Thursday, December 8, 2011

25 Things I'll Miss Most About Bangkok and Thailand

As the old cliche goes, all good things must come to an end. Although that ain't necessarily so (The Simpsons, which many people, myself not included, consider to be a very good thing, will probably outlive us all), my time in Bangkok and Southeast Asia is about to enter its final days. When the holidays are over, I'll be heading back to Melbourne for Round 2 of life in the land Down Under. Already I'm thinking about the things I'll have trouble leaving behind.

Yes, here we go -- another list!

1. DJ Station. My home away from home in Bangkok. I laughed, I cried, I danced in a cage, and I met some of the hottest guys on planet earth. Will I ever feel the same way about the Peel in Melbourne again?

2. Flight attendants on every corner... of DJ Station. I think I must have met every member of the cabin crews for airlines that service Bangkok (KLM, Etihad, Emirates and on and on). Boy or girl, they always seem to end up on the dance floor downstairs shaking their groove thing to Lady Gaga's "The Edge of Glory" and later on, on the second floor, asking me that burning question I've been hearing on a daily basis since the day I left New York City in 2006. "Where are you from?" Five and a half years and three continents later, I'm never sure what to say.

3. Five-star meals for $3 and less. If only those street vendors didn't have to fry everything!

4. Sliced papaya. Who knew a fruit I'd never even tried before arriving in Asia would make me forget all about my beloved oatmeal raisin cookies at Woolworths.

5. The Boomerang network. TV pretty much sucks in Thailand, but thank God for Boomerang, which airs all of the beloved cartoons from my youth. I never thought I'd ever see Captain Caveman or Josie and the Pussy Cats in Outer Space again! Two questions: 1) Why wasn't Daffy Duck a bigger star? 2) Why couldn't Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo afford twin beds? Say what you will about Bert and Ernie, but I don't believe they ever slept in the same bed. Did they?

6. My rooms with a view. Bangkok is not much to look at when viewing it from ground level, but at night, 14 floors above, it's possibly the most breathtaking metropolis on earth. I've been to Istanbul, so that's really saying something.

7. Cheesy pop tunes. Last night I finally found out the titles and artists of my favorite DJ Station tracks: "Perfume" by Parade (Moto Blanco Remix) and "Happiness" by Alexis Jordan (Deadmau 5 Extended Mix). Only Rihanna's "We Found Love" stimulated me more.

8. My hotel gym. In all of my world travels, I don't think I've ever come across a fitness center that's more impressive than the one at Anantara Bangkok Sathorn, my home away from home in Bangkok. It almost makes me forget that the restaurant doesn't know how to prepare decent scrambled eggs, which happens to be the one thing I can rock in the kitchen.

9. Bootleg DVDs. Thanks to the vendors on Silom Road selling DVDs of Oscar contenders, among other D-listy offerings (movies starring former Oscar nominees like Kristin Scott Thomas and Elisabeth Shue that I've never even heard of as well as Nicole Kidman and Nicolas Cage's straight-to-DVD Trespass), I should be caught up on all of my viewing by the time the Academy Awards roll around. I can't think of a better reason to time a return trip to Bangkok for around this time next year.

10. The woman who does my laundry. And not just because she has me laughing from the moment I walk in to the moment I leave (despite the fact that I can't understand a word she's saying), but because she makes my clothes smell better than they did on the day that I bought them

11. The shirtless Thai go-go boys at G.O.D. For reasons that should be obvious.

12. Service with a smile. Sometimes when I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, it pains me to have to reciprocate the borderline-fawning niceness of everyone as I pass through the hotel lobby, but it's nice to not have to pull my oh-no-you-did-not act with cranky employees. I once made a woman who worked at a winery in Mendoza, Argentina, cry after she was unnecessarily rude to me. Do you think I derive pleasure out of that? Well, maybe just a little.

13. Walking around in my Havianas slippers. I couldn't have survived the bunion on my left foot without them.

14. Waking up every day with something -- or someone -- to write about. Only Buenos Aires inspires me more.

15. Adventures in hospital. Feeling unwell is so much easier in a beautiful hospital with such lovely nurses who act like they really care.

16. The cutest babies on the planet. I'm still not convinced that I'm not leaving here without one.

17. The most beautiful women on the planet. Not the lady boys -- the real ones. Anyone who thinks French women are the world's most elegant have never been to Bangkok, where the female scenery is more stunning than the Eiffel Tower, which, unlike Thai women, is pretty ugly up close.

18. Pineapple Bacardi Breezers. The perfect night always begins at the Balcony on Silom Soi 4 with two or three of them, but I don't think I'd ever be caught dead drinking such a wimpy beverage in any other city.

19. Massages that don't involve the manhandling (and occasionally, womanhandling) of private parts. I never expected to derive so much pleasure from having my feet (bunion and all) rubbed and squeezed for 250 baht ($8) an hour.

20. Doing things I never thought I'd do. Examples: sitting out by the pool with my laptop, riding on a motorbike without wearing a helmet, and hiking through the rain forest. I'd add something about flight attendants here, but that's probably too much information.

21. Inexpensive booze. How can I go back to paying $7 for a schooner of Pure Blonde after six months of paying the equivalent of three bucks for potent Jack and cokes?

22. Year-round warm weather. And to think, just a few years ago, I actually looked forward to piling on my winter clothing. Though I can still rock a turtleneck, I wouldn't mind spending every day all year in V-neck T-shirts, track pants and Havianas.

23. Not having a local cell phone. Well, I did have one for a few weeks, but it mysteriously disappeared from one of the pockets of my baggy shorts one afternoon while I was walking down Silom Road. I never replaced it, and guess what: I don't miss it at all. It's fun giving guys I meet my email address, because if I hear from them (and surprisingly, I do more often than I did when I handed out my number), I know they actually made an effort.

24. People with no boundaries. I complain about getting felt up by strangers in bars and clubs, and the guy who works at my hotel gym made me a bit uncomfortable yesterday when he stood in front of the treadmill looking at me with a huge smile on his face, but of all the cities I've travelled to, the most offbeat characters are here. Sometimes they make me squirm, but I know I'll miss them when I'm gone.

25. My Bangkok soundtrack: Joni Mitchell's Turbulent Indigo, Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach's Painted from Memory, Kate Bush and Elton John's "Snowed In at Wheeler Street," Boston's "More Than a Feeling" and, of course, Rihanna. Maybe before I leave Bangkok, I'll find love in a hopeless place, too.
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