Saturday, August 11, 2007

Wild Life in Bangkok

A particularly aggressive ladyboy in a cocktail dress, muscular and made-up, grabbed my wrist as I was walking down the fairly empty Sukhumvit Road this morning at 7:30 am and promised to "take good care of you." Despite my vehement lack of interest, she sashayed behind me for a half block, vowing to satisfy my every need as she sipped from a coconut drink.

Besides the holes in the sidewalk, which is due for a paving soon I hope, there are numerous pitfalls to avoid in this most modern of Asian cities. Some of them are pitiful, like the street children sleeping in corners, or the two different women I've seen, half naked and dirty, who were sleeping on the sidewalk as pedestrians eased around them. Then there are the lepers and the disfigured, begging for coins. I've noticed that Thais are quite generous with them, and include a wai (the divine in me bows to the divine in you) with their gifts. I've always got a pocketful of one-baht coins, and I'm trying to practice my generosity. There are plenty of opportunities.

On Monday I move into a studio apartment on the seventh floor of building three at Siam Court. I signed the papers and handed over a pile of cash yesterday morning. I expect I'll pay around $500 a month for my digs which include a large flat-screen TV set and 24-hour fast internet service. I may never leave my room! But the neighborhood is interesting and includes lots of restaurants and necessary services like a 7-11 and places that do laundry. A large park with a lake, which I have not yet seen, is not far away. If you want to send me cards and letters (and money), you can now send snail mail to me at: Siam Court, Apt 3074, 130 Soi Nana tai, Sukhumvit Rd., Bangkok 10110, Thailand. And my cell phone number is +66899283603 (you can text message me on the cheap).

Jerry leaves for America and Elvis Week in Memphis on Monday and I shall miss his company and his services as a guide. I'm almost ready to graduate from his class in Bangkok 101. Last night he took me to the 24-hour restaurant in Foodland on Soi 5 for dinner. The counter was packed with customers and the food was both cheap and good. This morning I returned and again had difficulty in finding a seat. A good breakfast, eggs and a hot dog (the Thai sausage, although I'd ordered bacon), along with coffee, juice (pineapple, although I'd ordered orange) and toast for under $2 (I suppose I'll need to order in Thai to get exactly what I want).

While the sun peeked out of the heavens early this morning, it's gone back into the clouds now as I sit in yet another Starbucks (there are three within walking distance of my guest house) and write with the wireless connection (which is not cheap). My plan today is to take the Skytrain out to the end of the line, Mo Chit, which is next to Chatuchak Market, one of the largest flea markets in the world, so they say. I've been several times before and this time will be looking for a nice shoulder bag to replace my backpack which is too bulky (and hot) to carry around.

Yesterday, I went to a big department store, Robinson's (not I think related to the one in Southern California), to purchase some towels for my new apartment. What a change from Sears back in the U.S. where bored and underpaid clerks do their best to be unhelpful. Here there are three bright-eyed teenagers for every job, and I was followed through the housewares section by an army of clerks who wanted to take care of me (Thailand is not only the Land of Smiles, it is also the Land of Care and Service, I've decided). Once my purchase was selected, the clerk followed me to the cashier and made sure I received the correct change by scrutinizing the receipt. Then they wai'e me on my way. Service with a smile! I also bought a new electric shaver because my old one, a gift from my father before he died, finally burnt out.

This visit I'm noticing a large number of Muslims in the street, particularly women in black outfits, and often the full burkha with only eye slits showing the woman protected within. They are often accompanied by children and husband in western mufti. I asked Jerry if there was a mosque nearby and he thought not. So they must have to travel for their daily prayers.

I've grown addicted to a bag of sliced pineapple in the late afternoon for a treat. It's better than the ice cream which is sold from a Good Humor kind of bicycle that plays the Mexican hat dance song as it trundles down the Soi. Yesterday I stopped at the juice bar on Soi 8 and a smiling lady blended me a concoction of carrot, pineapple and ginger. It was supposed to be a refreshing pick-me-up, but I found it a bit bitter.

The weather, although mostly overcast, is not oppressive. When the rain has come, it has been only a sprinkle, not a full-fledged downpour. I think I can handle it. It's hot, yes, and humid, and occasionally I find myself nibbled by a mosquito. Now if only I could sleep peacefully through an entire night without waking periodically to plan my day, I would be supremely happy.

1 comment:

Ganga Fondan said...

Hey Will,
I just found your site after reactivating my blog today. I like the way you describe everything around you. how did you get your Flickr link to look like that. I have a flickr site too and would love that kind of link. I'll be reading more about your travels next time. Smiles across the miles,