Tales of the Big City

I’ve seen London, I’ve seen France, Bangkok please keep on your underpants. From my experience ‘kok’s panties are sweaty, smelly, dirty, crowded, and not the friendliest place to outsiders…like farangs, especially country bumpkin farangs like I’ve become. That’s so embarrassing. I consider myself a fairly relaxed traveler and for the most part, don’t let unfamiliar skivvies worry me.

Can I call it one of my talents be able to figure the general outline of a city out within a few days? London was conquered in a week though it’s one of my absolute favorite cities to get lost in. Berlin with its seemingly flawless public transportation system whisked me around without trouble despite not knowing more than ten German words and my attempts of pronunciation are still (according to RF) are quite horrific. Shanghai was a bit more of a challenge with the whole language wall (I love puns), but a map and an odd milk tea drink (not the same as we have here, but equally delicious) motivated me to Julius Caesar the Far East like a boss.

Plop me down in Bangkok though and I’m like the lost puppies that run the streets so rampantly there. Maybe because I haven’t spent more than two days put together, but I freeze even when it comes to talking to the taxi drivers in a language that I can speak at a conversational level, albeit usually with actions included. Compared to my piece of smile land, Bangkok might as well be a different country and I’m more on edge than I am at site. For several years, it’s been rated as the best travel city in the world, but I couldn’t fathom why. Was I too used to being treated like Buddha’s gift to Thai people? With the slow lifestyle of rural Thailand, was I just overwhelmed by all the sights, sounds, and people of the city? Was I just being lazy? To put it succinctly, I did not like Bangkok.

With a wilting Apple computer, a medical appointment, and a desire for some anonymity, I set off for the big Bang. It didn’t start well. A long van ride with a screaming and kicking baby next to me, I felt like we were crawling (even though the kid couldn’t yet, that ride assured me that Gail Coop will not be getting any grandchildren for a LONG time) and my nerves acting like banana peels made me slip all over my Thai trying to make it to the doctor. Finally arriving and getting some new soap (yes, I’m taking away the favored topic by my Thai peeps…the breakouts on my face), I puttered around the Peace Corps office not wanting to leave my cocoon of safety. Things weighing me down, both my to-do list and computer, got me moving and after trudging around a mall (a sidebar, malls everywhere are the SAME! DO NOT travel somewhere and go into a mall! What is wrong with these tourists that travel thousands of miles to Thailand and go shopping in a mall?! One thing Bangkok does right is its markets, go out and sweat in the heat you freaks!) to drop off my computer (a sad and naked moment, luckily my coteacher is awesome and lent me one of her three), I made a friend at the store in a mix of Thaiglish (Tinglish I’ve heard, but I like my word better) conversation. Hm, maybe BKK isn’t so bad.

While I’m not a strict planner, I am usually a travel outliner. This time though, I had nothing else to do except to fill an empty stomach and find a place to stay. Letting my inner leaf blow around, I let ninth months of Thai food and the growling aches act as the wind. And then, I ate. And ate. And ate. I’m no foodie. I claim no superior taste buds, let RF do the cooking, eat like a bird, and when I do eat out, I prefer the old favorites. There was a solid portion of my childhood that anytime we left my house, all I wanted to eat was grilled cheese. Seriously, Gail Coop would get so exasperated as we sat in a semi-nice restaurant and I’d stare at the kid’s menu getting the same thing every time. This is fine when you’re seven, but I kept this up until I was about thirteen and past six feet already… yeah I was awkward.

Even though Thai food is more than half the cost of farang food, I had already decided the weekend was going to be used to treat myself (hot shower/AC) and I did with cheesecake, ice cream, fettuccine alfredo, fresh bread, Subway, Nutella, and brought Dunkin’ Donuts home. I’m ashamed of myself like a kid whose stash was found at fat camp. The awesome thing though, I’m not sure if it was because I was alone, but everyone was chatting me up at these places. I came armed with the weapons of solo travel battle (book, music, podcasts), but I was as social as if I were at site with my Thai ladies preening over a new headband I wore. When they went back to work or passed by, I let myself live in the moment, savoring every bite of farang food, people-watching at my finest and just being. Life was good. It allowed me to appreciate the subtleties that, when you’re open to seeing them, permeate that city. Alright Bangers, you’re alright.

It was good to get my travel sea legs back. I’m treated so often like a child in Thailand, I think I forgot how self-sufficient I am. You go girl. In return, I feel a lot better about the sweaty balls in Bangkok’s boxers and realized you can’t give up on a city at first (second or third) bite. As much as I enjoyed the urban luxuries this trip, I also found how happy I am to live where I do and to go home. It’s a relief though to know that when I get tired of being Thai and go on a down like I currently am, there’s an escape and a good one at that. Luckily, there’s only one more week left to the semester before a month(ish) break! I’ve been counting down and it couldn’t be coming at a better time. I’ll be spending some time in the city, lots in the south, and even more with friends. Life IS good.

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