There's no place like.
21, 1995 00:56
20:22 Saswasdee House; Bangkok-Thailand :: 17 APR 95
Television has a presence here. In the shanty towns, the markets
and restaurants, the cathode ray tube effervesces, continuously, and before
it lies prone the masses. Today, the images of opium dens from history
books became manifest in the Bangkok central market. In the stalls, closed
for the afternoon, the shopkeepers rested, mouth gaping, eyes open, intent
and empty but for the electronic eye that stared back at them. For some
who lay prone, looking sidelong at the flickering tube, the image struck
me with frighteningly uncanny clarity.
It is everywhere. In the shanty towns where toilets empty directly
into the stagnating pools simmering a stilt's length from the floorboards,
there are television aerials. Along the river are tied 5 meter long boats
with curving corrugated tin roofs like mini Quonset huts. The kitchen
is relegated to the river bank, since a Thai of average height cannot
stand straight in the boat. These too have aerials so the permanent residents
won't miss prime-time.
And it is always turned on. In the heat of the day or the muggy
night, people of the tropics leave doors open wide to the light but cooling
breeze. Visible through these openings it most every home is the characteristic
blue flicker and, in repose, the viewer it illuminates. Big Brother doesn't
need to watch since all eyes are on him.
Prime-time here begins near noon when the belligerent sun remands
all to the peaceful shade. Many choose this time to relax. In the succeeding
slack hours they sleep -- any horizontal surface will do, or they swim
and bathe in the incalculably filthy rivers and canals. And if they do
neither of these, they watch television. It is remarkable.
Another remarkable occurrence? I'm listening to Christmas carols.
It's one of those things. The lobby/restaurant of this guest house seems
to have a limited tape selection . This is at least the second day in
a row this one has played.
I've been storing up some observations. I think I'll just ramble
some of them off.
The Thais, unlike the Malays, dress a la West. Jeans, T-shirts,
minis, pumps and even black leather shit-kicker boots with studded ankle
Buy a piece of the Chicago Bulls. That trademark is worth major
bucks. I've seen it emblazoned on everyone from Borneo natives to food
hawkers to bus drivers to commuting business execs.
Travelers in Thailand differ than those I encountered Malaysia.
For one thing, there's scads of them in Thailand. Fortunately,
they stay pretty close to the beaten track. Spending time alone with the
locals is as simple as walking 500 meters away from any group of white
people. If there's another group of white people standing there, go for
another 500 meters in the same direction. You'll rarely have to go more
than a kilometer to shake off the tourists.
Off the beaten path you realize some great advantages. First,
shopkeepers and restaurateurs charge you like a local, rather than the
exorbitant tourist rates you'll pay near any location mentioned in the
Lonely Planet. Second, you get
the same food and stuff that locals get. Third, you feel like you're in
Bangkok rather than some ethnic neighbourhood slowly being over-run by
That last one brings up another difference. The travelers here
are of a different variety than I'd grown accustomed to in Malaysia. There's
an awful lot of 'alternative' types here. By alternative I mean flower-children
wannabies. I figure it's the drugs. The hippie types won't get caught
dead in Malaysia 'cause if you're caught with even 15mg of ganja there
you are dead. Literally: the death penalty is mandatory for drug traffickers
defined simply as anyone carrying more than 15mg of a controlled substance.
Patrick. -- Responses Sought --
- As fungus sprouts chaotic from its bed;
- So it spread;
- Chance directed,
- Chance erected, so they built;
- On the silt.
| Rudyard Kipling's impression of Calcutta.
Equally applicable to Bangkok