A cockroach watched me eat my dinner. It was khao pat, from a stall in front of the Hua Lamphong railway station, at 10:30 pm on a Tuesday night.
I just arrived in Bangkok and several things about the city strike me as different from the last time I was here, now more than two years ago.
The city seems grubbier, on the whole. Billboards bigger than ones I have ever seen line an ultra-modern 8-lane expressway. Perhaps it’s only because my perceptions have changed. The smell of sewage and human waste is something I associate with my time in sub-Saharan Africa; not Southeast Asia. I don’t actually recall having seen a roach in the last 2 years, and while I struggled to recall if I had ever seen one in my house in Vientiane, I suddenly had a very vivid memory of finding one in my tea thermos, which I then summarily filled with several cups of bleach.
I have a very strong aversion to roaches. Yet, unfortunately, I have had to learn not to shriek and run for cover when one comes into sight, against my natural inclinations. But the roaches of Thailand and Laos are nothing compared to the ones covering the walls of the latrine I had to use during my in-country training in Comé, Benin. But, I digress.
Lying here in this tiny room, I remember how awesome being in Southeast Asia is. If only I were here simply for leisure. My data gathering hangs over my head like an ominous cloud.
Ticker would hate everything about this place. The heat, the humidity, the dirty plastic cup I took my fork out of to eat my rice prepared in a thoroughly unhygienic manner. The water pressure of the shower which can only be compared to a flaccid drizzle. The thin foam mattress, the audible footsteps outside.
But hey, I love it. I feel right at home here, and it feels so good to be back.
Tomorrow I catch the train to Nong Khai, then a bus to Vientiane. But first… shopping in Bangkok! Hooray!