Sitting in a cafe on the Khao San Road, the main tourist area of Bangkok. Like Carnaby Street in London. The place you go to get ripped off, except here things are so cheap it doesn’t matter. I’ve just paid 60 Baht (less than £1) for a plate of fried rice with chicken and vegetables, though last night on a street stall I paid 10 Naht for a noodle soup and a pavement stall.
There’s a scam here where people come up to you, particularly if you’re standing around looking at a map, and they say where’d you want to go? and wherever it is they tell you it’s closed, but they can take you to a much better place in their tuk tuk (a kind of motorized trike). Those things are really noisy, making it worthwhile getting away from the street vendors and coming to a touristy area like the one I’m in, where I can sit inside under cool fans, and breathe relatively clean air. Bangkok is a very polluted city.
The only Thai people in this place are the ones working here. I’ve felt a resentment from a number of Thais of rich farangs (Westerners) like me, coming over here and getting waited on, thinking nothing of spending what to them are ridiculous amounts of money. It seems fair enough that we should be ripped off. It’s just a way of redistributing our wealth.
The farang in here look obscene. Why aren’t they out working? One of them takes the chair on the other side of my table. I’m surrounded by them. But I’m one of them so I shouldn’t complain. I’ll just get up and leave. In a minute.
American football is on the TV.
I’m sitting here with my laptop. I didn’t want to sit in the hostel with the laptop because it doesn’t feel that secure there and I don’t want people there to know I have something so valuable in my possessions. It feels a bit insensitive now to be sitting here with this thing though, a thing that’s worth more than most Thais would earn in a year. More than most would earn in a decade perhaps.
I don’t know much about this country, and haven’t yet spoken any of the language. I know that “Sa wat dee krap” means hello, but I’m not sure how to say it and haven’t tried. I just say hi and assume they’ll speak English, which is very rude. I’ve done the prayer sign (hands held together under a bowed head) to a few people, after they’ve done it to me, usually as a thank you for payment or for a tip – tipping isn’t expected here, even in restaurants. I usually do give a tip and then realize how much what is a tiny amount of money to me means to them.
This disparity in wealth makes it very difficult for Westerners and Thais to interact in a normal human to human way. I’ve seen a number of Western men with Thai women. I wonder how that works. There was one such couple in here earlier. A Western guy in his late twenties, early thirties, not particularly attractive, with a quite attractive (not stunning) Thai women. They ate in silence. Then the guy spoke on his phone. Then he left and she followed him out. He walked out into the crowds of Khao San Road without checking that she was behind him. But she was, of course. I wanted to ask her why she was with him, but that would have been a pointless question. And quite offensive. Conflict is not the way of things here. Arguments and differences of opinion are things to be avoided.
Some Farangs from the table next to mine look through the wine box. One of them has a bandaged leg. Another, with an English accent, talks about how he had a kebab today, cooked in pesto sauce. Was it big? asks the bandaged leg.