I Knew I'd Like Thailand

7:00 PM Tuesday, November 24, 1998

I've got some words to relay: Trust in the King of Overstock. Invest in his wisdom and learn: there's less to go around, if everyone counts, but if you've got the money to burn, then you will be in. And you can have faith in what you are worth, in heaven on Earth.

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The culture shock is over from India. I laid it all on an unsuspecting English woman on the bus ride into town. It's a fading memory now. Day 2 in Bangkok. I'm on the "Cherdehal Tour" which is the actually the bus out of Bangkok towards the eastern seaboard. As you know, I decided at the airport that I'd go to Kho Samet. Bangkok is very traveler-friendly. Not many people speak English but at least they have instructions on things like payphones.

Khosan road, where I stayed, and where I'm leaving my extra stuff, is sort of like Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, except it's apparently too far to go for the fat, partying Californians who stink up Cabo. Just tanned young people, culturally ranging from ultra-hippie to mildly-hippie. How interesting. Not.

The bus is moving out of town and I wish I had a movie camera now. I'd just point it out the window and push the button. There's light pouring out of the endless cubes of stores and people, about 5 deep, are on the sidewalk. It's been about 80 degrees F. and I haven't seen a 'skeeter. I went to the mall yesterday. I love the mall. I haven't had good mall for a while and man, they have good mall here. Really wanted take pictures but it was prohibited -- some of the advertising mistakes were pretty funny.

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Bangkok is the city of flyovers (what the Brit's call 'em). I love it for that. That's all I need. Constant, efficient, hidden and yet pervasive elevated expressway construction. I'm on a bus that most of you people in developed countries are familiar with. You have your own seat, you know, like a rolling plane. With a VCR and a TV mounted in the front.

Oh, my god, my heart leaps at the sight of a lone, stranded, concrete platform at the top of a concrete pillar. An unattached piece of elevated road. It's lit with red and green and white lights and has a fringe of re-bar like a flying carpet perched on a telephone pole.

I think I'm still on Sukhumvit road. It goes on forever, two roads separated by the uprights of a raised expressway. Bangkok is perfectly flat, clean and paved. The first thing I thought of was coming here on a trip just to skateboard. I've seen no one on rollerblades, bikes or skateboards. Tons of stupid looking 100cc SportBikes though. You know, these Japanese crotch rockets that San Diego guys ride around 150mph with no helmet on? Except these are basically mopeds, with skinny tires, engines that go brrrrrtttttttatatata and a guy with a Power Ranger's helmet all bent forwards over a plastic fuselage.

The freeway next to me is as tall as a Texaco Gas sign on I-5 in the San Joaquin Valley. I'm having a Siam drinking water. What can I say? I could tell you about Khosan road, about the guesthouses choking it, each with their own mini theater/ restaurant / travel agency / cyber café / souvenir shop / et-fuckin-cetera but why bother. I'm sure one of the other thousands of travelers around here is expounding on it at length in their Hotmail. I will tell you, however, that I think these westerners are pretty stupid. All sitting and watching Jean Claude Van Damme, buying pot and necklaces and lighters shaped like cellphones. None of them ever hang out with Thais.

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In a bar on Khosan road I met a cool guy from Calgary named Noah. He's buying clothes for stores back in Canada and within minutes we were picked up by a couple of Thai girls, Noi and Chen. Do you think they were cruising the place for western guys? Come on! Anyway, I went Wat (temple) watching and shopping with Chen yesterday. Bought some slick polyester clothes from a trendy store called Zen and actually got out and around Bangkok.

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It's pretty cool here. There's too much A/C just about anywhere you go and there's nothing written in English, let alone Arabic letters. I love the yellow and green taxis. They take you all the way across town (about 45 min) for about $3. Nissan Sentras or Toyota Corollas -- stick shift, I might add, and with bucket seats. You don't really feel like you're in a taxi without that big vinyl bench seat in front of you. I don't even think I took a good whiff off an exhaust tailpipe all day. I must be going in luxury.

Oh, how obnoxious, my bus driver is one of those toe-tapping drivers. Always dropping his foot on the gas, then pulling it off just as fast, so your damn head snaps back! You'd think a pro driver would keep it smooth and steady. I'm going to listen to some Guided by Voices.

8:08 PM same day.

Well, the Flexinol I bought in India didn't do anything noticeable. Can't say the same for the 2mg Valium I bought here in Bangkok for 2 Bhat a piece. (35Bhat to the buck). Ok, it's not exactly Gonzo enough to make Hunter S. Thomson proud but I kind of stumbled into this whole sedative/transportation thing after my doctor set me up with the codeine.

I want to quickly relate for you my trip back to the bathroom just now on the bus.

Take off my headphones, pass the two young Thai girls going to Pha Nam for a little holiday. Past the 10 or so uniformed school kids that got on midway (kind of weird on a long distance bus at 7pm) and to the bathroom. Ok, you know what happens there. On the way back, I took advantage of the crack-addled driving and had a little swing -- parallel-bars style -- from the seats. The kids love it and one sticks our her hand for me to shake as I pass by. (first time since India). I sit down and reach for one of the pillows stashed in the overhead bin, pull on what I thought was your regular airline-sized pillow and get a full sized, fringed, pink floral print monster. I'm sitting there, with it on my lap -- stunned and just thinking, 'cause it's too big to put behind my head -- when the driver's assistant comes back and grabs it out of my hands and stuffs it back in the overhead. He says nothing so I say "No?" and he says "No." End of that one. I give a Mentos shrug, just like the whiskey swilling Latino kid in Heavy Metal Parking Lot to the girls on holiday and pull out the journal to write this little "slice of life" down.