August 16th, 2006

Day 23: Another day in Bangkok

Today was another Bangkok day. In the morning we had to take care of some visa business for Mateo. He is going on the Trans-Siberian Railroad and needs a Chinese visa for the China section of the trip. It wasn’t a problem getting to the embassy, but the lines for visas were very long. We drew number 262 and they were calling 180. It went pretty fast though, and we were out of there within an hour.

One interesting thing that happened while we were there was when I was reading a novel that Mateo let me borrow. I was reading the book when I underlined a sentence. Mateo totally freaked out. I was surprised to see this response. It seems that he really disliked seeing books written in. I quite like when a book is written in, it gives it some character. He said that if he sees any writing in a book at all he will not buy it; although he has no problem bending spines back and creasing then, one of my personal pet peeves. So we sat there and had a long discussion about property rights and the wrongness of “defacing” other people’s property. This is a book he fully intends to leave here in Thailand and didn’t buy himself, but took from the library of books that was passed down to him at his apartment in Japan. It was a pretty interesting conversation, but it made us waste enough time in the embassy that he missed his number for the visa. Luckily this is common enough that the women at the counter let him through anyway.

After that we went to a local mall, Tesco Lotus, and wandered around the various shops and stores. This was a very big mall, but almost all the vendors, big and small, were selling bootlegged goods, like DVDs and software. We only found one place selling non-bootlegged DVDs. A lot of malls around here open up without having all the locations filled. This mall was no exception. As we got farther from the “IT Mall” section of the mall, the largest there, we started seeing the stores thin out and some odder stores appeared. For example, there was one store full of old American curios. There were toys from the 50’s, ancient TVs, and even an old gas pump. Another store we went into was dedicated to toy airplanes, nothing but pre-constructed toy planes. The type you see at travel agencies.

After that mall adventure, we saw an extremely tall building and decided to go to the top floor. It was a very fancy building, so we had to keep our eyes on the prize and when, without hesitation, to the elevator leading to the 42nd floor. We were expecting to find a law firm or some sort of thing, and to be embarrassed and apologetic, instead what we found was a completely empty and incomplete floor. There was still plastic on the toilets, and there was no carpeting, or furniture. It reminded me of the last scene of Fight Club. We got a great view of the city. There are windows on all four sides and the tower is big enough to see for miles. I’m really glad we went up there, but it was a bit creepy after a while, especially after the clanging from the stairwell started. Spooky!

A Thai friend from Japan, Saa, is going to meet us next week at the Emporium Mall, which we hadn’t been to yet, so we headed off in that direction. When we got there we were amazed at the place. It is, by far, the glitziest place we have been so far in Bangkok. I felt like a total Darryl going in there with the LV shop, Channel, etc. Saa is real high class. We had no idea. :)

We wandered around for a while until we found a Kinokuniya bookstore. It is the biggest English bookstore I have seen thus far in Southeast Asia. We spent hours in there looking at all different types of books. I even found one that I bought. A book called “No Logo” by Naomi Klein. Mateo recommended that I read it. Perhaps it might sway my opinion of branded things in this world, we will see.

Speaking of branded things, this evening I went to get my suit fitted. It is going to look “sooooooo good!” Anyway, we were sitting around talking to the tailor and he told us that his shop is commissioned to make about 250 suits a month for retail wholesalers. The thing is, though, they cannot put any tags on the suits. They sent the suits to the wholesaler and then they put various designer tags on them and sell them to retail stores, which then go to you at insanely high prices. It is all the same. You are just paying for the label. Interesting, huh?

Until next time, take care.

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