Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hello again, Bangkok

I'm back in Bangkok.  I have been here for three days, today being the beginning of day four.  The jet lag continues, although I was prepared for it this time.  It helps that there is no real schedule for me here, so it doesn't matter if I am awake or asleep during the daylight hours.  (Although I do think M is getting sick of being awakened by restless me in the wee morning hours.)

My beloved camera was lost on the first leg of my journey, and I am still mourning it.  It is only a thing, so one must not get to distraught.  It is my fault that it is gone, since I put it in the overhead bin and forgot about it until I had left the airplane and walked to the international terminal in San Francisco.  When I discovered my error, I RAN all the way back to the gate, dodging the swarms of fellow travelers the whole way.  Arriving breathless and sweating to my arrival gate, the gate agent got on the plane but could not find it.  She even got back on the plane and looked a second time, after seeing how my face crumpled when she returned empty handed.  Many tears were shed, but life goes on.  I am now relying on M's tiny pocket camera to capture images of my Bangkok visit.  It will suffice, but now you know why my photos will not be of the usual quality.

M has discovered a new way to get around the city, by way of canal boats on the Klong.  Not as expensive as a taxi or the subway, and you don't have to worry about getting stuck in traffic.  Being on the water is a wee bit cooler than tromping around on foot.  We still do plenty of walking in the steamy air, of course.  I found that the most abundant graffiti seems to be adorning walls and buildings near the Klong Saen Saeb.  Riding the canal boats makes for an authentic Thai experience.

 Each canal boat arrives in a cloud of exhaust, adorned with two agile boat workers who hop off the boat as it approaches the dock.  They wind their heavy ropes around a pole to hold it in place only long enough for the passengers to climb on or off.  It is a short stop, and climb is the operative word here.  The boat doesn't always stay obediently alongside the dock, and sometimes there is a significant gap between boat and dock.  The sight of the murky, brownish green water is enough to keep one from being careless about entering or leaving the river boat.  More than once, I saw passengers on the dock reaching out an arm to help their fellow female travelers disembark.  Once the passengers have nimbly stepped on or off the boat, the heavy rope is uncoiled from the dock post, and the boat is once more on its way.  It is a quick exchange, and the boats move fast.  The boat workers climb along the edge of the boat, taking money and handing out tickets.  One arm is always looped over the rope that runs along the top edge of the boat.  I found myself wondering if they ever fall.   

There is a blue tarp running along the edge of the boat that can be pulled up while the boat zooms along.  It serves as a splash guard to keep that funky water away from the passengers.  The tarp is lowered when the boat stops, so passengers can get on and off, and to provide a bit of air circulation.  You must climb out of the bottom of the boat, over that blue tarp and over the gap between boat and dock in order to leave.  It is not for the faint of heart.  (although once you have done it, there is a sense of triumph and a thought that it wasn't as bad as you thought.)  A note to those who travel to Bangkok and would like to try the adventure of canal boat travel:  the best place to be is probably in the front part of the boat.  Too close to the engine becomes VERY loud, and the last row of the boat has the unfortunate side effect of water splashing you from behind (upon stopping) with a coiling cloud of stinky exhaust to top off the experience.  It is advisable to hang onto the ropes for stability at all times.

I find it fascinating that the street art is predominately English, rather than Thai. 

I hope you stick with me, my dear blog followers, since I will be sharing my experience of Bangkok for the next couple of weeks.   As ever, you keep me writing, blog readers.  Thanks.


Tina Bluefield said...

the water and the green trees, especially in the last photo, look so refreshing seen from this dry sandy desert...thanks for these pictures, sorry about your camera...I lost a wonderful camera in the same way on a train on my first trip out of the US...

Marjorie said...

I'm so sorry to read about the loss of your camera. What a horrible way to start a long flight over the Pacific! But it's fascinating to learn about the canal boats and what it's like to ride them. Thanks for the glimpse into a part of Bangkok life I didn't know existed.

Bonnie said...

Bummer about your camera - hope there weren't too many pix on the storage card. In the end, it's only money, though. Love the grafitti - some beautiful images there.

Annie said...

Sorry about your camera!
Thank you for taking us with you on the boats. I will be checking back for more of the tour. Have fun! xoxo