Shopping Through Windows in BKK

image  So you’re in Bangkok, and you get a sudden craving for a Krispy Kreme chocolate frosted banana cream donut. Or a new pair of your favorite Gap jeans. Or a Maserati.

Well, just get right on the BTS Sky Train to Siam station and head for the Siam Paragon Mall. You can get all of the above there, as well as some new Jimmy Choo high (higher, highest) heels, exquisite woven silk wall-coverings, maybe a little Japanese, Italian, French, gourmet Chinese or pan-Asian fusion cuisine, and a Rolls Royce to drive yourself home. That Ferrari was sweet, but so very small, don’t you think?

image  I began my day taking the river taxi from my hotel in the Arab quarter to the center city’s soaring towers of commerce. Just below the traffic-congested streets of Bangkok, the klong (canal) system is the oldest means of travel in the city and arguably the most pleasant – quiet, fast and cheap. (12 Baht, about 40 cents, one way – the sky train is 75 Baht, or $2.50, for the same trip.) The boats tend to be rather crowded, and getting on and off requires a clever little two-steps-and-a-hop that was quite a challenge for this old girl, but I really enjoyed using this historic way of getting around town.

Then breakfast, a cup of iced espresso and a chocolate croissant that I shared with some fancy carp in a pool filled with water-lilies. Bangkok is like that: the overall is noisy, crammed and smog-clotted, but the details are magnificent.

imageFollowing that, it was endless escalators and glass-bubble lifts; astonishing prices; stunning gemstones; fashions for women far, far thinner than me, and some really nice shiny cars. (I do want to know how they got that Maserati to the fifth floor.) For the most part I didn’t see much that I couldn’t have gotten at any high-end mall in the States, and I bought nothing but a very nifty dinosaur t-shirt for Michael from Tokyu, the Filene’s Basement of Bangkok. The whole of Asia comes here to shop, though, so I had a good time just watching the nations of women go by. A goodly number of Thais too, especially school-girls in their crisp white puff-sleeved blouses and pleated navy skirts, clearly dreaming of a day when they will dress in a more resplendent manner.

Now I’m back where I belong, in my neighborhood of faux designer goods sold in street stalls, where 500 Baht is still a lot of money.

Tomorrow, the dentist.

Watch Out Behind You

Wordnik word for the day, August 12th 2013

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CALLIPYGIAN

Having beautifully shaped buttocks

The legend of the Callipygian Venus is familiar to all. No shame saw the Greeks of the golden period in part of God’s handiwork.

– Hector France, Musk Hashish and Blood

‘Callipygian’ comes from a Greek phrase meaning (what else) ‘beautiful buttocks.’

Some good, some not so, about the Brookstone keyboard for iPad

I’m still loving the ability to type – as opposed to punch – text on my iPad. I don’t know if these minor whines are particular to the Brookstone keyboard I’m using, or true for all add-on keyboards, but…

It works only in horizontal. I can’t turn the iPad to a page-view format.

It’s cumbersome when I’m not using the keypad. if I want to use the touchscreen only, to play Words With Friends or Lumosity games or to read an iBook, folding the keyboard back and away is awkward.

The screen angle works best on a tabletop. The keyboard and iPad are at an immutable 85 degree angle to one another, which will be terrific when writing at the afore-mentioned cafe table (steaming latte alongside – I wonder if there are croissant in Chiang Mai like there are in Vientiane?), but writing with the keyboard on my lap makes me push my elbows back like a chicken’s wing and keep my head stretched forward like a turtle on the move. I am more in danger of developing the Horrible Hump that old ladies and writers are prone to.

It’s HEAVY! The iPad alone was beautiful in its near-weightless condition. With the keyboard attached, it’s a perceptible weight in my shoulder bag.

ON THE OTHER HAND…

The Brookstone keyboard is rechargeable. I believe (from what I read while researching keyboards on Amazon and Apple Store) that other keyboards work off AA batteries – this Brookstone is rechargeable and says it will go for 90 hours on a full charge.

The keys are real, spring-back style, not spaces etched into a flat plastic surface. I’m sure that feature adds to the weight, but it feels more familiar under my fingers. It even makes a nice clicky sound when I hit the keys, tickety tick.

