Day 28: Walking into 'Jusmag'
The dice send me back to the floating market, as it's a Sunday. Photos: Isaac Stone Simonelli
I hate walking.
In my total exhaustion last night, I gave the dice some fun options for today in hopes of mixing up my last day in Bangkok, not letting it be all about productivity. However, this walking was not what I had in mind.
The options were: Hangout with a ladyboy, focus on errands first, visit Bangkok's haunted tower to try to get drone footage and visit a floating market. I hesitated to put the float market on their again, but it was going to be Sunday and the pictures of the market that I've seen online look amazing.
Last night, the die bounced on the small dorm room, which I had to myself again. Disappointingly, I rolled a four.
Trying to save a little money, I take the BTS to the station nearest Wat Sai Floating Market, which is on the other side of the river. However, the taxi I jump in outside the station drives me back over the river to the side from which I had just departed. We arrived at the wrong Wat Sai.
I sigh. Taxis in this town.
Eventually, we arrive at the Wat Sai Floating Market: a sad display of what a market looks like hours after it's already closed. There are still a few vendors slow to put away their goods on the land side of the market and a single wooden boat in the water.
The cats, of course, are still there.
My hopes of doing some compare and contrast photos between when Laura and I visited the empty canal and what it looks like when it's packed with local vendors plying their goods on the muddy waters are dashed. Any compare and contrast would be mistaken as a spot-the-difference game in a Sunday paper.
A few locals are squatting down on shin-high wooden stools eating soup that is being mixed up from the single market boat still in the water. I plop down on a stool.
It's a two-man operation, with a younger man taking orders, serving and washing the bowls on the concrete steps at the canal's edge and an older man sitting in the belly of the the narrow little boat, making soup.
There is always the hope that something created differently, such as the soup being made in a boat, will infuse it with special flavors. In this case, making it stand out from every other rice noodle soup I've had.
There is nothing special about the soup. It's cheap, 15 baht, but the flavors are bland.
I polish off the last bit of broth, before wandering into the temple grounds of Wat Sai. It's a nice Thai-style temple, though probably not worth the cost of the taxi to get here. In front of one of the places of worship sits an animatronic skeleton with its hands placed to gather, waiing visitors as they approach to pay respect to the Buddha image inside.
The skeleton bends at the waist, bowing reverently before straightening back up. The incorporation of anamatronics in museum displays is always a bit strange, to find one in a place of worship is even more so.
In the parking lot, on my way out, I pass a pigeon smashed flat, wings spread, on the cement, like a tiny angle fallen from heaven.
On the main road, I start walking.
I give the dice a roll for what to do next, hoping they'll give me permission to pop into a cafe and rest.
No. The die likes the idea of more aimless walking, even turning down the idea of grabbing a taxi.
So, we walk. And walk. And walk over a bridge.
The bridge arches over a narrow canal, with the multi-colored blooms of Bougainvillea crowding the space above the water, pressing into the bridge.
This must be enough walking to meet the needs of the dice.
I hail a taxi.
Having seen nothing especially interesting, I can only hope that the die was making some cosmic adjustment to the time of my trip, ensuring that I cross a particular path in the right state of mind somewhere down the road.
With the die's task for the day wrapped up, I get down to business, trying to take care of some necessary logistics while still in Bangkok.
I'm unable to get my hands on a reasonably priced Kindle, Thailand doesn't have a market for e-readers, so even a bottom of the barrel Kindle costs nearly 200 dollars. However, in the process, I do stumble across a fair price for a 50mm Cannon lens, which will be useful in low-light situations. The Thai man of Indian decent who's selling the lens also has a janky universal battery charger that I can use for my point-and-shoot Cannon S95, bringing it back into action
An outdoor shop in a different mall, the third I've visited today, has a large rain cover for my backpack. However, they don't have white gas for my camp stove. It seems that it's going to be impossible to get gas for my old darling.
It's dark by the time I find my way back to the hostel. Even without the die being bent on walking, I would have logged thousands and thousands of steps on my watch from the shopping.
Exhausted, I sit down in a bean bag.
Nearly everything I needed to get done in Bangkok is done.
Most importantly, I have the visa to Myanmar, which is what brought me here in the first place.
However, there is a lingering regret. The fellow Hoosier who I originally replaced at the Phuket Gazette nearly five years ago now lives in Bangkok.
When he found out where in the capital I was staying, he sent over this cryptic message:
“A good tip for the neighborhood: if you head down Sathorn Soi 1 to Sathorn Road, right next to my office building, hang a left on Sathorn Road and you'll be alongside a yellowish-walled military building. walk just past the closed gates and you'll see a brown door with a buzzer. ring the buzzer, and you'll be buzzed in. tell them you're there for 'JUSMAG', they'll take your passport, let you in through the next doors, and you'll find your way to one of the most bizarre spots in Bangkok.”
Unsure if I'd end up in some sort of crazy soapy massage sex brothel – it is Bangkok – or a drug den, I've been keen to check it out. Anywhere you have to get buzzed in twice, sounds like the sort of place I want to check out.
Later, he explained that it was “basically just like an American bowling alley bar, or an American legion/amvets type bar, run by the US Embassy”.
Given the possibility that he was fucking with me, the idea of it being some secret bowling ally did nothing to dampen my desire.
Otherwise engaged for most evenings since I arrived in Bangkok, it just didn't happen.
Too tired to care, I give it an even/odds roll of the die.
I sigh. Looks like I'm in for more walking
I don't realize that I'm coming to Jusmag from the opposite side the directions.
I pace back and forth along the entire stretch of road in an attempt to find the brown door with a buzzer.
I spot one likely door, but there is no buzzer. The metal door is unlocked; I nervously swing it open.
Inside is a wafting stench from some rubbish bins. Not the right door.
Back on the main road, following the compound walls down a dozen meters I locate the door.
I hit the buzzer.
There is a long pause. I start looking for my passport. Maybe I need to hold it up to the small camera at the entrance.
Before I get the document out, there is the mechanical sound of the door unlocking. It swings open and I step inside.
The door closes behind me,trapping me in a mesh cage. Past another door is a security guard, safely behind bullet proof glass.
With the door behind securely closed, the gate in front of me unlocks and I walk in.
Awkwardly I ask, “Jusmag?”
Unsure how to pronounce it, I try a few times.
The man doesn't understand. He motions me further down, where another guard is sitting in his own security box.
I try again, handing him my passport.
The wide-faced man gives me a look of disbelief.
It's nearly 11pm on a Sunday.
He shakes his head with a big smile, the same way any good natured person shrugs of an uncle's crazy eccentric antics.
Best of both worlds! I get the experience of getting buzzed into the compound, without having to mess around with drinking a tax-free American beer that I don't want.
Happily, I find way back to the hostel for a good nights rest before returning to the road tomorrow morning.