Ayun Halliday is the chief primatologist of East Village Inky, and the primary contributor to The Zinester’s Guide to NYC — an illustrated, anecdotal, wholly analog, highly participatory, low budget guidebook that’s cheaper than a movie. She is the author of the four self-mocking autobiographies, including No Touch Monkey! and Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late, and one extremely serious picture book for children entitled Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo. She lives on the top floor of a Brooklyn brownstone with the playwright Greg Kotis and their two children. Turn-ons include parades that anyone can march in, Balkan brass, mail that comes in envelopes, comics, summer camp, cowboy shirts, Chinatown, chipotle peppers, Facebook, and falling asleep with the lights on.
Ayun with a travel companion.
Sawatdee! Yesterday, I led us on a dizzying armchair tour of Paris. Today’s destination? Bangkok. It took three trips, and nearly that many male traveling companions, to get me to fall in love with Bangkok, but now I’m smitten. As you will be, the minute your armchair plunks down on Khao San Road.
Clockwise from top left: Tuk Tuk Print by Heroic Beer; Thai Garlic Hot Sweet Sauce by Sardine and Anchovy; Organic Ginger Lemongrass Soap by Garden of Holly; Thai Style Kindle Pouch by Thitaree; large Thai spice kit by purpose design.
As the saying goes, when it comes to tuk tuks in Bangkok, “Wheels of two, tailpipe burn for you. Wheels of three, #1 for you and me.” While I may be an avid traveler, I’m kind of Kindle resistant, so howzabout we pretend you pick up a paperback of Somerset Maugham stories in a used bookstore on Khao San Road, then stuff it into a fetching Thai fabric pouch? Along our journey, the ingredients of ginger lemongrass soap are giving me a Thai-style Proustian rush. Take a bite and tell me what it tastes like, please! Maybe it’ll go down easier with some sweet garlic chili sauce. But perhaps you won’t have to eat that soap, after all, with your own Thai spice kit.
Bangkok is hot, hot, hot, but a fan will keep you remarkably cool. I recall one afternoon when the one in my room started speaking to me after I smoked something I shouldn’t have. Wait, that was Saigon, and it wasn’t the fan, it was the curtains. No matter what your belief system, it’s always a good idea to keep the spirits appeased. Even the sleaziest Bangkok barkeep will deliver daily offerings of incense, garlands, and oranges to their door. Naturally, you’ll want to document your time in Bangkok, and look who’s on hand to help you! Tintin, boy reporter extraordinaire! Belgian by birth, he can be found all over Bangkok — on T-shirts and stationery, and, for a while anyway, an X-rated parody called Tintin in Thailand. To Thai things up even more, the pages of this journal are enriched with elephant poo. British elephant poo, but who are we to quibble?
There is one thing I never learned to love about Bangkok. The little low-budget restaurants have universally great food, but instead of napkins, there’s a roll of toilet paper on the table in a cylindrical container, often decorated with a cartoon animal or a mangled English motto. Gave me the heebie jeebies. In the name of the full Bangkok experience, I’m going to have to ask you to wipe your fingers on toilet paper, even though the thought alone makes me shudder.
Enjoying your virtual world tour? Stay tuned tomorrow for the next edition of the Armchair Traveler series.