We have, alas, returned from our little adventure in the exotic East. Yes, the dogs were happy to see us (ditto Mrs. Galapatti-Da Silva, who in eight days had clearly had just about enough of them, bless her), but there's no denying that our winter holiday (and so the longer winter holidays) are over, and now the long slog toward summer is upon us.
We had an especially amusing last few hours in Thailand, however, having left the tranquil beach resort where we'd spent the last few days. We met up with friends and filled out our experience as tourists in Bangkok by hitting the fabulous MBK center, a vast and quite wonderful emporium that is less mall a kind of concentration of Bangkok-ness, a six or so story conglomeration of discount electronics, market stalls, kiosks selling everything from Buddha heads to naughty devices, and pretty much anything you can imagine that you'd ever care to buy. We went by tuktuk, as one does - I especially liked this gentleman's festive pink and white seats, which echoed the bright pink leopard print ceiling of the interior.
The MBK Center is tawdry and glossy and rather wonderful, as long as you don't think too closely about the implications of all those thousands of people and what looked to be about four emergency exits.
Seasonal decorations are everywhere in Bangkok, and MBK is no exception. Oddly, in Thailand, Santa appears to have some sort of association with the space program, as he regularly appears, as here, in conjunction with what looks like SkyLab; satellite dishes and rockets also turn up here and there.
This gives no indication of either the density of the crowds or the intensity of the volume that envelopes you. These corridors go on for what feels like three or four blocks.
Among other things, the place is a veritable festival of trayf. I considered bringing a few of the manifold varieties of shredded, dried, and otherwise highly processed pork back with me to the Sandlands, just to see if they'd make it through, but decided that with a flight arriving at an ungodly hour of the morning, the last thing I needed would be a lengthy pig-related delay at Customs.
Dried fruit and other goodies proved to be much safer choices.
We found ourselves tempted by bling in many forms - these fine timepieces, for example, were being hawked by one stall proprietor as "A Number One Fakes!" Some were so heavily encrusted that it was hard to tell fake what, exactly...
I had thought it would be hard to find trashier shoes than are found on sale at malls across the Sandlands. I soon discovered that was I was quite, quite wrong.
Having been an aficionado of Engrish back in my Japanese days, I was happy to see that it's alive and well and living in Bangkok. This sentiment could, I suppose, console us for forgoing the rhinestone watches.
Apparently, Amanda Lepore has a fast-food chain in Bangkok. Who knew?
At a nearby eatery, a disconcertingly eager and seemingly cannibalistic pig advertises the delicacies to be found within. Given Mr. Muscato's dietary proclivities, this joint was clearly off limits.
So we ended up at an excellent Japanese place nearby, drawn by its first-rate assortment of plastic examples of its offerings, and a good time was had by all.
We may not have gone for the watches, but we did very well on all kinds of tat, with which we plan to surprise and appall friends and acquaintances on a regular basis for the next few weeks - refrigerator magnets, novelty lighters, stuffed elephants in rainbow colors, and much, much more.
Within a few hours we were jetting back home, arriving to find the Sandlands surprisingly chilly (at least in comparison to Bangkok) and just about as dull as ever. Tomorrow, it's back to the grindstone, but for now I'm holding on as firmly as possible to memories of mad malls, gilded temples, golden bar boys, and very nearly unwise amounts of excellent, ice-cold Singha beer...