Getting Hot in Bangkok

Now that I have your attention, its not what you think.

DSCN0152Monday was a national holiday and the university was closed, so I took the day off to explore some of my favorite sites in Bangkok — the Chao Praya River, Wat Po (the oldest temple in Bangkok, next to the Grand Palace, the most popular tourist destination in Bangkok) and Chinatown. Not only do I like navigating Chinatown’s narrow alleys, packed with shopping stalls and people, but I was in the mood for some dim sum. (Yes, I know, back to food again. What can I say, I’m a fresser — look that up in your Yiddish to English dictionary!)

Since I’ve been to Bangkok many times, I’m pretty good at getting around via mass transit, especially the airport link (elevated high speed rail), the BTS Skytrain (also elevated high speed rail) as well as the more traditional modes of transportation, the Chao Praya River Express and taxis. If you visit I strongly urge using all four. Taxis are easy and inexpensive; the River Express is more than just a mode of transportation and is one of my favorite tourist experiences anywhere; and the elevated rail lines are relatively easy to use. The staff in the information booths are very helpful and they understand English. The subway is also supposed to be excellent, but I have never had the need or opportunity to use it.DSCN0092

DSCN0091The traffic jams in Bangkok are legendary. When I first started coming here in the mid 1990s, they were the worst I had ever seen, anywhere. I remember sitting in a van for three hours once to go less than a mile. But the new mass transit systems have made life much easier for residents and tourists alike.

And what can I say about the River Express? Think the NYC subway on a river with views and cooling breezes. If I lived here I would try to find a job and place to live where I could commute on the River Express every day.IMG_0365

And surprisingly, walking is also one of my favorite ways to get around. There is so much you can see at a slow walking pace at street level — the crowds of people, stalls partially blocking the sidewalks selling all manner of stuff, and the food vendors — sausages sizzling on grills, wide rice noodles frying in woks, soups artfully constructed from all manner of ingredients, some recognizable, most not. Just watch where you are stepping! The sidewalks are even, there are many uncovered holes, and the foot traffic is dense and unrelenting.

The problem was the heat. Monday was the hottest day since I arrived. The temperature was 99 F and the humidity was almost as high. I wilted about half way through my planned excursion. So did my camera and iPhone (well, something happened — too much sun to see what was in the monitor and too much sweat making it difficult for my meaty fingers to operate the teeny controls). That is why I have so few photos to post and my usual unerring sense of composition was on this day, so erring.

I skipped Wat Po and got off the River Express at Chinatown. I walked for a few blocks until I found the dim sum place I ate at last time I was here. I was the only sweaty farang in the place — everybody else looked well dressed and neat. Maybe that is why the service was indifferent (that’s being kind) or surly (politically incorrect but probably accurate). Probably also why the dim sum was only so-so. It was late and they were out of almost everything I ordered. I think that they just wanted to get rid of me. I cooperated and quickly ate the few dim sum they could muster, paid my very modest bill and left.

On the way back to the boat dock, I stopped at a Chinese bakery along the way for desert and snacks for later. That was a much better experience. Next time I’m in Chinatown, I’ll skip the restaurant and buy more at the bakery. Sorry, I don’t have names and addressed, but by this time I was so hot and bedraggled and the pages of my note book were damp with sweat, so I just ate and ran — I mean, walked.

By the time I got back to the university I was dripping wet and wiped out. I sat in the air conditioning in my room for a while then went out for an excellent 60 minute foot massage at the nearby Diya Massage and Spa. After that I walked a few short blocks to a food vendor on the street selling freshly grilled sausage. Of course I ate one (it was very hot, the other reason for the misleadingly suggestive title of this post).

DSCN0149That was just an appetizer. I finished dinner at a local restaurant with a plate of noodles, vegetables, chicken and spicy fried garlic. The place was a dump and the AC barely worked, but the food was good (I’ll look up the place later today to see if I can find a name, address, and website).

It was a pretty exhausting day. I fell asleep at 9 while reading my book, woke up at 10 and turned off the light. My jet lagged body clock woke me up again at 3. I decided that 6 hours was enough sleep and that it was time to start weaning myself off the Ambien. You would be surprised how much work you can get done at 3 am!

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