Monday, April 2, 2007

Bangkok Part 2

(Part 1 is here.)


Tried durian with sticky rice at MBK. We then got on the packed train, which seemed to have a faint whiff of durian about it. We soon realised it was us - the pungent odour of the fruit had attached itself to us like an evil spirit. Hence the reason for the signs banning durian from the hotel.



Tom yum goong (sour soup with shrimp) featured at virtually every meal we ate. As did pad thai (fried noodles) and cha Thai (Thai iced tea), either with condensed milk or with lime (both seen here). Not sure yet how they get the distinctive orange colour. Thai iced green tea was also worth getting.


By far the best dessert to eat in Thailand is Mango with Sticky Rice. It is so simple in concept - glutinous rice, sweet coconut milk sauce and sliced ripe mango - but the combination is so harmonious and wonderful that it speaks directly to your soul. You can get it pretty much everywhere, but good-quality mango is obviously the key.



MEN AND WOMEN

I suspect that Thailand has a factory that churns out beautiful women. There are seemingly more of them about than in any other country, anyway. I don't mean that everyone is a supermodel by any means. But across-the-board, females here seem generally to be better looking than in any other place I've been.

Now, I'm in no position to comment with any expertise on whether Thai men live up to the same standard. Some of my female co-travellers rate them generally as too scruffy, too geeky or too effeminate. Which is a shame - just a styling issue perhaps? Thai women seem to look after themselves really well, and perhaps Thai men don't treat that with quite the same importance. On the other hand, the significant number of gay Westerners spotted with Thai guys would probably disagree. I have certainly seen some Thai guys around who are pretty stylin', and some guys in the army and police who looked pretty buff.

Does this account for the following statistic?


Foreign men and Thai women spotted in romantic relationships: several hundred.


Thai men and foreign women spotted in romantic relationships: none yet. Possibly a couple, but these were unconfirmed reports.


Not that I think Thai men would really care about this, given the embarrassment of riches they have at home. After all, if you are sitting in a 5-star restaurant, why on earth would you order a pizza delivery?


(You'll notice I'm going purely on looks here and not mention personality. But hey, I'm a superficial kind of guy)


Ladies-men and Lady-boys
In response to my previous praise about the beauty of Thai females, Tin reminded me: "but they're not all women."

Which is a fair point. Thailand is famous for its Ladyboys (cross-dressers, with or without "the chop"), and in general there seems to be a praiseworthy acceptance of all things transgender. Sorting the ladies out from the ladyboys is a good way to keep yourself from getting bored while walking around on the train in Bangkok; it is made more challenging since modern medical science apparently allows for the removal of the adam's apple. Some ladyboys look stunning, and sometimes it is only when hearing them speak (usually not convincingly feminine) that you can pick them. Heavy makeup is another clue.

While I have certainly appreciated the Thai ladies from afar, I've stayed away from the possibility of anything more happening, which has ensured that there won't be any scary moments ala the movie "The Crying Game".

I think it must be difficult to be a tall Thai woman, as you would probably have idiots like me staring at you on the train, trying to figure out if you have an adam's apple or not. That's gotta to be annoying.

Similarly, the Western men hooking up with Thai women probably are scrutinised in a similar fashion; the prevalence of Westerners coming to Thailand to frequent the brothels and strip clubs means that any liason between Thai female and farang male gets viewed with some kind of attached judgement about power, exploitation and sleaze, regardless of whether such labelling is deserved.

Weirdest T-shirt design found in Bangkok: A cartoon sillhouette of a vomiting monkey, accompanied by the slogan: "Some time bad, some time hang!"
If this makes any sense at all to anyone reading this, please explain it to me.


THAI CIVIC PRIDE

Kids the world over wear school uniforms, but Thailand is the only country I know of that has a national uniform. Everywhere you go, people are wearing yellow polo shirts with the Thai royal emblem. At least a third of everyone you see will have one on at any given time. This is to show respect to the Thai royalty, most specifically King Bhumibol, who is the world's longest serving current head of state.

You can't walk for 2 minutes in Bangkok without seeing a picture of the king or his wife Queen Sirikit. The Thais are fervently nationalistic (although not in a loud obnoxious way), and absolutely revere the royal family, who are an embodiment of Thai culture itself. A man was recently given a hefty jail sentence for drawing a moustache on the a picture of the king's face. The national anthem is played everyday in some buildings at 8am and 6pm, in which it is considered rude not to stand.

Another manifestation of civic pride is in something you notice only by its absence - rubbish. Bangkok, at least in its main areas, is almost devoid of trash. What is even more mysterious is that it is also devoid of rubbish bins. I don't know where it all goes; perhaps it is one of the benefits of a lowly-paid workforce that there will always be people available for cleaning up duties.

Likewise, graffiti seems non-existent, and you don't seem to see young people hanging around looking to cause trouble. Contrast this with any public space in inner-city Melbourne: lots of bins yet rubbish everywhere, graffiti covering the walls, and scary looking homie/bogan/emo kids with nothing to do but look like they're up to something.

Bangkok's train system is a hell of a lot better than Melbourne's as well. You never seem to wait longer than 5 minutes for a train, and the system is cheap, clean and efficient. Tourists can get around with ease, and its a great showcase for the city.

One other thing I noticed - hardly any Thais seem to smoke! Contrast this with Jakarta, where smoking is the national pastime. Perhaps it is Bangkok's choking pollution which acts as a natural selector, killing off those who want to double-dip in the pool of carcinogens by smoking as well as trying to breathe in this city.


The Buddha. Just chillin', kickin' back on a hot day in Thailand.

The Grand Palace. We very nearly got scammed by some con artists outside the front gate; fortunately Riss was too streetwise (meaning she had read Lonely Planet which described it as the most common scam in town).

Trying to blend in with the locals.


Don't know the significance behind touching this water-dipped lotus flower to my head, but when in Rome...

Elephant ride, Ayuthaya.

About to get told off by security, Ayuthaya.

3 comments:

  1. Love the foodie pics... and cannot wait until i'm there this sept! oh, and loving the prose too, of course! check ya! ad xx

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  2. Great pictures and nice place. Thailand is the land of durians, I love their coffee durian flavor, and it doesn't have the smell of it. :)Great blog you have here.

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