I've got everything set up in the lab here in Bangkok, except the laser isn't firing (its an older laser and when its not turned on for a while, such as enroute to Thailand from the USA, it takes a while to turn on). So while I let it warm up for a really long time, Orapin told me to take the rest of the day off and walk around Bangkok. Here's some observations during my walk.
First, to the supermarket!
Would you like some Digestive flavor pretzels? No? How about Larb flavor! Yum. I love Larb flavor, way better than digestive! (Note: turns out, Larb flavor tastes like kitty litter with a hint of green curry).
I had to buy some super glue for the lab, but had to settle for supra glue. It must be one better as supra means "above or preceding." Okay, so its not as funny as digestive pretzels.
Hmmm, gotta pick something for dinner. What should I go for?
The one major thing I noticed while waiting in line at the supermarket is that Thai people, while very friendly, do not have the same opinions about the proper level of personal space for individuals. In Thailand, your personal space ends a little over 3 millimeters from your skin. I was the last person in the line at the register, and when the next person came up they stopped about 2 centimeters from my back (even though no one was behind them). I nonchalantley turned around really quick, almost bumping them over, to hopefully emphasize that its not a good idea to stand so close to a big ogre farang. When I turned back around they moved right back into the standard Thai position of breathing down my flippin' neck.
This next picture is specifically for Devin:
If you can make it out in the fuzzy picture, that's DOA the movie (based on the video game)! Filmed right here in Thailand. I did not purchase it, though I'm sure its well worth the 129 Baht (~$4). I did, however, purchase three other movies:
Crank (what can I say, I’m a Jason Stratham fan. Plus it came with a cool syringe-pen), MI:3 (just because I haven't seen it -- not because I expect it to be good), and Starship Troopers (I can't help it, I love this movie). Total cost: 373 Baht ($11.19). DVDs are cheap as heck here, well, compared to the U.S. And yes they work on my laptop. One thing of note; the proprietor of the DVD section of the store, upon seeing my white ass looking around, brought out two big bins of DVDs that were totally American and pointed them out to me. Now, I was happy as a clam, because I can't read Elven worth a shit and was very pleased there would be DVDs I know I could watch, but think about how that would go over in a reverse situation in the USA. If Chinese guy walked into a Blockbuster and the manager brought out a bunch of Chow Yun Fat DVDs for him to look at, would you call that manager racist? Keep in mind I hadn't said a word, so other than my good looks this guy had nothing to go on to determine my nationality. You think we could be overly-sensitive about "racial profiling" in the states? Of course, Thailand isn't exactly the 'melting pot' that the good ol' US of A is, so the point is moot, I suppose.
Now, about the smog…
Bangkok’s air smells constantly smells like you just set off one of those super-rocket multi-blast Fourth of July firework finale things. Breathing really sucks. That’s why people wear the paper masks all over, not because of SARS, but because every night when you get home from work it feels like you smoked three cigars. I’m glad I’m going to northern Thailand next week as I think my lungs will collapse if I stay here too much longer.
Also look at where the 6-lane highway is in relation to the people on the sidewalk. Right friggin’ next to them! We take it for granted in America, but our civil engineers designed highways to be separate from the people, usually above them where the breeze will carry away the exhaust, but even major roads that pass through the city are separated by at least 50 feet from the shops and markets. Conversely, check this pic out…
That’s a regular Thai food marketplace (where they’ll sell you roast pork sticks, fruit, etc.) not fifteen feet away from a sulfur-belching, diesel-powered, smoke-trailing bus (along with every other car on the highway). I won’t eat fruit off a tree that grows within 50 yards from a street, and here these people work everyday breathing this exhaust day in and day out. My chest hurts just thinking about it! Now, I’m as Libertarian as the next Heinlein enthusiast, but I’m starting to think that environmental air quality regulations are one of the best things a modern society can enforce.
And whoever painted the lanes on the highway forgot to tell the drivers what they’re for. Driving is insane here. Cars will drive wherever they can, and there’s no rhyme or reason to the traffic it seems to me. Also, motorcycles and scooters are extremely popular, and follow exactly zero road laws. If you are on a motorcycle, you have the same rights as a person walking. You can drive on the sidewalk, road, lawn, wherever. Yesterday I saw a sight that made my inner safety officer almost scream. A woman was on the back of a motorcycle on the highway, holding a ~4-month old baby between her and the man driving it. The man had a helmet on though, so I guess he was safe.
Check out this guy riding his bike down the highway.
One very cool thing I’ve seen is that there are stray dogs all over Bangkok. The thing is, these dogs are all of a similar breed and size, and have the look and size of coyotes mixed with something else. Also, they never beg, or even pay attention to you. They’re like squirrels on college campuses, except aren’t even remotely afraid of you (nor do they growl or anything). They lay in the middle of the sidewalk and couldn’t give a shit where you want to walk. They don’t beg for food or anything as the Thai people won’t give them any. They must eat scraps and trash or something. Its like some sort of symbiotic relationship where the two animals (humans and dogs) don’t even notice each other.
Check out this one-eyed rabble rouser. I bet he's got a story to tell...
I think the Thai/Dog relationship is pretty cool.
If all these dogs were suddenly put in a city in the US here’s what I predict would happen: First, bleeding heart animal lovers would start feeding the dogs, making the dogs realize that humans are a source of food. Then the dogs would start begging to every person who passes by. People would then feed the dogs more, because clearly the dogs are hungry. This would result in more dogs being born (because dogs, like every other life form, are made of food). Which would result in a bunch of starving dogs begging to be fed. Then a city council meeting would have to be convened because there are so many starving dogs, which would decide a tax must be passed in order to fund a dog-feeding program, because all these dogs are starving. This would, of course, result in more starving dogs. Soon there would be so many starving dogs pestering everyone that the city would have “no other choice” than to exterminate the dog population en masse, passing a law that all dogs within city limits are to be killed (even pets!), because clearly allowing any dogs in the city can only result in an out-of-control starving dog population!