Lessons from New Year’s Eve in Bangkok

Some people tell me that I live an exciting life as I do some interesting things. However, I feel I live a pretty tame life with gusts of excitement. I’ve been feeling that left to my own devices, I take the mundane road.

If you feel similarly, perhaps you’ll take a page from my experience in Bangkok on New Year’s Eve and see if you can apply my lessons to your life.

I arrived in Bangkok early on New Year’s Eve. I knew my friend Scott Friedman was also going to be there. We decided to explore how Bangkok — a city Scott knows well — welcomes the new year.

If Scott had not been in town, I wouldn’t have ventured far from my airport hotel, which was situated away from any festivities. His hotel was in the center of town, albeit a 15-minute cab ride, then a 30-minute Skytrain ride for me. Since that was where the action was, I offered to come his way.

Scott is a natural extrovert, easily striking up conversations with strangers everywhere. He’s met people in elevators who’ve became business connections.

Because of our different approaches and my desire to expand my horizons, I decided I should just say “yes” to whatever he suggested. I’ve hung out with him enough to know he wouldn’t get us into (much) trouble.

* We met up in his hotel’s concierge 1506908_10152955813527065_4858930818540587997_nlounge, where despite only being there a day, he knew all the staff. Scott loves to give out $2 bills. Before we left for our adventure, he teased the woman staffing the lounge desk. She’s showing off the $2 bill he gave her. He always makes women laugh — which is worth more than the $2.

My lesson: Don’t be afraid to try to make someone laugh, even if they have limited English. They can tell by your smile that you have good intentions for them.

10892004_10152953540397065_5510427063449103244_n* It was no surprise that as we were exiting his hotel’s lobby, he paused at a meeting room door with lots of hubbub and music inside. He approached the woman who’s greeting others and asks what the event is. She says it’s a celebration of God. He looks at me and says, “I like celebrations. Shall we check it out?” So we enter. A band is playing on stage in front of theater seating. We take our place at the back and sing along to the words projected on the screen. We dance to the music. When the song ends, we exit to find our next diversion.

My lesson: Be bold and inquire. You never know what may unfold.

* Near 1484289_10152953540372065_5970814272772642837_nthe hotel entrance, another party was in full swing with a peacock-costumed lady boy. Of course, we have to have our picture taken. Notice Scott matching the pose of the peacock lady.

My lesson: If someone is dressed in a peacock costume, they want you to take their picture! So go ahead and jump right in and show your playfulness by adopting their pose, even if you are without feathers.

* We take the packed metro to the city center where people are gathering for the countdown. Scott has a squeeker hidden in his palm as he touches the metro stops on the map inside the train. They squeek. In a voice loud enough for others to hear, he explains this new technology that makes the stops on the map squeek when you touch them. A woman touches the map but no squeek. Scott touches the map again and they squeek. Those who speak English join in our banter about this. Those who don’t, look on quizzically.

My lesson: You can make people smile with your bold silliness, even if they don’t know exactly what you are saying.

10636505_10152953541072065_1868815205120090261_o* Arriving at the city center we walk around the crowded plaza looking at the Christmas decorations and buildings changing colors. It’s only 10:00. Scott asks anyone taking a picture of a friend if they want him to take a pic of both of them. Half the people accept the offer.

My lesson: I often do this, too, when I see the opportunity, but I notice he does it twice as often as I would. I can step up my game by offering to take a memorable pic for those enjoying the experience. The worst that can happen is they will decline.

* A10366049_10152953543642065_8772560202256321300_nt the Grand Hyatt we come upon a New Year’s party with a $200 entry charge. We decide to pass, but want to have our pics taken in front of the ice-sculpture bar. Scott sweet talks his way past the money takers and to the ice bar. Of course, he entices the mini-skirted greeters to pose with him. To thank them and those who let us pass, he gives them each a $2 bill.

My lesson: If you ask nicely, you can get small favors from strangers. And mini-skirted women like to have their pictures taken, and a $2 bill is a nice bonus. So I shouldn’t be afraid to ask, and to reward niceties.

* He decides we each need a light-up headband sold by the street vendors. I choose a blinking tiara and he chooses pink devil horns. He good-naturedly haggles the vendor down to 50bht each — about $3 for both. He then tips her a $2 bill. She’s delighted.

My lesson: Part of the experience of buying from street vendors is playful haggling. In fact, some expect it and are disappointed when you don’t. It’s common to hear, “What will you pay?” from a vendor as you walk away.

IMG_0147* After a non-stop banquet of different experiences, when I arrived back at my hotel at 11:57 the nearly empty lounge was showing a video feed of the Bangkok square I’d just left! Hardly the same scene.

My lesson: By stretching my willingness to be adventurous under Scott’s tutelage, I saw how fun it is to be bold and play with strangers. While I do this some, I can increase my awareness of opportunities and willingness to do so. It will enrich my life and hopefully others’ too.