Oct

20

 As anticipated, the heat during the day is oven-ready, in the very high 90s, without a breath of breeze. And humidity at 200%. It is the tail end of the monsoon season, so it spattered this afternoon, not dissipating the blanket of bake at all.

The bath in the bathroom, though spotless, is designed for an Olympic decathlon– the high jump. It is inordinately high to get into, and it is deeper than the floor when you have to set your 10 little shrimpers on the porcelain. Not only that, but the way the shower is constructed makes it impossible for a non-simian to reach the faucets to turn on the bath or shower. You have to actually get in to turn everything on, getting wet in the process.

A small annoyance, but why design such a confounding splash contrivance?

The sheets are clean, but feel slick and somehow…slimy. Fresh but slimy. Not like cotton. But after many hours running around to Emerald Buddha Temples and flower markets rich with alluvial shorn petals and wires, and women smiling invitingly, Buy, Buy! what the hay, a bath seems anodyne. And sleep should be a snap, after 5 or 6 hours post running around the place and assorted travails. The Sheraton hangers, happily, are not tethered to the closet bar. The minibar is a joke, with a single container of shorty short Pringles, one bag of chips, and a price list to turn you off snacks forever. The drinks are on top of the tea-maker, and they start with a squat bottle of Chivas, but nothing the average stressed-out scrivener would want to down for $30, B1,000 Thai.

That I never managed to set foot into this thrilling field while I was living here is mystery enough. The temple is, somehow, madly amazing–you cannot help but wonder how much upkeep these myriad glinting and sparkling stupas and sacred buildings take? And since they are open all days of the year, how do the Thais keep these garudas and monkeys and animal spirits so golden-y gold, these columns so stunningly straight and fully adorned with glass and mirror in all the ROYGBIV rainbow.

Irritating that I had to buy a pareo to sheathe my lower limbs–my skirt was too short, and the legs must be properly covered. I had to buy a ridiculous length of fabric to tie around my waist to curtain my legs and legging'ed lower extremities. Women selling these fabric must-haves were doing a land-office business. They were selling for B3, or 10 cents. some places inside the Emerald Buddha compound, you had to remove your shoes, your hat, so as to honor the custom here. In Myanmar, I am informed, some worship sites insist on removal of both shoes and socks, too.

It is bloody hot, there are way too many muzzies, which, you are correct, when I was here last, there were none. Too many women in hijab–enough to make you cringe in anticipatory distress.

So I finally corrected the historic omission and saw the Emerald Buddha, that vast compound of electrifyingly brilliant buildings and columns and stupas and associated holy edifices. which somehow, while I lived here, I never managed to see. Damned crowded and impossible to get a fix on the greatness, as the heat was overwhelming and the people-crush ditto. Like with the Forbidden City, one needs to take one's time with this visit.

I looked at the King's guest house, locked behind a heads and a half tall fence. Bill Clinton apparently stayed there. And the rich drama of the "King and I" –with Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner version, was filmed right in the uildings near this guest house.

Just ate at Soen Daeng, an old time place in the region of Praed Na Kong, with an old timey chanteuse singing classical torchy Thai songs for the whole lunch.

Lunch consisted of terrific shrimp on chopped apple and dressing on lettuce bits. Then an hors d'oeuvres plate of waffle cups with stewed local vegs, wedges of shrimp 'pizza' with local honey sauce for dipping, a fried shrimp dumpling and carrot shreds. Then coconut milk soup with lemongrass and wonderful chicken parts, fabulous. Then some unspiced, unseasoned fish called Gaupra with legumes cooked in brown sauce, wonderful shitakii mushrooms and odd braised cherry tomatoes.

Dessert was divine watermelon balls, really superior wedge of pineapple, some unidentified apple-like but not apple fruit harder than apple with finer texture, and mouth-watering papaya. Then local tea with real milk, quite enchanting despite its yellowish hue.

While I ate lunch, thousands, thousands of cyclists rounded the Democracy Monument (like the Place de la Concorde, or L'Arc de Triomphe circle) across the street, all in powder blue and yellow club or team outfits. Wow. Shortly followed by a hornet's nest of motorcyclists bent on their own, separate, agendae. There are far fewer mopeds and motorcycles than I recall, and many fewer than when I visited Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City. The noise level is much lower than erst.

The flotilla of cabs buzzing the busy streets are a gorgeous candy gumball machine of bubblechew pink, persimmon orange, clear grass green and mixed yellow and loden. They dress up the little alleys and byways like a horde of huge water beetles dressed for their first prom.

Flower market was less remarkable than I recall, and less eye-glazing than the Singapore fresh market that was a highlight of my travels. This city is practically unrecognizable–it is not recognizable, in fact.

But people are delighted and surprised by my [little] Thai, and try to woo me, catch my cheery eye, sell me things
–to sidle up to the farang who speaks pasaa Thai tai dai…

I resisted buying any glittering stuff–I saw no clip-on earrings, and those are what I seek. I will try to find some in the five or six Burmese cities I hit. The prices inside these air-conditioned polished teak elaborate emporia are fearsome. And apparently get a rake-off for the guide or whomever brought the hapless sho-peh. (Shopper in English.)

Anyone with the slightest inkling of a sniffle or Galloping Gravidity Gravlax syndrome or its nearest kin wears a medical mask in cotton, to prevent transmission of the bug or bugs. Many faces are almost entirely swallowed in these paltry efforts to stave off contagion. The effect is one of being in the unwell ward of some blemished country. Surely these ambitious shield-sneezes are not the panacea.

And so, to supper and walking around outside to examine the neighb.


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