Mai Pen Rai
It had been less than a week in the Land of Smiles. We had dropped by our new Thai townhome to arrange a time to drop off some superfluous belongings (aren't they all to an extent?) and trying to avoid leaving any dead cats in our wake. That is because our new roommates Aaron and Niddy have eleven of them who don't seem to associate the downward force of a farang's foot with pain and injury. Niddy had just finished her shift as a RN at the nearby hospital and we decided to let her lead us to a tasty dinner.
"What you want to eat," asks Niddy in her best English which is infinitely better than my best Thai. "Pad Thai?"
"Perfect," says I and meant it. I don't order Pad Thai too often for fear that I be lumped into the group of the culinarily unadventurous. But hey, I've been in Thailand for a week and I've eaten enough Thai chilies to strip the gaudy paint off a tuk tuk so it's time to try out the real deal.
I thought we were heading around the corner to her favorite Pad Thai street stand when we hopped a bus, careening through the diesel smoke with motorbike taillights flittering through every open space in traffic like fireflies in the night sky. We snatch the last table in the bustling restaurant right up front by the sidewalk. The entire kitchen portion of the restaurant is positioned out on the sidewalk in the open air for all to see.
It turns out that this wasn't just any Pad Thai joint. The family running it has been cooking up what is considered by many to be the best Pad Thai that Bangkok has to offer for something like eight generations. You know what else is on the menu? Nothing. It was amazing.
Down the street and made a left. It was like walking through a portal. Khao San Road. The ultimate in Southeast Asian sensory overload. Massages, tattoos, insects (for eating), tailored suits, scant bathing suits, hookers, trips departing to all points on the compass, food stalls of all varieties, internet, beer, and glistening pasty people from all over to gawk and spend. Sounds, sights, and scents as thick as the moist heat.
We make it unscathed through the torrent of tourists. After threatening and holding out all day the skies finally began to open, it is monsoon season after all. Not too serious at first but none of us came toting an umbrella. We took shelter under an overhang which turned out to be the police station. As the drip escalated into a pour a horde congregated around us and the cops told us to quit blocking the doorway and just come inside.
The rain was coming down in torrential sheets and it didn't take long to happen. Out of nowhere one of the small round recessed lights in the ceiling starts to steadily drip water. It's dripping on top of a couple of filing cabinets behind the secretary. She starts fussing and an officer helps her move the cabinets and she sits back down and goes back to work. Well, the drip turns into a pour and the 15 or so tourists start chuckling and snickering.
People's eyes and expressions give away their thoughts – "What a place, this would never happen back home." As the amount of water on the floor accumulates considerably, another bigger fluorescent fixture starts pouring. Now everyone is really cracking up.
One of the officers brings a 5 gallon bucket which is filling up every 30-seconds while another officer pulls out his point-and-shoot camera and starts snapping photos. All the while the chief who appears to be in charge of them all, based on the collection of stars on his shoulders, is standing there reading the paper like nothing is happening.
Things go from bad to worse as half of the light fixtures in the ceiling start gushing water. Finally, someone thinks to turn the lights off. The officer who had been ferrying 5 gallon buckets of water constantly took off his sandals and promptly slipped on the marble floor flat onto his ass into a puddle of water which elicited a squealing roar of laughter from the onlookers. The chief now picked up his newspaper holding in front of his face so he could concentrate.
By this point half of the floor is under an inch of water and drywall seams in the ceiling have soaked through and are dripping. The one cop still seems to care even though nobody else does and attempts to create a dam out of wooden benches around the only computer in the room. The rest of the lights begin pouring water and he goes and switches them off. In the process a panel of drywall finally gives way and collapses dousing him in many gallons of water. The girls scream and the laughter is deafening. Some people are laughing so hard they are crying.
The chief looks up expressionless at the now dark lights. He sets down his newspaper and it seemed as though he was finally going to make an effort at alleviating the situation. He pulls out his flashlight, switches it on, and continues to read the newspaper.
Many of the drywall seams are soaking through and we decided we would fare better outside rather than tempting fate as it appeared as if the entire ceiling was preparing to collapse.
Before I even made it to Thailand I was told and even read about a saying here, mai pen rai. It translates to something like never mind, no problem, or it can't be helped. I had heard that the saying was used commonly over here but hadn't heard it spoken yet. I still haven't heard it. But I could see it in his eyes. The chief's. He didn't look angry, frustrated or even worried; it looked like this happened to him every day. Mai pen rai.
Hehe, yeah, this sort of thing does happen more often than you'd expect. But in a cop shop where a bunch of foreign tourists are taking shelter from the elements makes it all the more amusing!