July 6, 2017
So, my friend from Pattaya, came to visit me for a change. Obviously, I didn’t know Bangkok as well as she does Pattaya, but I did my best to keep her entertained. She’s pretty easy going anyway and didn’t mind a somewhat scattered approach to touring the city.
We began at the bus station, where I met her, and simply wandered for a bit until we came across the Khlong Toey Market, a fresh food market smack dab in the middle of the city, and one of the city’s largest. It’s a fascinating place: bustling with locals buying fruits and vegetables and meat, either for their own families or to cook and sell in their restaurants or food stalls. You weave between people haggling over the price of live crabs or inspecting unidentifiable (by me) parts of a pig, past enormous piles of produce and towering stacks of egg cartons, before skirting a large cage full of chattering geese, and dodging a scooter inexplicably and illogically making its way through the crowd. I absolutely loved it.
Once you make it through the fresh food market, you cross Khlong Toey road to the tarps and stalls of the prepared food market, a warren of tables groaning under platters of food as far as the eye can see. Some vendors are literally surrounded by their wares, like spiders at the center of a web of noodles and curries and meats and vegggies. We bought a bag of jackfruit and munched on those as we wandered by people shelling shrimp and sorting chilies.
From there, we stopped by a lovely park for some rare fresh city air then made our way to the nearest Skytrain station. I suggested we check the Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC), in Siam Square, which neither of us had visited. The BACC is free and specializes in local modern art, much of it inscrutable but all of it interesting. The first few floors are dedicated to merchants selling their own art, while the top three floors hold the galleries. One entire floor featured art inspired by the recently deceased king, the longest reigning monarch of modern times, having reigned seventy years.
At one point, as she looked over a portrait of the king, Rama IX, she said, “I don’t know why I love him, but I really love him.” Though I didn’t say so, the reason seemed fairly clear to me: she had been raised with this monarch as The Father of Thailand; there was no escaping him or his greatness—warranted or not. And there’s no question that he did do some important things for the country, including simply visiting the more distant and less well-off portions of his kingdom. But, then again, the use of laisse majeste and his hoarding of wealth while ruling over such a poor country does demonstrate that his benevolence certainly has its limits.
We were both hungry, so I suggested we eat in Baan Khrua, one of my favorite spots in the city and the area where I did my teacher training. On the way to grab food we wandered a bit through Baan Khrua’s canal-side ghetto, a poor but beautiful (because I don’t have to live there) area.
It was another lovely day of exploring a city that, with every passing day, feels more and more like home.