Day 3 of internet watch and still no internets (is this sounding familiar, mar-c?). I think the main cause is that there is no discernable phone line connected to my flat. My boss phoned them today and they were assured that it was all working but there is no dial tone. That seems a fundamental flaw to me. Anyway, if the jiggery pokery I have in mind with my iPod works out, then you are probably reading this as it happens and therefore don’t need to know any of that.
So, almost halfway thru the week already. The days seem long here as they happen, but the weeks are passing quickly which is often how it happens when you are stuck at work wanting to do other things. Yesterday and today I suffered again in the sweltering heat. One of my colleagues* told me that it was 35 degrees today and it certainly felt at least that when we were out at lunch time (rice with crispy duck – nom nom). On the way home this evening tho it was noticeably cooler and there was a breeze and it was actually pleasant, altho you could still drink the air *(she also told me that in this heat I can finally lose my weight, but she then explained that she really meant that her appetite disappears in the summer months here and seemed quite horrified that she had insulted me, but I thought it was quite true).
It’s been a frustrating week so far. My dullard ex-employers in Glasgow paid me too much and are now demanding it back as is their right, but I feel really aggrieved by the whole situation for some reason. I suppose it is a strange situation that I am in – having a left the company but not quite. There are a lot of ties still tenuously linking me to there and I suppose everyone is adjusting to a unique situation. But I feel slightly like I’ve been left out in the cold after almost 6 loyal, hard working years – a bit like: I knocked my pan in for what? I learned yesterday too that until my work permit comes thru (if it comes thru), then I am technically not employed by anyone, but my services as a consultant are being utilised. Consultant! There’s one for the CV. Consultant in being discreetly sarcastic to stupid customers who can’t tell the difference between us and Hotmail (“Hi, my hotmail’s not working” Go tell Bill, dullard) and who’s idea of hi-tech is a pair of white trainers with green stripes and a pocket abacus.
I have to admit that the last few days I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for myself, I think as I had too much time with my own thoughts. Today I found myself standing in the bathroom at work saying aloud to myself “am I off my fucking rocker? What am I doing here?” but I quickly snapped myself out of it again. It’s hard to just not be able to strike up a conversation with someone or text someone and say shall we do something or even flick on the news on TV in your own language. I doubt myself in these darker moments and think “am I really as Destiny’s Child Independent Woman as I thought?” and wonder if I can hack it.
Having said all that, after a quick assessment I usually manage to dust myself off and think “but I’m in Bangkok, one of the most exciting cities in the world, where just about anything is possible and I’ve not even seen 1 billionth of it yet!”. I think setting myself mini goals as a friend suggested today is a good thing and so the first goal is to make it 2 months here. If I make it that far without literally melting or dying of pining for Lee then I can award myself extra points and decide what to do next.
Right, so that is out the way! Last nite I went to MBK after work. It is an easy ride along the BTS to the end of the line and you get off and you are practically inside the mall and it is deliciously air conditioned and I was very glad. It is a bit like a market indoors, but slightly classier than say Irvine’s Forum or Clydebank shopping centre’s indoor markets. You can get just about anything tho, including 2 presents for a faithful reader of this blog which I hope to post tomorrow (today) as a surprise (don’t ask, because I’m not telling who or what). I saw a lot of things I would like if only I were about 15 times smaller in every dimension than I am and also tried on a lot of shoes but concluded that I am Big Foot in this country. (Perhaps this is the reason for my homesickness? If all else fails, the general rule for girls is buy yourself some new shoes – but it’s practically impossible here).
Whilst I was waiting for present number 1 to be ready, I wandered next door to buy present number 2 and then decided to get some dinner and found that they have pretty much scrapped all the cafes etc there and instead now have a giant food court with cuisines of the world near the top of the building. I took the scary escalators up there (I have a bit of an escalator phobia, fact lovers) and found they had employed an ingenious system whereby they give you a credit card type thing and you go off any buy the things you want and they charge the card and then on the way out you pay the bill that way. So off I went in search of some Thai food only to be captured and railroaded into some Greek gyros by a tiny lady who was very fierce in her assertion that this was THE BEST thing in the building to eat. Let me tell you, if that was the best then heaven help everyone else who ate at the other places as it was running a close second to our friends at the Wild West from the other nite. The key is (and you’d think I would learn) that Western food is to be avoided. If it does not come with rice or noodles then don’t touch it.
