Bangkok would have to be the absolute least suitable place in the world to go running. Unfortunately, however, that's exactly what I was compelled to do this evening — when I was being led on foot to my next tourist bus, and I suddenly realised that I'd left my small bag on the side of the street near Khao San Road, I had no choice but to sprint back for it. The city's searing heat — and, far more pertinent, its horrendous air pollution — left my lungs feeling somewhere in between a wheezing petrol pump and a burning car tyre. And that was after a mere five minutes.
I'd been instructed to meet at Bangkok's main "tourist bus stop" — just off Khao San Road — at 5:50pm this evening. I had my large backpack with me, as well as a small plastic bag containing some carry-on bits 'n' bobs. I arrived on time, and I had to wait for about 20 minutes. I got chatting to a pair of friendly Aussie girls, who were catching the same bus as me (although they're headed to Ko Pha-Ngan, not Ko Tao). We sat by the road, while we awaited the lady who was to lead us to the bus. Said lady arrived soon enough: but I was distracted by my chatting with the girls, and so I neglected to pick up my carry-on plastic bag, and instead I walked off without it.
Ten minutes and two blocks later, I realised with horror what I'd done. I hurriedly explained to the group what had happened, I said that I'd try and find them later, and I sprinted back the way we'd come. Within five minutes, I was gushing sweat like GW gushes stupidity, my lungs were filled with unleaded instead of oxygen, and I'd made it back.
And thank G-d, the plastic bag was still sitting there, innocent and untouched.
But salvation hadn't arrived just yet. I now had to somehow find my group once more, and to reach the bus in time. Anticipating the worst, I hurried back to the spot where I'd split up from them. No group in sight: they'd already continued on. I spent about 10 minutes madly and randomly dashing around side streets, trying to find where they'd gone — but to no avail. I had absolutely no idea of their whereabouts, or of the whereabouts of our destination.
Finally, exhausted and defeated, I returned to the original meeting spot, and wheezingly explained the situation to the girls at the office there. They told me to take a seat, assured me that I hadn't missed the bus, and called someone to come and pick me up. After a nerve-racking 20-minute wait, a dude finally showed up on a motorbike, invited me to jump on the back, and drove me over to the elusive location of my bus.
As it turned out, the "bus station" was only about three blocks from where we'd first met; and I was no more than one street away from it when I'd been frantically dashing around and searching for it. And, as it also turned out, there was actually no hurry at all: the bus was about two hours late; and when I arrived at the station, I joined the 40-odd other passengers who were impatiently waiting for it to show up. So all up, things could have been much worse. I may have burnt my lungs to a cinder by running around the streets of Bangkok. But I didn't lose my bag, and I didn't miss my bus. All was hunky-dory from then onwards.