Ritualized Chaos

Recovery mode was on full throttle for the entire next day. I did not get up for a shower. I did not get up for food. I did not get up for green eggs and ham. Someone once told me that drinking was like a magical way of borrowing fun from the next day. I had borrowed too much. 
I suppose in a normal situation I would have forced myself to get out of bed in a new city on a continent I’d never visited before, but when it’s 95 degrees outside and leaving air conditioning for even a second results in your becoming a walking mop, there are additional incentives to not working harder.
In the context of all this heat, I’m still not over my life in Spain. I want to sleep and do nothing during the day, and then explore in the evening. Unfortunately a lot of things in the city close before too late so it’s not possible here like it is back in Elche.

  
Eventually though I did have to get up and go to the market for food. Since the food stalls are so cheap (and delicious, and apparently safe as everyone eats from them all the time) I’m skipping out on grocery stores while I’m here, which is a nice break from boring food. And even though I visited the same market every day, it’s not like you have to be in a certain part of the city to find the same stuff or cheaper prices. The food carts literally cover the city and no matter where you are you’re likely to find something you’ve never seen. 

   
  

  I saw buckets of eels still squirming around each other, little turtles in buckets waiting to be eaten, and a lot of fruit I’d never seen or heard of before. I tried a piece of jackfruit, which tasted like juicyfruit gum (like, legitimately) but I was really allergic to it so I had to stop. I would recommend pumpkin custard (sweet egg custard that comes inside a hollowed pumpkin) and for a main course, soup just can’t be beat. Just be prepared for spicy poops in a squat toilet.

  
Food in the market isn’t generally negotiable in that you can’t haggle prices, and often whatever your buying is labeled with a cardboard sign so you know what you’re getting into. If not, you can always ask or point at something, and most locals know at least the numbers in English if not a few important words like “not spicy” or “no sugar.” 
Coffee here contains a lot, and I do mean a lot, of sugar and condensed milk. 

  
Iced coffee is fashionable here in the summer but if you don’t like or can’t have milk, you should let them know before they make it or face the consequences of half a can of condensed milk and several shots of sugar in your drink. Even street vendors will make coffee using various methods, but nothing fancy like a drip machine or a French press. Just good old fashioned hot water and bag filters (or… Sometimes instant coffee). 

But other markets, like clothing markets, are great places to go and try and haggle to get good prices for things. The BMK mall is a giant complex in the middle of the city and has different kinds of merchandise designated for each floor, and vendors will set up shop on these floors and try to pull you in to get you to buy things. It happens nearly every couple of steps. Tor took me to the mall market one day to get some better clothes for the weather and it was almost like we were being assaulted, but you just have to keep walking and bow your head politely (if you’re feeling particularly well-mannered, anyway. If not, you can pull something a Dutch friend of mine once did and hold your hand up to them and shout, “Fuck off!”). 

 

Tor and I shopping, bargaining hard, and trying on the stupidest things possible.

    
 
Food markets exist in the malls too and have a lot of international food, but it’s significantly more expensive than going to a food cart. But if you’re really missing Burger King, or sushi, or Indian or Mexican food, most of the malls will help you get your fix for a few hundred baht.

 

One other thing about the malls: they are extravagant. Going shopping is one way for Thais to get out of the sun and into air conditioning, be in pristinely clean surroundings and relax.

   
          The best part of the malls, in my opinion, are the movie theaters. Thais take cinemas very, very seriously, but they’re really cheap. On most days a movie will run 180-220 baht depending on what kind of seat you want (you can get premium, luxury, first class…), and how new the movie is and whether it’s Thai or foreign. 

  
Foreign films aren’t really dubbed, but do have Thai subtitles. I actually spent two days exploring malls and watched a movie each of the two days as a way of avoiding the heat… Oh, and each movie is preceded by literally half an hour of advertisements and trailers, and then everyone must stand for an introduction of the King as either the King’s Anthem or the National Anthem plays. If you don’t stand to pay your respect, it’s possible for you to be removed from the theater. 

  
Speaking of the King, pictures of him and his family are ubiquitous. At temples, the pictures are enormous. In restaurants, they usually hang of the wall along pictures of the owners family, or even next to previous Kings. It is respectful to put your hands together as if you’re going to pray, lower your eyes, and bow your head in respect before these images, almost like how Catholics do the sign of the cross when they see churches and crosses and such. 
Oh, and you do the same thing when you hand people things, especially money. Hand it to them with two hands, stacked neatly, and bow your head. And when you have to move through a crowd or inconvenience someone, bow your head and clasp your hands if you’re feeling particularly sorry. 
As the ads at the Sky Train stations suggests, you should be calm and never run through the station. And don’t worry if anything bad happens, because “Riot police,” are there to direct people traffick and make sure everything runs smoothly. Oh, and don’t talk on the train if you can help it, and especially not on your phone. If you need something to do, watch one of the television screens where (crazy) ads play perpetually (which has actually become one of my favorite things about Bangkok– not even joking).

   
    And…

I’ve read that Bangkok is a place of organized chaos. But I think a better word is ritualistic chaos, because it never, ever seems organized. But when you’re in a park or anywhere near a public transportation system like the Sky Train and suddenly the national anthem starts playing over loudspeakers at exactly 6PM and everyone immediately stops moving until it’s over… now that’s ritual. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *