Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Laundry Day: Not Only Monday

Clothes drying atop an apartment building in Bangkok

Many of us (and I include myself) tend to forget how fortunate we are to have machines to wash and dry our clothes; either in our own homes or within a few blocks of them.  When I find myself being impatient while pre-treating a stain or waiting to pull shirts out of the dryer to hang up before I leave the house I sometimes remember my grandmother and the effort she had to make to keep up with the laundry - in addition to her other dawn-to-dusk chores.

A 1940-era washing machine with a wringer - such a luxury!

Laundry hung out out to dry
in a Bangkok suburb
Part of being polite in Thailand is being what one of my friends calls "freshy"; his way of saying refreshed, clean and smelling good.

Being warmer and more humid than most of you reading this deal with on a regular basis it's important - and often necessary - to shower and change into clean clothes more than once a day.  The Thai who perspire practice it, and since you're in Rome, so to speak...

While traveling, laundry can't wait for Mondays, as it traditionally did back in the 1800s.  Most people don't carry that many changes of clothes with them, and laundry service is so convenient and inexpensive there's no reason not to use it.

If you're in an area where you see a place similar to the shop below you can get laundry done by the kilogram for about what you'd pay for the soap, water and electricity to do it at home.  Besides, you might even be able to walk by it later in the afternoon and say "hey - that's my shirt!"

Some locals laundries charge by the item, most charge by the kilo

Your hotel's going to charge you more than what you'd pay if you walked it to a neighborhood laundry, but those aren't all that easy to find if you're staying at a hotel in a touristy area of a city.  I tend to bite the bullet and just pay a charge near what I might pay here at home (although I don't).

If you're using a local laundry such as the one pictured above, bear in mind that some consider it rude to ask them to wash your underwear or socks. To err on the side of caution I tend to do those items myself in the sink or shower and dry them myself in my room. For laundry service through a tourist hotel I send them out, though; they've seen it all before, I figure.

The washer and spinner of a middle-class friend's family in Isaan.  Clothes are still hung up to dry before ironing.

What you will see more times a day than you can count, though, are clothes hanging in open windows or on balconies, on racks of one kind or another.  The photo up and to the left is a good example; room after room with clothing out to dry. "Nicer" hotels don't want you to do the same, but where there's a will, there's a way.

One last thing today.  Any of you who've washed or dried clothes in a machine understand the phrase "I think the washer ate one of my socks".  Sometimes that's true, in a way; small items can be splashed up and over the tub rim itself, but oftentimes it's just a mystery. In the wall of windows above you might have noticed where some of their "missing" items had gone... down onto the awning of the room below.

Detail from the photo above

 . . . At least they can use a stick or something to get theirs back.

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