Today I was supposed to go to Ayutthaya. And by supposed to I mean I’ve been planning on going to Ayutthaya since before I left for Vietnam.
I had previously refused to go with a tour group. My loath of tour groups has done nothing but increase since I came here. However, last night (after it was too late to suck it up and join a $70 tour group) I was doing the math and figuring out the logistics. Basically, as a day trip, it costs almost as much and is such a damned hassle to get out there that it was stressing me out. This is supposed to be my damned decompress time. Plus, I was grumpy (female moment: blame it on the hormones) and I didn’t relish the idea of spending all day in the heat.
So I didn’t! I played hookie from tourism! You can not make me submit to any more damned temples, this is supposed to be my vacation between school and work!
So I went to (one of the many) mall(s) to see a movie (Pirates of a Caribbean).
Before you yell at me for doing something I could do in the States, it was so anthropologically interesting and I relaxed so much and ate so much random Thai junk food that I feel so much better now. I might do it again tomorrow, only see the Thai indie film I saw advertised.
The mall, first of all, is seven stories high and generally huge. It is connected to the sky train, which enters on floor 2 (to get there I took the water ferry to Central Station and then got on a Sky Train to National Stadium for a total of a little more than a dollar) There’s an international food court on floor 5, a random street-like-market (with AC!) on floor 6, and floor 7 where the cinema was.
A few things that I found interesting:
– The Starbucks serves “Azuti Frappes” and “Bean Croissants.” I was tempted to order the Azuti Frappe only because I had no idea what it was.
– The McDonalds has a Ronald McDonald statue in the Wai position.
– I ordered a Mango Blizzard from DQ.
– I had a duck noodle lunch at the food court.
– My theater tickets were only about $3. My popcorn and soda, $2. For a posh and spacious theater. Seats are assigned. They have English showings (with subtitles) and Thai-dubbed showings of English-language films.
– They sell Poky at the theater concession stand.
– The national anthem is played between the twenty minutes of previews and the movie, while a clip plays of Thailand in the background to images of the King. Theater goers are expected to stand with respect.
– the advertising and music industry contains a lot of Thai/Caucasian hybrid models.
– the order and priority of books in the bookstores, and which signs were in English and which weren’t. Which books were in English and which weren’t.
– the pleathora of teenagers that arrived around quarter to four pm. That, at least, is cross cultural.
– Oh. And I would have never guessed that Auntie Anne’s Pretzels was universal. For you Bostonians out there, they had a Dunkin’ Doughnuts, too.
I am in love with this city. It has all the things I like about Washington DC and all the things I like about Boston and it’s cheap and the people are just great…
Saigon was a city that grew on me. Its chaotic streets and smiling people latched itself onto me like a barnacle that isn’t ever going to leave. My love of Bangkok happened much more quickly, because within just the past few days I can already picture myself living and working here, heat and all.
I love the markets and the food stands, the dozens of different forms of transportation. The obnoxious tuk-tuk and motorbike drivers are only found in the backpacker district – otherwise, you say no, they don’t follow you for three blocks harassing you. The people are so diverse. While the Vietnamese have a very homogeneous, respectable and conservative style the people of Bangkok are like “why can’t I have piercings and spikey hair?” Even the school kids, in their uniforms, find a way to make their uniforms stand out – funky shoes, wearing their belt a certain way, hair, jewelry, etc. Also, there are men and women who are not a size 0, who see no reason to starve themselves (as so many Vietnamese women do) when there is so much good food around! There are the curvy, the chunky and the holy-cow you’re the fattest Asian man I’ve ever seen in person! (Vietnamese too obsessed with being Chinese, Cambodians just don’t have the money to get fat)
The queers – gay men! toms and dees (lesbians)! transvestites serving your meal! transsexuals! – and bohemians, the amazing art, the feeling of quiet acceptance – no one stares at you while you walk down the street because you’re white/black/Indian/whatever. They don’t get (visibly) impatient with you when you’re momentarily confused by the various boats at the dock. They offer you fruit when they’re standing next to you on the ferry.
I enjoyed just wandering around the city, popping into the occasional air conditioned building, so much more than I would have enjoyed the bloody temples. Another trip. At this point, I have seen so many bloody temples and pagodas/wats that it’s like when you’re in Europe – Oh! Look! Another ruin! – at this point I’m going to get back to the states and the sight of Christian churches is going to seem exotic.
In short, I absolutely love this city and I can’t wait to come back as soon as possible after I graduate. Doing whatever, I don’t care. I just know I want to come back here.
Don’t worry Mom – think of me wanting to live here as an excuse to take a vacation to Bangkok with an extended stay on the tropical beaches that are only a few hours away.
On a last random note, I walked into a 7-11 the other day – they’re on every street corner here, think Dunkin’ Doughnuts in Boston – and there was an Indian man behind the counter. I had a moment of – wait, am I in the right country? Did I get back to the DC Metro area without my knowledge? Is the stereotype universal? Oyi.
Tomorrow I wake up, pack/etc., and leave here at 3am Friday (no sleep! Wow, jet lag is going to be awful this way around) to get to the airport by 4am in order to catch a flight that *leaves* at 6:50am.