long post

Today, on the recommendation of my sister, I went to the Chatuchak Market (or Weekend Market). It’s an enormous open-air market, the biggest I’ve ever seen (not that I’ve seen many), and I spent several hours wandering aimlessly through it. I saw everything from pets to (the ubiquitous) tee-shirts to furniture being sold there; in between the food vendors hawking everything from fresh fruit to dried fish. The experience of walking through the massive crowds and the mazelike series of vendors is a bit overwhelming — squeezing in between people to get from one place to the next, the scents of different foods and animals wafting through the stalls, and everywhere people trying to sell you something. I was surprised, though, at how laid back the vendors were — here on Khao San Road they can get quite aggressive, while at the market they seemed to have a more take-it-or-leave-it attitude. I got there rather early, before most of the afternoon crowd arrived, but once the heat and the crowds showed up I found myself feeling a bit claustrophobic and heat-exausted — so I left.

It is uncomfortably hot and humid here, which I am trying my best to appreciate before I head back to the end of winter in Korea, but after the market today I found myself back in my air conditioned room recovering for a bit. It’s a heavy, draining heat that my body doesn’t seem to take well to. Everyone drinks lots of water, although I see a surprising amount of people wearing pants.

Thailand is the furthest I’ve been into the poverty and mayhem of the second world. I’ve seen quite a few people lying in the streets, people who might be dead, and today I saw several strangely disfigured beggars. One begging similarity between here and Korea is the sight of a disabled man wandering around with a karaoke machine, cup in one hand and microphone in the other, often singing very badly. I saw one at the market here today, and it reminded me of the one I often see in Korea. It’s the effort and the strange creativity that impresses me, as opposed to the beggars who just sit on a corner shaking a cup.

Bangkok is very crowded and full of tourists, I often get the feeling that someone is trying to swindle me about one thing or another. In a country so based on haggling, it’s hard to know if one is paying the proper price for anything. I took a tuk-tuk to the market today, and we’d agreed on a price beforehand, but once we got there I had to ask repeatedly for my change… I still felt I’d gotten shafted. Tuk-tuk drivers are usually very poor people from the north, though, so I reconciled my shafted feeling with the fact that they need my fare to simply exist from day to day. Two hundred Baht is not much to me, but is probably quite a bit to him.

There’s motorcycle taxis here, and I’m hoping to try one tomorrow. You just hop on the back of a motorcycle and hang on as the driver weaves in and out of Thai traffic. I’m told it’s quite the experience, and the initial magic of tuk-tuks has worn off after today. I’ve only actually ridden a motorcycle once in my life, and how often will I get the opportunity to ride on the back of a Thai motorcycle through the streets of Bangkok? Next time I’m here, perhaps… and I will be back — I’ve got the Lonely Planet book and it’d be a shame to use it just this once.

Last night I was sitting in an open air cafe here on Khao San, drinking a Thai beer, and this guy in a shirt and tie comes up and sits with me. He starts talking, and it becomes apparent that he is fairly intoxicated in one way or another. A British man, although his accent made it sound as if he might have a speech impediment of some sort. We talk for a while, and he tells me that he’s an English teacher here in Thailand, and that he has lots of money, etc. But then he just starts talking about how he’d like to go to America, and how he loves the bands Blue Oyster Cult and KISS, and that he wish he could reconcile with his family. His talk was all very random, as people do when they are extremely drunk, but the essence I got from him was of a complete aimless and pointless quality to his life. It made me a bit sad talking to him, realizing how so many people just don’t know what in God’s name they’re doing in this world, and are therefore just kind of stumbling through willy-nilly and pissed-off. He kept telling me about this guy he knew that had died in the WTC attack, and he asked me how he should react to this. I tried to provide some sort of perspective on his loss, and the loss of those who have lost family members to American bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said that I had a good point, but I think he might have been too drunk to really understand it.

There’s a long post for ye, my seemingly loyal reading audience. Makes me think I should write long posts like this more often, as opposed to the random blurbs I have been dropping of late.

1 comment to long post

  • helen

    Thank you for that. I especially enjoyed reading your handling of the Tuk-Tuk experience.

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