I find myself reluctant to write about Bangkok. Cause who am I to talk? I’m a Third-World Girl. And it slashes my heart when people comment to me about Jamaica’s poverty. Or the pestering flock of folks trying to sell them touristware.
But, Lord. Bangkok. Sure, our luxe hotel room looks over the Chao Phraya River with its beautiful night glide of lighted long boats, but just steps away the poverty starts. So does the noise of tuk-tuks, the endless high whine of motorcycles, a misty exhaust that chokes, rubs throats and eyes raw.
There’s also the smell of scam. (A taxi driver tries to persuade us that he’s taken us to the restaurant the concierge has written out in the embroidery-like Thai script. His friend, the restaurant owner assures us that it is the place. But they’re busted by an unwitting waitress.) A vendor tries to persuade us that the price of one set of place mats is 180 bhats, the price for two identical sets is 450.
I’m sad that I feel disappointed by the look of Bangkok. Years of soot cling to old, unloved buildings. Disorderly electrical wiring sway heavily from overburdened poles. We take a leisurely cruise in a worn motorized boat along the canals. I fear the water. For it is a member of the Thai family. Makeshift houses line the river in which people bathe, wash clothes, go potty.
It’s the cooler rainy season, yet the 3-H’s still rule: hot, humid, hazy. Now factor in the unrelenting rot dtit (traffic jam). Service in restaurants is way more leisurely than any country we’ve ever visited. Not so fun. Food’s cheap and terrific, though, and the a/c works like a sumbitch.
Yet the tourist buses pull up and disgorge expectant people. So do the taxicabs — each having their undercarriage inspected by pole-mounted mirrors. And, I think to myself, how strong the sexual impulse is, really. Our same scammy taxi driver couldn’t shut up about taking us to a sex club, telling us, when we decline his offer, that it is very popular tourist attraction. It’s also hard not to notice how many male American couples there are. That’s 14 or more hours on a plane. You just know that the Thai sex scene has to be white hot. The 3H’s.
We had a decent time, nevertheless, you know? We spent Christmas Day sightseeing two wats (temples): The stunning Grand Palace which was the seat of the court of old Siam, and the adjacent Wat Phra Keo. We forget to miss Christmas it is so beautiful, so ornate, so magnificent. See photos below. And later in the day, I get very satisfying Christmas presents: jewels, opulent raw silk stuffs. My poor husband is relieved; I’d balked big-time at holiday traveling.
The next day, I learn that in Thailand they make sugar from the nectar that drips from the cut flower buds of coconuts. Come again? How is it that with all the coconuts in Jamaica this is news to me? Tastes double-yum, like Jamaican coconut drops.
On this same day, I ride an elephant. I breathe deeply, talk myself down from my snake phobia when there’s also a monster boa constrictor around someone’s shoulders. I gaze fondly at florid tropical flowers. We spend several humid hours cruising the floating markets, as we had the night before in the night market. We shop with our eyes; we find nothing we must have. But, I suck coconut water from the green husk with a straw, and I discover after one bite that those egg-sized brown fruits, La-mut, are naseberries! My childhood comes full-rushing back.
Hey, what pollution, what traffic, what grime, what noise?
[tags]Bangkok, floating market, coconut sugar, Grand Palace[/tags]