Well, when you step outside for the daily latte you don’t really expect to be greeted by what sounds like a cannon going off in your right ear. Everyone stopped, emerged from shops, gazing towards Limpini Park. I strolled in the opposite direction. After all, it’s got to be at least three cannon blasts to stop a man getting his caffeine shots. On the way back, I figured out – from the pointing of several besuited Thais out front a CIMB bank branch – that one of the transformers that adorn the wooden street pylons like grim Christmas baubles had let go in spectacular fashion. This was confirmed by the fact our power had gone off and back on in the apartment. Still, it’s the first noise in this very noisy city that I’ve seen everyone focus on.
Last weekend was a hot and dusty voyage up Sukumvit’s Soi 15 to the NIST – http://www.nist.ac.th/default.aspx – for a BAMBI event (an expat parent and kids group) where the animals of the expatriate forest converged with pushchairs on what turned out to be a heaving market of exasperated parents. It was almost Ronno versus Bambi all over again. It is odd how there is a pushchair snobbery no matter where you go.
“Ooh, they’ve got an iCandy”, sniffs careworn, weary parent #1
“Bet it’s second hand” consoles weary parent #1’s Thumper. “Not as good as your McLaren. You’ve got two cup holders.”
“Heeellllooooo” comes the singsong greeting of weary parents #2 and #3 who have turned up in a Mercedes and unloaded their matching nauseating yellow infant Kid Kustoms Roddlers. “Fancy seeing you here. I say! Is that Celine over there…she looks fabulous, darling. She only had little Jimmy four weeks ago.”
OK, so I exaggerate a little, but trust me these are basically the tweetings of those in the pushchair know. It can be heard in every park and playground until silence is brought about when a Viktor and Rolf Bugaboo purrs arrogantly through the entrance. One cannot argue with the crème de la crème of strollers. It’s four times the price of my first car http://www.bugaboo.com/386 ; luckily it doesn’t tend to splutter to a stop at the hint of rain like mine did.
So, we took the BTS to NANA station and I did my usual workout of carrying Isla in our pushchair up and down 36 (I counted) steps to and from the station. We were on the platform when a friendly Japanese man inquired exactly how I had got Isla and said chair up to the train as he clearly wanted to do the same. Which is where the universal manly flex of a bicep conveyed both fact and disappointment. That conversation smartly over we walked up Soi 15 which was under construction. Everyone sane was under cover from the blistering heat. This time it was sunny as well as humid so I have quite the farmer’s tan now; every crazy farang was pushing a baby over broken roads, inhaling building dust, dodging tuk-tuks, taxis and grinning locals.
I’d just like, at this point, to register an official complaint with Android’s GPS system. Yes, it told me where I was exactly and where I had to get to, but it looked like it was a 200m canter, not a 4km hike. All Bangkok maps promise a gentle hop to and from your destination, but the reality is always a painful outing. Anyway, we got there, paid our 1000Baht to become members of the Bambi Collective and staggered into a large hall which was next to a very nice astro pitch.
It was heaving.
Basically Bambi was having a yard sale. Kids toys, mainly used, a few new, on trestle tables. The good stuff had already gone, taken by those who know how to navigate a yard sale in the first few heady minutes. The slim pickings that were left gave Isla a small educational toy and resulted in a diplomat trying to leave under full steam just to get some clear air. It was like being trapped in IKEA. We did buy a Diet Coke though.
I am told Bambi do 3 hr kid sessions at the British Club so I think I’ll take a trip to one and report back on the event.
We navigated our way back to the BTS and headed in blissful air conditioning to the Siam stop where a short walk (genuinely short this time) took us to the Thai craft fair at CCT – http://www.thaicraft.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=3&Itemid=4 where we spent a good hour happily browsing in a less hectic environment. The artisan work was exquisite, all created by artists in villages. There was Christmas decorations, silver work, cloth, wood carvings, metal working…and Fairtrade coffee. We picked up a couple of finely detailed bookmarks – I collect them, a story for another day – some elegant cheese knives, and a fabulous 2m long tapestry of what we were told was the Mekong River.
Armed with our various purchases and a promise for a lamp delivery we headed back home for a great dinner and subsequent Mojito soiree where we were introduced to a Thai sweet made from “snake” – that’s the phonetic version I picked up – and pulled pork. Yep, that’s right, candies and pork. In a cylinder. The kind of thing that confuses the taste buds. We still have them…seeing them as a “one a day” delicacy, as if we’re still not quite sure how to categorize them.
That’s it for now…sitting here looking out the window at the now normal thunder and lightning. Storms in Britain just pale compared to these, though they’ve not reached the epic proportions of the great storm of ’87 which I was right in the middle of as a 14yr old. Went to sleep in a nestled hillside of the South Downs that night, emerged the next morning to find every tree levelled. Heady stuff.
Is this what diplomacy is all about?