Things are a bit chaotic in Thailand, with their government, and sad news from the States has put me in a bit of a funk; so James and I went walking in our wonderful crazy neighborhood last night. It felt the best way to celebrate life and why I was here, so many miles away from my loved ones.
I live in the Huai Khwang district, in Bangkok, that has a fantastic night market. It gets going about 7pm and keeps up into the wee hours of the morning. We’d picked this neighborhood as it was close to a Subway exit, near our friend, and a predominantly Thai neighborhood. This met our goal of spending more time in a Thai community and had the boon of a lower price.
The night we found it, it was after seeing about 6 other apartments. We’d found one other with better access to the BTS and Subway but it was a bit too “lived in” (read: scared me with tight packed streets). Likewise, this bathtub did not appear to threaten tetanus (or was that another apartment with the hole covered in rust?)
Regardless, we landed here and requested the room after seeing it, knowing nothing of the neighborhood. We went out to find an ATM, to hold the room, and passed through the night market. The night was rainy and in the rush, I didn’t pay much attention to the wares, just that there was a night market with food stands! In our previous area, after dark, there was one stand or the 7-11 for any food requirements; so we thought, at least we won’t go hungry!
It was not until we moved in and went out our first night that I started to look at the stalls. There was a lot of teeny tiny outfits. I’d asked James jokingly, “Are we in a stripper neighborhood?” He confirmed we were. I stopped and stared at him. “What?” He’d apparently researched the area AFTER we’d reserved it, to find out that there was a lot of “massage parlors” (quotations to denote seediness) in the area. I spoke to my Thai friend and she too confirmed it was a “massage parlor” area. To both, I said “This could have been explained to me sooner!” and from both, I received shrugs.
But as with most things, it worked out. We have a comfortable (small) apartment with all the necessities, in a building with a security guard, and office staff that sort of speak English. More importantly, we are very at home on our street and our neighbors wave or talk to us daily.
Apparently, as Americans ask “How are you?”, is more a greeting than a question, the Thai equivalent is “Where are you going?” We’ve only recently learned this is, so have been dutifully answering our neighbors when they’ve asked. It probably has amused them greatly but also strengthened our relationship with them. Going from a neighborhood where we were largely ignored or glared at, this has been a most excellent change. I could not be happier here.
So, we walked last night, through the busy roads and sidewalks crammed with various vendors. I found them selling strawberries (a symbol of home). I indulged the dollar for the tiny cup of oddly cut strawberries (my theory: the cuts were to remove mold) and thought of home. They were warm from sitting out but for a moment it was an interesting union of my old and new life here in Thailand. I held out the strawberries before the night market, to capture that moment, and vendors oogled at me so James said “Bahh” (“crazy” in Thai) and everyone had a nice laugh. It’s nice to be home.