Saturday, April 16, 2011

Après le Deluge

Songkran ended and the world around me began to take on a normal cast again. Water and good wishes had done their job--sunlight had returned and the sky was no longer white. Feeling the exhilaration that comes with the third and final New Year, I climbed on an ordinary bus (windows open, no aircon) and went off to Chinatown and the Indian section of the city.

Traffic was minimal, the air felt fresh, and our bus moved persistently and almost rapidly. When we got to the spot where all buses converge at Victory Monument, our driver felt no reason to slacken his pace. Faced with a minor traffic snarl, he took to the sidewalk and then back to the open road (well it was a more of a concrete island in the middle of the street, but even so...)

As we traveled along a leafy boulevard that was divided by a tree-shaded canal where people have set up basic living structures, a goat loomed into view and when I got off the bus, the woman who preceded me slapped a small hand towel on top of her head to fend off the heat of the sun. Suddenly I was no longer in Bangkok; I was in Thailand.

For the first time ever, the dark and claustrophobic halls of Sampeng Lane were empty with long, unpeopled corridors stretching toward a slant of light. The moshpit of the Pahurat market was easy to walk through as well and I headed into an almost vacant Indian Emporium. Post-Songkran, this beehive area of Bangkok had become my own little private, surreal world that I shared with only a very few people.

Clutching a little bag of samosas to take home for supper, I climbed into another unimpeded bus that reminded me of how much I miss by sticking to the subway and skytrain. Passing a food cart that featured thin slices of meat held in drying position by little pink, blue, and yellow clothespins, I made a New Year resolution that I would take a bus at least once a week in 2555.


Dr. Will said...

Why wait until next year to continue your bus explorations? I worry that these wonderful love letters to Bangkok (and Thailand) will attract yet more tourists and expats. I want to keep it all to myself (and you also, of course).

Janet Brown said...

2555 is this year--and you know that most farang wouldn't be caught dead on a bus. But thank you for saying that you like this!