We’ve been in Bangkok thirty hours now. I confess to sleeping fully half of that time.
I went to bed humming, “Hello jet-lag my old friend…” a la “Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel. Half way around the world is a long way and when the second half of that journey was spent juggling the over-sized body of your ten year old still-grumpy-while-sleeping son, well, it makes a Mama tired.
We have a theory about jet-lag and that is that sunlight, fresh air and a dose of vitamins (chased with caffeine) are the best medicine, as is staying up to the “normal” bedtime hour if at all possible. In that vein, we dumped our backpacks at our hotel, the Golden Tulip Mandison Suites ($40 a night through Agoda!) and hit the town.
We have another theory, about the best way to visit a big city: Get lost. We’re experts. The theory wasn’t developed intentionally so much as by inevitable default. We get lost a lot. This time in Chinatown. It was perfect, really: a couple of golden Wats, loads of amazing street food, every smell imaginable (and I do mean EVERY smell), ice cream from a bicycle cart and over a gallon and a half of water consumed.
Did I mention that Bangkok is hot?
No? Well, guess what? Bangkok is HOT.
We’ve mastered the train systems. Very easy. Assuming you can find the station, that is. I think it was Hannah who muttered, with her signature sunny-side-up cheerfulness, “We haven’t even been here twelve hours and we’ve already mislaid ourselves!” And so we had.
Dinner last night was mostly stuff we couldn’t identify, except Elisha’s pad thai (which, incidentally, looked nothing like the pad thai he ordered regularly on Cape Cod: shocker, I know!) It was very, very good, but we left most of it sitting on our plates. The boys were, literally, falling asleep in their noodles. An Italian guy walked by and said, “Your children look like zay need some Tiramisu!” and laughed. I giggled quizzically at him. “Tiramisu?! You know, zee Italian dessert? In my country, in Italian, zees means, “a little pick me up”: Tiramisu!” I got the joke and laughed more acceptably, by his standards. “Zay are very tired?” “Yes, we flew from Canada today… I mean yesterday… or was it the day before? What day is it?!” It was his turn to laugh.
We went to bed at 6:00 p.m. Local time. 5 a.m. EST. Don’t ask me which day or how many hours we’d been up, I have no idea: too many.
I slept fourteen hours. I kid you not. I think that’s a lifetime record for me. In case you didn’t know, I don’t usually sleep well, at all. Tony says he tried to wake me three times, I only remember two and I shooed him off. Don’t try to wake me. Not ever. I’m unpleasant.
Breakfast at the hotel was an adventure that seemed to be carefully structured by the staff to be the least traumatizing experience possible for their guests, regardless of their country or origin. They served virtually everything. Here is a partial list:
- Breads of global proportions, you name the bread, it was probably there
- Dry Cereals
- Hot Cereals
- Scrambled Eggs
- Two unidentifiable asian sausages
- Ham that looked like the kind they serve in Mexico
- Fried tomatoes (I know, I wondered too)
- Fried potatoes
- Two types of noodle dishes (think Chinese take-out)
- Fried rice
- Noodle Soup
- An entire salad bar
- An entire fruit bar
- Pancakes that weren’t really
The only fiasco was Hannah’s. She and I had admired the “cute” eggs with the faces drawn on them in black marker, “Aww, just like you do, Mom!” She took a hard boiled egg with the face most attractive to her and we both felt warm and fuzzy, something “like home.” Not exactly. It was not hard boiled. She opened it over her plate of food. We laughed, but not as hard as the kitchen staff, who must have assumed we were on summer break celebrating Thailand holidays. “You didn’t see the sign that said, “Cook me” next to the bowl?” Gabe asked, incredulously. Apparently not.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT TO FOLLOW:
Yep. His entire breakfast within moments of getting back up to his hotel room. We’re not sure what that’s about, but it was unpleasant. Best thing about teenagers: they always make it to the bathroom and they don’t mind convalescing alone.
He assured us that he’d be fine with the AC and a TV remote so we left him to recover and headed out to the weekend market.
Chatuchak market is big, supposedly the biggest in the world. I’ve been to a couple of markets and I have to say, if this one is not the biggest, it’s a serious contender. Ezra was happy because it felt like Guatemala to him (only with elephant carvings and dragon fruit). It was the perfect morning outing. We purchased only cokes and spring rolls with dipping sauce. It’s too hot to be hungry. We took a few pictures and wandered around with sweat rolling in big bead between my shoulder blades and running like a slow warm finger down every bone of my spine. Have I mentioned it’s hot here?
We got stared at a lot.
This isn’t unusual for us. Tony’s height and his big bald head are a novelty in lots of places we visit. The number of kids we have kind of puts us in the “above average” category for an American family. We’ve heard, “Wow! Big Famiry! Very Nice!” more than a couple of times. Add to that having Ezra literally tied to me with a rope and we drew some attention.
I was never a big fan of tying on toddlers. I taught the short people to hold the hem of my skirt instead. However, there are times when a carabeener attached to a rope can ease my worry; in a crowded market, for instance. My friend Lee spent an entire week making me a pretty awesome lanyard that converts to a belt and works perfectly to add security to my traveling purse. I discovered another use: clip it to Ezra’s belt and I no longer have to worry about whether he’s “with the program” or not. If that seems extreme to you, I’d wager one of several things:
- You’ve never been in a big, third world market with a child
- You’ve got only one or two children
- You’ve never lost a child in a market and spent 20 minutes in your third language trying to find him.
My personal favourite was deep in the market this morning: Excited chatter that I did not understand punctuated with my only reliable word of Chinese: Lao wai. Loosely translated, this is Chinese for “Gringo.” More carefully translated, they say it means, “Round Eye.” Whatever. It was us. No question. I whipped my head around at the surprised speaker and smiled very big and waved. No idea what he said, but I still enjoyed surprising him with the thought that I might have.