Examples of the Asian weird factor:
Stores you are sent to by your concierge do not exist in real life.
You don’t find what you thought you’d find, but what you find is more interesting.
Motor cycles carry loads which make you shutter, from household goods to their own unhelmeted extended families.
The streets alternate between human stink and the best smells ever – grilled sweet corn and hot sticky rolls.
People, cars, motor cycles, venders, loiterers, people everywhere.
It is a feast for the senses, and you can hardly look away or you’ll miss something.
Thursday October 11th. We flew to Bangkok early and John headed to work (Kohler offices are a few blocks from our hotel) while I set out by taxi to scour another city for fabric in both the wholesale and retail districts, which are located in Chinatown. The wholesale area was awesome, but I escaped by tuk tuk to the retail district (where they can sell by the meter) at the recommendation of a guy at the shop where my shop was supposed to be (277 Sampeng Lane).
I bought these handmade ribbons on barrettes for Anelise – so when she gets hair, she’ll have an option for every outfit. Cost: 10 Baht each, so ten barrettes for a total of $3.00 US.
I learned from a lady in a quilt shop booth which sold American fabric that the cotton fabrics to buy are Japanese. Just as I thought! The Thai focus is of course silk, and the Chinese love to copy the Japanese fabrics. Quilt ladies appear to be the same helpful comrades everywhere.
Here a a few Tuk Tuks to give you a feel for the crazy three-wheeled vehicles, available for 50 baht, about $1.60 for my jaunt between fabric districts. Too bad I can’t embed my Tuk Tuk video here!
The weird factor is also the sad factor. On my first taxi ride today, there were little begger kids in the concrete midway area between the packed lanes with traffic. They dodged the speeding motor cycles and tapped on car windows during stalemates in the traffic. Two boys who looked between four and six were being directed by a girl who looked about eight. On the same ride I saw three collarless dogs rummaging through trash. And then there was the Chao Phraya river in Chinatown, floating with paper, boxes and plastic, teaming with huge black carp. (Contrast to the Singapore River where they had a huge community swim in the sparkling harbor after the multimillion dollar cleanup in the 80’s, now remembered annually with a duck race.)
Red light district: Soi Cowboy. And then, OMG, there’s Soi Cowboy, the girl/bar/prostitute district a few blocks from our hotel. We walked down the narrow lane after having a great Thai dinner at the Wanakarm restaurant in our neighborhood. There are bars which flow out onto the road with young Thai girls striking poses in their open doorways – matching outfits, short silky dresses. Some pole dance in the open windows. Some of the girls go on the offensive and strut through the street like runway stars.
Here I am in Soi Cowboy! OMG
The area is named after T. G. “Cowboy” Edwards, a retired American airman who opened a bar there in 1977. Apparently he often wore a cowboy hat. We had a drink at a bar in Soi Cowboy with Andy and some of his friends who are teaching grade school and middle school here, and they played pool.
Here’s more Soi Cowboy:
Our conversations about the sex trade in Bangkok continued through the next day, and ranged from one of us saying well, it is perfectly legal and even somewhat entrepreneurial (guess who) and one of us saying how sad is it that young girls have no better options, how only the young are desirable, and how totally disgusting it is to see old expat type men our age having drinks with these young girls (guess who). Just kidding about the guess who – we both agree it is a sad situation. We want to put these girls in Lakeland College. Apparently the hookups often take place in nearby hotels, and ours is one destination.
Our hotel, the Grand Millennium, by the way, is awesome, with glass enclosed bathroom.
Friday October 12
A quiet day for me. Bought 6 yards of Thai silk and at the nearby silk shop named Almeta which will be delivered to our hotel tomorrow as pillows, and checked out the mega mall across the street, Destination 21. Makes American malls look like corner shops. Crossing the streets here is crazy – took the skywalk across to the mall.
John came “home” early and we had a drink in our lower bar and relearned to say thank you from our Thai server lady ( who kneels beside the lounge chairs when she talks to you).
khob-kun-Ka, If you are a woman.
khob-kun-Krub, If you are a man.
khob-kun ขอบคุณ. (general)
Then we headed out to “Health Land,” a health spa (NOT connected to Soi Cowboy) for a couples’ massage. Here’s our conversation upon decision to have couple’s massage:
M: Oh great. Can we talk during our couple’s massage?
J: As long as you stop talking about Thai sex trafficking.
Massage was fabulous – very “water spa” like surrounding and so relaxing. Total cost for a one-and-a-half hour massages for two, $60 US. John fell asleep and snored. I must admit, I dosed off, probably dreaming of Soi Cowboy girls in Lakeland persuasive writing classes.
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