Buying Bangkok

Chiang Mai Night Market

I hate sentences that start with "I got this beautiful "X" and it only cost me this much!" or "Have you been to "Y"? It has the most amazing "Z" and it's so cheap." When conversations start this way I usually discover an urgent need to pee. Or get a drink. Or "Hey look! Someone I'd better say hi to on the opposite side of the room."  

I firmly believe that places are more than our purchases. 

And yet, here I am in Asia's biggest open air market with more bags than I can carry. I've purchased a painting that I have to come back for at the end of the day and I've already made plans to have a Thai silk dress made before I leave the country in 24 hours. 

Chiang Mai Night Market
These beautiful this's and amazing that's will later stuff my suitcase to the point of seam bursting proportions. I will have to negotiate with the baggage handler to get them all on board, shifting things from one bag to another in the airport lobby. But I have to because now I'm committed to my tiny Buddha amulets, triple pack of paper lanterns, sack of scarves, new printed tablecloth, wooden candlesticks, woven bag, tacky t-shirts that I love, ubiquitous baggy Thailand pants, and two new watches. 

To consume means to use up a resource and in some cases to completely destroy. As in a fire. I imagine myself a blazing, sucking ball of greed prowling the streets of Bangkok. Flaming lassos reach out for shiny things in my periphery. All of the shiny things. Consumption was once defined as a "wasting disease." A wasting of. A wasting away. I don't want to waste, to be wasted. Will I cherish all of these things in my hands or lose them, break them, become embarrassed of my pillage and hide them? 

I think about all of this wasting, this consuming during a massage later that week. Yes, this is true. The irony of contemplating excess while relaxing through your second massage of the day is not lost on me. 

But then I have these glowing moments where the haggling, the inspecting, the exchanging of money for goods and services so firmly root me in place. I snuck out one afternoon and found a busy noodle shop full of after work Thais. Not much more than a shop face, I squeezed past the steaming cart of broths and delicate rice noodles stuffed in a glass window. 


I point. 

"Tom Yum? Spicy?" 

I slurp and enjoy and savor and panic when I hit a pepper. It's so delicious. The sun is streaming in through the tiny, open store front and people flood the streets to buy things. Peeled durian wrapped tightly in plastic wrap to mask its gasoline smell, sacks of broth and noodles to feed the family at home, toasted peanuts, fried duck chopped on a wooden cutting block, fresh juice. T-shirts, flip flops, toys, DVDs, office supplies. 

Pink Pad Thai! 
And I realize it's not just me out there eating and spending money - all of Bangkok seems to be buying and selling, squeezing melons and demanding lower prices.

After my throat of fire is soothed by a Coke, I push back onto the busy street. My shoulders brushing against Thai shoulders. All of us carrying something in our hands. 


1 comment:

  1. You are the most wonderful storyteller. I love when your blog shows up on my news feed!