Thailand notes, day 2

 

Elephant
A beautiful Asian elephant

Today was my first full day in Bangkok and I spent it in a bit of a haze. After a short and fitful sleep, I woke up early and got to work on my presentations, which I continued to tweak and adjust throughout the day. I met with the folks for whom I’ll be presenting and worked out details. I’m rather excited about the presentations. I have to admit — and I’m ashamed to admit that this spouse of an Aussie — I was unable to place the accent of one of my contacts. Turns out she’s from the New South Wales/Victoria border.

 

After watching Obama’s press conference (does his halting speech [when not making a speech] bother anyone else?), I looked over the lunch buffet, which was even more amazing than the breakfast bar (think chocolate fountain). Still stuffed from breakfast, I decided to give myself a break and wait for dinner.

The wait was worth it. Since I hadn’t gotten out of the hotel all day, it was time to do some exploring. I headed out into the night with a single mission: find some street food. It was a task made all-too-easy by the numerous vendors and all-too-tough thanks to my inability to identify anything.

I got no more than 10 feet down the sidewalk when I noticed a hulking mass behind me. I turned around only to see an elephant. “You want a ride?” a small elderly woman asked me. (She wasn’t the only one tonight who asked me that, I should mention). I demurred, though I did take the opportunity to snap a few shots. Of the elephant.

 

Colorful taxis
Colorful taxis

The street the hotel is on is a crowded one, and not just because of the cars, which are as colorful as a handful of Skittles. Seriously, the taxis look like they came straight off the set of a Vin Diesel movie. 

Lining the sidewalks are innumerable vendors of all things sex, knock-offs, media and t-shirts. Beggars, too, and usually with a small child draped over their laps. Unlike in D.C., though, these beggars have a Zen-like way of asking for money. They press their palms against each other and nod. I know it’s the customary greeting here, but it’s still strikingly humble.

At the same time, a surprising (to me) number of destitute are missing limbs. A one-legged, one-armed man was lying prone on the sidewalk, dragging himself down the sidewalk like an inchworm. He’d push his change bucket ahead and then use his hand to pull his body along.

 

Crowded sidewalks
Crowded sidewalks

It’s notable how many Westerners there were walking around tonight. Most, it should be said, were men. Funny enough, many of them had petite Thai girls with them. I’m not drawing any conclusions. I’m just saying.

Speaking of which, I found two groups of people incredibly friendly with me as I went for my stroll. The first were young (and some not so young) women who were lounging against lamp posts and waving through the windows of massage parlors.

The second group were men, crouched in front of the innumerable haberdasheries. I’m not sure why there are so many tailors around here, but there are. And they all want my business.

In the next post, I’ll write about my adventures with street food.

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