Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Yom Kippur in Bangkok - Part Two - September 23rd, 2010

Being there

I have always liked Bangkok and for many years I had a trace memory that even the garbage in Bangkok smelt rich and plentiful, redolent and promising. But the Bangkok I found was only a pain in the ass. Kao San Road, where I had to stay to be close to the Chabad House, is just a tourist junk stop. T-shirts with ‘I (heart symbol) Bangkok’ abound, as do shirts with LaoBeer, or other cute and innovative messages (Giraffes’ Union Against Ceiling Fans) that just tire me. It was drudgery. There are even some Indian Swamis pretending to be cosmic and at peace with the universe (sitting and smiling like the Cheshire cat) so as to rip off some unwary tourists, like the kind I had met in Delhi.

At one point I had to go by taxi to the computer super store and was there placed face to face with crass commercialism at its most desperate degree. Five floors of sales, noise, canned music and aggressive sales. The taxi ride itself was interesting. Bangkok is simply a city that never, ever ends. The train ride out confirmed that impression. It goes on forever. Some people live in tin shacks and others live in luxury. But it never ends.

Yom Kippur itself I will not discuss. It is too personal. It was simply wonderful to speak Hebrew again and feel that part of me that is ‘us’. I guess I am a strange sort of animal, a fish that swims in many waters: at home with the French, at home in Hebrew and at home in English and yet truly never at home anywhere.

The fast was easy. It gets easier every year.

That evening after the fast I decided to go into town and see Bangkok by night. I suppose that this was a huge mistake because when I finally got back to my hotel room I had spoken with a lot of people. I had spoken with old Swedes and old Englishmen and old Americans who were spending their lives fucking whores. I spoke with whores who told me how unhappy they were, and how business is business.

The city is full of rats. They prowl through the parks. They cross the streets. I was really beginning to miss little Vientiane with her unpaved roads and innocent smile.

Strangely enough, the only Thai people I met that night who were simply delighted with their lives were the lady-boys. They seemed perfectly satisfied to be who they were and doing what they were doing (“You can fuck me then I can fuck you!”).

But I am neither an old Swede nor an old Englishman nor an old American. I am an old Jew, and this was no place for me.

The next day was a long one. The only memorable experience was getting my feet cleaned by Turkish fish. It tickled. It was nice.

1 comment:

  1. Paul Thoreau watch out... i see a new vocation in your future! glad to hear all is well, you crazy MF