February 1st 2017
There are other ways to avoid the continuous traffic jam besides the metro, namely the canals. They riddle the city but come with their own issues, besides not being air conditioned. Intrepid waterbus commuters tackle the smell by swaddling their faces with damp towels. The waterbus boatman tries to prevent a dousing by raising and lowering plastic blinds whenever another boat passes in the opposite direction. When his timing is off, which it usually is, the ensuing groans make me grateful for my ignorance of where the water is coming from.
The waterbuses don’t appear on any tourist map (I learned about them from one of the mansplaining Canadians yesterday) and there is no English information about where we’re going, so I randomly select a destination from the fare table. It gives me plenty time to worry whether I can pull off the choreography I will need to disembark. Blinds up! Hop onto seat! Hop onto side! Grasp the thin wire! Judge precisely when the boat will be nearest to the dock! Hop off (or more accurately leap off since the boatman is also impatient). But it turns out everyone is getting off here, many of them I now notice, in high heels, so I can join a queue and avoid being immortalized as the farang who fell in. The whole experience, including the rickety bus ride to the canal has set me back a whole 22 baht (75 cents), priceless as they say even if my life expectancy may now be lowered.
Of course, the massive exodus from the boat is for the biggest mall in South East Asia (if we are to believe the signs, and why not?) suggesting that all transportation in Bangkok culminates in a shopping experience. Later the guy in the little tourist information outhouse, who has woken up for long enough to tell me that if I want to find Chinatown I must take the 73 bus into the bowels of the traffic jam because “We don’t walk in Bangkok” confirms my suspicions. The hour-long ride (roughly three times longer than a walk but who’s complaining? I’ve paid the princely premium of 50c for air conditioning) ends up in a shopping opportunity that hasn’t been upgraded since the opium wars.
The characters lurking in dimly lit alleys are frying up very dubious looking meat so I make the wise decision to skip this particular lunch opportunity. I’m glad I do – it turns out that the similar dim alley right next to the hostel is home to an unprepossessing stall that turns out the best Pad Thai in Bangkok. I get myself a heaping plate and a double size Singha (the single size is exported to places that don’t know any better) followed by a nice dessert for $4.
Rookie mistake! Stomach twinges force me to reassess Ning’s sticky rice and mango stall. A quick reflection on how Ning operates (heat up the rice for a short while then leave it out to cool for much longer) makes me grateful my upcoming flight will only be about an hour. Much later: I appear to have escaped with a warning. On to Myanmar!