Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bangkok: April 26, 2009
I landed here breathing a sigh of relief that I’d gotten out of Cambodia intact. The exit fee kind of surprised me a bit, I don’t think I’ve ever been charged that before. Especially in light of the fact that Thailand doesn’t charge me anything at all to come in and I’m sure it won’t charge me to leave. Just like home.
So I took the taxi into town and was told at the taxi desk that it should cost no more than 400 baht. At 35 to the dollar that meant no more than around ten bucks to me. The cab driver spoke no English though I showed him the card with the hotels name on it and after paying two toll fees and having to ask directions once (like in Cairo but this place is as developed looking at first glance as London). So when he found it and the meter read 225 baht and I added in the tolls of 70 baht I decided I’d give him 350 baht. When I offered it to him he acted like he didn’t understand and put on some kind of a confusion act but when I pointed out to him the fare on the meter and mentioned the tolls he suddenly realized I actually knew what I was talking about and became very grateful. I seem to have that effect on cab drivers in foreign countries, cab drivers are essentially the same everywhere and either they’re human beings or they’re idiots that look like human beings. I can tell the difference usually.
I was met at the hotel by the guide I was told would meet me and after taking an hour to clean up and restore myself after the flight (and anxieties that they wouldn’t let me bring my two carry ons with me because they kept announcing that only one was allowed due to “security” but the clerks at the Bankok Airways desk told me it was OK) anyway, I made it and got myself refreshed and met the guide in the lobby at 7:30. We went to dinner. I began to get my first real impressions of Bankok. Obviously to a Western white male there is one thing that stands out. The girls, young and a lot of them and a lot of them with middle aged white guys. I find it somewhat depressing to tell the truth. Pretty is pretty, but the stark industrialization of the sex trade here is a bit overwhelming. Some of the girls even look like they’ve had their adult teeth for a while. That’s a Raymond Chandler paraphrase. After dinner she took me to a complex of bars, sort of like a mall of bars you might say, the weather is really mild at night and there are all manner of exotic life on the streets, from beggars with hideously deformed bodies to a man with an elephant we kept running into. The streets are lined with vendors of a wide range of goods, most of it looking to me like crap I wouldn’t buy at home for the most part but a lot of food vendors that I really want to photograph. A lot of food vendors, maybe even more than in Phnom Penh. The contrast is startling. This place is prosperous and the other is not, that’ just on the general first impression scale, not anything statistical. The fact is, I don’t know shit about these places, that’s why I’m here, to get a first impression and to decide if there’s a reason to return.
After she showed me the bar scene (a lot of adolescent bodies in minor bikinis occasionally gyrating to a mechanized (and to me highly annoying)hip hip beat with out any melody to speak of or purpose or beginning or end. I decided I had other things that interested me more and suggested she show me something else. Like a supermarket. I wanted to take a bottle of something to drink back to my room and after concluding that my choices were rather limited by both price and choice selected some Thai whiskey which I will consume in a small quantity to avoid the day after and also a slice of “nut corner” from the bakery counter, some Togusto Nuts (broad beans and cuttlefish), some peanuts, dried mango, yogurt, and a quart or so of Tangerine and Orange sac juice. I’m not sure what that means but it tastes OK to me. Maybe I should have also gotten the roasted almonds with anchovy. Next time I will. Now I’m back in the room winding down, I’m supposed to meet the guide around ten or ten thirty in the morning to find out what else Bangkok holds in store. I have a feeling there will be a lot of surprises here.

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