Life on Soi 62
• Yunhu Holiday Resort
• Debao Hotel
• Jing Bin Hotel
• Marriott Beijing Hotel West
I'm slipping and sliding, glossing and gliding down Soi 62 Lad Phrao road on yet another humid day in Krung Thep. The mood is lackadaisical, rabid soi dogs on either side of the street, food vendors out in full force, and I'm loving it because this is Thailand. When it rains it pours, and when it pours, Soi 62 turns into a river. The weather looks sketchy as I make my way towards the 7-11 on the corner of Lad Phrao road and Soi 62. When I first arrived in Bangkok, I was quite adventurous. Fried rice, dried squid, noodles, mystery meat on a stick, hand it over, let me eat it –and give me some of that tap water to wash it down it with. Then one day I woke up feeling like the world was spinning. My stomach hurt, I was sweating, I had a heavy fever, and I was nauseous. I thought I had contracted malaria, I was covered in mosquito bites from head to toe, and I didn't know any better. The diarrhoea was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life. I was completely dehydrated. This was the end of the line, curled up in a ball, wrapped in a blanket with the Japanese air-con turned up full blast, I was sending out my last will and testament to long lost relatives in the USA via email.
Two days into the illness, the Thai maid gained entry to my condo and upon seeing me sprawled out and covered in sweat, she called the landlord; a Chinese woman from Beijing who speaks English. I explained the symptoms and she dragged me down the street
to a corner pharmacy, which I had passed many times without even realizing it was there. I paid 14 baht for some little Thai pills that did not even come in a bottle. The landlord and pharmacist thought I had some mild case of the Thai chili-shits,
but they were mistaken, dear reader. What I had was some kind of wretched, vicious bacteria living and thriving inside my gut, and no Pepto-Bismol bullshit herbal medication was going to kill it. I needed something industrial with skulls and warnings
all over the label, something toxic. On day four nearly every drop of moisture had been shat from my body and I was ready to pass out. I slept for most of the day and watched HBO all night while I pounded away at my keyboard on the WebMD website,
trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me. I finally awoke on the morning of day five, AC still turned up full blast, sheets no longer drenched in sweat, pillows on the floor. I felt perfectly normal again. No fever, no sweating, no
more diarrhoea. I went from deathbed to normal again overnight. I always thought I had an iron stomach; thank you Bangkok for proving me wrong.
As I stroll past the corner pharmacy, I wave at the owner, who is probably wondering if the Thai mystery pills cured my Bangkok belly. The corner of Soi 62 and Lad Phrao road is crowded. There is a 7-11, a fruit vendor, a pile of trash, a group of teenaged motorcycle taxi drivers, and groups of people waiting for busses. There is some kind of fountain, which has no water, and some kind of shop that sells small car parts. This is the epicenter of my neighborhood, where all people cross paths at one point or another during the day. Every once in a while I see farang on my street and my building is about 50% farang by volume. I'm feeling adventurous so I make a right hand turn and head down Lad Phrao road towards the higher numbered sois, in search of something but not entirely sure of what. I make my way down Lad Phrao road, looking, scanning, searching for something of interest. Maybe a new restaurant, maybe a market, maybe a temple or a grocery store. I walk and I walk, and then I walk some more. Already drenched in sweat, and the sky is becoming overcast. The quantity of sweat pouring out of my every gland makes me feel unhealthy, out of shape.
I pass a private school which has just let out for the day. Young children screech and scream, and kick soccer balls at my head. 'farang farang farang farang farang farang farang', the youth are to be commended for their enthusiasm towards international
relations. I continue walking and approach what appears to be another cluster of buildings. Excitement mounts as I close in, but shear dismay when I discover that it is merely another 7-11. 7-11s as far as the eye can see, a virtual city made
up entirely of 7-11 convenience stores with the occasional house here and there, one can hardly walk down the street without tripping over another 7-11. I venture inside the new 7-11 in hopes that they may at least have something different than
the 7-11 on soi 62. Nope, exactly the same. I buy myself an ice cream as a reward for my own stupidity, and it promptly melts all over my hand as soon as I step outside. Then the rain begins. Not just any rain, but rain drops the likes of which
you never see back home. Thunder and torrential downpour that you can only imagine. Soaked from head to toe in less time than it takes a Queen's Castle katoey to slip you a ruffle and lift your wallet. The Thais have already fled the streets
for shelter, as they have built-in rain detection DNA that is honed to precision from birth. I walk alone back down Lad Phrao road. Traffic is gridlocked, the city comes to a virtual stand-still at the slightest hint of rain. I am walking faster
than traffic. Thais in taxis stare at me with wild eyes, farang must be from another planet.
