This is what happens when I spend a week in this humming, thrumming, 24/7, 7-11 megalopolis: I’m overcome with Observer Fatigue. In other words, with an excess of multi-sensory stimulation, I turn into a back-seat silent witness, watching from the periphery of each scene, ready to absorb and register each nugget of drama, difference or hilarity that passes, perhaps for only a nano-second, through my sightline.
In retrospect I realize that, had I posted each day, even then I wouldn’t have managed to convey one tenth of my observations, interactions and strange (but perhaps comical) insights. Instead, mulling over my photos, I merely gather a few reminiscences and splay them here in no particular order. For anyone who has been to the city that goes full tilt around the clock, you might get it. For anyone who has not, I implore you to pay a visit to this city, that quite frankly, is unlike any other…
First off, there is the King. He who turns 88 in a couple of weeks. He who is adored, revered and honored ad infinitum. It would seem so… Not only do Thai people stop on a dime and stand at attention twice a day (morning and evening), before every movie showing and at other unexpected moments throughout a day. But, apparently, their love for the monarch is boundless and expressed in the most curious of ways. They call him Dad. (And, as I learned on my way back to the airport, the queen is a.k.a. Mom).
Then there is the traffic. What to say other than this: If you want to get a glimpse of Bangkok sans bumper-to-bumper mania, you must wake up before dawn on a Sunday and get thee outside. Then, and only then, you might have a chance of breathing a semblance of ‘fresh’-ish air. (Don’t kid yourself though, it’s only illusory)
It’s 34 or more (celsius) degrees outside. Sweltering is the perfect descriptor. People are in shorts, flip-flops, fans in hand, faces oriented towards AirCons. But step inside the clothing store called UNIQLO and you’re in for a disorienting surprise. On display are not only wool mittens, hats and slippers; not only thermal underwear and fleece jackets. But these.
In the midst of a tropical country. I’m dazed, confused, then tempted to ask for the email address of the store’s strange but possibly quite brilliant marketing guru. I want to ask her how she knows that 90% of her clientele will be traveling to the Alps over Christmas (?!)
The underground garage-cum-shopping area (with fumes galore) in office buildings, because god only knows, there aren’t nearly enough above-ground malls in this city, and what’s a Thai to do on her lunch-hour but shop for some throwaway trinkets?
The taxi driver who possibly believes himself to be shielded from harm on the road – with a selection of of monk-mantras written overhead.
There are flower markets and rivers, tuk-tuks and babies, temples and festivals.
There’s pad thai and pork balls, bubble tea and coconuts, stilettos and slums.
And of course, always, there are the monks and the Buddhas – real, statuesque and otherwise.