Bangkok: As Filthy As It Sounds

Here I am in the unplanned, illegitimate part of trip: Thailand. It’s always scary changing countries. You sort of don’t know what to expect. Ok, you should know what to expect when you research your destination one year before you even book your tickets… I guess what I’m saying is that I never know what to expect. So here’s Thailand: it’s metro, it’s chic, it’s liberal, it’s rich, it’s clean and, as was news to me when I got here, it was featured in the “hit” Hollywood film “Hangover Two.” I came from a world (Nepal) where we don’t need electricity. Where prices are really low. Where we sharpen knives on rocks and carry things on our heads. I came from simplicity and arrived in chaos.

When I first got here I went to a shopping mall. I like to play a game back home where I show an historical figure the future in my head… say Abraham Lincoln comes back to life and I have the pleasure of showing him modern society; I imagine what it is that I would show him and how sweet it would be for both of us, things like driving a car and watching the news. Now that I’ve gone from Nepal to Bangkok, I know what the most fascinating aspects of modern society are and therefore have a solid to-do list for Abe and I, should it ever come up.

Here it is:

1.Behold a toilet. Take pictures, cry if you must.
2.Use a credit card, go ahead. No money needed! Amazing!
3. Look at all the things women can purchase and use in the future: they have clean hair, painted nails, they wear high heels and make up and…they are prostitutes…oh shit.
4. Visit a grocery store! (No pictures allowed, I found out the hard way.)
5. 7 Eleven. Enjoy, Abe. Would you like some M&Ms? We have those now.
6. Ride in a van, it once held 20 people and now seats 6!
7. Do not look at any price tags. You’re not ready for that.

So I took pictures of frat boys, toilets, skyscrapers and other things I didn’t used to be surprised by, and then I was ready to see what Bangkok is all about. Of course, I’m talking about Muay Thai Kickboxing. First, I had to get to kickboxing. I stopped several cabs and asked for Lumpini Boxing and they said “no” and drove away, looking shocked. When I finally found a cab driver willing to give me a good price, he explained why on the way.
“Why you like boxing? You lady!”
“Well…I…have brothers?”(The best explanation I could come up with, but in the land of lady boys, I was surprised to be questioned on my lack of gender role recognition).
“I boxing champion! Go to America, two time.”
“Wow! To California?”
“Yes! California! But I…” And then he explained without words that he was elbowed in the eye and there was too much blood, I know it was too much because of the “ick” face he made. He was beaming, remembering a past life as he dropped me off for the fights.

Kickboxing was so cool. First of all, the heaviest boxer was 130 lbs, getting lighter from there, so it was sort of like baby boxing. And then they wear adorable little shorts and start with a little dance where they pray to each turnbuckle, making them look even cuter. And then they beat the shit out of each other. Hard. Blood, sweat, stretchers and such. And then they exchange flowers with the opposing corner’s coach. Watching Muay Thai in Thailand is one of the greatest moments of my life. I’m free to say that since I don’t have kids, but it has to be better than childbirth too, since the blood isn’t your own.

** (Any adults concerned for my safety: skip this section) **
Thailand has motorcycle taxis, so I went ahead and rode a motorcycle through Bangkok back to my hotel. Lights and skyscrapers were whizzing by, and just like at kickboxing, I thought “My god… this is freaking Thailand, and somehow I’m here.” I couldn’t believe that life has brought me to first a sweaty little boxing arena, and then the back of a motorcycle in Bangkok and, surprisingly, didn’t kill me in either case. Thanks life, I owe you big!

This morning I headed out to the islands. The monsoon is coming in a few weeks, so I thought I would see these fantastic beaches. I didn’t go until after coffee with a leathery, older Thai woman who wanted something, but I can’t figure out what. To sell me pot? Just the coffee I bought her (plus all the creamer and sugar she stuffed in her purse)? Conversation about who’s ugly and who’s not on the street we were watching? She started the conversation by telling me she bought 4 chickens to feed her 16 dogs, so I was open to hear more. I had to cut that one short and I boarded my bus and set out for the sea.

Being a non-researcher sort of traveler has brought me to a very romantic island. Alone. It’s kind of like eating alone at a restaurant, but all day everyday. There are a few non-couples, but no solo travelers. I don’t mind so much. I’m very good at being alone and I even kind of came here to hide in a hut for a few days. Today, while on a death march across this island (searching for the cheapest room with two hot, heavy backpacks), I laughed at the thought of having a travel companion and saying “Hey, you go ask the price on this one. I’ll stay here and get the next one, Pal!” Or “Hey, the price is steep, but we get to split the bill! Let’s just stop here, Amigo!” Traveling alone is its own ball game; everything is a little more difficult, but worth it for the full exposure to the elements (and chats with strangers). I also don’t mind being with all these lovebirds because I actually have a lot of questions about these old, disgusting western guys that have cute, clean, little Thai girls by their side… and I have plenty of specimens to observe here on romance island. When I first got here, I knew this phenomenon was coming, so I tried to prepare myself for it. It didn’t help. I can’t stop starring. I told a friend just that and she said “Good. Make them feel uncomfortable. The men, not the ladies.” So now I stare and don’t try to hold back. I tried to be mad at the ladies too, but the thought process went something like “these Thai girls are stealing all our…creepy…old…disgusting…shit. Poor girls. I should give them some money.”

I took myself out to a candlelight dinner on the beach (the only option on the island of love) and had some fantastic fish curry. From what I gather, with these islands you either get what I’ve found, or you get a bunch of young, idiot kids partying like they’re in some movie sequel about being drunk and ruining your life, but this time it’s Thailand! I would way rather swim around a couple making out than a cloud of cranberry-vomit. Welcome to Thailand!

Pictures: I have millions because I can’t believe anything I’m seeing.

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Congratulations Nik and Katy, my little cousin outgrew me in more ways than stature. I’m so happy for you, Kid.

Thank you goes to John again this week, as well as Jesse and Leslie. It would be a disgusting world without siblings to keep your days bright.

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