The water is knee deep on soi 62. I choose to walk in the water, because either side of the street is lined by feral soi dogs, completely emaciated and un-vaccinated. I swim up to the front gates of my condominium complex and greet the security guard, a Thai man of about 40 years. He offers me an umbrella, and I appreciate the notion despite the fact that umbrellas seem to do no good in Thailand, as the rain often comes down horizontally, and the winds quickly destroy most umbrellas. The thought of sloshing down the street, knee deep in water during a thunder storm while holding a metal rod in my hand doesn't appeal to me. I thank him kindly and accept his gift anyway because this is Thailand. The security guard at my building serves a vital function. Aside from keeping out the riff-raff, he is also in charge of screening all visitors. This, dear reader, is of the utmost importance. If you have a Thai ex-girlfriend, or soon to be ex-girlfriend, you will come to realize that the guard at the front gate of my building on soi 62 has quite possibly the most important job of anyone in my entire building. Non-residents cannot get inside the gates unless the guard calls the resident first and gets permission to let them in. He is the human buffer between you and whatever knife-wielding fiery train-wreck nightmare of a situation you have gotten yourself into with a woman. In order to show my appreciation, I have given him many gifts. Often food, sometimes drinks, and most recently an electronic hand-held blackjack game; they are all small prices to pay for the added security of knowing that I will never have any surprise visitors.
It's seafood curry and mystery meat on a stick for lunch. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, because this is Thailand. I'm locked, I'm loaded, and I'm in the zone. Red Bull is my stimulant of choice as I work through the
night. Self-employed, I own an e-commerce website. A million bytes of information pulse through my hands as my fingers dance across the keyboard. Customers in Spain, customers in the UK, customers in Australia and customers back home in the USA.
Emails in a dozen languages. Products to add, features to update. Back in the first world, I never seemed to have enough time to do anything, cost of living was high, stress was high. At 25, I felt like I was 45, which is why I dropped it all
and left. Being self employed in Thailand is complicated, but I make it work because the thought of going back to the USA makes me ill. It's 5 AM and I'm just finishing my work, ready to shower and sleep when a notice pops up in my inbox.
A message from Thailandfriends.com. I open it. Old habits die hard. This time it's a skinny katoey with a huge rack who has sent me the "wink" and a brief message. She's passable. I don't get many messages from katoeys.
Perhaps with another Red Bull in my system I'd respond. Perhaps not. Perhaps we'll take the next Dana Airlines direct flight to Pattaya, or perhaps I will just continue working.
I've found happiness in the most unlikely of places. America seems so cold and distant now. I don't even watch the American news channels anymore. I almost cringe when I see other Americans in Thailand, but then it occurs to me that they must be tired of it too, and that's why they are here. More power to them. I remember living in the same condominium complex back in the States for 5 years, and not knowing a single one of my neighbors. Half the time I waved at them while driving by, they would just stare at me and not even wave back. I remember going to work an 8-5 job at a large company and getting no satisfaction from it at all despite the fact that I was probably doing better than most people I knew. No life, no satisfaction, the city was cold. Nothing seemed alive. The so-called first world of southern California is a decaying mass of concrete buildings, machines, freeways and people who are so burnt out from work and trying to keep up with their finances that they no longer have souls. They get stuck in a perpetuating cycle that chews them up day by day and they slowly begin to lose themselves.
I remember my father's ex-wife cleaning out his bank account when they got divorced; a woman who hardly worked a day in her life got nearly all of his assets. He went from being on top of the world to living in a small rented apartment seemingly over night, too old to re-enter the work force. You spend your entire life accumulating toys, and money and everything else and it's all so easily lost. Now, while I build my wealth in Thailand, I also accumulate memories, and happy days, and stories to tell my friends, and new faces, and new friends, and a million other things that cannot be taken away until the day I die. My neighbors all know me here, and even if they don't know me, they wave back to me when I wave at them. I've known many Thai people who have gone far out of their way to help me, when it did not benefit them at all. It took me a while to adapt to this. From helping me get medicine, to showing me around town or translating for me. Never expecting anything in return.
I once met a Thai taxi driver who was completely fluent in English. I mean; he was able to construct proper sentences and convey his thoughts perfectly in English, and he had never lived abroad. After months of taking taxis, this guy blew me away with his English ability, and for the 35 minute taxi ride I asked him as many questions as I could. We compared prices of fuel back home and here, costs of cars, business ideas for Thailand, price of this versus that, here and there. This guy claimed to have learned all of his English from grade school, watching western TV shows and talking to farang. Furthermore, he was the only Thai taxi driver I ever met who carried exact correct change, and aside from the small coins and notes, he had a HUGE roll of 1000 and 500 baht notes. I almost got the feeling that this guy was a University Professor who just drove a taxi so that he could interview farang in some type of strange sociological experiment. Taxi drivers in the USA hardly speak any English at all, and here was this Thai taxi driver just chopping it up, without pause, without grammatical error and without delay.
The longer you stay in Thailand, the more interesting and genuine people you will meet, provided you do not live solely in naughty bars and beach side hotels. You are unlikely to meet them online or in go-go bars, but they will come into your life when least expected and you will remember them forever. Sometimes I think that many Westerners grow indifferent to Thailand so quickly because they are only exposed to a small piece of the pie. It's off the plane, straight to the bars, and straight back to the hotels. This I can understand because I am fully aware of what life is like back home for a married or divorced middle aged man. It's dull, it's cold, it's often lifeless and that little bit of attention from a BG, or that week long trip to Phuket with your teeruk provides a much needed escape from what would otherwise be considered 'existence' as opposed to life. I am 25 years old and not too ignorant to know that I will eventually be a 55 year old man as well. I only hope that by getting some sort of an early start, I can bypass many of the unpleasant aspects of life that bring planeloads of weary farang to the Land of Smiles if for only a few weeks. Smile, because waking up in Thailand beats waking up anywhere else.
Nice. Real shades of Dana in there. And yes, that is a compliment.