didn’t think of writing down the new address.
I did however know which part of town he lived, so with the help of a young, English-speaking pedestrian, I was able to steer the taxi into the right direction. I was sitting in the cab, anxiously monitoring the counting taxi clock and at the same time trying to find anything familiar in the streets. And that’s when I saw it.
One thing I forgot to mention is that all four of my friends and I shared a love of graffiti. In fact we spent a good amount of our trip painting, back when it was still an exotic hobby in Asia. So naturally I looked at every single tag in the streets, trying to find traces of someone I knew from back home in Europe, and I found plenty.
So I was sitting in the cab, slowly approaching the wider area of where I hoped my friend’s place was, when I saw a large bright-red fatcap tag – a graffiti writer’s autograph, sprayed in thick and hard to read cursive-like letters. It wasn’t anyone’s signature I knew, but its size and color made it quite distinct, and the best thing was, I remembered seeing this on one of our walks through the neighborhood while going out to eat.
And so I got out of the taxi to follow the graffiti.
My worries about never finding my way back home and getting mugged by some street gangs were instantly replaced by premature euphoria: I was there, or at least very close, I thought. I still had no idea where exactly I was, but I felt I was getting closer and closer, and more graffiti on the way signaled me the way home like a light tower in a foggy night.
After what felt like another couple hours walking through the narrow labyrinth of Bangkok’s streets, and enduring stares from locals (I’m pretty sure I looked as lost as I was, and this was no tourist area), I finally found Rick’s house.
If you think that’s the happy ending, let me tell you that my friends were so hungover, it took another hour before someone opened the door.
By then it was already afternoon, and the plans we made for that day had to be cut short. A few days later we flew home to Munich with smiles on our faces, knowing that this was a trip you can’t just book at a travel agency – this was a true adventure.