Readers' Submissions

Along The Busy Strip Part 1

  • Written by Lynxear
  • June 22nd, 2004
  • 5 min read


As I said in other posts, I was an English teacher. I taught in a private school about 2 hours from Bangkok. I was not in a village as such…it was more like a distant suburb, very busy with not many farang. Other than two Americans and a German who were also teachers at the school, I might go days without seeing another non-Asian. At first we were fairly close but we drifted apart as time wore on and we became more use to our surroundings.

I like to explore my surroundings. The following is a sample of some of my encounters.

I remember my third night. I decided that I wanted to walk to the outdoor market about a kilometer from the main gate to the school. The road fronting the school was a discontinuous line of strip malls. They all sort of looked alike but hell, I should be able to see the school gate on the way back.

So I set out, waving off all offers for taxis and motorcycles as I walked along. The street was all torn up as a sewer system was being put in. Cars zoomed by inches from me as I walked. I negotiated in and out of the sewer pipe sections and finally ended at the market about 20 minutes before it totally closed. It was dark now but this didn't bother me. I wandered around the stalls, not buying anything yet, just drinking in the local color. There was just about anything you could ask for at this market and I made note of where the semi-permanent stalls were for Saturday when the market would be open again.

It is time to return. The night is very dark with only a few fluorescent lights scattered about to light the way. I stumbled around the work area mud, watching with wonder as motorcycles came at me on the wrong side of the road with their lights turned off, only switching them one at the last second. "Idiots!", I mumbled, "trying to kill me!".

I pass a long narrow lane and hear voices calling out in Thai. Six guys on motorcycles are laughing and motioning me to come to them. Not bloody likely, I think to myself. I walk briskly away hoping that they don't follow me and leave me alone. In the States or Canada I would be even more than just nervous…I would be scared witless. {Hahaha…how was I to know then that it was just the local motorcycle taxis station}.

I search for the gate to my school. But in the dark, I must have looked the wrong way as I passed it. I didn't really notice at first, these strip malls all looked alike. I pass a road gang working on the sewer. They laugh and call out to me. I just smile and wave back…I don't remember seeing this gang earlier???

How in the hell could I get lost walking down ONE STREET!!?? You are better than this! I decide I will ask for directions. I cross the street and approach a very nervous military guard. I am so new to the area that I cannot even pronounce the name of the school properly. The guard speaks almost no English and is very excitable. I don't like this but then remember I have the director's business card in my wallet. I show the guard and he then smiles, points back along the way I came and says "one kilometer!"

"What!!! How could I be that far off??", I shake my head and start back after thanking the relieved guard.

I walk past the work gang, then see them again as they pass by on a truck. They are having a great time pointing and laughing at the lost farang. I wave and smile back…I see the gate now…I am almost home!

……

Another day I want a newspaper and walk across to a newspaper vendor next to the bakery. I buy a Bangkok Post. The guy is friendly and waves me to a seat next to his. He hardly speaks a word of English but we have a fun time for about 20 minutes. I always carry a notepad and pocket dictionary. Drawing cartoons and passing the dictionary back and forth I passed a pleasant evening.

Every couple of evenings I would go back to this vendor and spend some time. It was fun and offered a divergence that I enjoyed. Several of his customers could speak some English and we would exchange a few words…I suppose I added to the status of this vendor.

One evening a rather muscular man with shirt open at the neck dropped by. It turned out he was the local police chief.

The vendor introduced me to him.

"How do you do? You are an English teacher?" As he offered his hand.

I was surprised at the quality of the introduction. "Yes, I teach listening and speaking English, M4/M5, at the high school," I replied, accepting the handshake, rising slightly from my seat.

We talked for about fifteen minutes with me basically answering questions about where I am from, how long I will be in Thailand and my thoughts on Thailand since I have been here. His questions are posed in a precise though friendly manner. I can see that he is used to being the one in control.

Suddenly he completely seemed to relax.

"Do you like to drink?" He asks.

Well sure I do…who doesn't? But I don't want to go to an office or wherever to drink whatever poison. My mind is racing as to how I can politely remove myself from this situation.

"I am sorry but I cannot drink alcohol very much thank you…it is not good for my health."

Fortunately I had taken the time to write a note in my wallet, in Thai, announcing that I was diabetic. I removed my wallet and showed him this notice. I certainly can have one or two beers but the last thing I wanted was to be taken somewhere while a police chief got into his cups.

He nodded wisely on reading the message…clearly disappointed but still friendly, after a few minutes he announced that he had to go.

I asked him if he would write his name down for me. He did and I tucked it into my wallet…you never know when I might be able to use this new-found friendship.

Stickman’s thoughts:

Once again, we are forced to wait for part 2…