Don Muang Airport Bangkok Hot Season Stepping out into the sun, and down the boarding steps into the tropics, my dress shirt already sticking to my back, I joined the line between security ropes, to wait to enter my new duty station. After twenty hours on a plane, I couldn’t tell if the sun was going up or down. On the right, in the construction area beyond the ropes, two young women in sarongs and long-sleeved shirts carried a basket of dirt between them. They smiled at me as they passed. I’d heard about the airport expansion, but women laborers? Pink toe nail polish peeked from hemlines. Lots to learn about this place. In the shade ahead of us, some sort of food vendor had entered the construction site, set down her baskets, and was squatting behind a small barbecue on the open concrete floor. Around her, wiring for future walls rose like industrial bouquets. She fanned the charcoal to glowing and, with a squirt of oil into her wok, began adding chilis, vegetables, and unfamiliar spices. It smelled like the spice cabinet at home, but stronger. More bold. The smell was introductory. As we watched, I realized I hadn’t eaten since I left the States. It would have to wait: the gate opened; we began moving. Then the man behind me said, “I wonder if you can get a decent meal in this country.” I winced. I’d brought a duffel bag, a year of language training, an appetite.
Morning on the Back Street
Every morning starts in silence; cocooned in humidity. Taxis and samlors are still tucked away wherever they go in the late hours. Lorries aren’t allowed in the city until 6:00 AM. In hot season there’s no breeze, no grating sound of palm leaf on palm leaf. Only the smell of dust. The day will never be cooler than this. Khamoi birds have closed their eyes. Bicycle watchmen have ended their rounds. At the compound across from me, a house servant knocks on the gate; waits for the housekeeper to open it. Nothing else moves on Soi Bai Di Maa Di.
The old woman is in the landlord’s summer kitchen preparing her daily offering for the spirit house inside the gate. A small serving of sticky rice with mango from the garden, yellow curry, and black tea will keep the household spirits happy for the day. She’s watching for the gardener…he needs to trim the branches shading it. It’s well-known that spirits like sunny spots.
Gate lights go out as sun tugs the blanket edge of trees at the far end of the soi. Shadows stretch toward me. Potholes yawn. Light shines on some leaves; pushes others back in shadow. This soi will never be quieter.