Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Toto, this definately isn't Madagascar anymore...

I honestly can’t say why I’m surprised – I mean, Bangkok is well-known as a modern city which draws people with attractive prices on everything from designer goods to gourmet food and inexpensive cosmetic surgery. Yet somehow I was completely taken aback by how shiny and new it all is.

Not shiny in the way that I was necessarily expecting either. I wasn’t particularly surprised by the airport shiny-ness, all new and white marble and buffed metal. Even the airport limousine the hotel had sent for me wasn’t that shocking – I knew they’d made me a reservation at one of the nicer corporate hotels, and it does come at a price of 1,200 Baht (about $30). Something I didn’t realize is the Thai drive on the wrong side of the road with their steering wheels on the wrong side of the car – maybe shouldn’t have surprised me if I’d thought about it (former British colony, etc.), but my fuzzy sleep-deprived Madagascar brain wasn’t on top of that one.

No, it was the road that got me. I guess I was expecting golden temples and curvy turrets and narrow old streets – and I’m sure there are plenty of those to be found, but it’s late at night and I only went direct from the airport to the hotel. And within seconds of pulling out of the airport funnel way, I was completely shocked. It was 6 lanes wide, smooth and well marked. Big green signs hung over the lanes giving directions with street lighting illuminating clear striping demarking the mass of car lanes. Off to the side all one could see were modern sky-scrapers and multi-story office buildings and hospitals. In fact, if it weren’t for the gibberish characters on those green signs and the disconcerting seating of my driver on the wrong side of the car, I easily could have been fooled that I had landed back in American summer.

Everything here is shiny. The roads are smooth and shiny. The toll booths are shiny. The huge buildings are modern and shiny. All of the cars and taxis on the road are shiny. The people are smartly dressed and shiny. And of course my hotel is extravagantly shiny. New York City shiny. Suddenly I’m more thankful for those trips with Yvonne to New York for those performing arts conferences – at least I don’t openly gawk when I enter a place like this.

I’m beginning to feel very Madagascar scruffy. My bags definitely look scruffy. One of the bags was the first bag to come with me to Madagascar almost 4 years ago – it’s lived in Bealanana and Fianarantsoa and traveled back and forth from the States 3 times. It’s been prettier. The second bag was a Madagascar-bought little duffel that I hauled around with me on mission. It’s held together with duct tape. Not exactly a class act.

But I only have to get through one day here – and then we’ll see how I feel in Vietnam. I’ll probably still feel scruffy, but I hope it will be less of an insurmountable gap. Now I just have to figure out what I’m going to wear tomorrow.

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