Thursday, January 27, 2005

A Different Venue

Last Sunday morning, we stepped off the plane into Thailand, the only country in the world whose king actually still has power. Or so we've heard. I don't know what that really looks like, except that when you go to a movie here, you have to pay homage to the king before you can watch it.

So we go out to the curb and remind ourselves constantly, "They don't speak Chinese, they don't speak Chinese." It's instinctive, when you're in anothe country, to pull out whatever language you might know. We're back to pantomime and speaking slowly.

The long lines of cabs are silent. To save gas, they leave their engines off and push their cars forward when needed. We ask our driver to take us to the Baiyoke Suite Hotel. He is agreeable, but wants to give us a set rate instead of using his meter. We counter, "Use the meter. It's cheaper." He fights us, offering 300 baht and giving us all the typical reasons, "Much traffic, ok, no meter." He weakens, "Use meter, no use meter. No problem. Same same." Well, if it's same same to you, we'd like to use the meter. Score one for the Butz family.

Taxi drivers in Thailand drive like they are trying to break the sound barrier. There are no seatbelts. We hold on for dear life. This part of Thailand looks like Singapore and China combined - all the tropical weather in a dirty urban setting. The same partly built highways and buildings still line the road. We've seen them every year we've come.

We are only in Bangkok for one night, to go to the dentist here because it's so much cheaper. My dentist's first name is Wawit. Erik's is Choosin. These names crack us up. We have a hard time finding the dentist because none of the taxi drivers understand the name of the hospital. I find a man who will take us for 100 baht. I'm annoyed because I know that it should be half that price if he uses the meter, but I am at his mercy. As we drive, I realize this man could be taking my children and me somewhere else and I cannot stop him. I say, "The hospital is very close right? Shouldn't we be there already?" He slows down the car and starts to pull over, "Maybe you want to take another car," he threatens. "NO!" I cry. Ok, I'll shut up.

After the dentist, we want to swim. Well, the kids want to swim. We want to sleep. Score one for the Butz kids. As we walk out to the pool on the 11th floor, I say to Erik, "Is that air con I feel?" No, that's the actual air temperature. It must be 65 degrees out here. Our kids want to go in anyway. We shiver on pool chairs. A whole family from Denmark comes in and jumps straight in. Crazy Scandinavians.

In the afternoon, we go back to the airport to catch our shuttle to the conference. The irony of our trip is that it took two hours to fly here. It will take 3 hours to drive to our conference, and we're back tracking. Our bus leaves an hour and a half late, but we're on our way.

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