It’s time I wrote something. It’s just gone past 11 o’clock, and although my phone’s alarm will blaze through my dreams in less than 7 hours and I’ll feel a blistering sense of regret as I tap the ‘snooze’ button, I’m going to write anyway. This is what coffee was invented for, no?
Is It The Pollution?
This morning, to my horror, I found myself hawking up black phlegm in the shower. I didn’t think too much of it then, but right now, I can’t help but notice my taxi driver’s dry wheeze of a cough, which his body surrenders itself up to every time we stop at a red light. Is it the pollution?
It’s the 28th of January, 2016, and it’s been a strange – though not entirely eventful – day. On the face of it, I had lunch and caught a bus in Bangkok, but if there’s one thing the mundane is good for, it’s allowing our thoughts to drift freely, without obligation to any- one, or thing; and yet, what does my mind choose to think about, with all of this free reign? Not the city’s vibrancy or anything romantic. No; instead, I contemplate its dangerous air pollution levels and the haze over its captivating, and slowly darkening, skyline.
I can only apologise in advance for my brain’s lack of creativity.
I began my morning at ‘Ricky’s Coffee Shop’, a quaint cafe nestled between mouldy buildings down an unassuming side street, which was just a short walk away from my hotel. Black mould is alive across so many of Bangkok’s buildings, and I can’t help but wonder what their outer appearance must once have been like; perhaps nothing much, but I stare in awe at their intricacies anyway. What would their creators think of their once gleaming, pristine craftmanship – now windowless, abandoned and succumbed to nature?
They remind me of a contemporary collection of artwork I’d seen at a gallery earlier that week, by a Thai artist whose name I couldn’t read.
Anyhow, that thought occurred later that day, so let me rewind again.
Morning in Bangkok City
I’m sat in the coffee shop, and my plan for the day is fairly straightforward: eat, catch a bus to Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal, purchase a one-way ticket to Sukhothai for tomorrow morning, and visit Lumpini Park for the ‘Elephant Parade’, a temporary outdoor art exhibition.
I’m not sure how far away Mo Chit is (my city map only covers central Bangkok), but I feel relaxed as I take in the thick strawberry milkshake, depsite being the only person sat at a table alone. I know that I need to catch the No.3 bus to the station, and since I passed by the stop on my walk here, I feel somewhat organised (for once).
- Egg salad = 90 Baht (£1.81)
- Strawberry milkshake = 60 Baht (£1.21)
- Total = 150 Baht (£3.02) – this is actually pretty expensive for Thailand, but Western food is generally more pricey here.
This is my last full-day in Bangkok until I return again for my flight home, and although I’ve only been here for a matter of days, I feel accustomed to the city’s unwavering rhythms already.
Bus Journey to Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal, Bangkok
Armed with my map, my notepad and some Thai Baht, I pay and head off to the bus stop. Standing where I think I should (beside a very busy main road), I am all too aware that I am the only obviously-foreign person here; my blonde hair, height and white skin branding me as an intruder.
I manage to get a seat at the front of the bus and capture this short film clip (I don’t know why I didn’t turn my camera to landscape, but it gives you an idea of what Bangkok’s roads are like, anyway):
After over an hour on the bus, I’m a little worried that I’ve missed my stop, so I ask the conductor – a short, feisty woman who seems content enough in her role as passenger commander – how far “mo shit” is, and her confused expression causes me to repeat “mo shit?” far too many times for me to take myself seriously. Eventually she replies in Thai (I was right! it is pronounced “mo shit”), and although I can’t fully understand, I get the impression that we’re close.
I am at the bus terminal for no longer than ten minutes purchasing my ticket, which I remember tucking securely into a fold inside my purse, before I meander over to my familiar neon-pink taxi (I’d been in one of these on my first day). Whilst some might think that leaving so suddenly was a waste of a journey, I felt I’d done what I’d set out to do, and so didn’t feel compelled to stay any longer. Besides, I had Lumpini Park to catch before my early morning start!
A Taxi Ride to Lumpini Park
The highlight of my day (besides that gorgeous milkshake, of course) was my taxi driver. Sure, he spluttered his guts out every so often, but he also sang along enthusiastically to the radio, read his Thai boxing magazine and ate his sandwiches whilst we were stuck in traffic. I should have felt concerned, especially considering my lack of a seat belt, but I couldn’t have cared less. I’m sure I would have if I went through the window, but that had yet to happen, so it didn’t matter (I know how irresponsible that sounds, but it’s true nonetheless).
As we sit in traffic, I jot down scattered thoughts into my journal:
‘There’s a worrisome haze over Bangkok’s skyline. Some wear face masks, but most don’t.’
‘Far too relaxed. Will I be more relaxed in sleepy village of Sukhothai? Chiang Mai? Bugs!’
‘He sings! And whistles – voice poetical, high notes and low – reminds me of the flower market.’
There are more notes from that taxi ride, but I think each one is more insane than the last, so I think it’s best they stay offline.
By the time I reach Lumpini Park the sun has already set and it’s completely dark. Thankfully, the park is buzzing with activity, but there are still some pretty dodgy characters lurking in the dark, so I don’t stay for long. Below are some photographs (that aren’t the best quality – sorry).
So utterly #alone beneath foreign skies,
My heart reminds me –
I am alive.
— Katherine (@ksfahey) 10 April 2016
And that was that – my uneventful day in Bangkok. That’s all for tonight. I’m falling asleep as I type! Goodnight, and don’t forget to say hello.