Tag Archives: Thai words

S Words from Bangkok

Anomie on a Bus. (c) Aloha Lavina

“Why go to Onnut Road?” the taxi driver asks me, “when you can go to the airport and take the BTS from there?”

“Is it open?” I ask him about the Bangkok Transit System (BTS) airport link, connecting downtown to the airport some 40 kilometers away.

He nods. “Saduak maak gua,” he adds. It’s more convenient.

But taped over the sign for the monorail station is a sign saying it’s closed. Too panicked to get angry at the cab driver or myself, I run to another taxi. The second cab takes me from the airport through the arterial roads that pour thousands of cars into the heart of Bangkok each day. A problem solver, the driver decides to take me to a metro station instead of the BTS, so I don’t have to change trains.

Tuktuks line the exit at the Hualamphong metro station, but I head for the motorbikes. Faster. Cheaper.  Right now I am looking for saduak, a convenient way to get to the theatre as quickly as possible. It is a good choice, for Chinatown traffic is tight.

Once my kneecap almost brushes a rusty bus fender. My breathing grows shallow and quick. Inside the helmet, I sound like Darth Vader.  We arrive at the Theatre with time to spare, and I finally exhale. I rush into the air-conditioned room where rehearsals are about to begin, grateful for the cold air.

The long sleeved shirt sticks to my back. Thai summer temperatures can reach over 40 Celsius, but I want to be suphaap, or polite. To suffer through discomfort is to be polite; to suffer inconvenience is to be courteous. Still sweating, I greet the performers, bringing my hands together in front of my face. Suphaap.

Rehearsals over, I flag a tuktuk. Evening traffic is thick and so are the diesel fumes. A motorbike stops beside us, and the woman riding it twirls a white frangipani to her nose. I envy her fragrant little world.

We lunge our way to the Express Boat Service. For 14 Baht I cross the river to Wang Lang Pier 10. Boat passengers spill into a market. People swarm the food stalls hunting for dinner. Dinner comes in little bags or boxes, cheap, easy to take home. Saduak and also sabay, relaxed. Market dinners don’t involve pots and pans and dishwashing.

In another theatre by the river, other diners eat in regulated dim light, waiting for the evening’s promised dances. A lithe man dances solo with cloth he makes billow over precise dance postures as a Thai flute wrings out a plea. The dancer smiles, and so does the audience. They are feeling it: fun, or sanuk, the Thai reason for doing just about anything. Anything not sanuk is not worth doing. The dancer ends his set with a red paper umbrella spewing out confetti as he twirls it, whirling in a skirt and mask, feet thumping the floor.

Across the tables, I glance at the audience. A man smiles into his camcorder and speaks to his wife. The young blonde couple forget to sip their beers. I put my camera down on my lap, and clap, clap with the rest.