24 September 2007

Inaugural Post

So I’ve been in Bangkok for just about three weeks now, which is a while to be here without producing the promised and prized first blog.

My excuse is that I’ve been trying to come up with a good blog title (not to mention the perfectly witty and clever first blog entry. No joy there). I solicited and received a number of excellent, punny, or vaguely inappropriate (but very tempting) suggestions for titles.

Then I grew tired of thinking about it.

Years from now they will describe this time as my Bangkok Period. Or, if you prefer its full name,

Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.

Translated: "The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukam.”

It’s also known as the City of Angels, the Big Mango, Venice of the East, and so on. But you can call it Bangkok, which roughly translates to the very prosaic “Village of hog-plums.”

That’s a lot for any city to live up to, but if any city can, it’s Bangkok. Local writer S. Tsow describes Bangkok as teeming with “the kaleidoscopic variety of this seething microcosm of life’s rich pageant.” Having been thrown for many loops after three weeks in this city, I have to agree.

BK is a stunning study in contrasts. The heat is oppressively hot, settling onto the skin like a heavy cloak. When the heavens suddenly open with monsoon rains, cool winds whip around the skyscrapers and drive water through the open spaces.

Motorcycles, tuk-tuks, and buses with wood-panelled floors vie for scarce space with BMWs and SUVs. The smell of sizzling meat in the stalls, foetid water in the khlongs, and flowering plants rise up and drift away one after the other. Homeless beings - cats, dogs, humans - curl up at night on the overhead walkways above busy streets of drivers headed home from the office. Members dine poolside at the Royal Polo club, a few hundred metres from the stable, while just as good (if not better) food is found exponentially cheaper in the bustling stalls clustered on every sidewalk (which aren't for walking on, anyway).

By night, a robot watches me sleep.

And then there’s me, one sweaty farang trying to get used to it all. More to come.

*btw: if anyone knows how to caption photos, do let me know. If anyone knows how to lay the damn things out in less than an hour, also let me know.