Anomie on a Bus. (c) Aloha Lavina
â€œWhy go to Onnut Road?â€ the taxi driver asks me, â€œwhen you can go to the airport and take the BTS from there?â€
â€œIs it open?â€ I ask him about the Bangkok Transit System (BTS) airport link, connecting downtown to the airport some 40 kilometers away.
He nods. â€œSaduak maak gua,â€ he adds. Itâ€™s more convenient.
But taped over the sign for the monorail station is a sign saying itâ€™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 donâ€™t have to change trains.
Tuktuks line the exit at the Hualamphong metro station, but I head for the motorbikes. Faster. Cheaper. Â 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.Â 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 donâ€™t involve pots and pans and dishwashing.
In another theatre by the river, other diners eat in regulated dim light, waiting for the eveningâ€™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.