Just a quick update on the first few days in Bangkok (abbreviated BKK)…
It’s the tail end of the rainy season here, so it’s been mostly overcast with some periods of sun, and occasional rain showers but mostly at night. Temp is pretty consistent around 90 degrees, with insanely high humidity because of the clouds. A fun thing to do is make a mini-rainstorm by ordering a cold beer and hold it in front of you by the top. The condensation literally pours off the bottle and rains down. It’s the little things in life that entertain me… The northern and central parts of the country are pretty much flooded from weeks of heavy rain. Over 250 people have died from the floods in the last couple weeks. I had planned to go to Ayutthaya (ancient capital of Thailand) for a day trip, but the entire area is under water, including many of the old temples. They expect the water to flow down the river and reach Bangkok around the 16th, which is also when there’s high tide, so they think large parts of Bangkok could be flooded.
Thong Lo, Expats and Iron Fairies
A friend of a friend connected me with a guy, Kelly, that used to live in Seattle but now lives here. He’s been living in Asia the past 10 years, the last 5 of which in BKK. He has his own Internet business, and just launched a daily-deals site for Thailand here a couple weeks ago (jajoop.com). I met up for drinks with him on Friday night in an area called Thong Lo. It’s a little further outside of central BKK than I’ve been, so fun to see a new area (although it frankly looks exactly the same as any other less-developed area of the city). We bounced around to several different bars, and met several of his expat friends (expat = expatriate = person living/working in their non-native country). It was really interesting to talk with them about their experiences of living and working here. It was exactly the kind of discussions I was looking to have, to see if living here was as great as I think it could be.
They did help validate a few things that I’ve noticed over the years of coming here:
- Thais have an incredible knack for remembering details of every person they encounter, like who you are, what you like to eat, what you like to drink, etc. It’s creepy.
- Nothing gets done in a hurry. Usually, it takes 3 or 4 times to get something done the right way.
- Smiling while you’re dealing with Thais on problems will always get your further than yelling, being stern, or losing your temper.
- Thais love listening to The Eagles Greatest Hits CD, and particularly the song Hotel California. This factoid has perplexed me since the very first time I came to the country.
We went to a bar called the Iron Fairies. Probably the coolest bar I’ve ever seen! It’s run by an Australian who wrote some children’s books about fairies, and then started a blacksmith shop here making castings of little fairies out of iron. He apparently has his retail shop and another similar bar in New York (www.theironfairies.com – some decent pics of the bar in the gallery section of the website). The back part of the building is his blacksmith shop, so the place kind of has the smell of a foundry. The interior is tough to describe, and pictures do it no justice. It’s small, but crammed with all kinds of random things like old sewing machines, metal-working and foundry tools and equipment, tricycles hanging on the walls. From an aesthetic standpoint, I’d have to say it’s a cross between industrial steam punk and Harry Potter. The attention to detail is mind-boggingly unbelievable – you could spend days in the place and still never pick up on all the little things he’s done. It’s dimly-lit, mostly by candles and some small lightbulbs, has stairs going to nowhere, and hidden rooms behind bookshelves. If you’re ever in Bangkok, this is an absolute must-see.
Although it’s one of the biggest tourist things in BKK, surprisingly in all my trips here I’ve never been to the Chatuchak weekend market. That is, until this past weekend when I lost my Chatuchak virginity. It’s an enormous market, consisting of over 8,000 market stalls spread across 38 acres (!!!), and has about a quarter million visitors every weekend. They have everything you could ever potentially want or need here, from clothing to wicker to glassware to crafts to household goods to plants to about a thousand other things. Most of the stalls are set up in large concrete barn-like buildings with row after row after row of stalls. It’s easy to get completely lost. There’s also no air conditioning. I could be wrong, but I believe it is likely the hottest place on planet earth. Taking a bath in molten lava would feel cool and refreshing compared to Chatuchak market! However, once you accept the fact that you’re going to walk around all day completely soaked in sweat, it’s actually really fun. And if you weren’t hungry when you got there, you will be soon after getting there. The smells of spices and food coming from all the food vendors scattered throughout the market is inescapable. And the food tastes even better than it smells! My favorite stall was one that was wall to wall, floor to ceiling stacked with flip-flops. Literally, thousands and thousands of flip-flops in every style and color you could imagine. Needless to say, I was in flip flop heaven! 🙂