Friday, February 27, 2009

Bangkok, Thailand

Last year, soon after I walked out of the Indian embassy in Ottawa, I was handed a stamp valid for 8760 hours of enjoyment of India. There were only 22 hours left on it when I stepped to be interviewed at the infamous "exit visa" check point. You coming back?, asked the officer. I said, I would love to come back, maybe get another teaching contract or something, India is a fascinating country, but for the time being I won't be back because there's only 22h left on my visa. He looked up and said, your visa 1 day you know?? Yes sir, I know sir, yes sir. That seems to satisfy him and he waived me along. Thanks sir!

With the bells of midnight ringing, I achieved my goal of navigating an encounter with India's bureaucracy without a chaos-storm. It was, truly, a one-in-a-lifetime event, a memorable moment.

My first stop is Bangkok, Thailand, where I sit writing this, and the next stop will be Hanoi, Vietnam. I am, essentially, traveling the world in order of cuisine preference.

The first notable moment was a courtesy of Thai Airways. I had planned occupy the 3 hours on this short-hop red-eye flight with a single sleep cycle, but the staff began to serve diner at around 2 am. Apparently the Thais eat diner even later than the Keralites. I asked for the veg option, but received a slab of tofu (I abhor tofu), which reminded me: it's a eat-meat-or-tofu world out there, India, I'll miss you.

Once landed at the hyper-modern Bangkok airport, I took much too long to find luggage carriage #16. On the South side it says, #1 to 15 here, for 16 see North side. On the North side it says, #16 to 32 here, with 16 crossed off in crayon, and written "16 on South side." They should be careful. Infinite loops are a real killer of sleep deprived computer scientists.

Hungry and eager, sought the nearest tom yum restaurant (next to the airport's taxi booth. 0.75$ for fish tom yum.) I also ate tom yum that night, and today for lunch because (1) it tastes fantastic and (2) it's the one meal I can pronounce right on the first try. Satwaaadeeeee tomyum cobcuhncuap!

Soon afterward, I sit in Lumphini Park, doing the yoga stretches (feeling awkward-ish), practicing on the trombone (feeling beginner-ish), and drinking bottled green tea (feeling sweaty). A group of schoolgirls curious about the music come over and then leave, schooling as fishes do. The engine of my tuktuk produces a sound fit for The Terminator's motorcycle. I buy a wallet written "goosi" on it for too much money. The many massage shops have names with odd double entendre. I hang out with some Thai undergrads, where one guy offers me a shot of whiskey, one guy pretends he's a ladyboy, and one girl gives me a hug and takes a picture of herself with the foreigner.

Clearly, I am in Bangkok.
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