I left Hong Kong feeling a bit sad about it. I think my roots lie more in Hong Kong than in Kaiping. Hong Kong felt more familiar from a cultural sense. The rush, the food, the people all reminded me of the Chinese culture that I grew up around. And it’s no wonder… My dad grew up there, and many of my relatives came from there too. The little restaurants and BBQ shops remind me of the earliest ones I saw in Toronto, with a waiter arriving at your table, tossing a cup of tea in front of you, and barking, “Whaddayawant?” in Cantonese. I’ll definitely return there some day, and probably spring for a better hotel too.
Now I’m in Bangkok again. The sites, sounds and smells are all very familiar. Sensory overload is in full effect again. The friendly tones of the cheerful Thai language surround me. Everywhere, people are smiling and greeting me with “Sawadee kaaa!” In the morning, armies of carts bearing a wide variety of delicious street treats fan out into the city from the alleys where they’ve been stored for the night. Fresh fruit, spicy meat skewers, dumplings, sticky rice–these things are everywhere. They’re similar to what is available in Hong Kong, but with a Southeast Asian twist, usually in the form of sweet chili sauce. As they say in Thailand, “Same same but different.”
It’s a noisy place, just like Hong Kong, but in a much more earthy way. It’s spicier here. Not only the food, but also in the atmosphere and the people surrounding you. Hong Kong was all tech and glitz, a city reaching for European standards. Bangkok doesn’t care. Its grime and grit are part of its charm, and that charm is substantial.
On the surface, not a lot has changed in the last two years since I was here last. Of course, since then, there’s been a military coup that’s overthrown the democratic government. But Thailand seems to glide over that, just like they glide over many other things that happen here.
My apartment here is significantly nicer than where I was staying in Hong Kong. Here are a couple of snaps.
Ok so it turns out I’m pretty busy here, and it’s been a day or so since I’ve written the above. I’ve been working in the Bangkok office of my Montreal job, and it’s been hectic getting back up to speed. It’s been awesome meeting the Thai staff though. Such a talented and intelligent bunch of people. The office culture here is very tight-knit too. Everyone hangs out together and goes out to lunch together, etc.
I’ve noticed a few changes that have happened since last I was here. First of all, there’s a lot more security everywhere. There are spot checks on people’s bags as they go into crowded places like shopping malls and the subway system. Also, in public places, they often have nationalistic music playing. I think it’s the national anthem. I don’t remember that from last time.
Last night I went out and ordered a suit and three shirts. I’ll have my first fitting on Saturday, and the whole thing will be ready a few days after that. Getting a suit is one of the “things to do” in Bangkok, because there’s a profusion of inexpensive tailors here. Choosing one is difficult though. I got a recommendation from a friend though, and a name to drop too. I still had to bargain, but I got the feeling I was being fairly treated. It’s not uncommon to get a custom suit for about $60 here, but those are pretty crappy, and will probably self-destruct after a few wears. My suit will be made from a cashmere/silk blend from England in black with thin white pinstripes. It’s a slim-fitting 3-button suit. The shirts have French cuffs so I can use cufflinks. The cost of this plus one tie is $290. I also bought a little LG cell phone to use in Thailand. Brand new, it cost about $50. Airtime is about 6 cents per minute or per text message.
I moved out of the hotel this morning, and into my friend’s girlfriend’s apartment. She’s out of town and generously offered me the use of her home. It’s in a pretty trendy area. This should be fun.