From rice fields to the Royal Bangkok Sport Club! Took a short cut yesterday, saved money on a taxi, and hiked a trail across the golf course of the club. On through a construction area where a guy let me through a door in an iron wall and then out onto the sidewalk and the Rachadamri skytrain (BTS) station. My friend, Wera, who I had been having a 3-hour lunch with at the club, calls it “the electric train.”
Wera spent 4 years in the late 50′s and early 60′s getting an engineering degree in Michigan and returned to work on various dam projects in Thailand from north to south and has been a member of this club for 40 years.
But Wera also has traveled all over the states…often studying in Buddhist temples, and is just as familiar with U.S. politics and policy as he is of Thailand’s… which is hilariously complicated if it wasn’t so sad. Ex-PM Abhisit has just been charged with murder for ordering the Army (because he had no control over the police who were sympathetic to the demonstrators) to disperse the Red Shirt demonstrations in 2010 when over 90 people were killed. The politicos in Mexico should be watching this.
Anyway, I peruse the Bangkok Post every morning at breakfast downstairs in my guesthouse. The paper is usually quite entertaining…with bits of perversity as well as the latest news. The letters to the editor are best….
Time out. I am sitting in the Exchange Tower right now, looking out through a third-story plate glass window with a view of Sukhumvit Road. An especially dark-skinned fellow is walking on artificial limbs among the lanes of traffic asking for money. I suspect a land mine casualty in Burma or Cambodia. All of a sudden my expensive coffee in my upscale cafe has become bitter….
Back to the Bangkok Post. One of the letters to the editor in the BP was about Thai food being loaded with MSG. Whether this is true or not I have no idea, but the writer notes that visiting dignitaries are not given food with MSG. Now I’m thinking it may not just be the walking and heat that makes me tired by the afternoon in Thailand. Hmmmm. Think I might try finding some restaurants that don’t use MSG in lieu of street food and see if it makes a difference in my energy level.
Each day I pick one “big thing” to do after breakfast. It usually involves riding the sky train or the subway. It might be a dentist appointment. This week I will have lunch with my friend Jiraporn who spent 10 years at Oregon State University getting her doctorate in fisheries and who is a professor at Kasetsart University. She is giving back 5 years to the University for financing her doctorate. She will tell me about how the students aren’t interested in studying…they just want the status of having the degree. And all the “Old Head” professors there drive her nuts. I think 10 years in the states has made her a little too independent for Thailand! ha!
Or spend a couple hours in front of the Landmark Hotel people watching and checking email and FB on my iPhone along with all the other Thais. Then stroll over to the middle eastern or Indian streets for lunch and more people-watching…all Indians and people from the ME.
This year I hope to meet up with Dave Thompson, married to Syy, who I traveled with a bit 2 years ago when we went to visit Syy’s two-house village!. By coincidence they are in Thailand again the same time I am this year. Check out Dave’s Travel Corner…his travel web site. Dave has given me the name of a Couchsurfer in Oman I am hoping to contact before I get there in February.
Or I might get another two-hour massage. Or have coffee with a retired couple from Oregon who live here now. Or look up a “friend” I met on FB who lives in BKK. She’s youngish so I’m hoping she will humor me with a night out together. Jazz or Dubstep would be just fine with me.
Oh, can’t forget my Yellow Shirt activist friend who adopts homeless cats. He, who was at the airport and one of the Yellow Shirt guards who was arrested when the Yellow Shirts took over the airport in 2009, will give me the straight-on anti-Taksin story…with all the expletives included.
Usually when in Bangkok I catch a talk or a press conference about some current issue at the Thailand Foreign Correspondents’ Club in the penthouse of the Maneeya building at the Mo Chit BTS exit. They have a bar and restaurant and it’s fun to chat with the foreign correspondents there. One year I was privileged to hear Sharon Ebadi speak. She won the Peace Prize as an attorney defending the some 200 imprisoned journalists (at the time) in Iran. This year I saw a documentary and panel discussion about the repatriation of Burmese refugees along the Thai border.
Watching the people on the BTS is especially fun and during business rush hours it can be an interesting experience to be standing jammed up against each other. Oh well, you get touching where you can get it I guess! ha! I watch to see whether the young ones get up to give their seats to an older person. Amazingly many do, which would never happen in the U.S., but others, mostly naughty young guys with spiky hair just streak to the nearest empty seat. tsk tsk. I’ve even had a young girl giving me her seat. Most public areas in BKK has free wifi so virtually all the young ones are glued to their iPhones and iPads on the ride.
The iPad story is interesting too. When I had dinner in BKK with my husband there were several other Thais present…one with his 6 year old son. The government is trying to upgrade the education of youth and are trying to get parents involved in this effort. So iPads from China are being distributed free to each child. The school has it’s own Facebook page and each child has his/her own FB page. Instructions for homework are given to both child and the parents. Homework is even corrected on the child’s FB page. An incredibe innovative idea. So that’s why they all have iPads.
Tourist attractions have lost their appeal. I love searching out nicks and crannies where I’ve never been before. It is like treasure hunting. And it is endless. And so much fun for me after spending a year and a half at a time in my little town of Oaxaca. Back in my aircon guest room I take a shower and flop on the bed. Maybe fall asleep exhausted.
I don’t go out tromping around every day though…gotta take a down day every 2-3 days and just hang out in my room…in the aircon…with the wifi and my computer…sorting and posting photos. Then go across the alleyway from the guesthouse to a shop-house for a bowl of noodle soup for dinner and then around the corner to soi 20 for one of those little sugared banana crepes (roti’s)…usually made by Muslims for some reason.
Since I’ve been coming to Bankok for the last ten years, Sukhumvit sois 20 and 22 has become my little neighborhood and vendors, shop-house cooks and hotel workers remember me each year. Wera says that’s how they charm me! ha! Today I ate a bowl of Khao Soi at my favorite little eating spot. “Where friend?” the owner asks…referring to my husband who eats here whenever he comes to BKK.
And today I had a rousing irreverent conversation with the British owner of “Som’s Guesthouse” both of us venting about the noise, garbage and traffic and what seems to us like perverse cultural habits in our chosen expat countries. But in the end we agreed that we choose the freedom of living in anarchic chaotic countries rather than the anal tight-ass countries of our birth. And then we laugh…understanding each other perfectly. But it’s time to move on from the Sukhumvit area full of tourists…although they are fun to watch too. When I get back from Christmas in Pattaya I’ll stay in a cheap hotel in Thonburi and explore Thai neighborhoods on the other side of the river.
So for those of you who ask what I do every day by myself in Bangkok…there you have it…sort of…
Tags: Bangkok, Thailand