Wiping Cream: 10 Baht Extra!

Trip Start Jun 12, 2007
Trip End Sep 25, 2007

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Monday, June 18, 2007

So, I survived my first weekend in Bangkok without catching the runs or the clap. (If Jerry Seinfeld's girlfriend could get the clap from a tractor, who knows what could give it to you in Bangkok!) Given my perceptions of the city before I arrived, I had assumed I would end up with one or the other right off the baht, har. Once again, Bangkok has exceeded my expectations. As a whole, the city is safe, clean, and the food is to die for (more on food in a bit.) But mostly, it's hotter than hell. No joke, it has been about 100 degrees with 100% humidity. I am melting!

The good news is that I managed to find permanent accommodations.
I moved into a corporate rental in the beautiful residential neighborhood of Sathorn that is seemingly more reminiscent of Amalfi than Thailand: Mediterranean-style bungalows, tile roofs, and bougainvilleas everywhere. I have a patio the size of my entire apartment back home that looks out onto all this glory. Fabulous pool, gym, and--as my landlady Mrs. Su pointed out--a sauna. That will come in handy, perhaps only to cool off from the pressure cooker that is the outdoors. On move-in day I was greeted with a spread of fantastic never-before-seen (at least by me) reptilian-looking fruit surrounded by fresh orchids--lovely!

Sexpats and Ladyboys

Saturday night I met up with Sean M., the only other GSBer in Bangkok for the summer. He, along with 3 other interns at his firm, lives about a 10-minute walk from my place. We all hit the town together, starting with an excellent Thai dinner and then bar hopping through Bangkok's washed up sexpat district. (We still have no idea where to go in this city--Watson, HELP!) There were retired Western men everywhere with 20-year old Thai women (and men who look like women) draping all over them. It was a bit of a sorry scene, but fun to see Sean and get to know his cronies. Aside from Sean, they are all lawyers and what a motley crew! There was Kelly, a first-generation Chinese girl from Dallas; Brian, also from Dallas, who, interestingly, was wearing loafers but no socks (what is it with this Dallas epidemic of running around with no socks? That must be a town of some seriously funky feet); and Jack, a Korean American who turned on a fake Thai accent to woo the bar girls. Not that wooing was really necessary; in Bangkok, money talks and all the rest (and I mean ALL the rest) walks.

In case you don't know, you go into these bars and there are about 20 girls behind the bar in identical evening gowns who will "be your friend" you if you buy them a drink. It's actually quite innocent ("just coffee but no sex"); mostly fun and games until one day your dick falls off. We bounced around the bars for a few hours, running into Jack here, there and everywhere, he having broken away after doubling us in drinks and women (I can already tell he will be the Michael Heineken alter ego of the Thailand experience.) At the end of the night, after losing Jack and Sean to some Thai "friends" and Kelly to sensibility, Brian and I, after several beers, decided it would be a good idea to brave the 4-mile walk home instead of taking a cab. (Reminder: it is 100 degrees out and Brian has no socks.) 14 years of combined higher education at its best.

Wiping Cream: 10 Baht Extra!

I promised to talk about the food and what can I say? It is spectacular! You can get everything here: Chinese, Japanese, Italian, and there are even Au Bon Pains and Mrs. Fields. But forget all of those. The Thai street food is where it's at (and for those of you freaking out, it IS safe, at least according to local advice and Lonely Planet. Like I said, I haven't gotten the runs--yet.)
Passing on the deep fried bugs, my favorites are the meat carts, where you can get an entire meal of beef, pork, chicken, and sausage grilled fresh for a whopping $1. I have discovered one of these a block from my house so I load up on my walk home, make a salad, and I am set. There is sushi everywhere thanks to strong Japanese business and tourist influences and I have already indulged on several occasions. Another favorite is the whole fried fish you can buy at the supermarket to go. This is the exact same thing (and I mean EXACT, even down to the sauce) you get at Ten Penh, one of my favorite restaurants in Washington, DC, which lists it on its menu as "Hong Kong Style Crispy Whole Fish with Fresh Chili and Garlic Tamarind Dipping Sauce." There it costs $17. Here it costs $0.80.

Of course, my first introduction to food here was at the YWCA, where I gladly indulged in "American breakfast" before I could make heads or tails (I mean that literally) of the local food. To appeal to western palate, the Y also offered cappuccinos, lattes, and a range of other coffees. In case you got greedy, however, the menu announced in bold letters that "Wiping cream" was 10 baht extra. Whew! Well, at least I know where to find it should I indeed get the runs.

Happy Ending?

After getting situated in my new apartment on Sunday, I got my first ever Thai massage. Let me tell you: Thai massage is not for the prude at heart. This is a full contact sport in which a diminutive person uses her body to contort your own into a pretzel. I started on my back and she started on my thighs--I was waiting for the offer of a happy ending but, to my relief, none came. She pushed, pulled, poked, prodded, cracked, and stretched. There is no, "Do you have any injuries I should be aware of?" In Thai massage, you're in it to win it. After an hour of kneading me in places I didn't even know existed, she flipped me over and something strange happened. I floated out of my body onto the ceiling and looked down at myself and it hit me: "Holy sh*t, I am in Bangkok, thousands of miles away from any place I've ever been before in my entire life, and there is a 100 lb Thai woman standing on my butt." She proceeded to dance all over me, and with a large and relieving CRACK!, I was shaken back to my new (un)reality.

Thus closed my first weekend in Thailand, hot and satiated. This is working out very well so far.
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