travel

Learning Curve – Part two

The market was wonderful. Clothes, silks, flowers, food, seafish, fruit, vegetables, statues, gramaphones, antique bronze fans, endless displays of silver jewelry, chickens, singers, dancers… I shopped a little (despite myself – I’ve already bought everything that I needed to get and spent a week’s budget in two days), and wandered around until I hit complete sensory overload.

A few wrong turns and several friendly Israeli tourists in possession of maps later, I made it out of the market and to Moh Chit bus station. Finally. I couldn’t help but think that I should have just walked in the first place or chanced the public buses (which I hadn’t thought myself quite ready to handle). I took the Skytrain to Siam Square and, already tired and finding nothing but an oversized shopping mall, decided to head straight for the canal.

Three hours later, I was still walking. I got close. I must have gotten close. I probably walked in circles around it. I stopped and asked for directions – not that I needed to, because every time I’d start to move over to the side and pull my guidebook out of my bag, someone would stop and ask where I was headed before I’d even had a chance to open it. The Saen Saep Pier was near the Asia Hotel. The Asia Hotel was near the Ratchathewi bus stop. The Ratchathewi bus stop was near the pier. Just a ways on, and then left. A bit back and right. And on it went. At least they were trying to be helpful. Finally, someone said something about no river taxis on Sundays because of something about the king (possibly a former king?) and I decided it was time to get a taxi back to Khao San.

If nothing else, I got my exercise in today. Before leaving on the ever-so-exciting tuk tuk adventure, I’d spent the morning wander Khao San and Banglamphu in concentric circles. I did the same again this evening, in slightly wider concentric circles. If nothing else, at least Khao San is hard to lose. During the daylight you can hear the ever-present cat-wailing and after dark the entire neighborhood not only glows, but literally throbs from all the bass. Off-Khao San is actually rather nice – in a dirty-but-interesting sort of a way. (Breakfast at my new favorite restaurant, Ranee’s.) Off-off Khao San is just dirty.

Thai is harder to pick up than I’d expected. Thanks to the cleaning girl on my floor, who decided for some reason to make friends with me, I’ve at least got “Hello” down. Most of the time. I’m doing pretty well with “yes” but “no” only seems to work half the time. (Although, in that case, I may be being deliberately misunderstood). I’ve given up on the phrasebook; I can’t manage to pronounce anything with enough accuracy to be understood. Even taking out the book and pointing doesn’t seem to help much. It’s the tonal nature, I think, that’s stumping me. I’ll think I’ve got it, I get someone to say it, I repeat it ten times – and when I open my mouth to use the phrase, all I get is blank stares. Attempting anything beyond hello is just counter-productive; I can’t wait to get to Chiang Mai and take a class.

Haylee (the exchange of names is our biggest achievement yet; her English is as bare as my Thai) helped me find a bucket so I could wash my clothes and showed me the drying line on the roof. I’m rather inept at hand-washing clothes – fragiles are one thing, but I doubt I got the blue jeans even remotely clean. Hand-washing may need to tide me over between paid-laundry, rather than replace it, but it will still help save money.

I’m taking an “overnight” (it arrives at 1am) bus to Chiang Mai on the eighth. Tomorrow I want to explore the major temples in the city and, hopefully, make it out to the floating market on Tuesday morning before catching the bus. I’m severely jet-lagged (Khao San’s nocturnal schedule isn’t helping matters), so we’ll see how it goes.

Photos

Bangkok

Wat Arun

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