2008- Entry 2: The First Days of Wandering

The Ambassador Hotel, my usually haunt, is undergoing renovations. The lobby is all covered up and they are using the other side of the building near the conference halls temporarily as a reception area. The only problem is that sometimes you come out of the elevators and you are greeted by the smell of cleaning solution! Well, that aside I do love staying here and I hope it will remain affordable after the work is completed. The lobby is scheduled to be completed by August 8, so I should be here for the grand reopening. I spent the better part of the last two weeks getting to know the city a little better. The nice part of being here at the beginning of the rainy season is that you are not constantly putting up with the rains, but a good part of the day is overcast, so you are not putting up with the direct sunlight, either.

Every time I come here, something from my past has disappeared! This year it is the old Thai-Daimaru building. Last year it housed a really nice small Thai craft department store. There were also a lot of smaller shops that sold a lot of interesting things. Not that I am buying much this year! The luggage situation on the airlines is getting very restrictive. You are allowed just so much then you pay for it big time!

Have been getting calls from Maliam, my very outgoing former student, who is information central for anything you need to know in this country. If she doesn’t know it already, she’ll bird-dog it for you within 24-hours guaranteed! So many of the phone numbers of people that I had from last year are no longer in operation because the Thais change phones like nothing. They are surprised when I call with the same number that I had last year. I just keep money in the phone’s account and it usually has a year plus before it expires, so I’m generally good for go when the wheels hit the ground here.

I am having the pleasure of meeting more and more people through  the more people I meet. It is really amazing how similar we all are in this life. You meet so many people who have such wonderful dreams for their futures and you only hope that they are able to fulfill them all, or at least the ones that are ultimately the most important.I  am having a good time exploring the rest of the city while everyone else WORKS here! And do they work. So many people work 6 days a week and from 9-8 it seems incredible.

Some friends of mine and I went to the coastal town of Pattaya for a few days. I went there a few years ago and really hated it as it had dramatically changed from when I was there years ago. It seems like it is slowly changing again into a sort of family a-la-Thai Epcot Center. Lots of rides and attractions as well as the more traditional trips to out islands, parasailing, boating and seedy night life! I came away with a better acceptance of the city for what it is and not what it was in days gone by, a sleepy little Thai village by the sea. In the evening we took a walk along the “Walking Street.” This is about a half mile or so of street that is blocked to motor traffic in the evening. It is Carnival, Vegas and Disneyland all in one. Restaurants, food stalls, tailors, bars, street vendors, you name it are vying for your attention. The evening is hot and sticky despite being near the coast. The promenade is loaded with people cooking sort of barbeque style, just talking to friends, fishing on the beach, or in many cases— hustling in one form or the other— as you might expect to find in a city like this.

The hotel we stayed in was fairly cheap and right in the middle of town. A great bargain as it turned out. A friend of a friend picked us up one evening and took us away from the crowded town to a beautiful, beach out of town. We cooled ourselves off somewhat in the warm waters and watched the heat lightning show that was going on over the gulf. Far enough away from us not to be a concern, but spectacular in its intensity. I ventured out on my own one day and took the wrong minibus. Got dropped off in a part of town that I was not familiar with, but was a pleasant surprise none-the-less. I found some great Thai restaurants and fruit stands. It was an interesting area, not frequented by the tourists— at least not yet! The good thing about Pattaya is that it is not easy to get lost there. The city has sort of a grid pattern to it.

One of the days we were there is the Thai celebration of Khao Pensaa. The traditional beginning of the rainy season when many men become monks for a short time or the full season—– or in some cases, forever. There was a parade along the beach road. All the schools in the area had floats. (Pictures to follow when I get back from India.) There was a competition, but we weren’t around long enough to see who won. Sort of the Rose Bowl of Thailand with gorgeous floats decorated as lotuses to dragons— all done in colorful tropical flower petals. The parade was headed toward one of the larger temples in the area to present gifts to the monks. We took the bus back to Bangkok. There was a moment of pandemonium as everyone was getting confused as to where their assigned seat were. And there were the usual people who just decided to sit whereever they wanted to! 

Spent the day Saturday at the Weekend Market in Chatuchak, in the northern part of the city. I spent a good amount of time trying to get to know it better. They really have everything from Burmese lacquerware to dinnerware! It is set up in areas in long narrow crammed alleyways. Finally, by 2pm I have had it. The heat and the ever-growing crowds send me to the skytrain and back to the central city and airconditioning!

Today have to get ready to get out of here and head for India tomorrow evening. I’ll send that entry out when I return at the end of the month. Will also send pictures of the Taj Mahal and whatever else catches my camera-eye!

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