Today after work I decided to come straight home and investigate the internet situation and as suspected, no change. I spent a good half hour unplugging and replugging things in, switching things off and on again, searching the perimeter of the apartment for another phone socket (there wasn’t one) and then finally swearing a lot and admitting defeat and eating some lukewarm sweetcorn out of a plastic cup for tea (much nicer than it sounds). I will have to get my boss to get on to our transexual friend again tomorrow to get it sorted. I haven’t even been for a swim today, possibly the first time in about 2 weeks, as I just couldn’t be faffed after I got back and when I thought I may be semi-faffed I looked out and there were about a dozen people all trying to swim against each other and I thought better of it.
Let me tell you instead about the journey back from work (and conversely, to work, but it’s more exciting in the dark). I think I’ve managed to successfully keep this from you, dear reader, this far, but the area immediately next door and therefore on the way to/from the station across the road is somewhat of an adult entertainment district. If it was Amsterdam there would be ladies with their bosoms on show in the windows, put it that way. But because this is Thailand, there are instead neon signs outside declaring that this is the Emmanuelle Entertainment Complex and that you can get massage and karaoke inside at really very reasonable prices. I mentioned to my boss when we came to see the place that I thought the area might be slightly dubious, but he explained to me that this sort of establishment is not thought of by Thais in the same way that we would think of it in the West. It is not an embarrassment like say parts of Soho in London might be to natives, but instead it’s just something that happens. He advised that if I wanted to get a massage near my new home I should go somewhere where the staff wear a uniform and the prices seem reasonable, i.e steer clear of Caesars Palace along the road.
So that is pretty much the first impression when you get out the subway – am I in the right place? Have I stumbled onto the Las Vegas strip somehow? Then you generally quickly sidestep to avoid a motorcycle taxi careening along the pavement with no lights on, as they often do, to avoid the traffic on the actual road. Again, at home you’d be hurling abuse and possibly soiling yourself, but here it’s just a fact of life. I saw one guy the other day riding along on his motorcycle with 2 passengers and luggage and he had his mobile phone wedged in between his helmet and his face conducting an animated conversation with someone, no doubt in a similar situation on the other end. It’s telling that my first thought was wow, he’s wearing a helmet.
Other highlights on the way home are the street food vendors near the station who’s speciality seems to be barbecued eggs and bananas. How does one barbecue an egg in any way that would then be deemed edible? I don’t understand and don’t like eggs enough to try it. I bought 2 real bananas this morning on the way to work (8p for the 2, fact lovers) and they were giant and creamy inside, like no other bananas I’ve had before. Delicious. There seems to be a set pitch for the vendors round our way – eggs and papaya outside the subway, sandwiches with crusts cut off further along, floral offerings for spirit houses next to that and so on. Tonight I was going to try the crispy chicken from the seller at the end of my soi, but for some reason they weren’t there today, so sweetcorn it was.
I digress. The next thing I come to is the first of a couple of HUGE hotels that seem to be quite fancy. One of them in particular has a spirit house outside which has lots of model animals by it which reminds me of Noah’s ark everytime I pass it. I must take a photo. I really like the idea behind spirit houses – you build a little temple on your plot of land as a house for the spirits of the land or people who have been there before, so they’re not displaced by your moving in. Then they look after you as you’ve given them a home and you go off and say hi and take them things like a little garland of flowers or a bottle of Fanta (seriously – those spirits have a sweet tooth and are very thirsty) every now and again and they make sure nothing bad happens to you. We have a big one next to the pool here and I really should stop by and say hello. Maybe then they’ll make my bed less lumpy. I am unclear as to what happens to the offerings – who takes away the empties? It’s a mystery.
