Letters From Bangkok: To Brazil From Abroad
25 October 2018
I awoke this morning at six o’clock. Not because I wanted to, not because I had plans, not even because I forgot that I had my alarm set. I woke up at six o’clock on the dot to loud pounding on my door.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Awakened in a sweat, I thought there was no way that knock came from my door. Then, I flipped a lid thinking it was check-out day and I had slept for two weeks straight and was now late checking-out. I opened up my bedside curtains and it was still dark out. There’s no way that knock could’ve been on my door.
Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. . .
I practically hit the ceiling I jumped so fast out of my bed. This time, the knocker was relentless and they were undeniably at my door. I got nervous and tried to look through a peephole, but my door didn’t have one.
Instead, I cracked the door open ever-so-slightly just enough to expose one eye through the crack. I didn’t bother putting pants on, so I stayed hidden behind the door with my foot wedging it closed at the bottom.
It was a woman. At least, it looked like a woman, anyway. You never know with all of these Thai ladyboys running around.
Immediately, she stuck one arm out and started leaning into my door trying to budge her way in. I didn’t let her and kept my foot wedged in the door. She pushed harder, but she wasn’t going to push through me. The woman used two arms now and put her full body’s weight into it.
“Excuse me, who are you?” I asked, trying to keep my cool but I was a little terrified at this woman trying to bust down my door before the sun had risen.
She raised her phone screen to my face. There was a text conversation on the screen. I saw an address and clear payment discussion. This was a prostitute.
“This not you?” she asked. It wasn’t me, obviously. I had been drinking the night before, but nowhere near enough to do something like that.
“No,” I said. “You must have the wrong room. I’m sorry. Please let me close the door.”
She kept her weight leaning on my door for another five or ten seconds as she scrolled through the messages and then gave out a loud, annoyed sigh as if I’ve pissed her off. Finally, she let me close my door and I heard her talking on the phone for the next half-an-hour. She had the wrong hotel.
I’ll call that a Thai wake-up call.
There are a lot of things I’ve noticed about Bangkok after being here for about a month. For starters, it doesn’t matter where you are in the city – you will always find the same prices and the same options for food.
I’m used to taking walks away from the city center while traveling in Europe. Generally, you’ll find more traditional food at a cheaper price when you get away from all the tourists. That’s not the case in Bangkok.
The other night, I decided to go on a scavenger hunt for new dinner places outside of the tourist quarters. I’ll be damned if I didn’t walk two miles without finding a restaurant that served something other than rice and noodles.
It doesn’t matter if you’re dining in a fancy restaurant on the busiest street of Bangkok or eating inside a family’s garage in a local neighborhood – your meal will cost you the same thing. I have a hard time believing that, but to my experiences so far, it has held up as true.
I don’t often eat out while I’m traveling, but here it’s different. Thai people don’t shop for groceries. Or, if they do, I don’t know where because there isn’t a single market to be found in this city. Most of them take advantage of the cheap street food and eat out of plastic bowls every night. I’m already sick of this and ready to cook my own food, I don’t know how they do it.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that local people are a bit obsessed with western culture. They try so hard to obtain popular western status. They walk around with clear plastic cups with their dome lids and random green logos as if they’re carrying a Starbucks frappe. They pay extra for it, too, even though it’s not Starbucks at all.
They’re all very aware of western world trends. Many Thai girls even spend a lot of money on “whitening” cream to make their skin look paler and like that of a white person. Honestly, it makes them look like they’re wearing Halloween makeup and they’d be much more attractive without using it.
Last night, before meeting with a few friends from the U.S. for beers, I was dragged off the street by a little man wearing highlighter-pink tube socks. Literally.
“Hey– hey, hi. Where are you from?” the small Asian man asked me. He couldn’t have been any older than me, but Asians are notoriously young-looking for their age.
I told him I was from the U.S. and he, quite literally, gripped onto my arm and yanked me inside the walls of his school. His name was Pop – or, at least, his English name.
Before I understood what was going on, I was sitting at a table with a 22-year-old Thai girl and Pop was taking my drink order. There were other tables beside us with foreigners and Thai locals. It felt like some kind of international speed-dating TV show.
It wasn’t, though. It was a language school and I was sitting in front of Fi who had been studying English for four months.
“Well, that’s great!” I said. Quickly trying to come up with more conversation, I started asking her about her childhood growing up in the North of Thailand. She shared that it was much calmer than Bangkok, which I reasonably gathered before she explained.
Pop came back with my drink and said, “You know, we offer foreigners free accommodation for as long as they like. You only have to speak with my students sometimes.”
This sounded appealing, but I was running dry on the conversation with Fi already. We swapped Facebook information and I told them I would return another day. I’ll probably stay a week with them at the end of the month. Things happen so quickly here. I’ve never been to a place like it.
I guess that’s why I am really digging the city. It’s so different and there are infinite quirks about it. I wish there was a better way to explain it.
Brazil has a big election coming up. I know you’ll vote. I’ll try to educate myself more on the political situation there through my BBC newsfeed.