Sorry about the abrupt end of the last post. I wrote it on Friday and now it’s Sunday so at this rate I’ll be posting what I am writing now next week. So, to appease the literally several of you who have emailed me asking where the news is, I posted that one to keep you going.
Right! Well, the main news since the end of the last post is that I am now officially work permit-ed up. It was a slight palaver tho, as you might imagine. I got back to work on Thursday, fully recovered from my retching episode and the news greeted me that I should report to the Labour Office at 8.30am on Friday. Which doesn’t sound too bad, but the secretary at work told me that I must leave at 7am to ensure that I got there on time, what with the traffic and all, so I got up at 5.45am, made myself as presentable as possible in case the king himself was there and went out to the main road and hailed down a cab. I got in and asked for the ran ngan tang-dow as instructed and handed over the map I’d been given, and settled back expecting at least an hour of dozing in the back of the taxi. However, secretary gal was extremely pessimistic about the state of the traffic at that hour as it turned out that I live not that far from the Labour Office and so I was there for about 20 past 7. Gahhh.
So, with nothing else to do, I just went and in and waited. Bearing in mind that it was only 7.20am, it was mobbed. They have rows of plastic seating outside, the kind that you might find at a burger bar in a leisure centre (they had the exact same seats at the Magnum when I worked there back in the day) and they were filled with all sorts of people waiting for what, I have no idea as I was directed by a security guard to another building before I even opened my mouth – I sometimes forget that I am white and therefore it is painfully obvious that I should be going to the foreign workers office. He had a gun, so I was not going to argue and also not going to take a photo of the building which was massive and guarded by dozens of sleepy dogs lying around on the cool marble.
So I made my way upstairs and settled into some burger bar seating and tried to read my book for a bit, but I couldn’t concentrate as I was very hungry (no breakfast in my rush to get there on time) and also because the entire building smelled EXACTLY like bacon flavour Super Noodles. I was a big fan of those growing up, I seem to recall that sausages and Super Noodles was one of my favourite things, so that was a bit distracting. I was meeting up with the guy from the law firm that was handling my work permit application and at 8.30 he had still not shown up, so I tried calling him. His name was Mr Gig which I found rather amusing. I got him on the phone and he just kept bellowing TOO FAR down the phone at me, so I had no idea what was happening and I was stood outside the office thinking I should just go in myself when Mr Gig bounded round the corner looking like he’d just got out of bed and also, not a day over 21. He was there to translate for me, but in the end we had to get secretary gal on the phone to translate for us as I think I spoke more Thai than he did English, so on the whole it was a bit pointless him having dragged himself out of bed.
But the much-coveted turquoise book was stamped, I signed all the papers and I am now legal – hurrah! However, that lasted for all of 20 seconds before that goon Mr Gig took it back off me and told me to go home. It transpires that altho I now have the work permit, he still has to take it to immigration and get it stamped to allow me to stay for a year (which is how long the work permit applies for) but then after that I STILL need to go and get my visa stamped in my passport when it expires in June. Which is an extremely complex and archaic way of working things if you ask me, but I suppose is maybe kept that way to discourage the shirkers.
So, having no real clue where I was except that it was in the very vague vicinity of the north of the city, I hopped in a taxi and headed for work – which took ONE AND A HALF HOURS. Still cost less than £2 mind you. Work itself was pretty dull, broken up only by a trip to the bank to cash my pay cheque – I can’t open a bank account without the work permit actually physically in my hand which is a bit of a headache, but hopefully can get it sorted at start of the week. So it does mean that I have been paid in cash again. I asked if they could at least pay half to my UK bank account but because of some complex tax issues the answer was a firm non. Bah.
So, when one has just been paid a gazillion bats and you have to cart it round in a wheelbarrow with you, what does one do? One shops. This weekend I have been mostly splashing my bats, altho mostly the bat splashing has been the bats left over from last month, as it appears that it is easy to live on less money than one might think here and still lead a relatively lavish lifestyle (taxis when you can’t be assed walking, dinner in a restaurant a few nites a week, etc). One extravagance I indulged in last week was a yellow sandwich toasting machine which is inscribed with “We Love The King”, as I have had an odd craving for a cheese and onion toastie for the past week. So I bought one at Carrefour along the road and toasted my heart out, it’s been ace. I also had a jaunt to the Nite Bazaar on Friday on the way home, despite my extreme exhaustion which was literally a wash out as it poured with rain the whole time I was there and I got soaked. I did buy one or 2 things which I will probably put on Flickr, including some lovely ceramic birds and a top from a gal who had thighs the exact colour and texture of the nougat-y bit in a Mars Bar and another thing I have not decided whether to keep for myself or send as a present to one of you lucky readers.
Yesterday it was the monthly ThaiCraft Fair, so I met up with Liz and her friend Kay and we went along and perused the aisles. I bought some more of the amazing salt scrub stuff I got last time to try and expel the last of my peely skin off my arms – I still look like I am recovering from leprosy after I got burnt a few weeks ago. I also bought a few presents for peeps back home and then on the way home had a jaunt to the supermarche and got a taxi back via Russia as the taxi driver took the wrong turning when I was in a trance thinking about unicorns probably and so only had 45 minutes or so to get ready to go back out again and talk to Lee on Skype.
