One Night In Bangkok Probably is Actually Sufficient

Oh Bangkok. I wanted to love you. I adore Thai food. You have such pretty architecture. And, one of my absolute favorite songs of the 1980’s extols your, erm, seedier aspects, shall we say?

A song, which Wikipedia tells me, has been covered by a Norwegian singer, a Swedish pop group, a Swiss DJ and a Danish boy band, so you have the Scandinavian vote on lockdown, so don’t worry about that.

But overall, I liked Bangkok, but did not love it, and while I’d be interested in exploring other parts of Thailand, I would probably skip Bangkok. Here are a few of my reasons:

  • It was hotter than blazes. Like sweating in places you didn’t know had sweat glands hot. Unrelentingly so.
  • It was very, very crowded. There are 12 million people in this densely populated metropolis. Compare that to the 22 million in the entire country of Australia.  And as a result…
  • It’s very, very stinky. Honestly, it gave New Orleans a run for its money. And so many different stenches. Especially along the docks by the river. As this blogger put it so well:

“Eau de Bangkok was a memorable odor. Combining the very worse Asia has to offer, it attacked the senses, an onslaught bloody enough to make a grown man cry, or at least foul enough to make a grown man’s eyes water. There was no escaping the city’s divergent odors; the sweet perfume of plumeria, the heady scent of incense from the thousands of shrines and temples, the reek of the river and canals that form an important part of the city’s transportation system (as well as a major part of its sewer system), the aroma of street side cooking on every block, weird tropical fruit that smelled as if someone had died beneath its skin, and the fragrance typical of a bustling Asian City overflowing with humanity and its offal. The aroma of Bangkok was a physical presence. It lodged in your throat like a pig wallowing in yesterday’s slop.”

  • And the poverty was nothing less than heartbreaking. Whereas we hardly saw any homeless people in Australia, in Bangkok, they were everywhere you looked. It was very humbling.

Mostly Bangkok gave me the same disoriented feeling I’ve experienced in Asian cities before: nothing looks right, even things I recognize seem off-kilter and unfamiliar. I always feel like I stumble through Asian cities in a sleepwalk state. Plus, as tall Americans, you really feel like you stick out and tower above most people, even though there were gobs of other tourists (Bangkok is a very, very inexpensive place, which makes it particularly attractive, I think).

Boat ride in Bangkok
An early morning boat ride down the river.

There’s always this aspect of sensory overload I get in Asian cities, much like what I experience in the bright lights and loud noises of Vegas. In Bangkok, there was just so much to see in such a small, tight space and so many unfamiliar noises all crashing on top of each other. This was particularly true when we were at the night market where there was just a crush of people (including tons of tourists) and stalls all crammed with cheap trinkets and fake designer goods.

We weren’t looking for anything, but if we had been, I don’t know how we ever would have found it.

Wat Po temple, Bangkok
Pretty sure I’m melting in this picture. This was at the Wat Po, which I think was named after thePoeLog.

Even when you escape the street stalls for the sidewalks, you’re assaulted with neon signs trying to lure you into the various bars and loads of people sitting on the sidewalks eating, talking to each other or on the phone, calling out to you, trying to show you a price list.

Added to that is the sense of debauchery I’ve basically coated the whole place with in my mind. I felt like everyone was hustling, or was on the make. In Bangkok, where prostitution is not only legal, but practically a sector of its tourism industry, I eyed every tourist suspiciously, sure that they were up to no good whether it was buying sex or fake Louboutins.

Gold buddhas at Wat Po temple, Bangkok
No fake Loutoutins here, just gold Buddhas here.

When we ducked outof the night market to grab a beer at a beer garden, a European couple sitting next to us were charming one of the Thai waitresses, taking pictures of her in cutesy poses on their camera phone. They didn’t know her, but sure wanted a lot of pictures of her. What in the hell would they want her photo for, I wondered. I couldn’t think of any good reason.

I’m not a puritan or anything. In fact, I came very close to buying several vibrators on chains at the night market  as party favors for Sorta Running Buddy Amy’s bachelorette party this weekend, but I know that Amy’s not into penis se toys, so me, the model of restraint, held back and did not buy those things. So that proves I”m not just not a puritan, but I’m actually quite considerate as well.

No, it’s not a sex-puritan thing. It’s more about the fact that more than anything I hate when people who have power and money take advantage of those who are weak or poor. My sense of justice and fairness runs pretty strong.

Statues in Bangkok
You have to love any place that has pink elephant statues in the median of busy roads.

I was also nervous about safety and scams, which there apparently there are plenty of in Thailand. On the day we went to the Grand Palace, they were closed for the afternoon. There were several “official” looking gentlemen out front directing us to some of the other tourists’ sites and trying to get us to use a tuk tuk. Apparently, these tuk tuks don’t actually take you to other city highlights, but instead take you to a whole bunch of jewelry and tailoring shops.

