Wednesday, November 7, 2012

shopping in Bangkok

Bangkok has been, quite frankly, a second injection of culture shock to our system since we've begun our honeymoon. Going from Siem Reap to Bangkok feels to me like all the times I went from Windhoek to Johannesburg. Bangkok is a proper metropolis of some 14 million people, a never-ending cityline full of secrets that you will never have the time to discover, no matter how long you spend here. Things here are more crowded, more expensive, more smoggy, more polluted, more exciting, more everything. The sidewalks are crowded with street vendors selling everything from fake Lacoste shirts to postcards to sex toys to fruit. The delicious smell of street food mixes with the less delicious smell of garbage and sewer. There are more motorcycles on the streets than I've ever seen in my life. My sophisticated hotel tv greets me with a "Welcome Ms Gloriameerang" (that's what the hotels and airports here think my name is. I guess it sounds more southeast Asian than just the short Gloria.)

We've arrived in Bangkok with no agenda. We plan to stay for a week. On our first day, we decided to try our hand at shopping. We've been told that Bangkok is shopping heaven, both for brand names and brand name knock-offs.

We were given the advice to window shop at the mall Terminal 21 first and then actually shop at MBK afterwards. Terminal 21 is the really nice mall with like hundreds of boutiques and many floors. The bathrooms each have bidets. Each floor has a different theme based on an international city: Rome, San Francisco, Paris, Vancouver yet, but maybe the mall will expand. Lots of gorgeous fashion forward dress styles that I'm sure will make their way to North America in five years or so. I didn't buy anything. I was afraid that if I bought one thing, the barrier would be broken and I wouldn't be able to help myself from the shopping spree deluge that would follow.


MBK is pretty much the original Pac Mall. Picture a huge building with many floors and hundreds of little stands on each floor. It's the cheapest place anywhere to buy a mobile phone. It's the place to go to be buy Gucci sunglasses. It's the place to go to buy phone numbers and license plates with the lucky number 9. It's the place to go to buy illegal copies of software. It's the place to go to get permanent makeup tattooed on your face. It's the place to go to sharpen your bargaining skills with people who do not speak any languages that you do, which is, in itself, quite the experience.

It is also, according to the Lonely Planet, the place to go to eat. The food court is the awesome Asian style that I wish would become more popular in North America, where you get a special credit card as you enter, and then you go nuts at all of the international stands inside the court. One day, I'm going to eat one too many fried noodle dishes, and the people of Siam will forever refer to the Great Noodle Explosion of Gloriameerang.

Like the tourist I am, I bought more Thai silk that you can shake a Thai stick at, and tried on a bunch of ridiculously pretty ridiculously cheap dresses. I bought some clothes that are more appropriate to wear here. In a country where modesty is important but the weather is oppressively humid, my spaghetti strap tank tops don't work, but neither do my thick skinny jeans. In Asia, by the way, I am no longer a size small.
In the evening, we stopped for cheap drinks ($2 beers) at the aptly named Cheap Charlie's, a bar randomly located in a dark alley surprisingly popular with ex-pats. It was a bit odd to be standing in an alley drinking Tiger beer as more and more young white guys in business suits showed up to crowd the alley, but it was a quirky atmosphere. After our Asian aperitifs we headed for the trendy lounge Zanzibar next door, for green curry, chicken satay and fried calamari, where a young long-haired Thai man crooned Elvis songs on the piano exactly like Elvis. It was freaking awesome. They say you haven't experienced Bangkok until you hear a Thai cover of the Eagle's Hotel California at a hotel bar. I eagerly await this experience.