I got changed into my nice dress I bought about a year ago and still haven’t worn and headed for the river and got on the boat up to Banglamphu to meet Liz and her various friends for an evening of drinks, dinner and nice chatting. Half way up the river tho the heavens opened again and it was a very choppy ride with some plastic curtains shielding us from the rain and spray. I got completely drenched getting off the boat and of course I had chosen to wear the worst of all wet-weather footwear (flip flops) and had forgotten my umbrella, so my hair was a mogre which as anyone who knows me will tell is NOT GOOD NEWS. So I had a seat in the waiting area for a bit to see if the rain would go off and listened to an American man who was clearly out with his new Thai boyfriend trying to explain the concept of a guinea pig to his companion (who was more interested in telling American man he should not wear socks with sandals – I wished I could speak more Thai to say “right on!”).
As you might imagine, the rain didn’t go off. So I got really wet and I was actually COLD. I got in a tuk tuk and headed for Khao San and met Liz and we headed off a really cool bar called Sripoom which had a really nice ambience, mismatched furniture, nice cocktails and an ace turquoise leatherette sofa which I wanted to take home with me. Everyone arrived and we chatted a bit then headed to May Kaidee’s for dinner, the vegetarian place we went to at Songkran. The food was plentiful and tasty, especially the pumpkin hummus which sounds horrific but was SO GOOD. I’ll take you when you come over.
After dinner we walked along Khao San road itself which is just mental on a Saturday nite. I think my favourite sight was all the guys holding big yellow signs up trying to entice you into their bars: CHEAP BEER, WE DON’T CHECK ID CARDS. We then headed to a really cool place called Phra Nakorn which is part bar, part art gallery and was the sort of place that if it existed in Glasgow would promptly be snapped up by the G1 Group and sanitised and quickly be full of arseholes. But this place was delightfully shabby, old sofas, a pool table, old 50s posters on the wall, easy listening on the stereo and homemade lime soda and chocolate cake for us.
After a couple of hours relaxing, it was time to go home and I got a taxi back across to my side of the city with a taxi driver who was clearly excited about getting on the motorway as we hit 120 miles an hour at one point and we literally took off going over a bridge. He went a very long way for a short cut and we eventually made it back about half an hour later and 50 bhat worse off for me than last time. Twice in one day! Bah.
Today I have been shopping up a storm again. I woke up fairly early for a Sunday (9am) and realised that I was too late for my half-idea of going on a tour to Ko Kred which left at 9.30. So I decided instead to go to Chatuchak market which is actually not too far from my apartamento, on the grand scheme of things. So I made my way there and quickly got lost in the maze that is Chatuchak. It is thought that there are about 8,000 stalls there and they rightly say that if you can’t get it at Chatuchak, then they don’t make it (I don’t know who they are exactly, but they are often bang on the money).
I bought some great things, some are surprises so I can’t say and some things to send home for Hamish. Liz and Rob are going back to the UK next month for good and are shipping things in a container so they have kindly donated some space to me for a box of stuff so I think I may ditch the Thai Kawaii site and send it all home for Hamish. So I’ve been stocking up this weekend and got some realllly cool stuff, which I will photograph before packaging up for sending back. So, I spent a few hours wandering around, blatantly ignoring my map and just seeing where I ended up. I did notice on the map that the aisle marked as “for the intrepid only” I ended up walking down twice. It is filled with beasts and fishes of every sort – stingrays in buckets, tiny squirrels on leads (Lee, I thought about getting one for you, but wasn’t sure it would fit in an envelope), squid in tanks, beetles in plastic tubs – it was equally horrifying and fascinating. There was one stall which had fish in tanks and in front was a woman selling dried squid on sticks – presumably when she runs low on stocks she just reaches into the tank behind her – ewwww. Needless to say it smelled horrible there.
Those tiny squirrels are everywhere! I am not sure they are squirrels but if they are not, then I don’t know what they are. There are also dozens of puppies and adult dogs for sale around here – mostly looking like they may be dead from the heat, some with comedy outfits on (clown, ballerina, etc). It is hard not to stop and exclaim over the cute ones and harder still not to buy at least one to save it from the hell that must be sitting in 35 degree heat when you are covered in fur and can’t move out of your tiny cage unless someone buys you. It’s a pretty sad sight and not just restricted to dogs – there’s kittens and rabbits too in the same state. I didn’t see any animal that looked mistreated or uncared for, and most stalls had several fans trained on the animals, but just the tiny cages and the heat – the poor things.
But I did manage to find my way out of what in my head I had named Pet Sematary eventually and eventually got back to the street and lumbered on to the subway with my 2 big bags of shopping. Instead of going home I opted to go to the book shop for something to read as I am down to my last few books. I need to take mine back and get a mega discount, but I have about 15 to take back now so I need to make a special trip at some point. I found 2 that I deemed worthy and was on the way back to the BTS when I decided to stop at a bar for some lunch and found that they were bizarrely serving proper Sunday roast dinner so I sat for a few hours, curled up with a book, drinking manao so-daaaa and eating crackling and roast potatoes. It was very nice.
After refreshments I lurched back onto the train with my heavy bags and along to Siam to pick up some more stationery to send back only to find that Winnie, the goddess of the stationery supplies has gone, replaced by a stall selling faux leather bum bags which I am clearly NOT in the market for. I had a quick look round and then thought sod it, I’m going home, headed back to the BTS and onto the packed train only to see a girl get on with a Winnie carrier bag that was clearly full of just-purchased stationery, so it must have just moved – bah! I was too tired to get back off and go and look properly, so I made my way back to my district, stopping at the supermarket for some meiji chocolate for mar-c and some more manao soda for me.
And there you go, you’re bang up to date! I have started carrying a notebook with me to mark down the interesting things that I see when I am out and about to write about, so hopefully I’ll have more frequent posts (sorry Mum). I am just back in from a swim and unsurprisingly to me, it is raining again. It’s been raining every day for pretty much the last fortnight – rainy season seems to have come early. I hope it sticks around, as it makes me feel very at home.