Tuk Tuk

Hot and humid today in Bangkok, where it’s 11:00 p.m. on Thursday evening as I write this, and something like 8:00 a.m. Thursday morning back home.

So we have lived Thursday and our neighbours and friends at home have it to come.

Today was our “get the lay of the land day.” Steve (as Harold is called by everyone — somethings you can’t learn via email) introduced us to his wife Michelle, and their Korean friend Susan, and we all went up to the Sky Train together.

The Sky Train is a wonderful piece of Bangkok’s public transportation network — indeed it’s part of complex series of things that led Steve and Michelle back to Bangkok from California a couple of years ago. It is essentially an elevated transit system, similar to the one in Vancouver in both design and name (but cleaner and better run here). In a city as congested as Bangkok (and truth be told, it doesn’t appear as congested as the guidebooks would have you believe), something like the Sky Train is a tool for social revolution; while it’s obvious that it hasn’t completely caught on yet, it’s also obvious that it’s starting to have a dramatic impact on the way that the people of Bankgkok get around.

Sky Train lessons done, we headed to the Oriental Hotel in the riverfront, where one of Steve’s books, At Home in Asia, is being buried in a time capsule this week. In the lobby of the hotel, while Steve was up with PR folks, Catherine and I and Oliver plunked ourselves down.

Now keep in mind that the Oriental Hotel was 10 times voted the best hotel in the world. And there we gruffy three sat, Oliver wanting to putter around, Catherine going hunting for a bottle of water. And we felt at home. The staff came over and picked up Oliver and carried him around, showed him the lily pond fountain. And when we left they all waved at Oliver.

This is a constant theme here so far: my son is more popular than I am. Everywhere we go — everywhere — Oliver is treated like a prince. At restaurants he is spirited away from the table so as to not need fuss while we eat. On the riverboats he flirted with the ticket taker. At the grocery store the clerk looked blankly at we when I walked in, and then when she spotted Oliver on my back, her face lit up brightly.

And it works at airports and in customs lines too — faced with a line of some 500 people at Bangkok International last night we were spirited ahead by an official to the special “Diplomatic” line.

After the Oriential Hotel, we headed out to the street for a bowl of miso soup, and then out onto the river. Another of Bangkok’s transportation methods is riverboat — ferry boats that run up and down the river stopping at various places. The fare is 10 baht — about 50 cents — and the experience is indescibable but to say that Oliver didn’t fall off.

This last point is relevant because last night Steve told us that the only thing we had to worry about was the water. In my bleary-headed post-flight fog, I said “falling in, or drinking it?” Both he and Catherine looked at me like I was an idiot. Which, of course, I was.

After the river, we Sky Trained back to our hotel for a rest, and then joined Michelle, Susan and later a couple of guys, Sri and Sunam, from Sri Lanka, for a spaghetti dinner. So there we were, three Canadians, a Korean, a Philipinno (albeit with a Thai passport) and Korean, talking about hamburgers, Anne of Green Gables (nobody had heard of), snow (everybody had heard of) and Quebec separation. This is why it’s good to travel.

After supper we took Steve’s advice and travelled the 5 blocks back to our hotel by tuk tuk (basically a 3-wheeled motorcycle with a passenger compartment in the back), Oliver asleep for the whole thing. And this is where Catherine and Oliver are, hopefully enjoying their first Thai sound sleep, as I write. And where I must now go and join them.

More later.


Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on February 7, 2002 - 18:55 Permalink

I’m curious, how are you accessing the web?

Alan - not a robot's picture
Alan - not a robot on February 7, 2002 - 19:01 Permalink

…he’s robot…

Dave Moses's picture
Dave Moses on February 7, 2002 - 21:20 Permalink

Glad to hear you’ve landed safe and sound.

Sandy Nicholson's picture
Sandy Nicholson on February 8, 2002 - 00:10 Permalink

Having a very active toddler of my own, I am very interested in hearing about your travels with Oliver. Have a great trip!

Oliver's picture
Oliver on February 9, 2002 - 18:05 Permalink

Fun to read your reports, Peter. Weblogging definitely beats aerograms. (Plus I suppose you have AC as you write! ). Your experience doesn’t really surprise me, but it just reconfirms how subjective traveling is. My sense of Bangkok on arrival was seediness and exoticness. Partly it’s the difference it makes to have a local friend and a baby to open doors, I’m sure. But I’m sure a lot is what (and /or if) you project, and so it’s what you bring to the table. When I think of my first ferry ride in Bangkok 12 years ago, what I remember first is the bloated dead dog I saw floating down river past the pylon of a bridge. I’m not sure what that proves, however.