musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘Thai restaurant’

Laughter in the Rain

It’s not often that a Neil Sedaka song pops into my head while walking the streets of Bangkok, but the deluge of rain that I found myself overwhelmed by on Wednesday night triggered Sedaka’s mid-1970s hit “Laughter in the Rain” to run circuits around my brain for several hours.


It was one of those freak rain storms that didn’t come and go quickly, as they usually do. Instead, this intense and persistent strorm lasted several hours, raining hard enough to ensure flooded streets and traffic gridlock. I had been dining with my friend Michael at Soul Food Mahanakorn, a Thai restaurant on Thonglor. Ten o’clock came and went and it was still raining, so we both ordered another round of Beer Lao, the dark variety. Eleven o’clock threatened to rear its head and it was still raining hard. Rain or not, it looked like the restaurant would be closing soon, so we paid our bill (the food is quite good at that place, but it’s not cheap, and portions aren’t very big either; I had the odd feeling of leaving a restaurant still a bit hungry!) and marched outside to face the elements.

For Michael, getting home wasn’t going to be that difficult a task, even in the pouring rain. From the restaurant, he had only a short hike to the Thonglor BTS Skytrain station, and then a dry ride back to his place near Sathorn Road. For me, however, the transport options weren’t looking as simple. I live on New Petchburi Road, not an area serviced by the Skytrain or subway. In heavy rains like this one the number of available taxis decreases dramatically, and even if you do luck into finding one, the traffic is so backed up that you are looking at a very long ride home. The rain also means that taking a motorcycle taxi is not a particularly desirable option. Yeah, you can take one, but without a raincoat, which I didn’t have with me, you’re going to get soaked. And at this time of night, even motorcycle taxis are almost impossible to find.

Thonglor was already quite flooded, so with umbrella in hand, I decided to walk back to the Sukhumvit intersection in hopes of finding a dry stretch of pavement where I could wait and possibly flag down a taxi. I waited under an awning for nearly 30 minutes, the rain never letting up and no taxis stopping. That’s when I started laughing and that Neil Sedaka song began playing in my head. I mean what else could I do but wait out the rain and laugh about it all? It was that ridiculous.

Another reason for laughter was the sight of the cockroach dance. While I was waiting under the awning I noticed a woman standing nearby who started twitching and slapping her back, and then screaming. What the hell? But she wasn’t the only one. A young man standing next to the woman commenced into doing an exaggerated slap and shuffle of his own. At that point I noticed the source of this chaos; cockroaches. Dozens if not hundreds of the little critters, skittering across the pavement … and up legs and arms and backs and heads! Things got so bad that the man yanked off his shirt and tried to brush off the intruders. While I was laughing at this scene I felt a crawling presence on my own shoulder. Yep, the cockroaches had found me too!

I finally gave up on a taxi and decided that there wasn’t much I could do at this point but to start walking home. It’s a bit of a hike, but I’ve done it before, and hey, it’s good exercise, right? The clock was pushing midnight by this time and the rain had let up enough that I put away my umbrella and just donned a baseball cap as protection from the elements. But there was still no sign of any vacant taxis, either the regular ones or the motorcycle variety.

The walk home was, shall we say, soggy. Several of the sois and driveways that I had to cross were so flooded that the water came up almost to my knees. Needless to say, these old Reeboks were going to need a thorough drying afterwards. Actually, I need a new pair anyway, but I’ll wait until after rainy season has safely retreated until I buy anything new. Marching down Thonglor, I passed vendors who were packing it in for the night, pedestrians seeking shelter, and swirling pools of garbage. But I pressed on, laughing in the rain, that song still playing in my head.

Mid-Week Blues

It’s Wednesday night in Bangkok and it’s raining again, although very, very lightly. Just finished listening to a World Party CD and now I have an old James Gang live album playing. “Just turn your pretty head … and walk away.” Coming up next: a compilation by The The. And if you have to ask; “The what? … well, forget it.

And I’m stumped as to what to write about tonight. It’s been a few days since I posted anything and I feel like I should write something or post some photos, but I just don’t feel inspired. Must be the mid-week blues.  blues01

I could write about the latest rash of bombings in South Thailand; the violence that just won’t stop. Or I could write about the historic visit of Myanmar President Thein Sein to the US, where he’s meeting with Barack “O’Burma” Obama. Or to take that story a step further, I could mention the misguided protesters who think Thein Sein is some sort of heinous villain because he hasn’t been able to stop the sectarian violence between Muslim and Buddhists in Myanmar this year. Or the idiots who think that Obama should not have invited Thein Sein at all, reasoning that it’s “too early” to lift sanctions and “encourage” Myanmar without the government releasing all political prisoners, and blah blah blah. I tell you, nothing pleases these so-called “Free Burma” groups, and it would kill them to acknowledge, much less praise, any improvements or changes that the Myanmar government makes. Hell, it would kill them just to say the word “Myanmar.” I’m certainly not in the pro-junta camp, but some of these so-called human rights groups need to put things in perspective. I think some of their “policies” have done more harm than good in the past decade. I think “democratic” changes will take time to fully mature in Myanmar, but things are on the right track and Thein Sein should be encouraged and supported rather than criticized and condemned.

What else? Oh yeah, there was the efficient transvestite nurse that waited on me at Bangkok Hospital last week, or the Thai doctor who they sent me to at that same hospital. He had a very American-sounding accent, so I asked him if he had spent time studying in the states. “Well,” he said, “I grew up near Cincinnati, but I attended university here in Bangkok.” And the good news: they couldn’t find anything wrong with me!

Or I could write about some of the cool customers in my bookshop this week: David the 75-year-old pot-smoking fan of Louis L’Amour novels; the guy from Sweden who admitted to being “old school” and preferring real books over digital ones; the guy from Prachin Buri who bought the entire series of Gabriel Allon novels by Daniel Silva; the sweet expat lady from Poland who is reading anything we get by Evelyn Waugh, P.G. Wodehouse, or Graham Greene; or the female Thai customer who regaled us with tales of spitting on the feet of Red Shirt protesters last week; or the street guy who likes to “drop his drawers” to passing cars in front of our shop. Oh yeah, it’s a colorful neighborhood!

Or could write about the two nice guys from France that treated me to dinner at a Thai restaurant on Monday night. Good food, pleasant company, and they introduced me to a wicked-good drink that they say is popular in Brazil. I just wish I could remember the name of the drink! Yeah, it was that good. They were departing the next day on a trip to Myanmar and will be back in Bangkok in early May.

Then there were the phone calls from friends in Cambodia, e-mails from friends in Myanmar, and requests for money from friends in Thailand. In the case of my Thai friend Tam, his wife just gave birth to their third child and he needed money to buy some essentials … like food, so I was inclined to help him out.

But alas, I don’t have the energy or inclination to write about any of these things with any additional depth. All in all, it was just another weird and wonderful, and perfectly normal, week here in Bangkok. Let it rain!


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