Monday, July 15, 2013

Hot And Wet - OK, Make That Hot And Sweaty

I should have realized this little girl at Pantip Plaza wasn't sleepy - she was just too darned hot to squirm around.

On my first trip to Thailand my travel companion and I arrived near midnight in August at Don Muang International. The cabin crew made the announcement that the outside temperature was 29C (85F), and that the humidity was 90%. "Swell," said my friend, a native of Massachusetts "just like back home".

As we stepped through the exit door of the plane it was almost as if we were being pushed back by a wall of thick, damp air; the smell of exhaust fumes added to the scent of the moist, tropical breath being exhaled by the Big Mango itself. Clambering down the portable stairway to the tarmac we made our way to the shuttle bus that would deliver us to the terminal proper, but the aircon wasn't working in the bus, so we were even happier to get inside to claim our baggage and be on our way to the hotel.

Upon arrival to my room the bellboy (by default, I'm sure) flicked on the air conditioner and cranked it way "down", even before dropping my bags, accepting his tip and making his exit. Being from a relatively temperate climate I hadn't been as happy to hear air conditioning beginning to blast in long time, even though I did have to make an adjustment soon to keep from freezing the fruit on the welcome plate. Since that first visit I've learned I'm most comfortable overall keeping the room in the middle 70s, even when I sleep. Usually I don't use a blanket, so I'm fine with that even at night.

The entrance steps to Pantip Plaza near noon

A year or so ago I was there during a stretch of similar weather. I'd woken up later than usual (unexpected stomach problem in the wee small hours) and missed that golden window of time for an early morning walk; the temperature was already unpleasantly warm, and I knew it'd be a fool's errand to go out on foot for any extended period of time. In addition to that I had a guest arriving closer to dinnertime: a regular reader of the blog, making his first visit to Thailand. I figured I ought to save some steam for a potentially late evening out, so I tried to think of someplace to go for a few hours before coming back for some reading and a bit of a nap.

Some time back I'd already posted about the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, a lovely spot to people watch, look about and see the ever-changing exhibits (their link is here), but since it was also a place I thought my soon-to-arrive "guest" would appreciate I set that idea aside and figured I'd just take the easy stroll from the Ratchathewi BTS station to Pantip Plaza. I needed a cable I'd somehow left behind and knew I could find a replacement there. Besides, it wasn't all that far, and I figured I'd do just fine. I was mistaken.  I was low on water in my system - but it really wasn't all that bad. I grabbed a bottle of water out of the refrigerator, downed half of it, and headed out.

Resting on the Pantip Plaza steps

Stepping out of the BTS train at high noon I was reminded of that first trip I mentioned earlier, except it was hotter.  Much hotter. The temperature in the shade of the station, even up on the open train platform, (some three stories up) was a good 103F/104F (39-40C), and there was no breeze whatsoever.

Cutting down through the Asia Hotel that's connected to that station (always a fair was to cheat the heat for a few minutes) I headed off toward Pantip Plaza, making a detour into the first 7-Eleven I came to. My shirt was already clinging to me when I got inside, so I went for a sports drink instead of water - just to keep some electrolytes in the system.

If you're paying attention while out behaving like a mad dog in the mid-day sun you'll notice many Thai without a hat shielding themselves from the direct sun with whatever they happen to be carrying, be that a newspaper, a flyer or whatever. Part of that is to avoid sunburn or tanning, but part of it is surely just to deflect the heat. If they have nothing to use, they'll vary their course as they walk along to edge along the sidewalk in whatever shade's available. Along the way I joined just such a line of folks in what probably looked like a pick-up game of Follow the Leader, with one farang in the middle.

This man didn't seem upset that nobody was buying heavy slippers in the heat

Arriving at Pantip I quickly found my cable, but I wasn't looking forward to the walk back to the hotel. I'm not a cheapskate by any means, but I felt a little foolish spending the money for a taxi back to the cool of my room when I could walk it, so I just stood around in front of Pantip and gathered my energy for a while while watching - with an odd pleasure, I admit - the locals also wilting slightly in the heat. Misery loving company, and all that, you see.

Two brothers played quietly in the shade while their parents sold cold drinks

The snack vendors weren't doing all that bad - it was, after all, lunchtime - but the drink vendors were doing a brisk and lively land office business, as my late grandfather would have said. Busy enough that I had to wait for nearly 10 minutes for enough of a break in sales to get the picture below without a half-dozen people in it. I bought a coconut, myself, and considered a second but opted for a bottle of water instead.

Thankfully, the first hint of a breeze came up that wasn't caused by the traffic on the street. It grew to a steady pace, giving everyone a bit of a break from the stagnant, dead noontime air. Figuring I still had time to read a chapter or two and snooze some before my "guest" was to arrive from Suvarnabhumi I began my walk back to the BTS station and home.

Slowly, of course... and weaving along the way to stay in the shade wherever possible.


Anonymous said...

Thanks a bunch for sharing this. I wish we could meet up there again some time.


khunbaobao said...

You're welcome, Tony. I enjoyed the time we had to run around that trip, too.

Thank you for adding the comment here!

krobbie said...

Another real life story. It is just typically Thai.

Bobby has sent me some pics of a straight family I know in NZ who are in BKK at present and he is being their guide.

Wat Arun and the Grand Palace were part of yesterdays visit. The temp. is around 32° C so not too bad.

Keep up the good stories.