Thailand, Summer 2004
This is an account of my trip to Bangkok in July and August, 2005. I wrote it in five "chapters." Click one of the links to jump to an individual chapter or back to the photos page: 1 2 3 4 5 Photos Home
I've been in Bangkok for a week and it has been interesting. The flight was as pleasant as one can expect and the food was actually good. The movies were vapid but I snoozed through most of them.
Barry's apartment is on a side street (Soi 12, or 12th Street) exactly 500 steps (yep, I counted) from a big main street (Sukumvit). There are lots of apartment buildings on this street and a couple of restaurants, traditional Thai Massage places (foot, back, neck, etc), and quite a few street food vendors. These consist of everything from a fruit vendor operating out of something like a camper shell on a pickup truck, grilled meet (chicken, pork) on a stick out of wheeled carts with grills, soups out of other, similar carts, cut-up fresh fruits out of another, and what I think might be ice cream or other cold dessert from an even smaller wheeled cart with a bicycle bell.
The apartment is on the 9th floor with a large balcony overlooking a park with a big lake. You can also see downtown Bangkok (we're a couple of miles from downtown) and at night the view of the lights is terrific. Each room (2 bedrooms and living/dining room) has its own air conditioning but the cost of power is high so we cool only when and where we must. It’s always hot here by my standards though it hasn’t been too bad.
This is the start of the rainy season and it has sprinkled a few times and really rained a couple. When it rains here, it is a torrential downpour. You can hardly see across the street it is coming down so hard. Needless to say, one doesn’t want to get caught in it. It doesn’t usually last very long, about an hour, then it clears up quickly.
However you accomplish it, getting around Bangkok is an adventure. Walking is the most fun because there is so much to see. There are always lots of food vendors. Last night I saw a large cart with about six woks, each piled high with some different kind of cooked bugs. I would have to be starving.
Of course there are shops all along the street but both sides of the side walk are also lined with street vendors selling everything from clothes (shoes, socks, shirts, underwear, ties, dresses), fake designer watches, many different Thai handicrafts, junk jewelry, knick-knacks, fortune tellers, almost everything you can think of. There is essentially no empty space. The street vendors shut down around midnight and you can see many sleeping in the same place they had their stall. Little children asleep on the steps of a building, beggars sleeping on a pedestrian bridge.
If you take a taxi, you get air-conditioning (ahhhh). They are also relatively cheap. You can save yourself a 20 minute walk for a buck. You can also take a Tuk-Tuk (which either comes from "cheap-cheap" of from the sound they make, take your pick). These are three-wheeled covered motorcycles with a bench seat in back that can hold two or three people. Unlike taxis, these are not metered, so you negotiate your price before going anywhere. Another option is the sky train. Less expensive and faster than a taxi if you are going where the train is going. It too is air-conditioned. One reason it’s faster is traffic. In a taxi, you sit and wait for long stretches between brief frantic episodes of swerving in, out, and between lanes of traffic. I think I figured out their system of right-of-way when driving: whoever has the most balls wins.
Motorcycles are everywhere, thousands of them. Barry also has one. Like the street vendors filling every inch of available space, motorcycles do the same thing on the roads. If there is a place between two cars, at least one motorcycle is there. If taxi jockeying is crazy, motorcyclists should be on suicide watch. Cars change lanes without signaling and without caring who else might be entering the same space. If it happens to be a motorcycle, the cyclist has to be quick to stay alive. Caught in a downpour the other day, Barry was cut off and took a tumble. He is banged up just a little and is keeping ice on his shoulder but is otherwise ok.
I rode on the back of one of his friend’s bikes the other evening when we wend out to dinner. It is not an experience I look forward to repeating. I’ve been riding for 35 years and wouldn’t have the nerve to do some of the things we did. I had to keep my knees in tight just to avoid losing a kneecap.
The food here is wonderful. I don’t eat off the food carts (cleanliness is not a priority) but there are restaurants and food courts with a delightful array of offerings. I absolutely love the fruit juice here. Tangerine juice is my favorite, so much tastier than even the best orange juice at home.
Well, this is getting kind of long so I’ll close here and write more later if I get a chance.