Bangkok Off-The-Tourist-Track

What does a farang (i.e., gringo) do in Bangkok for 5 weeks during the hottest time of the year? For me, it’s eat street food, get $7 hour long foot massages, and spend as much time in airconditioning as possible.

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This photo is not taken from where I’ll be staying. It was shot from an upper floor at the 4-star Sheraton Royal Orchid Hotel on the Chao Praya River in the heart of the tourist district. My digs will be much further away, on the campus of Assumption University in the outlying NE section of the city, near the Hu Mak Sports Complex. Definitely not a tourist destination unless you happen to be a rabid soccer team and your national team is in town.

For the last few years I have been involved with an international PhD program in organization development at Assumption (also know as ABAC — Assumption Business Administration College, an earlier incarnation of what is now a huge university with campuses throughout SE Asia). I have a student who is close to finishing her dissertation, so I am heading to Bangkok to help her finish and prepare for her final orals. By working with her face-to-face every day, she should be able to finish in time to graduate this Fall.

So, if you think that this is a cushy gig and an excuse to spend extended time in the Land of Smiles, consider this — some of the hottest and most uncomfortable weather outside of the Amazon, accommodations that are anything but luxurious, and meeting every day with my student to go over her latest drafts sentence-by-sentence.

On the other hand, there will be compensations, aside from the modest honorarium I will receive when she is finished. There is another, very large university nearby, so the street food is plentiful, good and cheap. The best street food can be found at the daily night market just a few blocks away. Most of the time I’m not sure what I am eating — aside from the juicy grilled sausages and many varieties of dumplings, my favorite Asian comfort food. But its almost always excellent, and I’ve never gotten sick.

Then there are the cheap foot massages places on almost every street. No incense or new age music, just strong nimble fingers in the hands (yes, pun intended) of highly skilled practictoners. And at $7 per I can afford to get one every night, if I were so inclined and if my toes were up to the daily kneading.

When I have time, I’ll also explore other sections of the city that may or may not be on the tourist track — e.g., the Chatuchak weekend market, a walking tour of the narrow alleys of Chinatown, the lavish food courts in the opulent shopping centers of Suhkihmvit.

The bottom line is that I will be living like a local — sort of — in Bangkok, a city I have often visited but never for as long, nor as in such an authentic way.

Of course, I will be blogging about my adventures in Bangkok, as well as about my 4 days on the beach in Bali and my week long sailing trip among the Spice Islands in Indonesia (Komodo, Flores, etc.) that will follow. I leave on March 31 so stay tuned for more off-the-beaten-track travels from the Adventure Geezer.

 

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