Thursday, 3 September 2015

Johannesburg to Bangkok...Our 1st month...

First month in Bangkok, what do I think? 

Wow! It's the same feeling when I arrived in Johannesburg, when everything is unbelievable interesting, so much so you're head's exploding. Well, in Johannesburg that was always a possibility, but so much gentler here. OK, yes, a bomb went off in the city centre during our first week, but that in no way reflects every day life here. When you live in a quiet town in the U.K., like Ipswich or Penrith, you go about your day to day life, and not much surprises you. You take the same walk/drive without even thinking; you're on automatic pilot mostly.  

So, what are the BIG changes that hit me straight off?

The heat!
The Thai's have 3 seasons, summer, summer and summer, with one of them being the 'rainy season'. The past month has been in the rainy season, 35 during the day, plummeting to 31 at night, if you're lucky. The air-con in the bedroom brings it down to 27, and with no covers, not even a sheet, sleep is possible. In Johannesburg, it was dry heat. You put the clothes out and they were dry in 20 minutes. Here, if there's no wind, it can take 3 days! On the bright side, ironing is easier. I can manage in the house until about 9 a.m. now, with only the fans on, and all windows open. There is no hot running water in the house, you shower and the water is hot enough, and washing up the same. Cold water is from the water cooler in the kitchen, delivered every Saturday, and most welcome. You get used to it, you acclimatise and then start to really appreciate being in permanent summer.  I laugh at the clothes selection I brought from England, long sleeve shirts and sweatshirts, unwearable.

In Johannesburg, most people spoke, and all signs and instructions were in English. Forget that here, most don't speak English and signs mean nothing. I liken it to what it's like being a deaf person, because just now, I have to rely on my vision, smell and instincts, the latter being the more important. I have about 12 Thai words, and I learnt them through necessity, as without some basics, you would struggle to leave home. I can tell a taxi driver where I live, and direct him with left, right, straight on and stop. I can ask to be taken to the skytrain, which is an amazing cheap way of covering long distances very quickly. I can say hello, goodbye, thank you and ask for the bill. I can comment that the food is lovely and can say that my name is Daniel. The list will get longer, but if you have a go at the language, people instantly warm to your efforts and help where they can.

I love the Thai people, and have never been made to feel so welcome in any other country.

Traffic here is crazy stuff, and I only cope with driving by pretending I'm on a 'star wars' video game. The cars are bad enough, but there are motorbikes and scooters, weaving in and out at high speed, often with a family of 4 onboard, I kid you not. Then there's all the home made stuff, welded together in backstreet garages, such as mobile kitchens, sweet stalls and tuk-tuks, vying for position at every set of lights.

Which reminds me, unlike Johannesburg, nobody steals the lights here. So you look front, back, left and right, knowing that the only place traffic is not going to come from is the sky; give it time. Most cars have blacked out windows, and the Thai 's change into demons behind this mask of anonymity. Zebra crossings are meaningless, but pedestrians have a strategy. Gradually, a crowd will gather at the roadside, and this happens on both sides. When there are enough bodies, they look at each other across the busy road, then all at once, start to walk. Traffic comes to a standstill as the two masses sieve through each other. Intimidation by numbers? Yes, but it works.

I love Thai food. People say that in England, don't they. "I just love Thai food". Well, I was one of those, and still am, but right now, I am 'rice and noodled out'. I usually have lunch for £0-50 and dinner is rarely more than £2.00, so no complaints there.

The meat is not usually the
main item on the dish, more of a Mediterranean proportion of meat to veg/ salad/rice/noodle. Main problem is knowing what it is. Beverley bought what she thought was a chicken skewer, but we couldn't work out what it really was. It had a fatty texture, smelt great, looked a bit like tongue, very chewy, we gave up. The smell of food is everywhere, all cooking done in the open, even our kitchen at home is outside. 

What do I miss most about Johannesburg? Probably our friend Freedom, who we will never forget, for his smile, his happy ways and his sheer determination as a survivor in a city that is so 'hard'. If you ever read this Freedom, we think of you often.

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