It’s been almost two weeks in Bangkok, and I’m still alive and not a prostitute, by force or by choice. So far so good.
I haven’t updated because I have done very little – painfully little, some may say – in Bangkok. I was tired from traveling through seven countries in two and a half months. No, I don’t want to schlep to the Grand Palace or see this gigantic market or visit this Buddhist temple. I want to sit in this air conditioning and catch up on the news – is that so wrong? Also, I’ve been spending my time researching my next move, waiting for relevant emails about whether those next moves are possible or not, and trying to learn some Thai so I can at least say “Thank you.” Also, I have a one-way ticket here, so I have a lot of time to check that stuff out. Also, it’s fucking HOT in Bangkok. It’s the hottest city in the world, says scientists of some caliber. March is the second hottest month of the year. I can’t stop sweating, and I do NOT understand how dudes (and ladies) can wear jeans that tight. This heat makes you not want to do anything. I understand why dogs look dead on the street. It’s too hot to do anything beyond being alive.
The heat is almost charming, though. There’s something to be said about being the hottest city in the world. There are some other challenges. The language barrier is a pretty big obstacle. I don’t know why I didn’t anticipate how hard it’d be to speak 0 Thai. It’s a tonal language and the alphabet is totally different with an unreasonable number of characters and no punctuation whatsoever. Ordering food is so difficult, and it’s mainly been solved with pointing at whatever someone else is having. Also, a significant number of folks think I’m Thai, so they speak to me in Thai. When I put on a dumb look and meek smile and say “English?” I mostly receive a blank stare and then they repeat what they said. Other people I’ve met have had great, warm, smiling interactions with Thai locals, but nothing exceptionally kind has happened to me. I definitely get treated differently from other farangs (foreigners), but if they don’t realize I’m a farang, then I get away with paying the Thai local price without haggling (WHICH I HATE DOING). This works out pretty often if I stay quiet. I knew all that practice being a deaf-mute would pay off.
I feel especially hobo-y in Thailand because people dress very well (even if everything is probably counterfeit). I have been tempted by many cute dresses and shoes and whatever, and they are cheap as hell, yes. I’ve been (mostly) abstaining because I know I have to carry it and when I examine the material, it’s usually shit. I also can’t pull off Asian fashion. Everything comes in one size, so if you’re not shaped like your average Thai beauty queen, it’ll probably look contrived, if not bad, on you. Still, got a blazer, some pants, a dress, and two pairs of shoes for $15.
I’m back to using burrito-pricing for things (e.g. “This sweater’s cute, but is it worth four 2009 Veracruz burritos? Nah”), except this time, it’s with $1 plates of street food. It makes Bangkok seem rather expensive, and being the capital city and a burgeoning cosmopolitan Asian city, it is relatively expensive. People have told me my view on money and budgeting should be reevaluated since I’m saving maybe $3 at most by doing something way more inconvenient (e.g. walk or take a taxi with all my luggage?). But that’s three meals! Alas.
There have been some good stories, but nothing really to write about. Nutshelling it:
- Went around with a taxi driver and made 800 baht pretending like I was interested in buying a suit for my father or taking a trip to Phuket. Because he had “connections,” the stores and agencies gave him 100-200 baht for bringing me there, so we spent six hours driving from store to store, collecting money and then splitting our winnings. He said we would have made double if I was “European.” Wa waa.
- Probably gaffed pretty hard going for food at a sikh temple in Little India and then checking out the Giant Swing and some wats (temples). Bought pants specifically to be modest, and they’re pretty stupid looking.
Spent a lot of time on rooftops today. Went to a sort-of rooftop pool at the Sheraton – a snaking, huge pool in an oasis set-up on the third-floor roof; went to my host’s friend’s rooftop; had some happy hour drinks at a stupidly swanky sky bar. I also held my ground on some Mario Kart 64 on a nice balcony. The views were quite nice from all of them.
Finally, here are some tentative plans. Last week, I impulsively decided to apply for an Indian visa to visit a CouchSurfing friend who’s been living in a ridiculously awesome apartment in Goa for two months (infinity pool, two servants???). However, I totally forgot about Songkran, the Thai New Year where there’s a week-long water fight. I also landed a month-long marketing gig on Koh Tao where food and accommodation are provided, and that starts right after Songkran. So, I guess I’ll go to India after Koh Tao, which will be mid-May…which is exactly when my friend has to leave India because his visa expires. Where is he heading? Where else but Thailand! (English teachers, feel free to use this as an example of irony.) When I get my passport back, which should hopefully be this week, I’m going to head to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, and get a 2-month tourist visa for Thailand so I can stay into May. I’ll spend 2-ish weeks exploring Laos and swing back to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand for Songkran. Then, I’ll book it down to Koh Tao and hang on a tropical island for a month, trying out marketing and probably getting a diving license. After that, India? That’s a long ways away.
Perhaps an update in Laos. For now, sleep.