A Year in Bangkok – Valentine’s Day

27 02 2011

Yet again, I’m a bit rushed at the moment so have decided to post something I wrote earlier, on what must have been my first February over here in Thailand.

 

All of a sudden it is Valentine’s day and I’ve been amazed at how the Thais have taken this Christian festival to their hearts, it’s a really big deal here. I have been deluged with gifts, mainly for my home and, for the first time, it is actually starting to look like a home. I now have vases of fresh and dried flowers, delightful fabrics, smelly things, a lime tree and even some tropical fish swimming around. Two friends came round and cooked me a western style meal then sent me out for a beer while they cleaned up! The only non-home present was an Armani shirt from one of them and I’m still feeling quite overwhelmed.

It was the same at school. The younger children covered my clothing with stickers, mainly heart shaped of course. Some of the older, teenage, girls gave me roses and even a couple of the teachers gave me roses.  Unfortunately, the roses have struggled to survive the day and, as I arrive back at my building, they give up the last of their limp petals. I arrive in my flat with a delightful bunch of stems which immediately go into a vase. Actually I don’t have any vases, so they go into an empty wine bottle which I’m sure they will appreciate. As stems go, they look quite good.

Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Today, the twenty first of February, is a special day, it is Makha Bucha day which is a big Buddhist festival. I went to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha with my two women friends who were so kind to me on Valentine’s Day. We walked round the temple three times constantly wai-ing and holding lotus blossoms, burning incense, a candle and some gold leaf which were all ceremoniously given to the Buddha afterwards. I just hope I’m not married to them now. After that, we strolled around town taking in the sights and sounds of people celebrating in every park, temple or public space we came across.

It’s the last Friday of the second semester and I’ve just taught my favourite class for the last time as they’ll all be leaving school now. Art and Boy especially, I shall miss your cheery good humour even when you’re being punished. My journey home is a pretty long one from here as I’m south of the river so the first stage of the trip home is a taxi to Thaliya Pepsi, or Pepsi Port but the Pepsi bit is pronounced Pepsee. From there I walk down a narrow alley to the river, always a colourful experience as this is a favourite spot for beggars and buskers. Many of these people are fed, housed and clothed by gangs who take all their ‘earnings’ and transport them to and from their begging spots. Because people with missing limbs make more money, I’ve even heard of them paying the families of these people sums like three thousand baht (about sixty pounds) in order to gain agreement to amputate a limb. Because of these practices, I usually only give to beggars who are local to me.

Thaksin Bridge

Once at the river, I pay three baht for a ferry across or I climb eighty six stairs to walk across Thaksin bridge to the sky train station. I will be glad when they open the southern extension of the sky train, my journeys will be so much easier. Today I’m feeling lazy so decide on the ferry. Whilst waiting, I spend ten baht on a small tub of hot delicious sweet corn.

Later, on the sky train travelling to Thong Lor, somebody said “Excuse me, do you live here?” A little surprised, as it’s the first time a stranger has approached me with that question, I replied in the affirmative.

The Sky Train

“Oh great” he said, “Can you tell me how to get to Chatuchak?” Chatuchak is the huge weekend market here, it’s the size of a small town. Having warned him it was only fully open on Saturdays and Sundays, I told him:

“The easiest way is to get a sky train to More Shit and just follow the crowds but beware, it’s very hot and crowded there”

“More Shit?” he said “that’s what the place is called?”

“Yes” I replied “but it’s spelt Mo Chit”

“You’re winding me up” says he “nobody could call a place More Shit”

“Really” I said “it’s More Shit”

“No, I’m not falling for that but thanks for your help mate.”

I suppose I could have told him how the Thais have great difficulty making the ‘ch’ sound or that ‘o’ often sounds like a short ‘ore’ but would he really have been interested? I would love to have seen his face though when the disembodied voice on the sky train announced

“Next station, More Shit.”

On the sky train

At Thong Lor station, I get my fourth mode of transport for this journey, the little red bus. This costs five baht and is a bit like a taxi in that bus stops are ignored, it will stop wherever somebody hails it or when somebody presses the bell. Walking to where the bus starts its journey, I stop to buy a banana pancake – one of my favourite Thai snack foods. It’s a thin crepe like pancake filled with sliced banana and condensed milk – unhealthy but great to eat. I love sitting on the bus watching the sights along Soi Thong Lor. Today one of the wedding shops is offering a ‘buy one get one free’ deal. First time I’ve seen that one for weddings and I wonder what sort of message it’s sending! There’s a new shop too, advertising ‘used books, coffee and cakes’. I hope only the books have been used. I’m wishing I’ve got my camera with me as the bus driver has such a characterful face, sat thinking about that so that I have to be shouted at to get off the bus at the end of the line. Just after crossing the footbridge over the canal, I notice a banana tree coming into bloom and think it would be good to photograph the different stages – must remember to pop out over the weekend.

The Little Red Bus

Because the main road is so busy and I rarely feel suicidal, I take a detour to use a footbridge. This bridge is a delight as it is normally lined with hawkers including a traditional herbalist. Sometimes there is a guy who sells beautiful, hand made artificial flowers. To top them off, he attaches finely detailed hand made insects. Last time I saw him, I’d just bought a couple of chilled beers in the convenience store and, as I was passing him, he said “Ah beer, welly good” so I decided to have one with him. We used the sharp edge of the railing to open the bottles and, as we were drinking, had the sort of conversation I love. He gabbled away in Thai and I gabbled away in English. With the help of many gestures his story emerged. He is only there occasionally as he has terminal cancer and now spends much of his time in hospital. When he’s out, he raises the funds for further treatment by doing this. It’s a while now since I’ve seen him so I hope that isn’t bad news.

Once I’m over the bridge, I generally stop to say hello to the lady on the fruit stall and then I’m home and straight into a lovely cold shower before demolishing a plate of mango and watermelon.

 

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2 responses

3 03 2011
Lola rainey

Enjoyed this one. Now that school is out, I can appreciate the sights along the BTS route back to Thonglor more. You made me realize how many lovely things there are to see and do. Cheers.

6 03 2011
Ben Salmons

Thanks Lola……and the new post is something really lovely to see!

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