Saturday, October 22, 2011

Uncharacteristically Bangkok

And I was wondering how I found myself conned into carrying on with a trip to a country in the middle one of its worst floods in a decade. Yes, I was on my way to Thailand and the cab driver cheerfully informed me that Bangkok had had an ‘emergency’ alert on the floods just that afternoon… I have heard many stories of the one dreadful rain in Mumbai, which saw people stranded in offices, buildings, buses for hours together; I can only imagine the upheaval to life and yes, also worry I may get caught in it. I expect a wet, gloomy and damp Bangkok, and but instead a warm and slightly sultry evening greets me, not a whiff of rain in the air. It was a quick trip, and it was almost surreal to imagine just kilometers from where I was traveling to the Chao Phraya was swelling with abundance and threatening to destroy.

Some random thoughts from an uncharacteristic Bangkok trip.

Suvarnabhumi ... meaning golden land. There is a nice thrust to the syllables (we call it spashtam or pronouncing with emphasis) as the name rolls of my tongue. As I say it, images of civilization in the heights of glory, rich kings and queens, an abundant land flash by and leave behind the sense of hope and vision behind the simple name. The name has its origin from Sanskrit.

Can't remember when I last saw this many pink taxis.

A one day trip is too short. I remember scenes from the movie Hangover 2 and see nothing like it.

This skyline has nothing characteristically Bangkok... I am glad for the smaller number of glass walled tall skyscrapers. With these multiplying, pretty soon, I worry one Asian city may look like any other.

A view of the city

A lot of the signs, name boards are in Thai and it is hard to spot the English text amidst it all... makes me think how so used to the prevalence of the English language I've become.

Thrilled to find the traditional namaste (put your palms together and bow so ast to welcome) is still in use. Immediately, I feel a sense of regret; we (in India) have lost so many of our smaller, yet characteristic elements to blend with the West. This is not what makes or breaks us as a nation. Still.

The Marie Claire in the coffee shop is on Thai. So are the international titles – Gossip Girls and Peter Mayle’s books.

All books in Thai

Don't get to have my favorite pineapple rice. Lunch is in a government company cafeteria. For a dollar.

Doesn't matter how cheap the food is, I still don't find as cheap books as in India.

The sky train is hardly crowded... My colleague says people have headed home early to avoid the floods... the Chao Phraya is harder to reign in.

And before I know it, I am back at the start. Warm and safe. Suvarnabhumi.

The mythological story - Churning of the Milk Sea - from one of Vishnu's several avatars portrayed in the airport

Saturday, October 01, 2011

On volunteering...

Just when I was thinking of a volunteering vacation in Vietnam or some place else...

The protagonist, a Filipino, living in the US, : "...we were there in Costa Rica, helping build wells"

L: "Why not the Philippines? Isn't Costa Rica relatively well off?"

The protagonist: "Um, we didn't know that till we got there!"

-The Ilustrado, Miguel Syjuco

... found this funny. Charity begins at home?

Hopefully, no more extracts from the Ilustrado. Yet to fully grasp the ending, but loved the book, the style of narration. The protagonist embodies one we sometimes find in ourself, the part that is always trying to straddle the new with the old, the idealist with the realist, and probably for some who have left their roots, the west with the east. Mixed reviews on whether he presented Philippines truly or a skewed overseas citizen's version, but loved it anyways!