We did, however, visit a jewelry shop on our own, one that had been recommended by family friends. We spent a very cool and lovely afternoon at Johnny’s Gems, an institution among the diplomat and embassy circles in Bangkok. They even had a picture of Hilary Clinton shopping there, but I have to confess, I did not notice a single picture on the wall. I was too busy looking at the trays of gorgeous jewelry. They were quite accommodating at Johnny’s, even running next door to get you some of the best fried rice you’ve ever tasted.

fried rice at Johny's Gems, Bangkok
A really unflattering picture, but I was more interested in eating my rice than posing for photos.

We also had dinner on top of a skyscraper. The Vertigo restaurant on top of the Banyan Tree hotel was stunning, overlooking the entire city. It was an unforgettable dinner on a beautiful night.

So between the whole eating fried rice in a jewelry store and dinner on top of a skyscraper, I guess I liked Bangkok maybe more than I initially thought. It’s a pretty interesting place for sure.

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Wait, You Didn’t Spend President’s Day Looking for a Mystery Stench?

I love all the lesser federal holidays. You know, like Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day and MLK Day and President’s Day and Flag Day. Ok, that last one is not a federal holiday, but it should be.

Since I live in DC, my company follows the federal holiday schedule and that means random Mondays off about once a month. It’s awesome. You get to sleep in, maybe go shopping, have a nice lunch, maybe have a little daytime wine at lunch.

But since I’m an idiot, I scheduled work on President’s Day. So, I dragged myself to my deserted office for the scheduled 10 am phone interview I had set up with the hard-working owners of a company that was not off for President’s Day, apparently.

I worked for a couple of hours and then rode the lonely metro back home. I stopped by a wine bar on the way home so I could at the very least get my daytime wine on.

I had big plans to go to the gym, but when I got home, there was an entirely different workout awaiting me. Our kitchen stinks. It stinks in a way that is, quite frankly, impossible to ignore and definitely embarrassing.

Even more embarrassing is that we noticed it a day or two ago, right before a not-so-surprise birthday party XFE threw for me on Saturday. Sidenote about the birthday party: It. Was. Awesome.

There were two briskets cooked on the Big Green Egg, shark tattoos, a plastic tiara, TWO types of birthday cake (chocolate and red velvet – decorated with plastic sharks, of course), and some sort of alcohol called “Or-G.” I dunno what it is or what it does but it came in a very pretty bottle.

Did I mention that there were shark tattoos? This one is eating my earring!
That would be a cake. Decorated with sharks.

 

A shark about to eat Suzanne's bracelet. Man, these sharks really like jewelry.
That would be me, about to dominate that shark cake. And it's 40 stupid candles. Don't worry. I got them all.

It was a lot of fun and I did not lift one single finger. XFE did everything from cooking to lighting candles once it got dark to cleaning up before we went to bed. It was the best kind of party. He even mopped the kitchen the next day while I went shopping with my special surprise out-of-town guest Emilia (seen above with the blue iphone).

If I could clone him, I’d make a fortune.

Anyway, back to the smell. Ladies and gentlemen of the Internet, I do not know how to describe this smell. It is nothing short of rancid. It smells like something that might have once been alive but clearly is no longer. It smells like incredibly expensive cheese.

And we cannot figure out from where it’s originating. We were fairly certain it was from the fridge, but we went through the day of the party, and there was almost nothing in there that would have caused any stench because everything is either in a closed container or processed within an inch of its life.

So we thought it must be something festering under the shelves or under the containers just out of eye (but not nose) sight.

We shrugged and considered it our personal protection device for our prized Shiner Bock collection in the bottom drawer of the fridge.

Today when I got home I couldn’t stand it anymore. I dismantled the entire refrigerator, all the shelves, all the sliding drawers, all the hanging drawers on the door. I inspected suspiciously old condiments (including an impressive collection of Asian marinades and a 34 ounce bottle of ginger dressing from Costco that says it doesn’t expire until July, but honestly, who knows). I sniffed containers of individually wrapped wedges of Laughing Cow cheese. I peered into jars of banana peppers and pickles.

Nothing. Nothing was leaking. There were no suspicious puddles of brown liquid to be found pooling under the crisper drawers. I have no idea where the smell is coming from.

I guess since I got them all out, I might as well clean them.

When XFE got home, I even had him pull out the fridge to see if something had rolled underneath. Then I had him pull out the trash compactor to see if something had gotten trapped under there. Nothing. This is going to make me crazy, guaranteed.

On a positive note, in the haze of spraying Fantastic all over the fridge and thinking I needed to try to use the Swiffer under the fridge as well, I ended up Swiffering under our bed upstairs and amidst an alarming pile of cat hair and dander (I’m surprised we’re not coughing up furballs), I found a crisp $1 bill.

Our maid really should take some heed and start Swiffering under that, not just because, oh, I don’t know, we pay her to clean our house, but because, apparently, we also stash money under the bed.

Oh, look who else came to the birthday party. A Vosges Mo's sample pack. Welcome. Now get in my belly.