So now that I’ve been here in Thailand for about 12 weeks, I like to consider myself more than a tourist. More than a traveler, even. A bit of an expert. I’m an Expat. I’ve made the commitment and I deserve the respect. When Thai’s ask “Where are you from?” I proudly respond, “I live in Min BUR ee.” They smile and say, “Oh, you live in Min bur EE?” I cringe and obediently repeat their quick language correction, and sheepishly say, “Yes, Min bur EE.”
As a seasoned local, I know 15 Thai words all together and can confidently say hello, thank you, please, yes, no, left, right, here, chicken, pork and can count 1-5. And when ordering food I can look slyly at the pictures and quickly think, “that’s the green curry”, “that’s tom yum soup”, “that’s a fish thingy” and then point to the picture and nod “yes.” The servers are almost always impressed. In fact, a few nights ago, Rick took me to a VERY hipster place in Chinatown called The Tep Bar. Tucked away down a winding little alley, it’s darkly lit with a lotus bud on each table. Traditional Thai music played by artistic college students to entertain us and the wait staff is ultra cool with old school Chinese beards and man buns. First plus, drinks are two for one. Score. The very modern server brings her iPad over to take our order. I tell her our choices and she dutifully pulls up the picture on her screen and I nod, “Yes.” Deep fried chicken dumplings. Spicy pork balls. Bamboo Butterfly.
Music, wine and little tapas style plates. Eating bits of everything, laughing and enjoying the music. Dumplings are super crunchy; pork balls are super spicy and the bamboo butterfly…crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Wait a second. I take a closer look. Bamboo BUTTERFLY. In the pupa stage. Even with a picture. Nice one Forang. They were pretty good, actually. And by the way, two for one in Bangkok means that you get two drinks for the price of two drinks. And if you have three, instead of four (because while I am a silly Forang, I am not stupid) you still get charged for four because it’s two for one and three is not divisible by two. It makes perfect sense. You see, I’m practically native.
The next day, now that we’re fully integrated into Thai culture, we figure we can go for the big time. Just take a taxi down to the Grand Palace for a little tour. Now you need to know that this area is tourist central. Mad house. Think Roman Coliseum. Think La Rambla in Barcelona. Think pick-pockets and cons. Think “RUN!!” But we KNOW Thailand now. We live here. We’re ready. Easy enough. Grab a taxi and off we go. As we get close to the Palace, I realize that we can save at least 5 baht (15 cents) if the driver stops a little early. I holler, “Tee NEE, ka!” (Here, please.) Such an expert. We get out of the cab and start our leisurely walk to the Palace gates. On the way, a nice man, wearing a police logo polo shirt stops us. “Hello, the gate to the Palace is here. I’m here on holiday from Phuket. I work for the government. You live in Min bur EE? Then, let me help you get a good deal on this Tuk Tuk down to the Thai long tail boat ride that I just took. I loved it. One hour. No shopping.”
And, we did it.
Oh, the boat ride was nice. Thank God I saved that 15 cents because we were totally ripped off. We even had to pay to get OFF the boat. Yep. Another nice one Forang.
Needless to say, all we wanted to do was take our deflated selves back to Min bur EE. So, we hop the subway to the skytrain. Headed home. Expertly done. On the train platform, another Westerner approaches us and asks about directions to the airport. “Oh, it’s the same train we’re taking. Just come with us.” We board the train. We chat. He’s heading to Vietnam. I ask if he knows about getting a” Visa on Arrival” (which I know about since I’m an expert) and his face falls in disbelief. “No, I don’t know about that.” So I quickly google it on my phone because as an Expat of 12 weeks, I have a local service. Thankfully, we were there to save the day and he got the information he needed. But, then I realize that I haven’t been paying attention to the train stops. Where are we? I listen carefully to the overhead loudspeaker. “Blah, blah, KA”. Is that our stop? Yes. Definitely. “Blah, blah, KA” is where we need to get off.
Well, it wasn’t. And, next to a freeway, finding a cab willing to drive to Min bur EE was close to impossible. Time to Uber. At first, no cabs took the call. Then we got one! We waited. They cancelled. Then, out of the blue, a Buddha taxi pulled up. Over time, I’ve noticed that some cabbies have Buddha icons on the dashboard. This driver patiently smiled and listened and figured out where we needed to go. Exhausted, humbled and very grateful, we finally made it home.
Thank you Buddha guy.