Four movies, one layover in Hong Kong and a very effective sleeping pill later, I arrived in Bangkok. It is a city unlike any other I’ve seen. Right away you can see the disparity between the rich and poor, passing what can only be described as shantytowns in the middle of the city. The heat hits you in the face like a 100 degree sauna and it only took me 20 seconds to start sweating. I know New York City heat in July but they need to come up with a whole different word for this kind of heat! The traffic is fascinating, with hundreds of cars and motorcycles not only running red lights, but seemingly making up their own routes, swerving in and out of marked lanes. Pedestrians beware: the walking signals here are more like a warning… if you’re feeling brave, go ahead, try it. The city has an interesting smell to it; a lovely combination of raw meat, garbage and car fumes.
But after you successfully cross the street (miraculously still with a pulse), you see that Bangkok is a fascinating mix of old and new. Modern, trendy restaurants are just a block away from the row of food stalls and run down pharmacies. Tuk-tuks (the three-wheeled vehicles that look precariously constructed though are seen everywhere) drive down the same road as a Lexus SUV.
Today I ventured out to the AP office, a beautiful and modern high rise building in the heart of the business district. It’s also quite close to the go-go dancing bars from what I hear (must avoid that part of town and avoid all temptation to see “Soi Cowboy” despite how American it sounds).
By far the most overwhelming thing so far, in terms of adjusting, is grocery shopping. The supermarket near the office is called Tops, but that’s about the only English word in there. Not only could I not read a single label but there were foods there I’ve never seen before. I found Jif peanut butter and almost cried. Needless to say, dinner tonight was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Among other things I purchased was milk. At least I think it was milk. All evidence points to milk, but the jury’s still out. Will report back on that.