Thursday, February 03, 2011

First impressions: Bangkok

Yesterday, I arrived at the incredibly beautiful and efficient airport - took a taxi into town - lots of highways but decent non crazy driving - not like India. The city is huge and filled with skyscrapers but also lots of mango trees and the river!
I'm staying in a super mod studio apartment on the 26th floor. There's a pool. I overlook a mall. I watched Shaka Zulu and the BBC coverage of Egypt while falling asleep, ordering room service (Chicken with green curry), reading, checking facebook, and falling asleep some more.
UNHCR picked me up in a sleek town car this morning - I passed a monk in saffron robes crossing the highway, a bunch of riot police eating breakfast and getting ready to go to a demonstration fo the red and yellow shirts, women in traditional thai clothes cooking over a charcoal briquet, and several old white men backpackers who were up to no good, I'm sure.
In the office, I am back in cubicle land. I have a big cubicle next to the office fridge, microwave, and copy machine. Hmmm - promotion? Demotion? Hard to tell -people share offices here and the secretaries sit in the cubicles but I still feel like I have more privacy than I did in the open arrangement of MSF. Turns out I know one of the women in the office here - we met and had drinks in Juba, South Sudan. Small world!
I went to lunch after a round of "how do you do?"s and sat outside in the courtyard filled with beautiful tropical trees and cats (!) and ate some dim sum dumplings and larb gai that was made freshly for me and a thai lime soda - cost 3 euros, approximately. For the condiments table in the cafeteria, there are four giant bowls of chilis - chilis in vinegar, chilis in fish sauce, dry chilis, and raw fresh chilis. I sunned my pathetically pale arms in the sun and listened to my stomach scramble around to try to deal with the chili peppers in my larb gai. 
After flagging a taxi home (not that easy of a job!), I've returned to the modern skyscraper in the sky where I hear Chinese New Year going on down on the ground but I fade in and out of jet lagged dreams filled with Egyptian riots and Dutch snowstorms....

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