Christmas Eve: Frosty the Windows

December 24, 2009 on a night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai – 7am?

I had a dream that the train conductor brought me a copy of The Nation. I proposed.

I went to sleep at 8:30pm last night, after my newspaper compulsions calmed. They’re back now that I’ve thought about it, though, and as soon as I get off this damned train, I will find today’s paper. I will hold it so tight, and I will do its crossword puzzle like I intend to cherish it forever. Because I do.

It was fitful sleep – same as last night at the hostel and the night before on the night bus to Osaka. I’m 0-3 here, and my brain is trying to tell me that yelling at everyone and everything will make things better. I woke this morning stuffy and with a cough – it’s not helping.

I would have slept better, but the lights never. go. off. I slept with the hood of my sweatshirt over my eyes and woke nearly every time it moved. Anyone reading this because you’re interested in backpacking Thailand – here is a suggestion: get the bottom berth on the night trains. It may cost you a few extra baht (like 50?), but it’s worth it unless you’re my friend Melanie, who can sleep anywhere – anytime. (I’m more envious of her than Idina Menzel right now – and Idina gets to sleep with Taye Diggs). It’s probably similar in comfort to the top berth, but the light is fully blocked between the bottom and top curtains.

This trip is already speeding by (yay train puns!) – which reminds me I should watch it happen outside my window.

…I just watched it, and it appears to be nothing but greenery. Pretty greenery but just greenery. I also may or may not have seen 2 goats.

I just wiped the window to get rid of some condensation so I can see better… from the inside.

So Bangkok was cool (sleep-deprived understatement). I never made it to Chinatown, which is a travesty.

I got to Hualalumphong – train station – with 30 minutes to spare (Chinatown is an easy walk from there). I asked a bored (looking) police officer how far away a certain street with a certain food vendor is. My guidebook says the best pad kee mao is made on this street in Chinatown by a man with a small stall (you didn’t think I wanted to go to Chinatown for the Chinese stuff, right?!). The officer looked at the Thai-written address in my book. Right about then, a tuk-tuk and a motorbike taxi driver slowly began walking towards me, a hungry look in their eyes for the lost foreigner’s business.

The cop repeated the address to those two stooges, and all 3 looked confused. After some pointing and talking (I was down to 23 minutes to spare), there was laughter. Uproarious, at a drag queen comedy club laughter. Then the cop pulled out his cell phone and called the number listed for this stall with the amazing pad kee mao (stalls have numbers?!).

The man answered, apparently, and the plice officer asked a question or two before he, the man on the phone, the stooges and a potentially homeless woman missing a few teeth on the street were in hysterics together (probably unnecessary details?).

I was starting to get frustrated (by this I mean I could feel rage seeping through my pores) at both being laughed at and (mostly) not eating this pad kee mao already. Then it occured to me why they were laughing.

This story, translated in American terms:

Foreigner in a large American city approaches you on the street.

“Excuse me, I’m looking for this Jack in the Box. It’s on Washington/Peachtree/Beverly Street. Is it far from here?”

The foreigner hands you a gigantic AMERICA! guidebook with the name, address and description of this Jack in the Box highlighted. You are somewhat mystified by the situation but assume, in good nature, that there must be an actual, perhaps kitsch restaurant that goes by this popular chain name. A taxi driver or 2 come on the scene when they hear a foreigner needs to get somewhere. You all think – yes, this must be a clever new restaurant. You use the number the foreigners has highlighted to call.

“Hi, this is Jack in the Box on Washington and 3rd. Bob speaking – how may I help you?”

It’s definitely one of the 30 or so Jack in the Boxes spread across the 30 surrounding city blocks.

The foreigner tries to convince you that this is the best Jack in the Box, though, and she has to eat at this one.

…I’d be laughing pretty hard, too.

So I gave up my dream of Chinatown and ate at the pad kee mao stand 10 feet away. It may not have been “the best” in Bangkok, but it was still gourmet to me. And that – gourmet on the streets – is the real beauty of Bangkok.

…The lady beside me just tried to wipe the condensation on the window off from the inside, too. hahaha

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~ by C on February 17, 2010.

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