Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Saturday, March 03, 2012

My Big Phat Thai Adventure I

Sunee Plaza, Pattaya, Thailand
Okay, so for starters, let’s get right past the 19 hours in the air from D.C. to Tokyo and then the two-hour layover in Tokyo before the five-hour flight from Tokyo to Bangkok.

And, let’s do try to forget that I dressed in DC knowing that I would arrive to 97 degree heat and 110% humidity and dressed accordingly but the AC on the plane was colder than a stepfather’s kiss.

Thankfully, I remembered to pack a pair of socks and wore one of those paper-thin airplane….”blankets”… on my lap and one wrapped round my shoulders like a shawl.

Yes, and let’s just fly right past the fact that my dear friend Rob wrote down that I was leaving on the first of March (which would meant that I would arrive on the second of March, but apparently, he forgot that part) and so he spent almost 24 hours in an ice-blue panic with worry about me.

Which meant, of course, that I would arrive in Bangkok and meet my first Real Big Phat Thai Adventure within 30 minutes of landing as I negotiated for a “texsi” (cab) to take me to Pattaya – about 90 minutes south of Bangkok.

Apparently, I struck out my first time up at bat. Rob said, “And don’t pay one baht more than 1,000 baht for the taxi”. Right. It was 2,000 baht or I wasn’t getting out of the airport. And, it was an air conditioned Mercedes and not a little red….whatever…which I later learned one can get on level four rather than level one where I was

And, oh, by the way, 1,000 baht is about $35.00. So…. Maybe not such a good deal in Bangkok but still a steal if one were trying to get from NYC to Morristown, NJ,

Einstein was right. Everything is relative.

And, if it’s all the same to you, we’ll get past the part about jet lag being a mercilessly cruel beast and proceed directly to the part about that fact that, no matter what time your body thinks it is, it is odd, indeed, it is to be called “Madam” (pronounced with a decidedly French accent) and in the third person (As in: “Would Madam like sugar or cream with her coffee?”).

When one isn’t called “Madam”, one is called “Krup” – which sounds perfectly fine until one realizes that “Krup” is “Sir”. “Ka’ is “woman,” but men say, “Krup” to every one – including women and women say “Ka” to every – including men.

I don't pretend to understand, but I think it has something to do with the Western vs. Eastern sense of gender binary.

So, I hear “Sawat dee, Krup,” Or “Good morning, Sir.”

This is going to take longer to get used to than the jet lag.

I am staying in my friend Rob’s apartment complex. He got me a perfectly fine air conditioned one room with a balcony that is appointed with a large, double bed, a sectional sofa, a small table, a television and a small “kitchen area” which has a refrigerator, microwave, and coffee pot - but no sink.

The sink is in the bathroom, which, oddly enough, has a shower right next to the toilet (no partition, no curtain) and another, small nozzle right next to the toilet so one can rinse off one’s feet….or, whatever one wants to rinse off whilst one is near or on the toilet.

Oh, and Rob said the whole thing cost $216. For the month.

I could get very used to that.

I got to bed around 2:30 AM – here (which meant 2:30 PM the day before in my body) and slept until 8:30. Rob arrived at 9 AM and we had coffee and talked and talked and talked over coffee (most excellent, even though it was instant) until about 10:30.

The wonderful thing about friends is that, no matter how long it’s been since the last time you saw each other, you seem to pick up the conversation right where you left off.

And, so it was.

Off we went, then, to the market to buy an adapter for my electronic devices (my cell phone was gasping with only one bar of life support left) and to wander aimlessly through the streets until we found the pool.

There, we met up with one of Rob’s friends, a Northern Irishman named Ronnie who has an enchanting brogue and an unmistakable glint of mischief in his eye that was an immediate give-away to his ethnicity. I can spot an Irish eye from 100 paces.

Talk, talk, talk. Yak, yak, yak. Giggle, giggle, giggle. And then, lunch.

We came home through a different part of the market where one can buy all sort and manner of things – from underwear (except, these Thai women are so small, I couldn’t fit my ankle into places meant for the thigh) to jewelry to coffee to kitchen appliances to spring rolls and chicken with peanut sauce, or, perhaps, if one were very hungry, a whole roasted head of pig – with intact eyes and snout.

Eeeeeewwww. Eeeeewww. Eeeewww. I will not get used to that. Not. Ever.

We came back to the apartment around 2:30 for a wee bit of a lie down and then Rob will pick me up for dindin about 6 PM. I’m going to try to find a WiFi so I might post this whilst we’re out. He’ll not be happy about that but there’s no WiFi here at the apartment complex and, hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

The heat isn’t as bad as the humidity which is actually pretty bad. Most people wear as few cloths as possible which makes for very interesting scenery.

Many, many Thai people really do try to look “Western” which means they wear jeans, T-shirt and sneakers. Even in this heat. And, humidity. Makes absolutely no sense to me.

What’s worse, however, is that there is a whole section in the market for “skin lightening” cream. I looked at the whole shelf of it and almost wept.

Here’s the logic: West=good. West=light skin. Therefore, good=light skin.

I don’t think I’ll ever – EVER – get used to that.

Pom (chun) mai kowjai. I don’t understand.

I’ll be writing more tomorrow, but until then, wherever you are and whatever time it is where you are, Laa gorn, krup. (Good evening, sir.)


suzanne said...

Elizabeth, It sounds as if you are off and running. Ask Rob if he knows a guy named Fritz Blank. I think Friz lives in that area. He was a chef in Philly at a restaurant called Deux Chimmine (sic?) (Two Chimmeys). He moved to Thailand about 3 years ago to retire. He is a friend of mine. Actually I used to work for him before he became a French chef. They still call him Chef Fritz. Have a wonderful day/night or whatever the time is.

Blessings to you, Sue

Muthah+ said...

I am guessing that not only male-female polarities are not hardwired in the east, but LGBTQ categories are rather blurred too. Wouldn't that be nice!

Brian R said...

Oh Dear
I could have warned you about the ground floor taxis. They give you a voucher to ensure you are not ripped off. I now only stop overnight in Bangkok to break the 23 hour flight from Australia to Europe. I stay in a hotel in sight of the airport (about US$5 in the taxi) and remain indoors as I find the humidity intolerable.
I remember one morning as I returned to the airport I had 2 baht notes in my wallet, one large and one small. As I got out of the taxi, my glasses fogged up and I did not know which one to use as a tip. Fortunately I chose correctly or I would have needed to go to an ATM before paying the departure tax. Enjoy the temples. I am glad I saw them when I was young and more able to survive in the humidity.

Brother David said...

One of my most favorite gay coming of age films is the Love of Siam. I have seen it at least 10 times, all 2 hours and 50 minutes in Thai, with English subtitles, and me having to translate into Spanish simultaneously to whomever is watching it with me.

It was very controversial in Thailand when it came out.

It was filmed in the city center and suburbs of Bangkok.

it's margaret said...

Oh!!! This is WONDERFUL!!!!

IT said...

Sounds wonderful and exciting. But I want to know what cell phone service works in Thailand?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Sue- Rob has written down his name and will check him out. Everybody knows somebody who knows everybody.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Muthah - wouldn't it?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Brian - Next time....and, there will be a next time.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Brother David - I'll see if I can get it on Netflix. Or, someplace.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Margaret - 'Tis

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

IT - it's call "True". Go figure