Thursday, March 19, 2009

bangkok so far

An elephant just walked by. I love it. I’m sitting in a pleasant, air-conditioned, European-style coffee shop (hey, I’m in culture-shock, I need a little jazz and milk to soothe my soul) and I’m looking out over a garden hanging thick with vines and thick waxy-leafed trees and, yes, some lizards, all grown in amongst about two hundred tangled electric wires, then beyond that to a busy street with whizzing hot-pink and yellow luxury sedans and tiny pickup truck/ute busses and myriad motorcycles, beyond that to a tiny sidewalk chicken curry cart, and then to a highrise apartment building with clothing shops on the street front. It’s a fairly representative Bangkok scene: fairly modern, very busy, very full, with some slightly worrisome elements (the wires, the speed of the cars, the dubiousness of the un-refrigerated meats).

Bangkok is really a very liveable city, with excellent public transportation, a lot of activity on the streets, really friendly and helpful and patient people, excellent food, proliferate shopping, very affordable prices, beautiful temples, generally awesome wildlife, and more delights. We could easily have ended up in a worse place: spending time here for a year shouldn’t be too taxing.

The main two downsides that we’ve experienced so far are, most notably, the heat and the mosquitoes. It’s really hot here: it’s been in the upper 90s F (upper 30s C) and extremely humid every day, with hotter and more humid weather supposedly on the way. Sweat just pours off of all us farangs (foreigners), making our clothes and skin very uncomfortable. I’ve been taking about three showers a day. Were we able to walk around half-naked, it might not seem too bad, but the reasonably-conservative dress mores of Thai culture requires much more covering (long pants, often long shirts too, sandals discouraged) than I would choose in this climate. The fact that many stores and offices are aggressively air conditioned makes it very hard to adjust to the heat. And the mosquitoes – well, they’re what you’d expect, but they’re still frustrating. Petra currently has 86 bites on her legs alone. We’re looking forward to installing mosquito netting. We’ll try not to get malaria and Dengue fever, we promise.

But so far these discomforts have definitely been outweighed by the delights of the city itself, especially the tasty food. I suspect I will only come to like Bangkok more as we complete our settling-in tasks and have more time to be tourists and get massages and meditate in temples and bike along rice paddies and sit on beaches and learn to cook and ride on riverboats… the options for fun are almost endless. I already wish we had more time.

Note: these photos are a really bad mish-mash, I’ve been too overwhelmed to really do any photography so far, but at least here’s a glimpse at our surroundings.

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