Saturday, February 10, 2007

Tales from the Undermall

Off to the Bangkok mall!

I decided to go by myself, as I wanted to wander around and take pictures that nobody from Thailand who went with me would be interested in, so I asked Por to write the name of the mall (roughly pronounced "Central Lampao") and the name of my hotel on a piece of paper in Thai so I could just take a cab each way. In the cab I took to the mall the driver didn't speak any english at all so the cab ride was quick and quiet (showed him paper, he nods, go to mall). When I got to the mall, I saw that they were on the tail end of the week long "Thailand Impressive Car Festival #2."

The last thing Bangkok needs is more cars. But I wasn't there to see cars anyway, I was there to get a taste of Bangkok's unique commerce.

Well, I should've guessed they'd have beaten me here. You'll be happy to know that the outrageous prices of coffee at Starbucks in America is carried across the seas ("85 baht for a coffee? Are you shitting me?"). I did not buy a coffee at Starbucks because there were other places that were much cheaper.

I was getting hungry, and I didn't know what to get. Then I saw him...

Ronald! He was even doing the little bow that all Thai people do to thier respectful superiors. While I avoid McDonalds like the plague in the 'states, I had to know whether the experience was the same in Thailand. Also because McDonalds was the original food chain to develop the ingenious international "number ordering system," which means I could order my meal by just stupidly holding up my fingers corresponding to the relevant "meal deal." I looked over the menu and noticed that they offered much smaller meals than those in the U.S. I got the single cheeseburger meal. I probably should've gotten the samurai pork burger, but I wasn't in the mood for any surprises.

I tried the hot sauce. It was like a mixture of Taco Bell's fire sauce and oyster sauce. Not that great. And the fries and burger tasted the same as everywhere else. But still, at least it wasn't rice.

I also went into the various computer gaming stores (there were about 6) and grabbed a couple of titles (UFO:Aftermath and Vampire:Bloodlines) for 450 baht total ($13.50). I figure I'm going to northern Thailand next week and I probably won't have internet access as often so will need some extra games to last out the trip. Everywhere I went there were advertisments for World of Warcraft and Guild Wars.

Eventually I stumbled into one of the department stores and came across this while looking for shampoo...

'New shower cream with WHITENING lotion!' When I got back I asked Por what the hell that was all about and she explained to me that in Thailand people use whitening cream to lighten their skin. Its considered attractive to have lighter skin in thailand. I told her it was the exact opposite in the 'states (tanning lotion), and she couldn't believe it.

Now Bangkok is a really crowded city, and the building the mall was in was a pretty small building, so after I explored all four floors I thought "How can the main Bangkok mall be so tiny?" but then when I went down to the first floor I noticed another escalator going down, so I took it. Here is where I found the true mall that went on forever. A maze of twisting corridors that expanded in every direction, with a low ceiling with industrial-style pipes all along it. I present to you, the UNDERMALL!

The undermall went on forever (probably about four or five square city blocks). I got lost about five times. They had a million billion tiny shops, as well as multiple computer gaming areas where people played Counterstrike and any number of MMORPGs all day long.

They also had tons and tons of action figures for your avid gamer collector. Here's an unsettlingly large selection of WWF figures.

They didn't have any Firefly stuff, but they did have the big collectible gaming daddy of them all...

And yes the cards are in english. They also sold some unusual stuff in the undermall, including but not limited to, full US police SWAT outfits for all your B&E needs.

The vest on the mannaquin did not have the kevlar plates in it, though it had the pockets. I don't know whether you can buy the plates or not, but in any case, its pretty creepy. I'd prefer only SWAT people have those outfits as I wouldn't want to have to question whether or not its for real if I see someone roll through my yard in one of those.

Also the names of the english names of the stores were pretty straightforward. Here's one that probably sells cheap clothing that looks like brand name (or maybe its a french word).

Finally, I saw T-bag from Prison Break. Well, he looked a lot like him (but with no hair), stood and walked exactly like him, was alone just wandering through the mall the whole time I was there, and had a t-shirt on that said "Instructor." Now, you aren't going to find two white males walking around a Bangkok mall on a Saturday (it was full of high school kids) without one of them being a sexual predator, and since I know I'm not a sexual predator, that meant that this guy must've been one. I follwed him until I could take his picture without him knowing (I didn't want him going "T-bag" on me).

Its not a good picture, but I decided against pressing my luck and got nervous (after convincing myself it was T-bag), so I took off after I got it. I don't think I was followed.