The street food or curry must've caught up with me. Suffice to say I used the bum gun several times in the night.
I felt like I'd been strapped to one of Kim Jong Un's glorious failure missiles.
But at least I'd planned ahead and my Grab car (like Uber but Thai because I want to feel like a local) would be coming at 9 to take me to the Yodpiman Flower Market by 10, where I'd be meeting my Thai friend from business school.
My Toyota Altis was circling. An Altis stopped and picked me up.
Do you know how many Altises there are in Bangkok? [If this were a consulting case question I'd start by estimating the total number of cars in Bangkok, then guessing at the relative popularity of the Altis, then blow my brains out because fuck consulting.]
A few streets down and I realize this isn't my guy. But I'm here and he agrees to charge me just 100 baht extra to take me there. I know I should know better but I go along anyway, this language barrier being frustrating and mai pen rai.
He says my Thai is very good (I've said sawadee krap, dai and Yodpiman Flower Market) and talks up a "much better market": the floating market. And, shock, he can take me there! I say I plan to go there soon but now I want to go to Yodpiman. Fine.
While he drives I thumb through my Survival Thai and compare it to my Thai language app. Common threads. I is "mai" pronounced "may" I think. Drilling it into my head. May may may. May pen rai, not "my" pen rai. So is it may pen ray?
He talks again, telling me about the Chinese and Indian market, or a market where Chinese and Indians go. But he says there are great deals there, since Chinese and Indians. Dai dai, I say, but I'm going to Yodpiman. He nods and I wonder where I will end up. I pull up my maps just to check in on progress.
Soon we're at the market. Which market? I don't know, but it's 20+ Minutes from Yodpiman. I point this out on the maps and say the street based on my read. I show him the map. It even has Thai on it. He shrugs, apologizes, points to an empty gas gauge. But at least he charges me nothing (never mind the Grab car I already paid for and didn't get into).
So now it's time to get out and hail. Yodpiman Flower Market I say and point to the location on the map.
- The first one doesn't know.
- The second doesn't have time.
- The third will do it for 200 baht. I insist on the meter. It's a matter of principle at this point. We agree to disagree.
I'm hoping the fourth time is a charm. But I'm rolling and so message my friend on LINE (like WhatsApp but Thai)
I'm understanding the Thai smile now because she was the real reason I was coming and I can only laugh at my misunderstanding. I guess I could get angry--and in the past I would've. But it's different here, both in geography and situation. While I wanted to see her, I also want to see this side of the world, so why get mad when I'm riding around doing just that?
Soon we arrive and glory be it's Yodpiman. And the driver insists on taking less than the meter says because we had to go through a toll booth. I argue but he won't have it.
I meet some interesting people at the event there. But, while my friend told me she knows them, it seems they don't recognize her name when I drop it.
And I learn I've been mispronouncing her name. For 7 years. Such is the way with a tonal language--and she, having a good heart, never made us Americans learn the right way. She didn't want to make us uncomfortable, I guess--and she'd have to correct everyone for two years of b-school because whose name rises and falls in tone over three letters / one syllable?
A Thai person's, that's who.
After some time at the market I burn shoe leather and find another wat.
They seem commonplace to those who live here but each time I'm in awe. The level of detail in the facade. Inlaid glass and tile... the work must be painstaking. To think that men put this kind of love and labor into something so small, something so overlooked by those who are inured. Wish I could meet one of the people whose hands created this. To tell them their work remains appreciated and admired.
I wander on. A tuktuk driver hawks a tour my way but I'm okay--the MRT is just another 30 min walk. Yes it's hot but I can handle it--and I'm thankful for that. I stumble upon the constitutional court. As a law geek I'm smiling. This wasn't even part of the "plan". But I am exactly where I'm supposed to be.
Now walk miles through Chinatown, take the MRT to the BTS, switch at Silom to the Sukhumvit line, ride a dozen stations, walk to my place for the week, shower, take more pepto. Return to the BTS and meet my friend for coffee and a Thai massage (I'm getting addicted).
And where do we get coffee? The Cat Cafe.
One of the cafe cats crawls into my lap on its own volition, which I'm told is a rare event indeed. It makes me cheese--even though I don't like cats. Really.