More than Meets the Eye

Time to write a blog on Bangkok now that it’s been a year since I stayed in this cool city. Bangkok is not just about massage and sex. There are plenty of other things that catch the eye, refresh the tired limbs and rejuvenate the soul. Take a simple smile, for example. On my way to and from the Thailand Cultural Center station, I was greeted with smiles every single day by the disabled man peddling oat cookies in paper boxes, the pregnant lady selling fresh orange juice in plastic bottles, and the middle-aged guy dicing up the juicy fruits that he picked up from his glass display at the request of a customer. We made nothing of the fact that I didn’t understand Thai and they didn’t understand English! It never mattered. Love has no language, as they say. 

Then there is the aesthetic side of Bangkok. Clean, simple (and in some cases futuristic) architecture and interior designs. Earthy materials like bamboo and wood used neatly to give a warm and tidy look. Polished steel and glass multi-storied buildings standing tall, reflecting the changing patterns in the sky. Neat, white-washed villas with manicured gardens and acres of lawn appearing out of nowhere on a busy street. And this is not limited to architecture. Even the food that is served up is done so in such a neat way! The fresh spring onion is laid out over the cucumber pieces just so that it contrasts with the orange carrot dices and the pale yellow egg bits playing peek-a-boo from among the off-white fried rice. 

And then there’s so much greenery in a concrete jungle. There’s bloom everywhere and what colors – pale purple, baby pink, hot pink with white streaks, fiery orange and simply red! I noticed that Lumpini Park on Rama 4 has had its grills at the periphery accommodate an age-old tree instead of cutting it down. Small houses where hardly a family of four can fit have some kind of plotted plants around. I have great respect for people who respect Nature. However, I wish there were less use of plastic bags and cutlery here. 

Everytime I walk to a street stall to buy some food, if the vendor cannot comprehend what I’m saying, there’s always a sweaty student or a tired office executive or an overly made-up lady boy jumping in to help with the translation. Same thing happens when I can’t find my way around or have difficulty figuring out which exit at the station will lead me to the right location. A security guard or an official will take great pains to explain in hesitant English the right direction to me. 

All this time I spent here – and these were mostly spent alone – I never felt lonely or intimidated in any way. I found immense pleasure in both walking the somewhat smelly back alleys and loitering around in shiny, happy malls. I say “somewhat smelly” because, to tell the truth, these alleys mostly smell of freshly washed clothes put out to dry. Now I love the clean, fresh smell of detergent. And then there’s the smell of cooking floating from the street carts. These warm, fresh, homely and wholesome smells are enough to put me in a good mood. 

The Thai men are so respectful towards women. The group of motorbike taxi drivers always make way for women passing by. I have ridden on these bikes many times. The most harm they can do is charge an extra 5 Baht. I have never felt the slightest bit of discomfort riding with them. These men never give a look unless it has something to do solely with giving a ride. I cannot even begin to talk about the Thai gentleman who is the Vice President of my university. I feel so embarassed when he bows as he greets me. 

I have noticed that the Thai people pay a lot of attention to the comforts of pregnant women, the elderly, the young, and the physically challenged. Not only do they get up to free their seats for them, they also help the blind get on or off the tube. I have seen many times how guards at the subway stations carry the suitcase and lead physically challenged singers and vendors by their arm till they have their feet planted firmly inside the train. 

The narrow alley after Soi 22 that leads to Queen Sirikit MRT station is just that – very narrow. Both pedestrians and motorbike taxis come and go without any invective being hurled at each other. The motorbike drivers never honk and wait till the pedestrian reaches a wider stretch till they overtake them. 

I almost forgot to mention about the music! Thais may not know English well but boy do they know their English playlist! Be it Elvis Presley playing in the Foodland supermarket at The Street or Maroon 5 blasting out from speakers in a pub in Sukhumvit, the eclectic mix is sure to fixate customers at the venue and make them linger longer. 

As the day for my departure draws near, I wish this city a whole lot of love, and hope that strangers embrace it with the same warmth and goodwill as it embraces us with. Till December 2017!

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