Shoe Leather

28 Jan 2008

The GPS saves us from becoming hopelessly lost, but it can't save us from the five kilometer walk to the nearest Skytrain station. Taxi prices are fixed, for people who know how to insist on the meter, but they're fixed so low that at peak hour on a Friday, it's simply not worth the driver's effort to cross town. The bouncy river crossing has removed the ferryboat as an option, at least for the rest of the afternoon, so we have no choice but to leg it.

I'd started to take European cities for granted. Bangkok is beautiful, but all its beauty is in one place. The rest of the city is ugly, dirty, and loud. Kilometer after kilometer of grimy motorcycle shops have no redeeming features at all; they're not even interestingly grimy.

We stop for cold drinks at a 7-11, spending roughly what it would cost to get a lift to the station if we could convince anyone to give us one. I blow my nose when we finally make it back and leave black marks on the tissue; this isn't the kind of walk that improves your health. The next day, we grab a taxi even for the short hop to Chatuchak Markets.

But that's not without its moments, either. I quickly lose my bearings as a series of turns takes us on to a five-lane highway. The meter hits 50 baht and my compass shows that we're still heading south, away from the market. I turn the GPS on and hold it to the window, knowing that he'll have plenty of time to drive us to his remote hideout, rob us, and bury our bodies before it locks on to the satellites. A minute later we arrive.

It's impossible to navigate in this town, and best not to try.