Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Day of Firsts

Yesterday was a day of firsts.  Having been in Bangkok less than a week, everyday has had several firsts of one kind or another.  Yesterday's were more significant, however, as they involved some basic survival skills that I'll need in this strange and overwhelming city.  

The first came at lunch time.  I wandered down the road to a little roadside restaurant that serves cheap Thai food.  I could tell from what they were cooking up front that they had what I wanted: noodle soup with chicken, so I confidently strode in and took a seat. 

I told the young server lady, "Kwetiauw Gai", having found that translation in my Thai-English phrasebook.  She gave no indication that she understood what I said, looked horribly scared that this farang guy was talking to her and ran off to get the Mama who was busy cooking up front. 

Well, darn.  I thought I said it correctly.

As I said, Mama was cooking and couldn't come over right away, so I dove into my phrasebook and looked at the Thai characters spelling of the dish I was looking for. Then I compared the word to the writing on the wall menu.  Okay, this first character definitely looks like that first character, and the second looks the same too, and the third, aha!  That's gotta be it! Better yet, it's only 30 Baht! ($1.03).

When the mama finally came over, I pointed to the menu on the wall and said
again, "kwetiau gai"... 

"Ah ah!" Mama said, "Kwetiau gaaiii..."

Yeah, that's what I thought I was saying...

Soon after, a bowl of delicious chicken noodle soup showed up in front of me and I loved every drop.  The first in this case was my first time successfully ordering food from a restaurant that serves more than one thing with Thai only menus and no one who spoke English.  This is an important skill. 

My next first was riding on a motorcycle taxi.  These are all over Bangkok and are the fastest way to get anywhere during the daytime.  The traffic is sooo bad here that regular taxis, although cheaper and more comfortable, can take forever.  The same goes for the buses.  Only the train will beat a motorcycle taxi.

That said, I had to go to 4 different taxi stands to finally find a driver who wasn't going to overcharge me terribly because of the color of my skin.  I still think I got charged more than a local would, but just by a little. 

That first came from my next first, my first bit of cultural tourism.  I wanted to go visit the Golden Mount, a somewhat famous site here in Bangkok.  It was built 200 years ago by the King to commemorate the building of the canal system.  Building a man-made mountain in the middle of town also gave them a handy place to put all the dirt they were dredging out of the canals too. 

It was beautiful and peaceful up there on that hill.  I meditated a while.  Took in the sights and sounds. A nice cooling breeze was blowing. Very very peaceful place. 

My last stop was to Mahakan Fort, another 200 year old landmark just at the base of the hill.  Behind the fort was a pleasant small park: the perfect place to record this week's Seasons of the Ukulele song.  The doggies enjoyed it and although the couple children from the neighboring village didn't seem to pay me too much attention, I think they were listening too as I played my ukulele for the first time under a banyan tree. Enjoy! 


  1. Love this video. This Dr John music suits you to a T.
    Thank you again for sharing so much...


  2. Got the emails about your lunch. Sounds good. I'll let you tell more. Good for you, getting out there and living. Guess you will become a chicken soup lover. You look good. Have you lost a few?

  3. Your soup sounds wonderful. I wouldn't even know how to begin to pronounce anything.

  4. I've been reading your blog backwards... from newer to older and reading your entry from the 29th about it not being difficult not knowing Thai reminded me of the unpredictability of life in new and bold terms! -- at least I tend to travel to areas where the characters look familiar. Argh.

    I'm sure you're in for the time of your life and I congratulate you. Enjoy it all..... I won't say, go for the gusto... knowing that spicy gusto might just take the top of your head off.

    Have fun!

    A retired photographer looks at life
    Peter Pazucha dot Com
    Life Unscripted on Wordpress

  5. You are an adventurous soul to do what you are doing, immersing yourself in a totally different culture. Will look forward to hearing more....

  6. Dont know your mother, but I do read her blog-- so she sent me! Love your description of life in Bangkok.

  7. Hi Joko, Found you from your mom's blog. What an exciting journey you're undertaking. I'm so excited for you and can't wait to read more about it. I did read all your back post and glad to see you have you camera back. I just love your videos. This is so exciting, I feel like I am along on the trip. Best wishes to all you endevors and I will be looking forward to reading more and seeing more videos. Have a great adventure and stay safe!


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