Or “krup”, is the most common phrase I have heard in four days. Makes me want to go “Hey…up here. The Dad. 23 chromosomes and all that.”
But no, there is hardly any point in trying. Compared to Bangkok, Westerners are positively bored by infants and children. Nowhere else has the adage that a child is a great conversation opener been more true. Every cashier, every restaurant, heck every hawker stand is a reason for a flock of friendly Thais (of both genders) to coo over a child, ask her age, express amazement that a ten month old is so healthily big and leave a befuddled English and Canadian with complete faith restored in the kindness of strangers. It’s also a great chance for the stumbling language attempts of Dad. Six phrases already. I feel I’ve earned a degree. Two a day…start simple and work my way up. A polyglot I most certainly am not.
Yesterday we ventured onto the BTS skytrain. Two stops down to the National Stadium which is an indoor market. Basically somewhere you can get most items for the prices those in Canada and England speak of with the certainty of the well-informed, if not actually travelled.
“299Baht for a Tintin T-shirt for the farang?”
“Make it 500Baht for 2.”
“Done.” I somehow can’t help feeling I’ve still got the wrong end of the bargain but, hey, both parties are happy and that’s what counts here. Plus the two T-shirts. Destination Moon and Red Rackham’s treasure. One’s boyish enthusiasm never quite dissipates, thank heavens. Anyway, back to the BTS. We stepped on board a train that the 2012 London LOSOG would have envied. Air conditioning one only dreams of in the stink of a London rush hour. Sardines in a tin can? Not here. Everyone is incredibly polite: “Sawadee ka, Isla” is heard over and over, our daughter dutifully gurgling and beaming at everyone. We have room, digital screens abound, the windows are opaque to protect us from the sun and the interior space utterly efficient. I am beginning to wonder if life might not just be somehow “better” here. It’s the most relaxing short train ride I’ve ever taken and I’ve done a few in the US, Europe and Canada now.
It is now we begin to see other visitors to Thailand. There is a communal glance between Westerners, a nod that conveys a sense of acceptance and reliance that I’ve not noticed before. It is especially prevalent whenever you see another pushchair. Somehow, despite the humidity and heat, everyone is more…relaxed. I’ve walked the streets of New York yet always felt I had to remain alert, just in case. But, so far, not here. Long may it last. We get to the BKK stop, get the T-shirts, browse what feels like a hundred thousand stalls on seven levels and generally soak up the essence of Thai shopping culture. I find myself looking forward to lunch. I actively want to steer away from the MacDonalds, Subway, Pizza eateries that festoon the landscape like polished baubles and find something more local. Thai food agrees with me. But that’s a topic for another Post. I’m off to wear “Destination Moon” and an ancient part of me is utterly delighted to do so…
Is this what diplomacy is all about?