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In My Elements

September 16, 2009
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Seven PM, GMT +7 and I was late for an appointment to pick up a package somewhere in Sathorn. The place doesn’t even exist on Google Map Bangkok. However, when you switch your computer into Thai script and start typing in the key word, voila..

Wrongly dubbed as a “Walking Google”, I took the wrong exit from the skytrain station only to meet a rows and columns of cars, patiently waiting until the traffic jam melts away. People just  need cars, despite the bullet-train-wannabe skytrain. I swallowed my own words and took the plunge into the peak hour traffic.

I could see Mr. Taxi Driver smirked when I stated my destination in heavily-accented Thai while flashing a print-out map of the said place. Being a foreigner, I could only order, but not making conversation. When Mr. Taxi Driver started to shoot me with several questions, I wish I had a holographic interpreter.

The map was probably scaled, but places that looked like 10 kilometers away may just be 1 kilometer away in the soi-system of Bangkok.

I let myself bathed by scenes of the narrow soi (alley) that seemed like Jason Pollock’s masterpiece.  Rows of two stories, 16 meter square-wide shop houses with wooden plank floors, large aluminum pots and pans peeked at you from the back from the half-open wooden folding doors, plywood sheets nailed on some windows upstairs. A young lady stood by a noodle hawker, that seemed to have stopped in the middle of the road, waiting for her order while her agile fingers were dancing on the keyboard of her metallic blue mobile phone. A lady donned Chinese chef hat and an apron was busy fanning a charcoal grill lined with fat sausages on a stick. A small restaurant was closing down. A fruit shop with refrigerators bigger than the room itself was empty from customers. A tailor shop was drenched with neon lights, its mannequins wore dresses, which colors glared like disco lights. Several modern-looking shop houses have ceramic floors instead, energy-saving lamps, modern furniture and wide glass doors printed with “Tutorial School”; some school children were sitting down in the reception area. It’s almost 8 PM. An extended family was having a dinner on a table lined with linoleum sheet, almost at the roadside. A grandmother greeted her granddaughter who was still lugging her school bag. Scenes from a television flashed, while a toddler was running in circles in front of it. A big old fridge full of magnets seemed to tilted a bit to the left in a family room. PTT gas station without any pumps, though lights were still screaming from a 7/11 store within its compound. A waiter is folding a “menu of the day” board from outside a small coffee shop, carrying it inside. A signal for closing.

And I didn’t know where my destination was.

After a frantic calls and a direction in Burmese English, compounded by statics of bad GSM network, my right hand did a loop in the air, asking Mr. Taxi Driver to go back as we have passed my destination. My brain switched from English to broken Thai, trying to find the right words and the right tones.

Eighty Baht and I was out from the taxi onto a small simple apartment, greeted by two running public washing machines, a man shouting something behind the “one-desk-concierge”. I heard someone called my name. My contact handed me the document, I said thanks and retreated.

A motorbike taxi just dropped his customer in front of the apartment, I hailed him, stated my next destination, positioned my butt, grabbed a handle at the back of the seat. The 125cc slim motorbike sped off on a four-lane street, negotiating the traffic. The cool breeze swayed the clouds. A starless night. New skyscrapers construction projects were mushrooming along Silom Road. I didn’t have any helmets on. I was in my elements.

I’m not “Harriet the Spy” and this is not the deleted scene of “Bangkok Dangerous” *winks*

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