I survived my first week in chaotic Bangkok despite the initial trials and tribulations! On Friday, I officially moved all of my belongings (a suitcase and a carry on bag) into my apartment and took the crowded BTS train to work.
I learned many valuable (and frightening) insider tips on Thailand life from my coworkers including:
- Most rice will have bugs in it. The bugs are cooked by the time they hit your table, but they’re definitely there
- Avoid walking in streets of less populated areas at night because packs of dogs may attack you
- Avoid taking a motorcycle taxi of a man who is wearing a face mask (which can also be to avoid breathing in pollution) because he could be hiding the smell of alcohol on his breath
- Drinking ice in most places is ok to do!
- If a police stops your car/taxi and searches your belongings, they may put drugs in your bag and accuse you of smuggling them. If this happens, you have to bribe them with money to get out of the situation
- Never get into an argument with a taxi driver; they have been known to beat customers up or try to run them over
- On the note of taxis, make sure to take a photo (with the sound on so that the driver hears you do it) of the taxi number in case something bad happens
After work, a group of us went out to a bar for happy hour, then to the street for dinner for my first proper street food meal. We had sea bass in lemon sauce, Tom Kha soup, rice (with unintentional bugs in it of course), and beer. Arroy (delicious).
We went to Patpong Road, a red light district, and played pool at a dive bar uncharacteristic of the neighborhood. I cringed as we walked by drunken expats grabbing at Thai women, again not something I’m used to. Pool was fun, despite us being terrible at the game.
Hungover the next day, I woke up and started my mission of buying things for my apartment. I decided to explore my neighborhood a bit and walked around in the intense heat. It was fun walking through the narrow bazaars. If you ever need sunglasses (that I bought and broke almost immediately), contacts that make your eyes look huge, or Hello Kitty backpacks, I know just the place.
I ended up by the river and took a ferry across to Chinatown. It should be noted that this was a complete accident. I thought I would be heading on a nice little river cruise to some other stop. Instead, the boat shuffled to the other side of the river. The ride was over in 3 minutes.
Chinatown was great, albeit stiflingly hot. I walked through what seemed to be a silver hawking district, then an area full of custom tailors. Sprinkled throughout Bangkok are beautiful Wats (temples) that stop you in your tracks, even when they are in the middle of horribly ugly parking lots.
I stopped at the Bangrak Bazaar and ate at an indoor food court filled with stalls and lacking air conditioning. I ordered stir-fried morning glory and rice, and sweat poured down my face as I ate the fantastic meal.
I stopped into a mall to cool off, and went to the restroom to freshen up. In the mirror, I found that after sweating all day and wiping my face with a paper towel, little bits of paper towel had flaked off all over my face. My face was covered in shreds of paper towel. I had been shopping, smiling at people, ordering food looking like a paper mache psycho. Reason #475 you need to have friends.
I cleaned the paper towel graveyard off of my face and went back into the hot world. Fortunately, I ran into a man who made spare keys on the street. He crafted two spare keys for my apartment while his sweet friend watched and gave me his chair. It was one of the most awesome things I’ve ever seen. The men were about 75 years old and still doing their thing in the sweltering heat. I snuck a picture because I wanted to remember them forever, but it’s also super weird to take photos of people without asking, so I mainly got the keys.
With spare keys made and a full belly, I went to the Big C Supercenter, which is essentially a Target/KMart mix by the Chidlom BTS station. I was ushered to the top floor to look for all of my home ware needs. I picked up sheets, hangers, towels, etc., but couldn’t find any normal laundry detergent. Without stopping to think, “Hey, I bet they have more things on other floors!” I decided to buy baby laundry detergent. For the next few months, I am going to straight up smell like a little ol’ baby. Maybe this will be a good friend-making tactic. Maybe people will just think I’m a mother. Only time will tell!
I got home with what seemed like 10,000 plastic bags (cringe) and went to hanging up clothes and making my bed. SURPRISE! I bought the wrong size bed sheet. That’s right, sheet (singular). In addition to assuming the bed was queen sized, I didn’t read the f-ing package and bought one single fitted sheet. Double fail. Now I have one single fitted sheet that I will use as a weird blanket I guess.
My apartment has a washing machine IN THE KITCHEN and so I washed my new towels to get them baby-fresh clean. My wet laundry has one of the best views laundry could have! My wet laundry doesn’t even know how good it has it.
That evening, I went to a coworker’s house for dinner and had delicious fish Bánh Mi and other Vietnamese treats from a nearby restaurant. So good! Went back to the 31st floor of the Villa Sathorn and flopped into bed exhausted from another full day of shopping, sweating, and eating.
On Sunday, I was determined to remedy my sheet disaster and planned to go to the Big C again. My building has a little coffee shop in the lobby where I’ve eaten something called Thai Toast two days in a row. It’s essentially white bread toasted with condensed milk sugar sauce drizzled on top. Nothing to complain about there, other than the impending diabetes.
Another BTS ride and I was back by the Big C. I walked around a bit first and took in the sights. I went to the Siam Center and thought about going to Siam Ocean, the aquarium. It wasn’t very cheap, so I stood around the aquarium lobby because I am a creep.
Back at the Big C, I beelined for the bedding section. After finding sheets that I hoped would fit, I went to the grocery floor and was very lost immediately. I wandered the aisles for a long time just staring at all of the things you would never find in America.
Got the sheets, sent my first letter (it hasn’t been easy finding stamps, and UPS charged a pretty damn lot to send one letter), and got a foot massage. Back in the heat, I wandered through the food market outside of the Siam Center. I picked up a taro dough thing that was really great. I wish that I would have bought more for my apartment, or just my mouth right then.
The weekend ended with this blog post, written at Glur Bangkok, a hostel and coffee bar that could be in any hip neighborhood of any hip city in America. Vintage decorations, slow drip coffee, Edison lights, etc. The only thing that detracts from the cool factor is the music selection. Think Glee-like knock offs of American Top 40 and a lot of Michael Bublé. Still without WiFi at my apartment, I have to come to places like this to use my laptop when my building’s coffee shop closes. Not really complaining, as it gets me out and in the world.
And with that, a week goes by in Bangkok. How did that happen? How am I a resident of Thailand with a Thai cell phone number and a decent handle on the BTS system? After the beating of the first few days, Bangkok has eased up on me and things are looking sunny (maybe a little too sunny – it was 95 degrees today).
Next up: keep making friends and eating new things.