We get reservations in the morning for a bus from Krabi to Bangkok. We find an internet café to make online reservations for the Maxx hotel (their rack rate is $40 but it can be had on the net for $20), but it takes a day to confirm, so we’ll show up and play dumb. We take boat to Krabi, which leaves late because of stupid loading – every passenger had to get on and off the boat by climbing over a rail with their luggage. (In Bangkok, it was the opposite problem: if you don’t get on right away, it’ll take off without you.) At Krabi we get on the bus and it stinks. It smells like a public toilet. They gave a moistened towellete with a glass of water, and I held the perfumed towellette to my nose the entire three hours it took to get to our first stop, Surat Thani. The bus stopped for a half-hour for dinner, and Elif and I started asking the Thais to empty the toilet on the bus because it stank up the whole bus. The rest of the bus passengers, mostly tourists also, were complaining the whole ride down about it but when it came time to do something about it, it was left up to Elif and I. The response was Thai: nobody wanted to do the dirty work. The drivers wanted the helpers to do it, and the helpers wanted the drivers to do it but the drivers were taking a shower, and Elif was saying that we needed a clean bus, not a clean driver, and when everyone returned, their main strategy was to say over and over that they would empty it at the next stop, which was six hours away, when someone else could do it for them. At that point, I loudly announced that the bus would not move unless the toilets were emptied right here, right now, and that Elif would get in front of the bus and I would get behind and the bus was not going to go anywhere. They looked at me and I said, come on, let’s see you empty and clean the toilet, right now. And again it worked.
On the bus was a 21-year-old kid from Fairfield, and not from the Warde side of the tracks. He was like the American Scooby in “Happiness” – a 21-year-old stoner who’d burned out of Fairfield Prep and went to some boarding school upstate where he was able to smoke more pot away from his parents. His dad’s a real estate king who bought his kid into Georgetown, where he graduated with a Sociology major. His mom’s a macrobiotic nut. The kid wants to play golf, caddy, be around golfing. I told him my story which amazed him. He got as a graduation gift a $5000 check to see the world. His favorite place was New Zealand where he loved the tourist industry – the concrete Alpine slides, the bungee jumping. He loved the Full Moon Party at Ko Pha-Ngan and took too much ecstacy there. I then told him the best advice I could say is not to jerk off your twenties.
We get into Bangkok at 6AM and have trouble getting a cab to the Maxx Hotel for any amount of money. We arrive and tell the front desk we have internet confirmation but no printout. Of course we’re not in their system, but we pick up our bags they’d held for us (mostly a heavy marionette we’d bought 2 weeks earlier at the Weekend Market) and they gave us rooms anyway, but we have to go to a net café and print out our reservation to prove to them that we have the cheaper rate.
We shower up and go to the National Museum. Since we arrived on a Thursday, we got a free tour. We had a choice, Buddhism or Thai Art, and we chose the latter. What I liked most about the pace is the museum buildings themselves, which were built in 1782 as the palace of Rama I’s viceroy. But because teak warps in a tropical climate, they’re apparently always working on roof tile or something – high-maintenance stuff.
From there we took a cab to Wang Suan Phakkat, and I fell asleep in the cab. I woke up when we arrived and when I got out I realized I’d left my Lonely Planet guidebook in the cab, which really sucked because in it I wrote all my notes from various museums – stuff I’d learned about the kalas and the nagas and Ganesh and Airvata and Air Jordan and all this knowledge lost to the ages. The whole time I was at Wang Suan Phakkat, I was pissed about my missing notes. The place was a collection of five traditional wooden Thai houses with art, antiques and furnishings. They had no a/c and it was of course over 100 degrees outside, but they gave you cute wooden fans to keep. Although there were some nice displays, it wasn’t nearly as special as Jim Thompson’s house.
From there we walked to the Bangkok Doll Factory. We asked a guy directions, and he ignored us and walked away, as if he were Italian – but then he got in his car, started it, and drove us there. Very, very nice. The place was in the middle of nowhere; the dolls weren’t that special but we were the only tourists there, of course, and we got to see people making them by hand, which impressed me but not Elif and Dilek, as Kadri had done that with Elif and Dilek for about fifteen years in what was once Turkey’s biggest toy factory.
We walked to the luxurious Siam Square shopping mall, passing lots of Ghost Houses on the way. (Those are little dollhouse-like structures adjacent to houses and hotels where the evil spirits are supposed to reside instead of bugging the real house). At Siam Square we printed out our hotel reservations at an internet café. Then we went to their food court and ate lunch. Elif and I had sushi; I didn’t want it, as we’d just had it three weeks before the first night we were in Bangkok and I wanted to try some other stuff, but she was really jonesing for it, so sushi it was. I had a lemongrass drink, and that was so good I went back and got a cherry drink, which was also wonderful.
We called Dilek’s sister Ilknur on Dilek’s cell phone to make sure Meow Meow was still alive. Ilknur said she was and again gave Elif a “when are you coming home already?” evasive kind of talk. This was the third time Ilknur sounded weird, so Elif asked her to spill it already. The news was that the first Friday we left for Thailand, Dilek’s cleaning lady came in to clean her office as she does every week. She turned on the sink and no water came out. (Power and water outages are common here and have nothing to do with the weather). She locked up and left. Monday morning, the rest of her office complex came in to work to find 32 tons of water flooding the place. And Dilek will come home to face a $8000 bill for the damage (a half-year’s wages; no insurance). Cos said nothing, pondering it like a judge. Dilek is hiding half her money from him in a separate bank account, because he’s impulsive like a child and will spend it on toys. Cos still said nothing to console her or talk about what they’d do. Finally, his ruling: “This all happened because we went in so many non-Moslem temples.”
We went back and swam.