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Ragtopman Does Bangkok For The First time

  • Written by Ragtopman
  • November 5th, 2001
  • 4 min read




I remember the first time I went to London in 1986. It was like visiting an old friend. Somehow it was all so familiar from the books and movies read and seen in previous years. Nothing can quite prepare you for your first trip to Bangkok, despite being an avid reader of Stickman weekly and a copy of The Lonely Planet at my side. As I rode in my first Tuk Tuk, a three wheeled golf cart of a taxi with more than capable acceleration, breathing in air of unimaginable contamination, I knew I wasn't in Kansas anymore.

There is something disconcerting yet charming about living in a 9th floor apartment in a city of 10 million and awakening to the sound of roosters crowing and three legged dogs barking, while monks stroll from the local shops receiving rice donations.

My first Thai massage parlour experience did not live up to the adolescent fantasies still imbedded in my soul. It was a far more memorable sensation than I could imagine. A two hour massage in the traditional Thai style with my Thai fiancee, who I met in Australia last year at the next table. Two blind women entered as mine navigated the the 1 3/4 metre table and more importantly my 2 metre frame with humility, grace and expertise. Thailand is known as the land of smiles, and you learn quickly that one does not have to see to smile brightly. The reaction I got from those two young blind women when I reported that they both had wonderful smiles will not soon be forgotten. It seems they were surprised I actually talked to them throughout this two hour anatomical vacation. My friends and family back home would be less surprised I imagine. I can have a conversation with a wall, sometimes even an argument, which I almost always win.

Last week my fiancee and a Thai friend I made in Australia and I went to a place called the Ancient City. 65 temples and other Thai architectural works of art placed on 3000 acres of plants water and wildlife. A needed respite from the chaos that is Bangkok. Wonderful, highly recommend.

Working in the legal profession in the USA one cannot escape the contrasting worlds of our overly legislated society to the near lawlessness of Thailand. Taxi drivers with no shoes, a huge mall Pon Chit Station I believe, selling bootlegged software above board and in such volumes one has to agree with Stickman and wonder why Bill Gates hasn't bombed the place. I picked up Word Perfect, which I forgot at home for 130 baht. Three dollars thank you very much. Anybody out there need Photoshop for the same price? Or how bout The Eagles Greatest Hits for 100 baht? It seems in Bangkok the definition of a greatest hit is every album your particular favourite group ever made. Over 200 songs. TIT (This is Thailand) as their famous columnist on BKK nightlife, Bernard Trink, reminds me.

Three people on a 100 cc motorcycle is a daily site, oopps that was yesterday, make that four, a man, wife and his two children at times. Did I mention they are travelling in a contrary direction down a one way street? I learned quickly that it is advised to look both ways down ALL streets in Bangkok. And that applies to sidewalks as well, because when the traffic gets bad, and it always does, motorcycles like to compete with pedestrian air space, along with the many food stalls.

Let me talk about the food. Four times as good at one fourth of the price. Am I dreaming? Catfish on a stick or do you prefer octopus? I stay away from the fried crickets personally, but give me time and a few Singhas (beers) Aromatic soups with three chickens feet popping through the broth. Fruits I have never seen and cannot wait to taste again. No coffee shops to be found, but somehow I manage to get stimulated every morning. All in all a blending of flavours that delight you and nourish. Stickman got it right, the mundaneness, the sameness of America is not missed in Thailand, it is forgotten.

Let's not forget the Thai people. Proud, most happy, many poor. I am told that psychiatrists are scarce in Thailand and I suspect depression is too. Thais eat together, they play together but mostly as their Buddhist principals teach them, they BE together. They have a refreshing pride in their culture and their city.

On our return trip to the Ancient City we were on what a Thai humorist has labelled an "expressway" going at a snails pace. For this privilege we had to pay 40 baht. My new Thai friend, turned to me at one particularly uneventful moment, which I will now never forget, as we were stuck bumper to bumper and said, "Our traffic is very famous." He said it with such conviction, I had no reason to doubt it. Bangkok is famous for many things and I hope to see it all while I am here. "AMAZING THAILAND" For once an advertising campaign that states the truth.

Thai language lessons start tomorrow from a school recommended by Stickman. Watch out.

Stickman says:

Beautiful. As Trink would say, TIT.