A Few Things I Would Do in Bangkok If I Were in Bangkok Right Now

Khlong Boat
I’d walk down to the pier at Pratunam, down a dark residential alley that borders Khlong Saen Saab, skipping over pools of dirty water discharged from dusty washing machines, past sleeping cats, bubbling cauldrons of curries and noodles and soup, television sets beaming daytime Thai dramas, people’s homes open like public exhibitions, burlap sacks of sticky rice, plates of chicken and rice, oh how I remember that dark alley between my home and the pier.

Grab the support rope and swing my body onto a long wooden bench, careful not to lose my flip-flops in the black murk of the khlong, careful not to drop my cell phone or camera into the black murk of the khlong. (I once watched a Thai submerge himself in Saen Saab for about 20 or 25 seconds while, presumably, patching a hole on the bottom of one of the boats.) Squeeze in and fold my long legs up towards my chin to the good-hearted amusement of the Thais sitting everywhere but next to me; oh, the embarassment of sitting next to the farang.

Wait for the deafening motor to roar to life, put my sunglasses on and cover my mouth with the top of my shirt, and pull on the plastic-coated rope handle, raise the boat’s retractable wall of light-blue tarp and pray to fucking god I don’t get splashed in my eyes or my mouth or on my legs with the black murk of the khlong. Maybe chuckle to myself when an unknowing tourist, $3,000 camera slung around his or her neck, pulls the tarp back down to get a shot worthy of National Geographic (or at least their personal travel blog) and gets splashed with filthy murk.

Hand my 11-baht fare (or is it 12 baht?), to the boat attendant, twentysomething, dressed in blue jeans and a long-sleeve blue shirt, wearing a helmet, hanging onto the side of the boat like a barnacle, nimbly navigating the ledge like a ballerina in boots.

Lumpini Park
I’d walk down Soi Langsuan, past a lush branch of Starbucks draped in jungle that doesn’t feel like Starbucks at all, stop at 7-11 for green tea, go past Yaki-Ten, resisting the urge to stop and stuff my face with a spicy tuna roll or three, cross Sarasin Road, enter Lumpini Park through an open metal gate.

Walk past a small colony of lazy cats huddled around piles of mildewy wood, past the basketball court. The palm trees, yoga class, balmy early evening humidity, runners, walkers, security guards on pink children’s bicycles, monitor lizards stalking river banks, I remember it so well, soothing, inviting, Lumpini.

Gravitate towards the thump, thump, thumping of Cascada’s “Miracle” remixed and reimagined as a techno workout anthem as sung by The Chipmunks. (“I need a miracle, I wanna be your girl, Give me a chance to see, That you are made for me…”) Fall in line into one of the rows of masses of Thais stepping and kicking and turning and punching in step with Cascada and the spandex-clad instructors leading the class, open to everybody, held most evenings, a classic Bangkok spectacle, I can picture it so well.

I’d eat this whole fucking thing and not complain about how fat I am afterwards; in fact, I’d eat the whole thing and chase it with an order of crab-cream croquettes and maybe a shochu cocktail. The sweetness of the egg wrapped around pan-fried vegetables and lump of yakisoba noodles, swimming in pools of a thick, soy-based sauce and a small bottle’s worth of light mayonnaise, shavings of dried seaweed, oh how I remember that gluttonous mound of unnecessary indulgence.

I’d put every last bite of it down, like Chet Ripley sweating and feverishly chewing through the gristle and fat of the Old ’96er in The Great Outdoors. And when I bumble out of Kuu like a cow fattened one last time before the slaughter, there on the seventh floor of the CentralWorld shopping complex, I promise to utter not a single peep about fat I am.

Thai Port
I’d pull on my blue-and-orange Thai Port FC jersey and take a taxi to PAT Stadium in Khlong Toei for a Sunday afternoon soccer match. Buy a ticket at the creamsicle-colored ticket booth, or if it’s closed, from one of the dudes chain-smoking and chain-drinking at a picnic table littered with cigarette butts, empty cans of Leo, and half-eaten fish cakes in styrofoam containers.

Get there in plenty of time to slowly browse the long line of food vendors camped out underneath the bleachers, fried fish cakes and miniature frosted donuts, coconuts and beer, expats and Thais. Pound a few beers. Smile a big smile shared with a Thai wearing the same jersey. Piss a few times and maybe pound another beer to keep up with everybody else before heading inside and finding a seat. The drums are beating, the sun is beating harder. Cheering. Chanting. Maybe a goal or two. The biggest roars from underneath the bleachers, more drums, Thais dancing, cigarettes dangling on lips, warm beer splashing over the sides of plastic two-liter bottles sliced in half, horns, whistles, oh how I remember it.

The slow, steady rumble of khlong boats winding their way down Khlong Saen Saab as day turns to night, warning-red headlights like bloodshot eyes of crocodiles slithering through a swamp, the tweeting of black swallows swirling, diving, soaring, coasting, circling, nipping at each other’s white-tipped wings high above Big C Supercenter, the raspy whir of motorbikes and tuk-tuks accelerating down Petchaburi Road, oh how I remember it, that balcony, that view, drinking in the city, eating fried seaweed and barbecued broad beans and chunks of pineapple from small plastic bags, delirious, a nightly rapture.

The buzz of a cricket symphony in a vacant lot dancing with the dim clash of luk thung from an old apartment building. Kids shouting over the screams of metal saws cutting through sheets of steel (my teeth throb), a white plastic chair and flip-flops, camoflauge shorts, black t-shirt, 33 years old, sweaty Chang in a Chang coozie, my beautiful wife.

There are so many things I would do and places I would go in Bangkok if I was in Bangkok right now, but there’s nowhere I’d rather be in Bangkok than on that balcony.

Photos copyright Brian Spencer

One Response

  1. Jonathan Look, Jr. May 10, 2012

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