27 April 2008

dark abandoned alleyways

Let me start by telling you a little more about my first few days in Bangkok. I had learned a few weeks ago that a friend needed my favor of being his ‘wedding date’ for a destination wedding of two Americans in Bangkok. I was already in country and my travel through the city coincided with the wedding dates –or so I thought. Through email I had already learned that I needed some sort of formal dress and that there would be an event the day I arrive.

Arriving in Bangkok late morning in an overnight train from Chiang Mai, I stow my luggage at the hotel and set out on the town to find a tailor for a formal dress hoping that the shop will be agreeable to creating it in one day.

Meeting up with my wedding-date later, we share a beer overlooking the river and city from the 16th floor. I learn now that this wedding is for an Indian couple and will be a five day affair as well as incredibly formal with four chefs from India flown in to cater the entire week with strict vegetarian fare. Over 500 guests were expected and I would need a sari or two in addition to the formal dress I had just kicked off.

My wedding-date I find is nervous about traveling around the city and taking public transportation as we seek out a new tailor for my saris and go for a first and second fitting for the formal dress. He finds it funny that I lead him confidently through the city when I’m the country girl of us two. The night of the Sangeet I wear the first beautiful sari with many amazed that a white chick like me could pull it off. "Who tied it for you?!" they all asked. I told them my tailor dressed me.

This is where it starts.
My sari was going to be ready near to the Sangeet start time and only five hours since first meeting the tailor, thus I got completely ready at the hotel putting up my hair, applying party ready makeup, donning high heels as well as putting on all the jewelry we had picked out that day – bangles, special earrings, necklace, the works such that all I had to do was put on the sari and head straight to the party. My wedding-date asked at the last minute if I minded going to the tailor alone and then meeting him at the party. With the tailor’s business card written in Thai, the hotel helps me get a taxi back to the Indian Market in the middle of Chinatown. After a short ride, I recognize that we arrive in China town but it is different from the day, the streets now deserted and storefronts are closed with heavy metal garage type doors. It’s also dark, night coming early near the equator. My driver stops the taxi and explains to me mostly in Thai that he doesn’t know where the shop is and that my ride is complete. He asks for payment.

I refuse to pay him, pointing to the business card and insisting he take me. He spews out the same words and frustrated gets out and opens my door. Reluctantly I get out. There are not many people in the street and there were no other taxis around. We continue going back and forth still getting nowhere. He keeps mentioning police and I start to assume that they must be prevalent on the street of my destination and he must avoid them.

Unaware, a heavy set Indian woman walks up to us and stands very close. I eye her up and down wondering what she wants though she remains silent as if not hearing our conversation but also not focused anywhere else either. Exasperated, I ask her if she knows the place I need to go. She takes a minute to read the card and starts to go back and forth with the driver herself, though I can tell this also goes nowhere. She finally turns to me and tells me he is ‘loco’. At least we agree on this.

There I am stuck with this taxi driver insisting I pay him, this Indian girl, and me dressed up with neither map, more than $3, a language guide, credit card, nor phone. I didn’t even have ID.

The Indian girl explains that she is the sister of the cousin of the wife of the guy who owns the tailor shop I am looking for and she can take me there.

Yeah, I think this is a little sketchy too, but what else am I supposed to do? The Sangeet was to start in thirty minutes. (For future reference, one should take the taxi back to the hotel, get a friend to join you and get a different driver.)

I follow this woman through alley ways, under buildings, and more dark streets taking passages that were once thriving markets during the day but now deserted dingy places one would see watching a scary movie. I'm really not sure how my body will be found when all this is said and done let alone how my friends and family will even begin to think to search for my dismembered limbs in this hidden forsaken place.

During our walk, the woman chats away though her language is mostly unintelligible to me. Then she announces that she's a Krishna, though at first I think she says Christian. Maybe she was. Here I am scared and thinking I’m about to get robbed and murdered and we have a nice little conversation about faith. Sure enough, she's a god-sent angel as she takes me directly to my tailor. Once there, four others help me get dressed; they are like my attendants. They even pick out a bindi for me to wear but the tailor says it’s no good. He leaves the shop briefly and the girls stick it on me anyway saying he didn’t know what he was talking about. I shrug when he re-enters as he notices it immediately. Under his breath and with a little head shake, he says to take it off when I can. I know he has good taste after this day of sari making and jewelry dressing so off it came once in the taxi far away from the waving hands of my attendants and the angel.

**funny sight we see when walking on the street earlier that day**

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