Wednesday, January 20, 2010
What the Crap was That??
I may not be in Kansas anymore, but their music is alive and well in the capital of Thailand. I have seen a plethora of classic rock bands in my life ranging from Blue Oyster Cult to Steppenwolf, but I can safely say that tonight was the first time in my life that I witnessed an all Thai band cover "Dust In the Wind". Moments like this occur often in Bangkok and they can only be followed by the simple statement of "what the crap was that?" Please allow me to offer a few more examples of this phenomona during our first "crap-filled" day.
Example 1: "The Costly Act of Kindness"
- A street person approaches you with a smile on their face, grabs your arm, hands you a bag full of bird seed, and wishes you many blessings in the new year as a swarm of pigeons attack your entire body. An unsuspecting person will take the seeds gratefully, feed the birds, and try to move on. Ahhh, but this scheme comes with a catch. As soon as you feed the birds, your new year's blessing becomes a monetary obligation as smiles turn in to demands for cash. I am torn by these circumstances, so my usual stance is to refuse the bird seed, move on, and avoid confrontation. Unfortunately an unusual amount of traffic cornered me between freedom and the pigeon lady on this day and I was immediately accosted. My wrist was painfully grabbed, seed was forced in to my hand (which I immediately dropped), and an old woman yelled at me for refusing her "blessings". When I was finally able to cross the street, I turned to Mariana and said "What the crap was that?"
Example 2 - "Public Transportation"
- You can become over-stimulated by the sounds of Bangkok as you walk down Her streets, but certain sounds tend to really catch your attention. These are the sounds of the infamous salesmen known as tuk-tuk drivers. The revving of an engine, cat-like meowing, or a simple grunt are their main means of drawing your attention, but if you remain vigilantly ignorant they will resort to more physical tactics like tapping your shoulder or grabbing your arm. Whether verbal or physical, their actions leave you asking "What the crap was that?" By the way, I was fortunate enough to almost get run over by the actual "Night Bus" from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when I mistakingly assumed that all modes of transportation in Bangkok followed the rules of right-of-way.
Example 3 - "Street Vendors"
- I always find it deliciously intriguing and slightly disturbing to gander at the food available from street-side vendors. Simple items like beef, chicken, and pork satay are availble alongside pig heart, bbq squid, and you-name-it intestine. These items generally have one thing in common -they are served on stick. The satays are fantastic if fresh and fried bananas with sesame seeds are a no-brainer, but I can tell you that after having questionable squid and mystery meatballs, most street food is better left alone. If you have to ask "What the crap is that?", proceed with caution, because you don't want to eat it first and then have to ask "What the crap WAS that?"
As a side note, I entered a street vendors booth entitled the "Siam Fish Spa" where I proceeded to stick my feet into a tank where small fish fed off of my dry skin. The sensation is indescribable and certainly falls under the realm of "What the crap was that?" My feet are the softest they have been in years, but I am now scared of jumping in to any kind of water.
Example 4 - The Odd Couple
Bangkok is unfortunately infamous for its sex trade and it is hard to visit without taking notice of odd pairings of men and women. I will keep this section short, because I hate it, but I always question the legitimacy of a couple when the girl is young and attractive and the man looks like the walrus from Sea World's "Clyde and Seymour Caper Show".
Example 5 - The Wild Card
These are my favorite. Western culture has some of the most hysterical ways of creeping in to eveyday Asian life. I think all people enjoy sporting t-shirts with foreign writing, whether they know what it says or not. For instance, a good friend of mine has a great shirt that says "Tu Eres Un Pendejo" with the statement "You Are My Friend" written below it in parentheses. Today I saw a shirt on a 50 year old woman, that I doubt she understood, which simply stated in English that "Accountants do it with Interest!"