As I picked my way through the puddles yesterday, soaked to the skin from the relentless downpour, a realization: in all the days Ive spent in Bangkok in the past, Ive managed to dodge the rain every time.
Unless you enjoy massive air conditioned shopping malls, Bangkok in the rain isn’t a whole lot of fun. One can be a trooper and muck around the plastic-draped vendors’ stalls of its industrious streets and alleys anyway, but there’s only so much toxic backsplash one wants spackled onto ones feet and shins before the idea of reading on the guesthouse balcony seems considerably more inviting.
I rose early, eager to spend some QT with the quiet streets before the younger set of backpackers awakened and took over, drifting zombie-like from their $10 rooms after another late night of Khao San Road bucket parties.
First stop: My favourite little street stall with the $1 bowls of fresh tropical fruit topped with homemade yogurt and muesli*. Throw in a Thai coffee with condensed milk and it brings the grand total for breakfast to about $1.50.
*(doubting the authenticity of the muesli, as I unearthed a Cocoa Puff and a Lucky Charm in the mix).
Next, off to see if my seamstress was still in her same spot, smack in the middle of the bustling sidewalk on Phra Athit, with her pedal-powered sewing machine and her bits of fabric and bobbins of thread. She wasn’t open yet, but I found another by the name of Jun (pronounced “June”) a few blocks later and we had a confusing conversation about drinking and Thailand’s corrupt government while she reinforced the ass of my $5 Joe Fresh pants, now on their second tour of SEA. “Too big!,” she chuckled, as she slapped my butt playfully. It wouldn’t be hard for a girl to get a complex around here. Jun overcharged me for the repairs ($3) but I added another $1 anyway and told her to buy some food for her baby. Now it was time to drop off my reeking trail shoes at the laundry lady to see if she could rescue me. She could, but it would cost me: 20 baht (about 65 cents). I went for it.
After a long jet-lag nap I scurried over to Roti Mataba, hoping to score a seat before the crowds of lunching locals arrived to down plates of the greasy, delectable discs of dough. Order after order, I couldn’t stop: Tandoori chicken with mataba. Masaman beef stew with mataba. Mataba stuffed with sweet, oniony, spicy curried chicken. I sat, full and satisfied, as I surveyed the aftermath of my feast: the table was covered with plastic plates of every colour. Grand total for this gluttony: about $4.00. The rain was only now about to start, but it made up for the first half of the day it had missed with impressive furor.
I bartered for a $1 umbrella (probably tourist price on top of rainy day price) and met up with Uto. He kindly led me through the maze of tiny zigzagging streets of Banglamphu’s neighbouring districts as we searched for a shop that supplies leather cording. I promised my friend Ari, who makes jewelry from coconut shells on Gili Air, that I would bring him some to try out.
I spent the balance of the afternoon yawning and drinking coffee and reading the Bangkok Post, tucked away on the coffee shop terrace out of the rain. Montreal or Bangkok – that rainy-day feeling is international.
I decided I owed Khao San Road an evening visit, if for nothing else than to enjoy $1.50 pad thai and 50-cent spring rolls while I watched the undulating waves of backpackers buying fake designer flip flops and getting fake dreds. I also had my first banana pancake since my arrival (I waited a whole 24 hours!)
I enjoyed a long and rainy evening with my artist friends and two girls from Korea. Hours passed as we sat tucked away under a plastic tarp. Singha and Leo beer, peanuts, conversation and Bob Marley each added their own angle to our drenched festivities.
As I prepare this blog entry it is not yet 6 am, and still raining. Jet lag and roosters are co-conspirators in a grand plan to ensure that I do not have a smooth transition to life here on the other side of the planet. Just as well I’m up early: It’s JJ market day! The earlier I get there, the better chance I have of surviving the crushing crowds and the stifling heat.
Relentless rain, 1000% humidity, crowds, heat, lack of sleep – and I couldn’t feel more joyful, or more peaceful. This is life. I am fully alive.