One of the 4,500 people who squeezed our daughter that day
“All the sidewalks in Bangkok are cracked,” I recall thinking just before I stepped in a hole near the National Museum and heard my right ankle snap like a Village beatnik circa 1954. As I hopped around in agony on my one good foot, my daughter began clapping, assuming this was some funny impromptu dance for her entertainment. It may as well have been. Once the pain subsided enough for my wife to examine my ankle, we realized I hadn’t broken it, just twisted it unnaturally, and everyone but me lost interest.
I must have been really needy that day, because ten minutes later, while limping to a tourist office, my other foot—annoyed that it was getting no attention—stepped in Thai dog poo. Which, it turns out, is considerably more potent than American dog poo. Must be all the chili peppers. Hannah found this second misfortune even more entertaining, though at the time I found nothing remotely funny about a grown man hopping on one foot while periodically trying to scrape it against the curb. Humor is subjective, I suppose.
By the next morning, my right ankle had swelled up to the size of a . . . well, a really big swollen ankle. I tried to play the sympathy card and limped the whole morning, which troubled Sarah, because I needed my legs at the time. We were taking a train to Mo Chit, the stop for Bangkok’s infamous Chatuchak Weekend Market. This circus, billed as the “World’s Biggest Weekend Market,” is an endless maze of sweaty alleys and stalls that sell anything you can imagine˜samurai swords, scorpions, sandwiches. All dirt cheap. Mo Chit indeed. Enough chit to cover 35 acres.
Chatuchak is so big that your brain can’t possibly process these numbers, but here they are: 15,000 stalls; 200,000 visitors a day; 95 decibels; 100 degrees. They give away free maps, but even with one, finding your way around is like trying to swat a fly. Sometimes you get lucky but mostly you just flail around. So we wandered around for five hours, sweating with Hannah on our backs, gaping at beads and amulets and 20-foot piles of Converse All-Stars. Sarah bought a silk purse; I bargained for a pair of cargo shorts.
Other interesting facts:
• A prostitute chatted me up in the ATM line, and I kept thinking: Smart woman. Where better to find men with money?
• The pet section, while endless, was ultimately depressing. It had the stench of disease and every animal in every cage looked miserable. I’m not really an animal person, but I began to wonder if Thailand has any equivalent of the SPCA. Must not; they would have shut this place down years ago.
• Everyone under 21 rode a motorcycle and wore a Ramones shirt. Gabba Gabba Hai Thao!
• The food, of course, was enticing and bountiful: sizzling meat on coals; barbecued pork; beef on curried rice; some amazing fried chopped fish thing that Sarah found for 20 baht (roughly 70 cents).
• Hannah had her first Fanta, which made her instantly loopy. It was like injecting sugar cane into her veins.
In need of some personal space and silence, we called it quits early that afternoon and walked back to the train. “That was awesome,” I said. “Wasn’t it?”
“It was,” Sarah said, with Hannah asleep and slumped over in the carrier on her back. “By the way, you’re limping on the wrong foot.” That was the end of my ankle injury.