Saturday, 6 August 2005

More Bangkok

Today I spent my time much the same as the previous day. I kicked about around Bangkok, did little but saw lots. I had my lunch/breakfast at an expensive Italian restaurant and made the mistake of ordering calamari that was a little too un-frozen calamari from Safeway for my liking. Specifically it wasn't deep fried, so I ended up with a plate of cooked squid. It was edible but it had absolutely no taste. For main course I had spaghetti bolognaise, which was mediocre at best. Maybe Thailand does to Italian food what Japan does to pizza (hmm... pizza is Italian, maybe that's some link)?

I travelled on the subway/metro today, which is ultra-modern with large, spacious carriages and high-power air conditioning. I only went three or four stops before coming back to try and find something interesting to do. I met Davide, an Italian guy that grew up in Germany who is now working in New Delhi, near a large monument in a park. There we saw some crazy synchronised aerobics and quite a few other people there to take photos. Davide had to find a DVD for a friend so we went on a hunt for OZ season three. This took quite some time but along the way we passed hundreds of market stalls and probably twenty times as many girls.

It was impossible to escape the people out on the street pimping either girls themselves or "DVDs". We made the mistake of saying that yes, we were after DVDs, only to discover that the selection was more than a little specific. We did find the DVD in the end, but not before taking photos of a massive neon sign displaying "SUPER PUSSY" and being invited to see all sorts of bizarre shows (ping pong, smoking, balloon... *ahem*).

After passing by all the go-go bars (with very open front doors) we headed to Burger King for some more of my staple diet. I attempted to follow the directions to the toilet, but gave up after going about ten metres down an unlit passage behind a door market "Toilet, Staff Only". The nearest superstore was the next big idea and on the whole it worker. I was still with Davide at this time so we took some amusing photos of how low the cubicles were -- I could quite clearly see Davide's head and shoulders as he stood inside. Granted, he's a little taller than me, but I should imagine there are plenty of tall people kicking about in Bangkok.

Davide left shortly afterwards for the second fitting of his two new handmade suits. Each one is costing around 50 Euros, which is outrageously cheap. About this time I took the sky train to the next stop and then walked the short distance to "Brown Sugar", a jazz bar and restaurant. Here I met two Japanese girls sat at the bar so I tried to strike up some highly intellectual conversation... it sort of went along the lines of: "are you Chinese? Oh, Japanese. I see." They didn't seem too interested in a conversation but I persisted by attempting to ask a question at each song interval... things like "nihon no doko desu ka?" (where are you from in Japan?), they were from Osaka, and then if they know this film or the other film. Right now there are adverts for "Swing Girls" here in Bangkok, so I brought this up and it turned out that the more talkative of the two girls had seen it at the cinema over five times! And I thought I was a fan!

In the end they seemed fairly interested to talk. I half think that they thought I might be picking up on them, which is why they were so stand-offish. Once I brought up films and music I think they quickly realised I was only interested in somebody to talk to for a little while. Somehow they are only 28 (although if they'd said 22 I wouldn't have known) and have both already quit work because they didn't get enough holidays. Well, that sure is one way to do it!

I feel a little more comfortable here now. The first day I was practically scared -- it looked so similar to some of the busier parts of China, yet everything was so different. I didn't know how much things were worth, how to get places, where to go, etc. It didn't help that people seemed to wholly ignore me -- not so much because I wanted people to talk to me, but because it made everything feel even more odd. For example, when I visited the electronics store yesterday people didn't try and sell me things, introduce prices, etc. like they do in China. They pretty much just ignored me, which kind of threw me off guard. In the end I got quite a lot of attention when I brought my laptop out in a Sony store (to show the t-shirt guy) -- the staff there had never seen an X505 and thought it was the most beautiful thing ever. I ended up having to pose for photos as a result -- a little over the top, I thought ;)

But anyway, now I'm getting to grips with how things are here. One thing I don't get at all is girls (and guys) -- how do you tell the hookers apart from the rest? This was partly why I talked to the Japanese girls this evening... because I knew they weren't Thai girls, so therefore I wasn't going to try and initiate conversation with a prostitute, which could end up being a fairly sticky situation to get myself out of. Having said that, people here are very helpful and friendly -- the guy at reception downstairs is nice as have all of the other people I've had to talk to. I was trying to ask a street food vendor where Road X was when I heard "Excuse me, can I help you?" in quite possibly the most perfect English I've heard for a very long time. I was literally shocked when I turned around to find the most stunning Thai girl was the person that had asked the question. She told me that it was the street I was looking for and asked me where I was going -- she must have known the area pretty well because when I said jazz bar she knew exactly the place I was looking for. I can't say for certain she wasn't a prostitute... but I would be very shocked if she was -- I'm sure she could earn far more as a translator or guide, her English was really that good. Most likely she has probably hooked herself up with a foreigner, which seems to be the common and sensible thing for girls here to do.

Right, time for me to head to bed. I really want to get to this temple place tomorrow as it has some rather obscure opening hours. It takes about two hours by bus due to the bad traffic. I think I'll combine the metro and buses to cut the time down.

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