I almost had a heart attack when I first entered the Aladdin’s Cave of the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok.
So. Much. Stuff. So much pretty, sparkly, colourful stuff. And some of it was going to be mine.
We’ve rented a $5-a-night bungalow that’s perched in the hills on the island of Koh Tao. It’s in a stunning location, but it came unfurnished. It featured only a bed, a broken chair, and a bunch of gecko droppings.
So with a bungalow to furnish, a fist full of spending money, days to shop, and rows and rows of exotic merchandise to choose from, we entered the chaotic maze of the Chatuchak market.
This, my friends, is what my fantasies are made of …
We spent days shopping with reckless abandon, while I ignored one critical dilemma that nagged: how the f* are we going to transport this motherload back to our island home?
Koh Tao is an 8 hour bus trip, plus a one hour ferry ride from Bangkok. As we began hobbling under the weight of our shopping bags, it became apparent that a critical transportation problem was arising.
Be quiet, voice of reason, for we are shopping and now is not the time for your pragmatic interruptions about weight, dimensions, and other mathematical nonsense. See the pretty shiny things? See? Shut up.
We bought a desk. We bought four chairs. We bought a fan, a bean bag, curtains, curtain rods, lamps, candles, two sets of sheets, a naked lady in bronze that weighs 6kg. For who does not need a naked 6kg bronze lady? She’s decorative. She’s a paperweight. A doorstop. A muse. A silent seductress. A weapon for crushing snakes.
“Essential!” I declared, when Ivan asked if we really needed her.
We managed to find a shipping agent to send the furniture, but in order to save money, we ambitiously decided we were capable of carrying the rest on the bus and ferry trip back to Koh Tao.
You know those cheap, stripy square bags made from plastic that people always take to airports? We had three of them in size XXXL. And a beanbag. And a 75L backpack. And a bag full of camera gear, cords, chargers, extra batteries, and all the digital necessities that one can no longer leave home without.
We hired a Tuk Tuk to carry most of the heavy stuff to the bus, the tiny vehicle sputtering and overflowing with our pregnant bags. Everyone turned and stared. Some giggled. Many Thai people thought the bean bag was worth pointing and laughing at. They all repeated the same line in Thai, which I can only assume translated to: “What kind of idiot buys a beanbag for a souvenir?”
And there’s me traversing the busy traffic in Bangkok with an enormous beige colour beanbag, it’s cumbersome bulk in my outstretched arms like I was in an embrace with a naked, morbidly obese man curled in a foetal ball.
The bus driver, however, was not amused by The Fat Man. “No, cannot take,” he said. “Too many! Too big!”
Oh shit. We had 30 minutes until our overnight bus left the terminal and a small baggage problem. People had already boarded the bus, and they looked down at us from their windows. We must’ve looked like the greediest tourists that ever set foot in the Kingdom.
“Please?” we asked the bus driver.
(Well, in truth, it was more like this: “What? Why are you telling us this now?!We’ve already gone through this with your ticket office THREE TIMES and they said it’d be FINE for us to take this on the bus! We told them we had this many bags! They said it was no problem, but you’re telling us that we can’t take it NOW? The bus leaves in 30 minutes! What are we supposed to do?! Please let us on!”)
And so it was final. We had officially over-indulged at the Bangkok market to the point of gross, unmanageable heft.
We took our bags back to the ticket office on the Tuk Tuk (well, the bags rode in the Tuk Tuk and we walked alongside it), and began ranting kindly asked the ticketing agent how we should transport our bags 350 km south and across a body of water. Finally, they told us we could send our bags to Koh Tao on a truck, which would deliver them directly to our morning ferry.
Easy. Problem solved. (“Why didn’t you tell us this earlier?! You could’ve saved me from carrying around The Fat Man and ranting at you in a squeaky voice for 15 minutes.”)
Now, after all of the bliss and trouble of obtaining our goods, it’s time to decorate …
Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.