Monday, January 9, 2012

Around the World: Bangkok

January 9, 1992

I just had the best airline breakfast!  Spinach omelet with raspberry pudding for dessert.  I even had a decent sleep at the airport.

Arrived in the insanity that is Bangkok.  Outside the airport, I found the area where I could hire a taxi to the hotel.  Five drivers gathered around me, hollering out their starting price and I haggled and bartered their price down until only one remained.  Once the car pulled into traffic, I wondered if I had made a wise decision basing the driver's services on price alone.

I'm on what I believe is supposed to be a highway.  There are painted lines, indicating that there should be four lanes of traffic, but the six rows of cars disagree.  Occasionally, there is a break in the concrete divider that separates traffic moving in the opposite direction and my driver has decided that the shoulder of oncoming traffic is an acceptable place to drive.  From my perspective, in the back seat, it would probably be best if I just closed my eyes and prayed, but terror has frozen my eyelids wide open.

Bangkok "tuk-tuk"

By the sheer grace of fate, I arrive at the hotel and meet up with my room mate, Tracey and her parents, Harvey and Anna.  We caught up over snacks and a few nerve-calming beers before heading out for dinner with Shirley, my neighbour who has been traveling for over a year.  The five of us piled into a "tuk-tuk", which is a small covered cart hitched to a motorbike. There's a bench that would seat three well-acquainted, very skinny people.  Tracey and her parents, who don't fit this description at all, crammed into the bench, while Shirley and I intertwined ourselves into human pretzels on the floor.  I couldn't control the laughter, knowing that I was one of six people on a motorcycle and not a single Shriner among us.

Our three-wheeled tuk-tuk sometimes rides on two wheels on a tight corner.  We bumped and bounced along, down the wrong way of a one way street, into a gutter, cutting off buses and other vehicles before arriving relatively unharmed at the restaurant. 

The city streets are lined with vendors.  On the sidewalk, outside store fronts, vendors set up their wares on makeshift tables at the edge of the road.  In addition to the city's usual street vendors, there's also a night market, and a floating market.  There seems to be any reason for a market, as if Bangkok is for sale and everything must go.

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"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving."
~Albert Einstein