Bangkok is not my favorite city. A lot of it is a sprawling, dirty, polluted, crowded, and convoluted mess. Con artists are common. Transportation is a total nightmare. The heat is stifling and even during the day the mosquitoes can be a problem.
But it’s also not my least favorite city. It’s got character and at night, when the temperature drops, it’s much more pleasant. There are many fun things to do and some very nice areas in town. The malls are incredible. It’s modern. You can find pretty much anything you want. And it does have sights to see, like the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew.
We’re here to take care of business, so I’m sure some people have seen more in three days than what we’ve seen in our ten days here. Our day-to-day activities have mostly revolved around arranging the next leg of our trip. We’ve done a lot of research and planning and applied for three visas. Going to the consulates to get visas is similar to going to the DMV, except even worse. But I won’t bore you with all those details. Instead, let me highlight the more interesting things we’ve done:
1. Watched the Super Bowl
Bangkok is 13 hours ahead, so to watch the big game, we had to get up at 4:30 in the morning. We made it to the bar just in time to grab prime seats with a table. The owners had also set up plastic lawn chairs for people to sit in, but they unfortunately didn’t take into account how fat Americans are, because the chairs literally started breaking. Before the game and jumping and yelling even started, at least six men broke their chairs, maybe even more. I lost count.
And in case you’re wondering, no, they did not show the same commercials here.
2. Got to Know the Expats in Bangkok
We became even more familiar with how creepy some of the male tourists and expats in Bangkok are. After two of them introduce themselves, a common first question is, “So, do you have a Thai lady-friend?” It’s no secret that there’s a huge sex industry here. Many men will go to the girly bars and end up with a Thai “girlfriend” for the rest of their trip. It’s common to see balding, overweight white guys with Thai women half their age. (One night, a couple like this sat next to us at dinner. The guy kept trying to make conversation with the girl, while she just sat there texting on her phone, not even pretending to be interested. Awkward.)
Now, I don’t really care what other people do, as long as it’s between consensual adults and nobody else is being harmed. What really irks me is the attitude of these old guys. They seem to think they deserve a Nobel Peace Prize for supporting a lady-friend. Please. You’ve basically hired a prostitute for your vacation. If you want to make a difference, donate to UNICEF.
3. Went to the Dentist
Getting our teeth cleaned seemed much more like a medical procedure here than it does back home. The dentist office was inside of a hospital and they took our blood pressure. An actual dentist did the cleaning, along with an assistant who mainly just handed her things and wielded the suction thingy. When they applied the paste (or whatever it is they apply), they laid a sheet over our whole face. They also had us rinse and spit into the swirling water bowl, which I hadn’t seen for about fifteen years. Besides that, it was pretty much the same as back home, but I thought it was much more uncomfortable here. Brad thought it was the same. I think the main problem was that they used cold water, and cold water hurts my teeth.
4. Went to the Doctor
When I was sick in Chiang Mai, I developed an ear infection. It went away on its own, so I didn’t think it was a big deal. Then a few days ago, it started hurting again, so I made an appointment to see a doctor. Just like at the dentist, there was a doctor and a nurse at the appointment. They had to clean all the goop out of my ear. Pretty gross. After that, they told me not to get my ear wet for three days. I got ear drops and three(!) different medications to take. I’m hoping this will be the end of my ear problems.
5. Got Haircuts
Both of us had kind of odd hair experiences. Brad’s barber didn’t do a very good job at all. He basically just sculpted the hair while it was dry and didn’t bother to cut all of it. Now it’s uneven and crazy looking.
I got my haircut right after the doctor appointment. Of course, I forgot about keeping my ear dry until right before she was about to wash my hair. I told her not to get my ear wet and just to make sure, I got out a wad of tissue and held it up to my ear. I tried to explain it to her, but I’m sure she thought I was a total weirdo.
After the wash, she sat me down and told me to wait for the stylist. A couple minutes later and a lady with a holster full of scissors hanging from her belt came up to me. She spoke some English, but was a very serious, no nonsense person. I told her what I wanted and she started cutting away. She worked very quickly and didn’t smile or talk at all. Then she said, “Blow dry,” and walked away. A third girl came up and spent nearly a half hour carefully styling my hair, making it really sleek and perfect. After that, the stylist came back, looked at me, and started making more, seemingly random, cuts. After she did her finishing touches, she took out a blow dryer and blasted my hair until it looked like I had been in a wind tunnel. Then she stepped back and announced, “Finished.” Huh. So much for the sleek and perfect look.
6. Went to a Movie
We hadn’t gone out to a movie since September. Here, how much you pay depends on what class of seat you choose. In the extra roomy VIP section, you can order food and drinks right from your seat. Before the movie starts, they play the king’s anthem along with a montage of clips of the king’s life. Everyone has to stand up. Besides that, everything is the same. We saw a Thai movie called “ATM” and it was actually pretty funny. Much better than I was expecting.
7. Ate at Cabbages and Condoms
Cabbages and Condoms is a restaurant that is trying to raise awareness of STDs and promote condom use. It was a pretty normal restaurant, except most of the decorations were made out of condoms. They had life-sized sculptures (my favorite was Tiger Woods), as well as lamp shades and wall murals made entirely from condoms.
Anyway, there’s a taste of what we’ve been up to lately. It has been nice to get kind of settled in somewhere, but I’m looking forward to leaving Bangkok. Hopefully our next long stop will be in a better city.