Thursday, November 06, 2014

Three Months in Bangkok

It has been three months since we landed in Bangkok.  This post may not be as mind-blowing as I had originally hoped, but perhaps there is something of value among the following observations.

The Malls
Considering the population density in most Asian urban centers, one might think that shopping mall designers in these areas would pull out all the stops to create paragons of efficiency for getting people in, helping them find what they're looking for, getting them around, and getting them out.

But instead, the malls here tend to be convoluted warrens that are neither intuitive nor efficient.  Paths through stores are complicated.  Restrooms are embedded at the backs of those stores or hidden away down winding corridors that require expedition-like preparedness and possibly a rescue party on standby in case you don't return in a reasonable amount of time.  Escalators are stacked in such a way that you can't just turn and take a few steps to the nearest escalator to continue your ascent/descent of multiple floors; you must walk the long way around on each level to the desired escalator.  Mostly I'm just curious what goes into the thinking for design decisions like that.

The Heat
I had heard long ago the claim that it is easier for people to acclimate to heat than to cold.  As a Minnesotan who found excessive heat more unbearable than excessive cold while growing up, I didn't believe it.
However, I think it may be true.  We've only been in Bangkok for three months, and already I feel somewhat less affected by the heat.  Oh, I still sweat, but instead of gushing and dripping it is now beading and trickling.  Perhaps in a few more months I won't even notice -- until I feel cold at anything below 60°F.  Then I will cry because I will have become one of the wimps I would have laughed at in days past.

The People
Thai people seem to be very polite when directly engaging them one on one.  But when it's an anonymous situation or indirect interaction they seem downright rude, almost seeming intentionally so.  It's probably a symptom of living in any densely-populated urban area that can affect anyone, so perhaps this is unnecessarily critical.

One particular instance, although pretty insignificant, really annoyed me.  As you may know or can imagine, Bangkok is rife with motor bikes.  And the sidewalks are as much their road as are the actual streets.  Anyway, while I was walking on said sidewalk-road one day, a particular motorcycle taxi came up behind me and beeped its pitiful horn.  Obligingly, I stepped aside to let it pass, then resumed walking -- only to have it stop just three paces ahead and unload its passenger, thus blocking *my* path.  Seriously -- they couldn't wait three seconds for me to clear that distance.

The Sidewalks
Some of the sidewalks seem meticulously crafted out of a material that becomes ridiculously slick when wet.  Not sure the purpose of this, but it really tests your balance (and the traction of your footwear).  Couple this with motor bikes using the sidewalks as well and it seems a miracle that collisions and wipeouts are rare.

If Left is Right, I don't want to be Wrong.  Or is that Right?
We've had our car for a few weeks now, and I think we're adapting fairly well to the right-hand drive on the left side of the road.  We even took a road trip out of town to Hua Hin for a long weekend.  It went well, but GPS navigation is more than handy.  Old habits die hard, though: still often approach the wrong side of the car no matter who is driving, and the turn signal vs. wiper control battle will wage until the end of time.  Thankfully, we have an automatic transmission, though I've done manual shifting with a right-hand drive car in the Seychelles and we lived to tell about it.

With my job here, I've already traveled to Frankfurt, Chiang Mai, and Phnom Penh, with a trip to Vientiane later this month.  Definitely keeping busy and seeing some new places along the way.

The next entry in the logical progression would happen at "Four Years in Bangkok."  I suspect that is unlikely to happen, as even if D-What extended, one generally leaves post a little short of the last full year to allow for Home Leave and training.  The four-year mark would be August 6, 2018, and we would probably end up leaving in June or July.  But if we added in the weeks and days we've spent in Thailand here and there for vacations in the past, we might be able to hit four years total.  Only time will tell.


ShoNuff said...

What job did you end up with? I only knew you were going to look for something.

Heather said...

I think they intentionally make malls confusing. Like casinos. So you get "trapped" - forcing you to stay longer! Parking lots seem to have a similar idea - never let anyone drive in a straight line - although the purpose of this seemingly bad (or at least annoying!) planning is to try to keep people from driving too fast in parking lots?

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