Friday, December 9, 2011

Bangkok, baby…Days and Nights

End of India…last days in Chennai.

I spent a week in Chennai, and only left the hotel once to go to a meeting. The drive from the airport and my one evening out were all I needed to see of Chennai. The main impression I had of Chennai, outside of the Sheraton Park Towers, was a smaller Bombay. It was pretty clear that I was ready to leave India. I also got a killer flu, and was sick in bed for three days; so the last few days I just hung out by the pool and watched movies in the room. I was very grateful to be in a nice hotel while I was sick, even though it put a big dent in my savings.  The staff was wonderful, and I was very blessed to be so well looked after. I’ve also come to realize that when you are on a trip this long, you just can’t be a tourist all the time. It’s exhausting, and sometimes you just need to stop and do nothing.

I left Chennai on a midnight Thai Airways flight to Bangkok. The airports in India are amazingly disorganized, messy, unhelpful, and make you feel like there is no chance that you will ever get on the right plane going to the right place with all your stuff. They are building a new airport in Chennai, and the pictures look wonderful. The flight was filled with Indian men whose main goal was to drink as much free booze as the Thai stewardesses would give them, which was annoying at first but then I felt so sorry for the stewardesses that I got over being annoyed for myself. It was only a three hour flight, and landing at the airport in Bangkok was like a time warp; “back to the future”.  Everything was efficient, modern, with easy to read and follow signs, and everything going as smooth as Thai silk.

I took a long taxi ride to my hotel, which is in Soi 11. It is a brand new Aloft, and is perfect for me. It has all the basic amenities, is very modern, and has a pool table in the lobby. I checked out the pool deck on the 23rd floor, and plan to spend a day hanging out there. My room is awesome for points and $30.00 a night. I have free Wi-Fi everywhere, a huge rain shower, and a 46 inch flat screen TV. As my sisters will verify, us Robinett girls love a good hotel room. It’s in the blood. We are nomads at heart, but we like a nice cozy tent wherever we go.

I don’t like to compare countries, because each place is unique and deserves to be respected for its own culture and society. It is also pretty clear to me that there are some places I feel better than others. Bangkok is a city of 12 million, but it is amazingly clean for such a large city. The traffic is really bad in the central city, but it is organized; drivers actually use the lanes, there are lights, and very little honking; unlike India, where no one uses lanes and the constant honking creates a cacophony of mind-numbing noise. There is a great sky tram which takes you all over the city, and transportation is easy and available. The air doesn’t stink. There are not piles of refuse lying around. There are not people yelling at you to buy their stuff. People on the streets are not shoving, pushing, and bumping you out of their way. People actually smile at you, which almost never happened in India, except in Kerala. I could go into a long rant about the Indian economy, the abundance of wealth that is being thrown around, and the boasts of taking the world into the 21st century. I will spare us all, but what I will say is that India has a long way to go before I will take it seriously as a leader for the future of humankind. Taking care of basics like having clean toilets in International airports, and treating all people with respect and consideration would be a good start.

It has been thirty-six years since I was last in Bangkok. I won’t go into the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriquez script involving mad Chinese drug dealers, a friend who betrayed me, the flight home from hell, the DEA welcome committee at SFO, and the end result long term stay at Terminal Island Federal Correctional Facility; that is a story is best savored at another time. It never occurred to me to be worried about getting back into Thailand until I was on the plane, and then I had one of those speed drill paranoia runs, “will they still have my name after all this time, and what is the statute of limitations in Thailand”; with additional footage of me being led off to explain how I had the nerve to return after all this time.  I let that go on for about three seconds, and then realized all would be well. All has been well on this trip and all would be well. And it was. I’ve been clean for 29 years, I’ve paid my dues over and above, and I’m a new person in a new world. It was a good feeling walking through immigration being me.

I slept until around 2pm, then I got up and took a walk around. I’m in a great location right off Sukhumvit Road in one of the main Soi’s. There are restaurants, bars, shops, and stores everywhere. I went to a cozy, plant filled outdoor place called Zanzibar’s and had the best steak I’ve had since Paris. So much for going Vegetarian. It was fantastic. Not cheap, but a great meal especially after almost of week of not feeling like eating at all. I went back to the hotel and played a game of pool in the lobby. It’s been years since I played, but it did start to come back pretty quickly. Kent and I used to play together at Koho’s in Napili. We had so much fun trying to beat each other, and telling stories about the old days when we were pool sharks (ha!). 

It was a full moon, I’d slept most of the day, I was in Bangkok, and after being in a hotel in Chennai for a week; I felt like getting out and about. I decided I would go find some live music. I spent about two seconds wondering if I should be leery about going out on my own, then I went to my room, took a shower, put on some makeup, fixed my hair, sprayed on some Channel #5 from duty free, put on some black jeans and a fancy top, got the address to some live music joints, got a cab, and ended up at the Witch’s Tavern. I also put on some attitude, which I felt I needed to pull this excursion off. I’m a 62 year old woman going out on the town where all the men are here for one thing, and one thing only. Young, nubile, sexy, Thai women. I could easily let that undermine my sense of myself, and my own confidence, and I was determined I wouldn’t let that happen.   I had originally thought this place would piss off some remnant feminist part of me, but most of what I’ve felt is that life is very hard, and whatever comfort anyone can find they are welcome to it, as sad as it may seem to me. I did wonder if there wasn’t a Bangkok for old women, and if so, where was it? It was a long ride from my hotel, so I had time to think of all this stuff, and wonder if I could find my way back.

Let me note here that it has been a very long time since I have hung out in bars. I don’t drink, drug, or do one nighter’s anymore, and normally would not go unless I had a very good reason and an entourage. My very good reason was…I wanted to have some fun in Bangkok! I’ve had a serious, difficult time, a very sad time, and I have been on a very long trip, and I just wanted to go somewhere and hear some live rock and roll and have some fun. And I guess I also wanted to see if I had the nerve to go out on my own.  So I did. The Witch’s Tavern was a dark two-story bar with not a big crowd. I sat at a table near the stage and drank a coffee. The band finally came on, and basically they rocked. Heard some Stones, some Lady Gaga, and some Bruno Mars. The girl lead singer really rocked. It was some lady’s birthday, so her and her party kept the place lively. I drank a soda, grooved to the beat, and basically felt pretty okay in my own skin. The band was as good as bar bands can be, the place wasn’t packed, it wasn’t rockin’, and basically bars are boring if you don’t drink; but it was an adventure, and I did it. I got bored with it all, went out and flagged a cab, tried to find this place called Mojo’s but the cab driver couldn’t find it. I was tired, so I decided to try the sky train back to the hotel. It was easy, only two stops. I walked back to the hotel feeling pretty good, played another game of pool, and crashed.

Today, I slept late again. Got up and booked the afternoon tour on the river. That was really nice. Took a boat and then a rice ferry all up and down the river. Remembered Kent telling me about him and his friend, Bob, taking that trip when he was in Bangkok. I thought of him as I was going down the river. I think of him often, but it does get easier to remember the good times. I am grateful I am so good at being on my own, because if I wasn’t it would be a thousand times harder to lose the love of my life. And it was hard enough as it was. For those worried about the flooding, there are not many signs that I have seen so far here in Bangkok. They have done an incredible job of clearing things up here. I just realized its ten pm, and I have to get up at 6:30am for the full day tour of the temples tomorrow. Doing Bangkok, doing good.

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