Saturday, October 5, 2013

Thai Paasam- the first two days.

Any journey to foreign shores should perhaps begin at the airport, not just because it's one's first footsteps in that country, but because you get a small sampling of what the people are like when you start walking amongst them. Even sleep walking. I won't say much about the flight because it wasn't that great, except that it left me totally sleep-deprived. See!

So my first impression of Thailand is a blurry view of a sea of legs- white legs of all sizes in high heels; some impossibly high, in miniskirts or oh-so-short shorts. I did the customary gawking, and discovered it gets boring pretty soon. My only question is this- didn't these people ever crawl as toddlers?! Men and women- all of 'em with unblemished flawless knees! It's like they slipped out of the womb, sashayed to their crib and climbed in. Nonsense, I say.

Anyway, the taxi ride to my chosen house was uneventful except for the fact that I was very comforted by a fateful sign. Hanging from the dashboard was the driver's details and as I peered at his complicated name, I felt a wave of reassurance. Mr. Tapueayporn was driving me home. Now some people would have become apprehensive about the 'porn' thingy especially when it's preceded by a 'tap you ay?', and would have imagined being abducted and sold into the thriving sex trade. Not me. Not with a name like mine. After being called 'Porni' by foreigners trying hard not to guffaw as well as typing 'Porni' myself 3 times out of 7 when I enter my email id, I've come to regard the term with quite some affection. So yeah, I just smiled, thumbs upped my guardian angel and said to myself "all is well" (Jokes aside, apparently 'porn' means love in Thailand so quite a few people have names ending that way.)

The house I am living in is beautiful and cosy and the people super-friendly.

 But I'm gonna skip ahead to the part where I put on my shoes and took off for the streets.

First of all, transportation is awesome! The tuk tuks are cute, there are plenty of red taxis, there are trucks that are like share-autos, the motorbike taxis are plentiful and I am loving my main means of transport- the super efficient BTS line- the metro railway. But I admit it was the motorbike taxis that made me gawp initially. To a girl who's always loved motorbikes and was always determined to get a boyfriend who would drive me around in style; low bike, cool jacket and all, my eyes lit up at the sight of them and garbled the message it sent to my brain. Rent-a-bike became rent-a-boyfriend. Maybe I should be called Porni after all.... anyway, with some time, however, I changed my mind. Sweet chaps and  all that, but most Thai guys are really not my type. I have a slightly racist libido, you see, that veers towards darker skin, which should feel right at home here, because apparently there is an undercurrent of racism, as one of my roomates tells me. She and her Indian boyfriend had a very tough time finding a house cause many people turned them down with a gruff 'no dark skin'. And it exists in certain other areas such as schools, when it comes to selecting teachers as well. Taking it further, in many of the local schools, foreign teachers cannot enforce physical discipline. They have to run out and get a Thai colleague! But from personal experience, so far, the people have been kind and helpful to me, one or two even going out of their way to help, all smiles and bobbing-head-politeness. I find it heart-warming.

I explored the city today with a brief respite in between to watch the movie- Elysium (ugh, please don't watch it). I took in one mall, mostly because I had to walk through it to get elsewhere, but Siam Paragon was definitely a slice of life I'm not used to. The supermarket was overwhelming. I can't believe I'm saying this, but- Way too much choice! I saw all the stuff that hitherto, I'd only seen on Master chef or Top chef. Fascinating range of ingredients. I stopped and stared frequently, shaking my head and moving on.

I saved the best for last- the streets of Thailand.....

I don't know how many kilometers I've walked these last two days, but I've loved every minute of it. The sights and sounds and smells are not overwhelming- it's actually familiar in a way. It feels like looking at a painting where the background is the same, but the colors are different....

The food scene is just as amazing as promised. Non-vegetarians would have a blast, for sure. But desserts are aplenty too, especially the popular mango with coconut sticky rice. Vegetarians just need to look deeper. There's a purely vegetarian place called Banana Family Park- a line of street food shops, in fact, that sell at really cheap rates. It's all just so interesting- the variations of soy proteins, the varieties of mushrooms and gravies that you can just point to and get piled on to a plate with some brown rice. I love it and I can see that I'm going to be haunting the place in my time here.

I must move on to liquids. It's probably enough if I declare my new resolution to the whole world. Resolution is too weak a word, let's call it my new mantra- 'Make every gulp count!'. Seriously, water just doesn't cut it anymore! There's pure passion fruit juice and orange juice sold on the streets in bottles that cost like 30 to 50 rupees. And tender coconut water on ice, always ALWAYS sweet. And in the stores, there's an endless variety of juices- I mean, Mediterranean grape juice with actual peeled grapes in it?! Yes, please!

Yesterday, I saw a lot of beautiful faces. Today, I'm looking at the glamor closely, to see beyond the makeup- and oh boy, there's a lot of make up, let me tell you. For a race that is seemingly genetically engineered to look like dolls, they seem obsessed with looking even better! As I'm hanging onto the handrail in the metro, I gawk at the TV screen which just throws out one commercial after another- so many whitening creams, for heavens sake! This beauty product and that, over and over....And on the streets too- the incredible nail spas, the I-will-rearrange-your-spine-if-you-just-look-at-me footwear, the clothing... it's certainly all fashionable, but my head did spin when I saw the street vendor selling tiny bottles with contact lenses to make pupils looks wider! And stuff like this-

Is it a well developed aesthetic sense or an exaggerated amount of beauty consciousness? I don't know yet. But on the flip side- it is the same sense of aesthetics that takes their creativity to the next level, and levels beyond that! I have not seen many examples of Thai people just settling for something functional- they add a touch of beauty to everything, or fun, or whimsy. There are times that I just feel like stopping and applauding- I truly appreciate the effort they take to make everything around them beautiful. It adds grace to life, and makes them nicer for it, I think. The way they keep their city clean, stand obediently in queues... Life here is more... patient I would say, even if the pace is faster. You need to feel the vibe to get what I just said. Here's a store that has the most maverick mannequins I've ever seen!

More soon!...


  1. Lovely! Love this line - "I-will-rearrange-your-spine-if-you-just-look-at-me footwear!" :D keep the narratives coming :)

    1. :D Seriously, the height of those things seems impossible to me. Cheers, Sumi!