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A Helluva Long Way to Do Nothing

A Thai Trip Journal, 1989
Part VII: Back to Bangkok

At 10:30, I went to the bus station, bags in hand, and asked when the next bus to Bangkok left. My timing was perfect: the bus was leaving that very minute. Luck must have been with me that day. Not only did I make the bus, the tablets settled my stomach. I vowed that for the rest of my life, I would salute the Searle building every time I drove past.

Coming back on the bus, we passed a woman riding an elephant on the highway. I would have liked to have taken a picture, but I didn't react quickly enough.

AIDS has gotten a great deal of publicity in Thailand lately, and it's perceived as a disease borne by foreigners. Maybe that accounts for a experience I had on the bus. A boy, about ten years old, sat on his mother's lap, even though the seat beside me was empty; then, when a seat beside a Thai man became available, he sat down. Later a woman sat beside me when the bus was full. A short time later, when a seat beside another Thai was unoccupied, she moved. Fear of AIDS? Maybe. Or maybe I just smelled awful. I dunno.

Getting back to Bangkok was surprisingly nice. The Tungmahamek Hotel seemed like home. In the hotel restaurant, the Colonials were familiar faces.

The restaurant was run by one family. Most of the work was done by the son, who was probably in his mid-twenties, the mother, and occasionally the daughter. The mother reminded me of an old Cambodian woman I knew in Chicago; she spoke no English, but she smiled alot and nodded. I got the customary smile-and-nod when I came back from Aranyaprathet.

Animals were cordially welcomed in the restaurant. On two occasions, a man brought a pet monkey (a macaque?) -- wearing a diaper, or course. A small puppy named Tuki lived in the restaurant. Tuki was adorable: three months old, white, tail curled up. Tuki looked like a tiny Malamute, and loved to bite shoes and shoestrings.

At one point, I watched as the mother carefully washed all the windows at the front of the restaurant. She scrubbed them thoroughly, inside and out, then began washing the jukebox. As she was diligently cleaning, Tuki walked out to the center of the room and peed on the floor. The mother was so busy cleaing that she didn't notice; it was about five minutes before I finally pointed out the puddle to the waitress, who giggled and quickly wiped up the spot.

Another thought occurs to me relating to the restaurant. By the time I had left for Aranyaprathet, I had decided that the Colonials were probably OK guys. I might have misjudged the younger one's relations with the woman I thought to be his prostitute. One night when she was not there, he was discussing his angst with the older Colonial. Apparently he had strong feelings for the woman, and he didn't think she felt the same way about him. The older Colonial allowed that he was probably right, and he tried to give worthwhile advice. Sometimes, however, there just isn't much you can say. For the first time, I felt a little sympathy for both of them.

On Friday, I recuperated, read, and did a little shopping on Silom Avenue. It rained a little in the afternoon. At one point, drinking a can of soda as I stood under the awning of a drugstore, I heard a bit of very familiar, beautiful music. Across the street, a seller of videotapes had set up a VCR and a TV to demonstrate his merchandise. The music? The soundtrack to Conan the Barbarian.

By the time I got back to the hotel, I was psychologically prepared to leave Thailand. I would be leaving on Sunday morning. I began organizing all of my things, getting ready for final packing.


This article contains eight parts:
Part One: Get Your Wings
Part Two: Orient Orientation
Part Three: The Colonials
Part Four: The Singapore Guys
Part Five: The Least-Laid Plans
Part Six: Doing Nothing at the Border
Part Seven: Back to Bangkok
Part Eight: Ayutthaya, Bang Pa-in, and Home