Before I came to Thailand, I had tremendous disdain for plastic. Anything made of plastic was “cheap”, shoddy and downright tacky. And, the tackiest of all plastic items? The plastic shoe. Are you kidding? From up on my high horse, I could clearly see the faults of these synthetic fakes: they don’t shape to your feet, they don’t breathe, they cause blisters, but worst, they look like, well – plastic. “Give me leather or give me death!”, I would holler from my saddle.
Then, it rained.
I’m not sure I have adequately described the rain here yet. As a Pacific Northwest girl, I am pretty much a rain expert. That is, the Chinese Water Torture style rain – a slow, continual stream of water dripping, dripping, dripping. Endlessly.
I wasn’t prepared for the sudden torrential rain with thunder and lightning that could dump a month’s worth of water in one hour – and then, just as suddenly stop, leaving up to 12 inches of standing water on roads and sidewalks.
And while you can sometimes get away with “waiting it out” in a convenient location, that’s not always possible. When it rains like that here – you’ve still gotta go to work. Or ride another quarter-mile to get home, or get your grocery bags to the taxi. Hail the plastic shoe.
First time it happened, my $100 all-leather Keen walking sandals (Jeez, I am SO from the PNW) got so stretched out I could barely keep them on my feet. Take off your shoes, you say? YOU take your shoes off in dirty, critter invested flood water!
Well, at least I could use my Chacos, right? Admittedly, these are my best REI shoe purchase for Thailand. They are rubber soled (e.g.plastic) but the straps are a woven fabrics that gives them that natural, hippy flair that from my high horse, look just right. And they are pretty good for light hiking. But, get them wet and with the high humidity, they still quickly grow mold and mildew. Nice.
So I’m down to another pair of leather Keens. I’m hiking in high humidity. No rain but very hot. Feet feel great until the end of the day. Itchy feet. Dang. Swollen? What? Worst heat rash of my life.
I have sequestered my beloved Birkenstocks to indoor duty. They will never go outside here. Too risky for these iconic shoes.
And there is another issue I hadn’t anticipated. Style. Thai style is not Pacific Northwest, natural fiber, flannel and beanie style. Nope. It’s more Southern Belle meets Hello Kitty. From super cool to super cute. I was starting to look weird.
So, REI, I am sorry to say, I’m moving on. Everyday footwear like jewel bedecked flip-flops or flowered wedgie sandals are found at Big C for a few dollars. For my better quality footwear, I shop at the Croc store. Every style and color imaginable in plastic from the classic Croc to a simple black plastic pump. Get dirty? Hose’em off. A little mold? Hose’em off. Because whether you are out to dinner or grocery shopping, a sensible woman is always ready to walk through a foot of flood water.