Monday, February 06, 2012

Bangkok Final Days

January 2010

...awake to the Ayuthaya ruins at dawn. The train is 2 1/2 hours late in arriving. At one of the main stops, I watch a dog walk along an adjoining rail. Later, a motorcycle cop avoids traffic by riding up the sidewalk. A man balances precariously on a stack of cardboard boxes in the back of a truck. A cat too, balances precariously as her owner rides a bicycle. On the train, a group of young backpackers are bitching loudly, rightly so I suppose, but I wish they'd look out the window at the passing slums we're passing to get some perspective.

We stay near the river off Khao San Road, landing a room on the 5th attempt. It's a surprisingly clean and quiet place.

We take a klong taxi to Jim Thompson's house. It is a wet, noisy ride, with twin sheets of plastic obstructing the view of dilapidated houses overhanging the filthy water. Thompson's place is amazing, the red teak containing gorgeous art. It inspires me toward something like this, the beauty and sentimentality of simpler times. I find myself mourning the loss of our own Kyoto home.

Later we meet Dew and Pom. We can't find the restaurant they want (Naturally. Pom has gotten us lost everywhere we've gone. Hard to believe he's a pilot.), so we take a cab to a small busy place of 100 year's history. Next door we have dessert at a place that Pom tells me is called 'Magic Milk,' though Dew keeps laughing as he says this. It is crazy busy, one of the most popular joints in the city. And they sell only one thing -- toast. It is incredibly noisy with talk, the roar reminding me of the gathering places of Hong Kong's Filipina maids on their days off...

... at dawn the next day, I get breakfast at a 24 hour place, watching tired backpackers arrive, fresh off the plane. And it the very same airport that is our next destination. It is my first visit to the new airport, this bizarre structure that looks like it is draped in panties. (I have a strong memory of the old airport, where I once was startled by how tall Peter Garrett was, as I watched him move slowly through the terminal.) On board, the flight instructions are right out of the '70s. We transit for a few hours in Kuala Lumpur but see nothing but the airport, with its square toilets, indoor jungle, and tasty food. I still don't understand the sign 'reverse airport water security.'

Then awake in Osaka. We spend a single day in Kyoto, and leave again in the rain, the weight of the water not nearly as heavy as my heart, as our bus passes historical sites that bore witness to scenes of my own history. Then another red-eye drops into SFO, where a car awaits us...

On the turntable: Joy Division, "Unknown Pleasures"

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