Daily Archives: January 20, 2006

In A Bangkok Minute

First off I would like thank everyone who commented on my last blog, all of you are as insightful as you are all excellent people. I feel I need to clarify a couple points, first being I am in no way shape or form saying interacial dating is bad, as I said in my post the heart doesn’t see race when it falls in love. Secondly, I need to say that its not so much as not feeling like I belong cause I do, living in NY is the greatest thing in the world, its just that sometimes every once in awhile I realize that its “round eye world” lol I’m kidding I just mean that sometimes I realize I’m the only Asian person in the bar or the cafe as all which is very different than when I was in Asia. Lastly I’d like to say that its very hard to to explain what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes its hard to understand the different experiences one goes through that help shape who they are and what they feel. Now on to something a bit less controversial.

Now I always have a favorite place, in New York its the Temple of Dendur at the MET. In Paris its a bridge the overlooks Notre Dame and in Bangkok its Siam Discovery Center. It reminds me of NY, kinda. I like sitting outside the Au Bon Pain or the Starbucks and just people watch. Its one of my favorite places. I get to watch tourists find there way and hear funny conversations they have, by the way I hate tourists, especially in NY they’re always looking up and crowding the streets and snapping pictures and saying things like, “This is just like in the movies!” “Is that Cher?” I digress, Siam Discovery for me anyways is one stop shopping, I can have my coffee, clam chowder in a bread bowl for Au Bon Pain, then catch a movie at EGV upstairs. And there’s always lots of girls to ogle. Moving on….

I mentioned before about the conversations, and in a Bangkok minute, (not to be confused with a New York Minute, great song by the way) some of the conversations I heard were, (Yes i wrote them for future use in a book) a young man of about 20 was feigning interest in a pair of shoes his girlfriend bought, an English couple were trying to make heads or tails of a map and desperately were trying to find their hotel. A cell phone conversation were a girl was trying to convince the other guy on the line she wasn’t seeing someone else, meanwhile her date was sitting next to her looking disinterested in that arrogant “I’m with her now anyways.” kinda deal. There was a commmotion at the bus stop, a gaggle of high school girls giggling, followed by a bunch of high school boys drooling and all in a span of a minute. Not bad I say.

But in all seriousness, the one thing I loved to do in bangkok was hop on a bus, not one of those air conditioned ones by a regular bus, I’d put on my headphones and just try and get lost in the city (which happened a lot by the way) but arriving in a new neighborhood each one similar but also very different from one another. I love watching people and the city go by in a blur of haze and smog. I wondered of the passengers and what their stories were. Bangkok to me was always a city of stories a city full of mysteries waiting to be discovered. Then it was night and the neon lights would guide the way, then another side of Bangkok rises frm the day’s heat, a little seedier but just as vibrant just as alive as the day’s. Nighttime in Bangkok for me was at the Starbucks on Convent Street near Saladaeng. Across the way was Soi 4 full of club-goers and Soi 2 were transvestites and trans-sexuals mingle with the straight lace crowd and the infamous Pat-Pong district with their go-go dancers and such. Due to my job there and subsequently doing research for my book, I got a chance to speak to all these people, the trannies and the ladies of the night and I heard their conversations and their stories. I got friendly with the street beggars that sat in front of the Starbucks, I got to know the vendors who lined the streets hocking really good fake designer watches and bags. I got to know a watercolor painter who painted my face on a card. Bangkok was more than just a city, a place where I worked, it wasmore than the homeland of my parents, Bangkok was a treasure chest of stories and tales of love and heartbreak, of honesty and betrayal. Bangkok was a contradiction in of itself. And Virgina Wolfe once said “Humans should always contradict themselves”, she would be proud of Bangkok.

So whats the point of this? No point really, except to say, I’ve been blessed and cursed sort of to have been able to experience not only the good of Bangkok but the more….sleazy side of it as well. I’ve been to the illegal abortion clinics, I was doing a story on it, and saw scared girls in there, I sat with girls who should be worried about a date on a Friday night and doing homework are instead walking the streets, I’ve been lucky to sit with everyone in Thailand and hear their stories and pass them on to you and to others. I feel privileged to have had the chance to talk and listen to them, it was a chance for me to look inside their world and see. And like others before me, to be a spectator to life as it unravels in a Bangkok minute.

The Motorcycle (Taxi) Diaries

One time, as we were driving to Pattaya one evening, my friend hit a dog. The impact was surprisingly loud, but the dog got up and ran away. We wondered if it was hurt, and I couldn’t help but imagine that once it ran far enough into the woods, the pain of injury would catch up with it, and it would be left with a pathetic limp…or maybe it would just lie down and never get up again.


Living in Thailand for the past few years, I’ve encountered my fair share of minor mishaps. From getting stabbed in the knee by a bamboo meatball skewer to slipping on the rocks drunkenly trying to pee into the ocean on Samet island to the sharp edges and man-eaters at Mystique (RIP). Luckily, nothing serious every happened, leading me to suspect I am Unbreakable like Bruce Willis.

Anyone who has lived in muggy Bangkok knows that walking outside more than 100 meters involves sweating, exposure to pollution, twisted ankles on the uneven sidewalks, dodging stray doggy doo, and more sweating. For extended journeys, nothing beats the heat like the MRT subway and BTS Skytrain with their glorious meat-locker frigidity. But when you absolutely, positively gotta get somewhere fast, there is the ubiquitous motorcycle taxis, or the “Bangkok helicopter.”

I had to take a harrowing 45 minute journey from the rush-hour congestion of Lad Phrao road to the gridlock of Sukhumvit. After the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert at Impact Arena, there were no available taxis back to civilization, but my friend the “taxi mo’cy'” was there for me. I’ve lost track how many hundreds of times I have ridden one, and I’ve gotten used to it to the point where I blithely send text messages en route. Sometimes my biggest concern riding pillion is how to prevent the wind (and those bothersome helmets) from ruining my coiffure. I know, I know…I sound like such a careless dandy.

Now, from my office to my apartment is a 2 kilometer, 6 minute, 30 baht ride. There was nothing out of the ordinary about yesterday when I flagged one down for a ride back home. The driver was a little unfamiliar with the route, so I had to tell him where to turn. As we approached one intersection, I told him he needed to make a right. He slowed, put on his turn signal and…

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