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Happy 2012! PingWi-Fi Fights The Flow

January 5th, 2012 · Tags:Cities · Wi-Fi

New Year’s Eve has never been a big deal for me, even back in the day when I was more fun. Ha … one year I decided to play it safe, and sat around a table with friends playing a board game. Then, all of the sudden, some guy kicked the door in at the friend’s apartment.

Ha … didn’t see that coming.

As it turned out, there was a domestic disturbance elsewhere in the apartment complex. A woman had fled into the parking lot, seeking help. The door kicker was a would-be good samaritan. He just happened to kick in the wrong door as he sought out the bad guy.

I wonder whose face showed the most surprise, his or mine, when the door flew open and there we sat playing Trivial Pursuit.

For many years, that took first place on my NYE list. Then came Bangkok 2012.

I’ll share the memories in a moment. Here’s how it began. My buddies and I rented a pretty sweet chauffeured van and drove over from Ayutthaya on the morning of New Year’s Eve — about a two-hour trip. Then we did what guys never do. We shopped. Yes I shelled out a few thousand boht for a new lens for my Nikon. I am told or I am at least happy believing i saved about 100 dollars U.S.

AND we hit Starbucks for the first time in Thailand. Normally that is not that big of a deal since I do “Bux” twice a day in the states … But here, I have been near caffeine free for several weeks. Yes, I was excited to fire up the dependable Starbucks free Wi-Fi too, after really poor service at my hotel in Ayutthaya.

WHAT!?!

Bangkok Bux had Wi-Fi … but not the free variety we know and expect. Other than that, EVERYTHING else at Starbucks was exactly the same. My beloved green tea frapuccino never tasted better. Oh well … I didn’t even have my laptop to blog, and we were on the move … definitely no time left in 2011 to be paying for Wi-Fi.

Ha … I have to laugh about this too. I love me some Thai food, but after several weeks of stir fry and seafood for breakfast and the other meals too, we did the unthinkable in a land known for its cuisine. We went to Sizzler and had steaks. They were pretty much … uh … awesome! One note — Sizzler didn’t have Wi-Fi, but the mall did. But I was too busy at the salad bar to tweet anyway. Get this … Sizzler is exactly like its American counterpart … except for the quail eggs at the salad bar.

Ever eat a hard boiled quail egg. Have you even seen one before? Not bad.

Hours later, we were still roaming the thousands of street market booths and dodging every kind of peddler you can imagine, when we realized midnight was near.

Our hotel was a couple of blocks away from the fireworks and concert in downtown Bangkok. So we headed back. That’s when it got interesting.

Did I mention one of my friends had visited Thailand many, many times? Well he had and therefore was an excellent tour guide. The fact that we almost got killed really was not his fault.

Earlier in the day, we saw hundreds of Bangkok police officers and military as well gearing up for the par-tay. There were not enough.

So anyway, we were making our way to our hotel — The Aphrodite Inn — on foot, when we ran into this human river of brunette people headed for downtown. Our tour guide, or someone in the group suggested we make a detour through a sidestreet to avoid the crowd.

I am on the record, specifically saying, let’s stay in the mainstream for the awesome people watching (and ease into this). NOTE to self: be more adamant when you have a hunch.

Well we slipped through the backroads, and yes we gained some ground. But when we reentered the crowd it had multiplied. It was more like a mob … just a few blocks from the stage at about 11:15 p.m.

Soon after we hopped in line, thousands of people walking, trying to get to the stage were channeled down a walkway that was about 20 feet wide. On either side of the path were 6-foot walls. Too late, we realized the stage area had no more room. But the people behind us … several thousand, didn’t realize there was a standstill. So, what did everyone do? Well they all started pushing as hard as they could.

I am not exaggerating. This was pretty scary. It really could have gotten ugly. In my head, I kept hearing the old bad-taste joke about those kids getting killed in a stampede at an American rock concert … “I’d run over you, to see The Who.”

There were four of us Americans … traveling in a group, and thank goodness we towered head and shoulders over most of the other people in this madhouse. There was nowhere to go. No way to get to the side to try to climb over the wall, and more and more pushing. Thank goodness I am not claustrophobic. A lady near me was and trust me, she was freaking out and hyperventilating, with the added excitement of a foreign language. People were passing young children over the walls to get them to safety.

OH … and the authorities … they were a lot of help. Security guards were standing on the safe side of the fence, looking over and yelling in our ears with bullhorns. More other-language excitement. I am guessing that they were saying, “Hey you stupid Americans, go the the way.”

The four of us stayed close, braced each other, took turns bearing the brunt in the back of our defensive formation and battled to stand up for about an hour. Yes, as the clock struck midnight and awesome fireworks were shooting off above, we were still in a bit of a fight for our lives.

I am exaggerating, but I am not exaggerating. Does that make sense? We were never hurt … but easily could have been crushed or trampled if even the slightest of things went wrong.

Well … travel tough or go home. We made the best of it and all had funny stories to share after we finally hopped over a wall and a shrub and escaped on a side street.

Our tour guide in front had people pulling at his belt during the struggle, as they tried to keep from being pushed over. Somewhere before midnight, his pants went down, not by his own choosing. The funniest part — being crammed in like a sardine in a can, he couldn’t even extend his arms down to pull up his own pants. (I’m guessing tighty whities … but never got a look, thank goodness.)

Oh … and my buddy Steve had a great story of Thai hospitality and helpfulness. He was carrying some goods he bought at the market, including a really cool industrial-strength laser pointer. He felt his trinkets fall out of his hands, and then saw them disappear below. Since we had other things to worry about, he wrote off the gadgets to a wild night. A few seconds later he saw a small hand rise up out of nowhere, beneath him in the scrum, holding up his shopping bag, with his merchandise inside.

“Dang. You’re good!”

Steve and I both were laughing about the biggest nut we saw in the entire stampede. Some wild, half-crazed woman squeezed into the line from one of the sides — I don’t know how — and wedged herself directly in between Steve and I. She started dancing! Now that was weird. And there was pretty much nothing we could do about it. Lucky she didn’t get crushed between us two big old Texas boys. I can’t imagine what she had on her mind.

Later … I think maybe I found out. Steve reported his new cell phone was missing from his pocket. Yes … I suspect the mystery dancer or an accomplice. If that is the case, well, that is one dangerous line of work. They earned it.

Hot, sweaty, bruised, tired and laughing about it, we slipped out of the mob sometime in 2012, regrouped and headed to the hotel. No doubt still reeling from the adrenaline, and ready to par-tay … Steve and I ventured back out and found a much kinder, gentler New Year’s celebration going full force. I will always wonder what we missed, but we have a good one to take back home with us as well.

Happy 2012!
Know what I sayin?