MORE ANON…

The iPad gets a keyboard

OK this is very cool – I’ve just added a keyboard to my iPad, as I hope to do some consistent blog-posting while I’m on my Thailand journey. Observation: it’s a very SMALL keyboard. My fingers are stumbling all over one another as the scramble to get out of one another’s way.

I suppose if I had ever learned to type – which I absolutely REFUSED to do, lest I end up in the “typing pool” in some office (if you haven’t any idea what that is, watch a few episodes of Mad Men – it’s where women were chained to their typewriters like the galley slaves in Les Mis, pushing out business correspondence), one of the few jobs women were deemed worthy of in the 1950s – each of my fingers would know its place and the keyboard traffic would be a lot more regulated.

Alas, I’m still a two- to four-fingered typist and am likely to remain so. The keyboard definitely has it all over the punch-button method of writing that I could do on the iPad alone, though. Cursor buttons! A tab key! Not to mention a group of clickables at the bottom of the screen I don’t know how to use yet.

Fair warning, then. This solo traveller has just found a new in indulgence to pursue while sitting all by her lonesome at cafe tables worldwide. Let the blogs begin!

GGA

No Rustle da Sheep!

No Rustle da Sheep!

from Wordnik.com:

OWLING

The offense of carrying wool or sheep out of the country, formerly punished by fine or banishment.

But the ridiculous statutes against against owling have made it an offence to transport sheep out of this kingdom.
Arthur Aikin, The Annual Review and History of Literature

Offences against public trade are next in order: these are owling, smuggling, bankruptcy, usury, cheating, forestalling, regratiing, engrossing, monopolies, carrying on trades unlawfully, and transporting and seducing artists.
John Trusler, A Concise View of the Common and Statute Law of England

From the following report, made by Mr. Baker in December, 1703, it appears that the new law had by that time abated though it had not quite stopped the ‘owling’ trade along these coasts but that import smuggling still flourished.
Smuggling and Smugglers in Sussex

This word comes from the idea that ‘the smugglers of wool carried on their work, like owls, under cover of night,’ says the OED.

A Big Map of Some Rather Small Countries

Amazon delivered a HUGE map of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, & Vietnam Nam on Wednesday, and I’ve put it up on my wall with those little removable foam widgies. I’m booked to go to Thailand for a month starting on the 16th, G*d willing, but now it seems the month will be not long enough – not nearly, for all the routes and journeys I can now see if I turn my office chair just a quarter way to face the map rather than the computer.

What their pin-up girls were to WWII soldiers, this map is to me: a reminder that there’s a better world a- waiting if I just step out my door and keep on going.

It’s One Way to Travel – from Wordnik.com

It's One Way to Travel - from Wordnik.com

aurigation

The act or practice of driving a chariot or coach.

If a man indulges in the vicious habit of sleeping, all the skill in aurigation of Apollo himself, with the horses of Aurora to execute his notions, avails him nothing.
The English Mail-Coach and Joan of Arc, by Thomas De Quincey

The diversion especially in the winter season used by the Dutch is aurigation, i.e., riding about in wagons, which is allowed by physicians to be a very healthful exercise by land.
A Library of American Literature, 1889

In Flanders, persons engaged in aurigation are particularly attentive so to use their vehicles, as not to injure foot passengers.
The London Magazine, January to April 1826

This word comes from the Latin ‘aurigare,’ to drive a chariot.

Dedication

I write this blog as if it were a letter in a bottle, cast out upon the open sea to bobble in the surf and ride the great currents wherever they may carry it. To anyone who finds it, rimed and barnacle-crusted, as they walk along the shore – have the kindness to pull the cork and read what this pilgrim has scrawled.

I dedicate it to all the travelers, both those who are on the road and the others who are at home with maps and journals in their laps, plotting their next escape.  Whether you travel by tour bus or tramp steamer, in rags or in resort-wear, I bid you hurrah.

I especially honor those women who go it alone, the ones who don’t allow their solitary status to keep them bound to a too-familiar place. Here’s to those who sit at tables for one, to you who read in coffee shops but welcome a friendly smile and relish a good chat. Come and sit with me if you find me, let’s trade travel tales and stories of all the people we have been.

Next stop – Thailand. But more of that tomorrow.