A bit further along, past the smelly drains, are 2 of my favourite landmarks close together. The first is the fish restaurant that has 10 big tanks outside with live fish in for you to choose from. Frankly, if I was a fish eater, I wouldn’t set foot across the threshold of this place, as the fish look manky, but I am not sure if that is how they are supposed to look. There are the funny ones like the huge prawns that scurry about as if they think that if they keep moving, they are safe but then the odd looking fellows that look like tree branches and just kind of sit at the bottom of the tank with a resigned look about their gills as if to say, really, can we just get this over with? It smells of stale pet shops when you pass but it is always inexplicably packed with people, altho maybe they’re all having the cheese omlette. Right next to this is one of the many many shows of affection for the King. It’s basically just a big picture of him about 6 foot tall with some vases and flags round about it. This one sits in a garden outside an office and this morning a man was watering it – watering the king. That really made me smile for some reason. I am sure they both enjoyed it as much as me.
Over the humphy backett bridge and glancing to the left over the smelly khlong (canal) I can see a couple of dogs lying in the gutter under parked cars trying to escape the heat, even after dark. We have a selection of these and some skinny
cats along my soi too, including a tiny adorable poodle who is always running around looking deliriously happy despite his struggle to remain alive in the sweltering heat. He seems to belong to the cafe that ran out of rice and is a very interesting mauve colour that I am not sure is natural. Anyway, now we are almost on the home straight as we approach the 7-11 on the corner of my soi and all it’s attendant street food stalls, including more barbecued eggs, some interesting rice based dishes (all looked fishy tonite), papaya salad, fruit, sausages on sticks (they LOVE sausages here) and black sweet rice desserts. I had a look around tonite but didn’t see anything I fancied. There are also always loads of lottery ticket sellers around, carrying a board that looks like a big chess board folded up with hinges. Oh and the 7-11 always smells like a toilet that someone has just left a stinky mess in, possibly due to it’s proximity to the khlong.
Turning the corner and down the steep slope to the road to walk along the soi to my apartment complex. There’s a few more street food places here, another shop that seems to sell only packets of noodles and chewing gum, a couple of hairdressers and 1 or 2 of what my boss tells me are “good massage” places, i.e there are no neon signs outside or girls in plastic hooker shoes inside. There’s a few houses with Thai families down here and often they’ll all be sat round a table in the road outside their house watching football on TV or just chatting. On a couple of occasions I’ve also come across groups of people in the back of pick up trucks, just having a snack, a few beers and a gossip or playing cards and last nite, there was a young guy lying in the back of a pick up outside a house just having a chat on his mobile, looking up at the stars. He looked very happy there and I just trudged on, as there is not much that would surprise me to find down there. Our complex is at the end of the soi over another little hump backed bridge and we’re ushered in by the very friendly security men who always say hello and wave giant red glow sticks at the cars after dark and then I try to creep past the office where Leopard Lady and her crew ALWAYS are, despite her telling me that they close at 7pm sharp every day. I think there has only been one occasion when they weren’t there and that was close to midnite on Friday.
Then it’s round the corner to do battle with the fingerprint machine which refuses to recognise my thumb if I am holding anything in my hand – how does it know?! Tonite there was the added excitement of there being mail for me in my mailbox but it turned out to be some sort of greetings card from a local Honda dealer, much to my disappointment. Then up in the lift (the right hand one, as the left hand one only goes to even numbered floors and I am on the 7th floor) and onto my floor where I have yet to see another person altho I certainly hear them. Then inside and switch the AC on and stand under it for a few minutes going AHHHHHHHHHH.
It’s impossible for me to paint a picture for you of all the smells and sounds and the heat and so on, but I hope that description gives you a little bit of a picture in your head of what it’s like! And also a little bit of the reason why I can give myself a talking to and remind myself to enjoy this whilst I’m here! I’ll take some photos soon and get them uploaded just as soon as the internet gods smile upon me.