Today started with a wardrobe malfunction, included a language malfunction, included boats and mostly-naked broads, and ended with a back malfunction. Assuming I can get out of bed tomorrow, I’ll count it as a very good day.
But first, tuk-tuks, or the lack thereof. Now, since I’m paying per-minute I won’t provide you with a convenient link to explan what a tuk-tuk is, but I’m sure Google or Wikipedia can give you a good explanation with even the tiniest search. Anyway, tuk-tuks are emblematic of Thailand, so much so that my Lonely Planet guide has one on the cover; yet I haven’t been able to take a ride anywhere in one. That’s because the tuk-tuk drivers are so focused on running their little scam — taking me to some store where they get commission on my purchases, then sticking me with a high-pressure sales pitch from the owner, far from my intended destination — that, since I want to actually get to, you know, Thailand’s greatest wonders, I just haven’t been able to blow the time to take the cheap tuk-tuk ride anywhere.
Today I replaced the tuk-tuk with a cab, a boat, and the Skytrain. The cab was the source of that language malfunction — I was trying to get to the pier, but the cabbie didn’t know the word pier, so I tried to say “boat” in Thai but clearly bollocksed that up, so finally we agreed on “boat station.” Unfortunately the cabbie thought that actually meant “bus station,” and we got halfway there before the whole thing got straightened out. That brings us to my business idea of the day, which is that you get a whole bunch of bilingual Thai/tourist language speakers, put them at a phone bank, and have them translate between local service and product providers and the tourists they’re trying to sell to. For cabbies, etc., you could probably sell a subscription that would easily pay for itself.
At any rate, I got where I was going in the cab. Now I was only taking the cab ’cause I’d lost an hour and a half in a wardrobe malfunction. See, before I left I decided to buy a whole new travel wardrobe, since there was no way I could pack 30 days worth of clothes, and my mostly-cotton wardrobe was not ideal quick-drying material for a tropical vacation. So, off to REI I went, and I bought a few shirts and a pair of those convertible pants that zip off to be shorts. Well, three of the shirts are great, but I went off in the fourth this morning and was immediately soaked to the bone. Worse, the shirt was soaked too. That being socially unacceptable, I went back and changed, and, to make up the lost time, took a cab instead of walking to the pier.
OK, I realize this is slow, but I’m getting somewhere, I promise.
So that was my first wardrobe malfunction. Later in the day, one of the zips on my convertible pants got stuck, so now they’re permanently shorts. So, two wardrobe malfunctions. For the one shirt I give up, but for the pants I’m either going to replace them with some knock-offs or see if I can’t just get the zipper replaced. I mean, this is Thailand, right?
Anyway, that’s mostly frustrating to me; I realize this topic is fairly uninteresting to you, my loyal readers. You’d much rather hear about what I saw and what I did. So, here goes:
* I wanted to go to Siam Square, so I took the long, scenic, experiental route. First I got on a fast ferry and shot down the Chao Phraya, the river that goes through the middle of Bangkok. The river was dirty but the view was exceptional, a side of Bangkok that it’s probably easy to miss these days.
* Then I took the Skytrain, an elevated railroad, to Siam Square, walking through the busy commercial area and seeing all the shops.
* I got to stop by Jim Thompson’s house. Jim wasn’t there — probably because he disappeared in Malaysia in the mid-1960s — but all his stuff was, which was nice because it’s cool stuff. Jim built an empire based on exporting handmade silk products, back when he was the only guy doing that, and he used that empire to buy a lot of cool old art for his house. He also bought his house, which was assembled from the pieces of various houses he’d found around the country; he loved the carving on the house pieces so much that he actually put the walls up backwards so that the ornamental carving faced inwards.
* Then I went to the night market at Patpong, where I filled a number of orders from friends for souvenirs (Milla, I have your Thai slave in my bag now, although that leaves no room for my underwear).
* Walking from the night market, my back started to hurt a lot, so I got a one-hour Thai massage which blew my mind but, unfortunately, only moderately helped my back. This little tiny woman had vise-like hands and, when she finally turned me onto my stomach to work on my back, she shoved me into the mattress with her knees in a way that can only be described as linebacker-like. I’ve never been into Asian women but, after that, I’m taking applications below.
* Then I got waylaid by a man promising a “ping-pong show” at one of the bars at Patpong. I had studiously avoided the row of red-light shops, in order to focus on the knock-offs, but one guy finally got me in with a promise of “no cover!” I mean, how could I go to Bangkok and not do a tourist run of the red light district? The place was smart, they put the one hot dancer where I could see her from the outside, so I came in, got a drink, and was promptly rushed by eight strippers, two of whom I guess were attractive. Of course all eight wanted drinks, which was a little much; when I finally broke down and bought them the orange juices they wanted, all except for one ugly, older one left. She tried to sweet-talk me but with so little skill that I figured my walled would be sucked dry far before anything else was, and I called it a night. Don’t even ask me how much I had to pay to get out of there! And there wasn’t even a ping-pong show, although I did get to see one girl play with sparklers, if you know what I mean.
Tomorrow: all about stairs, and why Tang is more like orange juice than orange juice.