Friday, May 16, 2008

(More than) One Night in Bangkok

I'm sorry, I'm having a terrible time remembering the Germans' names. Thai Airways is really quite nice. The food was exceptional and I had a couple of glasses (small small glasses) of wine. I was excited to be moving on, but worried that I wouldn't like Thailand as much as India. The plane showed some strange E! Entertainment style shows followed by an episode of "Everyone Hates Chris." I have no idea why. We arrived in Bangkok and I was immediately struck by the pristine, modern, steel-and-glass and CLEAN airport. So clean. The bathrooms were clean, everything was SO CLEAN and shiny and new. And there was a STARBUCKS. I had joked with Sam as he took me to the bus to Kathmandu if he wouldn't mind stopping at a Starbucks. I really had no idea I'd be seeing one 36 hours later! I didn't go...

I ran into the Germans at the luggage claim. We decided to share a taxi into the city. They had a hotel in mind but I was playing it by ear. The taxi did about 120 mph into the
city center where we beheld a new horror waiting for us... Songkren.

Songkren is the Thai New Year. Every year the entire country takes a few days off to completely soak each other with water and smear each others' faces/clothes/hair with white rice paste. And we found ourselves at Ground Zero.


The streets were line with Bangkokians (?), three-person deep, all armed with neon-colored missile-launcher-sized Super Soakers. Or huge buckets. Or regular sized Super Soakers with hoses attached to backpacks shaped like Pooh or Dora the Explorer. And they were tensed and waiting... waiting for us. Okay, actually it was pretty awesome but we knew the moment the taxi stopped we were going to get it. Everywhere you looked, Thai girls and boys were all drenched to the bone, smeared in white paste and laughing. Tuk Tuks tore by us, their occupants leaning out the sides and spraying the taxi. Or pedestrians would press white hand prints all over the windshield.
The Germans and I desperately made preparations for our imminent arrival at Khao San Road, where the real party was. I had plastic garbage bags in my backpack and wrapped them around anything of value. The Germans did the same. We reached where their hotel supposedly was but by the looks of the roadblock and the water demons cackling as they surrounded us, we weren't going to be stopping there. The taxi took us onto a relatively quiet side street where we got out and darted looks of fear left and right. We hiked our packs up onto our backs and stopped a relatively dry-looking American, Jack, to find out where was a good place to stay. He lead us quickly to his hotel -- we only got a couple of soakings. I guess the Thais don't want to be the first one to soak a foreigner (unless it's from behind, the jerks) and they definitely don't want to be the first one to smear your face with paste. We dropped our stuff off and regrouped - Jack joining the Germans and me. We were hungry...and eager to jump into the fray.

We hit a nearby restaurant first that had amazing food. We enjoyed the people-watching as well, except for the drivebys. Everyone was having so much fun.


Back out into the streets -- we were "gunned" down pretty quickly. Finally, a drunken bunch of Thai guys smeared us with rice paste and after that EVERYONE was rubbing paste all over our faces.
The German Guy really got into it -- he started buying bottles of tap water and going to town, dousing anyone who dared point a watergun at us.


We made it down to Khao San road and a side street where we encountered quite a gauntlet ahead of us.
The Gauntlet

There was no escaping it and we were dripping by the time we got through it. Some jerks had filled their waterguns with ice water, which I feel was not particularly fair. I don't like squealing like a stuck pig when that stuff hits me square in the small of my back. Cowards!

The music was pumping, the lady boys were voguing and we decided to join the party. Pretty much didn't recognize any of the music until they played "Gasolina" and I realized it was Monday night - Karaoke time! "Seaaaaaan Muuurphy" I yelled to no one in particular as he is the karaoke regular who tends to sing Gasolina every other week. We danced and threw water and smeared faces with the rest of the Thais and tourists. I was a MESS when I got back to the hotel but it was an insane good time and, I feel, an excellent introduction to Bangkok.


The next day, the Germans headed to the airport to go down to the islands and I headed to
the equally exotic setting -- of 7/11. I had myself a coke slushie...and then instantly regretted it, not thinking about the ICE. But it's okay as most of the places in Thailand
bring in water to make ice and don't use tap water.

I spent some time online and tried to figure out my next steps. After all the running
through India and Nepal over the last few weeks, I felt suddenly rudderless. And lonely.

I made friends with a Canadian fellow, Drew, and his eccentric friend, a British woman who could have been either 50 or 90, I had no idea. Along with Jack, we decided to get dinner. Another amazing meal, with vines of peppercorns and spices that made each mouthful a little tastebud festival. The boys wanted Jim Beam and ordered a bottle of it. We had a nice little party... before realizing we were the only ones left in the restaurant (a gorgeous riverside, outdoor place) and headed out on the town, bottle in hand. I'm not sure why, to be honest. I should probably have just gone to bed at that point. All I know is we ended up at another pub where I blearily watched Arsenal and Man United playing at midnight before demanding to go home.

Next day, I contacted Gavin. He was due into Bangkok later that night and urged me to go out and see some sights. But I was still not in the mood to be touristy. I worked on my "travelogues" instead, updating through the end of India and then wandered around the neighborhood a bit. Later, I waited for Gavin to arrive and his tour of Bangkok.

It was SO nice to see Gavin! A familiar face! I realized I've known Gavin for ten years now -- since our days at "Strange Universe" in LA -- my first job after college. He's barely changed, still working -- producing tv shows and dividing his time between England, Thailand and wherever else his work takes him. We jumped in a waiting taxi, Gavin directing the driver in his British-accented Thai. We zoomed off into the night.
IMG_5293 (61)

Our first stop was a bar which at first seemed to be having a swimsuit competition. All the women stood looking bored up on the bar, with numbers attached to their swimsuits. They were all GORGEOUS, slender, shapely ladies gyrating ever so slightly to the pounding music. "Notice anything unusual?" Gavin asked. It dawned on me immediately -- they were all men. "Ladyboys" as they're known. But they looked great! They had hips... and other curves. I would be totally fooled if not for Gavin. And by the looks of the customers around us, either they were fooling everyone, or... "What's with the numbers?" I asked. "Um," Gavin took a long swig of beer. "That's in case you want" Oh. Of course. We drank our drinks and left.

Up next was a gorgeous rooftop bar in downtown Bangkok. Apparently Havaianas are not appropriate footwear so I was loaned a classy pair of white loafers that were a bit on the large size.
Borrowed shoes
I guess that's my "classy loafer" face.

We marveled over the skyline and caught up on the last year or so since we saw each other in New York. After that, I wanted to hit karaoke. It was only midnight, and I was shocked to find most of Bangkok kind of shuts down. We headed back to Khaosan road area and had no luck finding karaoke. Did find a guy with a dried squid bike:
Squid bike guy
Who doesn't love dried squid on a bike?

We settled on a nice late dinner and a crazy ride on a tuk-tuk back to my hotel.
IMG_5310 (70)

I wished Gavin good night and completely crashed.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

I love reading these. Glad you're having a better time.