(Because it's Christmas, and because it's not-quite-hot outside today, I thought I'd share this little snippet of life in Bangkok that I wrote for my friend Christine's Summerzine project earlier this year. Happy holidays, wherever you are...)
In Bangkok, we celebrate this fleeting hint of winter.
It is our summer.
But it is shorter than your summer. Sometimes it never even comes. When it does, we know it will soon be gone. And there is sadness in the almost cool air, like there is on the last day of vacation.
Our summer comes around Christmastime, except that it’s not Christmastime, unless you’re a tourist here on your Christmas vacation, or you're shopping. The city’s many shopping malls do play Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and fake snowflakes are strung from their ceilings. There might be a sale on bathing suits or flip-flops or plastic trees. And this reminds us that our summer is about to come.
Outside, in the thick and sticky air, beer companies erect monuments to themselves in front of the shopping malls to remind us it’s summertime. We come by the thousands to drink watery beer from toy-like plastic towers emblazoned with logos of lions, tigers, leopards and elephants. Some of us wear wool hats while we drink, as if the beer might give us a head cold. The centers of those toy-like beer towers are filled with ice to keep the watery beer cold in the middle of our not-quite-sweltering wintersummer. This is the only time one might wish to sit outside on the baked concrete plain that is Bangkok. And so we drink to forget.
And the surest sign that it is summer in Bangkok is when our street dogs, who roam freely in our alleyways and block the jigsaw sidewalks as they sleep through the afternoons, put on their tee-shirts. The dogs might get cold if they didn’t, but in wintersummer they usually do. It’s like the plum blossoms in Japan, announcing the arrival of spring. But weirder. Funnier.
So if you ever find yourself in Bangkok, in the middle of winter, and you see drunks in wool hats wandering around shopping malls festooned with the roaring logos of jungle cats and surrounded by sleeping street dogs dressed in colorful tee-shirts, smile.