Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Market Madness

Last Friday, I left everyone else in our family sleeping soundly and caught a cab at 5 am.  Singapore is barely awake at that hour, but the airport is already in full swing . I was off to Bangkok with 4 new friends (who I had just met on Wednesday).  This is the trip that I was supposed to go on in December, and I was thankful that no illnesses or business trips derailed my plans to finally go.   I made sure there was Zesty Zappel in the fridge and mint chip ice cream in the freezer to help Ben survive his 3 days of single parenthood.

We arrived on Friday just in time to walk down the street from our hotel to find some lunch.  We were on a street with lots of traditional, shiny, upscale shopping malls, so lunch was easy to find.  Of course, figuring out how to cross the street was not.  Never have I seen such crazy traffic.  Driving in Mexico City would be a cake walk compared to the crazyness of Bangkok (and driving in Mexico City is not for the faint of heart); there are no lanes, and the traffic lights are mere suggestions.  A kind man saw the five of us staring at the six lanes of traffic we had to cross (twice), and he guided us across the streets.  Had he not done so, we might still be standing there trying to figure out why the crosswalk signal is green but the motorcycles aren't slowing down a bit. 

In the mall, most things looked like they do at any other mall I've ever been in.  Most things.  Then, there was Dairy Queen.  As I was snapping this picture, one of the other girls remarked that Dairy Queen wasn't special; we even have them in Singapore.  Indeed we do.  But I think that the "Mango Sticky Rice Blizzard" is a bit out of the DQ ordinary. 

And then there was Ronald. Note his pose.

It's the typical Thai greeting pose. Hotel staff, airport staff, restaurant staff, and anyone in a service role would put their hands together and bow ever so slightly. 

After lunch, our shopping guide took us for an hour long traditional foot massage. You may be thinking, "She let someone touch her FEET for an hour?!?" If so, you should know that you know me too well, and you should also know that I highly recommend it.  really!

Since we had the evening free, we walked down the street about a mile to a mall known for its bargains.  It was full of fakes and inexpensive items, but I saw nothing I needed. As we walked to the mall, I was tempted to shop along the street where many vendors were set up.  Seriously - who wouldn't want a trendy shower cap featuring the Cornflakes rooster or your favorite pizza?

Saturday morning, we were off to Chatuchak Market.  It's reportedly the world's largest market, and it did not disappoint.  We were thankful to have a professional guide with us; the market's stalls were unending.  We spent both Saturday and Sunday morning at Chatuchak, and we barely scratched the surface of what was there.

If I ever have a chance to go back, I'll be there without hesitation. There were elephants and textiles and Buddhas. Oh My! There were antiques, things made to look like antiques, chickens, guinea pigs, puppies, clothes for puppies, and everything in between.

One of the odd 'in between' items were these portly figurines in various dance poses.  They were everywhere!
 At least these were clothed.  That's all I have to say about that.  Moving on...

The number of motorcycles was amazing. They were everywhere! I suppose most of these belong to market workers.

Inside the market, there was more to see than just stuff to buy.  This woman walked all of the aisles carrying these baskets on a stick slung over her shoulder. The baskets were full of some sort of peanut looking thing. 

Of course, no market is complete without food. Most of it looked and smelled delicious.  The abundance of fried chicken was curious, and our guide says it's the best she's ever eaten.

(that's not fried chicken; it's squid.)

There's the chicken!

It was incredibly hot in Bangkok - over 100 degrees.  Most of the market isn't air conditioned, so one tends to just bake under the metal roof.  Fortunately, our kind driver for the weekend delivered these little jewels each day:

Who knew that a frozen, damp washcloth could be so refreshing?  While I could have done without the pungent scent, it was easy to look past the smell and enjoy.  I think someone needs to market these here in Singapore; I can think of a few dozen places where they'd be best sellers.

There was an interesting variety of items for sale at the market.  For instance, need any bathroom signs?  In Thai or English?

What about a bracelet or 20 made of mango wood?  I bought one for less than $1. 

Or, maybe a mask?  I didn't need one. 

These button covered shoes were incredible, but I didn't know of anyone who would wear them.  While they were definitely cute, they weighed a ton.  I did watch three girls sew button after button onto shoe after shoe.  Amazing.

As we were walking back to the car one afternoon, one of our drivers commented that the cars parked in the aisles blocking others in were in neutral; if you needed to get your car out, you just pushed the other out of the way.  Unbelievable!  When we reached our car, we were delighted to see that we'd get to see it first hand.  Just a normal day in Bangkok.

On Saturday afternoon, I went to the Jim Thompson Warehouse for a little shopping. Actually, it was more like looking.  Although the prices were less than retail, they were still a little high for me.  I was in my market mindset, and I was looking for a bargain.  I did buy a little fabric, but look at the selection:

Be still my fabric loving heart!

 Once I got home, I spread out all of my goodies on a bed. B3 gasped with delight when I showed him the construction equipment t-shirt I bought for him.  "For me?!"  He said.  He was equally thrilled when I revealed a family of straw elephants, one of which was for him.

Later, I found the entire family on his bookshelf.  Oh, to be so happy about a seventy five cent straw elephant.

Most of my other prizes didn't thrill him as much.

I bought $4 sunglasses (designer of course. Although, I did have to really look to find a pair that had an intact designer logo.  Who wants just '_rada' or 'Ray Ba_'  shades?) and reading glasses.  There was batik fabric a few purse handles, palm spoons, bookmarks, and other do dads. 

My favorite purchases were from the Hmong group in the northern mountains of Thailand. 

 Never, ever can I resist folk embroidery,  especially when it features spinning and weaving.  Perfect!

And these hats...I sense a new family birthday tradition.  AK is on board; the other two are going to take some convincing.
 And if there was anything I absolutely did not need, it would be a purse or tote bag.  So, I bought two! 
These are made from recycled pieces of embroidery - skirts, head decorations, baby carriers, etc.  The bird is obscenely bright and obnoxious.  It's over the top and absolutely wonderful. The bag's seller was a friend of our guide, and she took great pride in explaining what each piece of fabric would have been.  the birds, she said, were most certainly from a wrap made to hold a baby.  The detail is amazing, and I can just imagine the bright, happy stitches holding a squirmy baby on a mama's back.  If you take a moment to google the Hmong people, you'll see an incredible story of beautiful people.

It was my first trip to Bangkok, and I still haven't really seen the sights.  This was a shopping trip, and shop we did.  My List of Trips to Take still includes Bangkok. Wonder if I can find the market when we make it back? 


kathryn patton said...

What an experience! I would look and look and then not remember what I had seen and wanted to buy!

Alicia said...

Honestly, I laughed myself absolutely silly over your dancing ladies. And you better hide those Hmong embroideries!!