“Now seriously, Chanchai: How much would that cost? What do you want?” Chanchai rocks in his plastic chair, looks up into the headlights and narrows his eyes. It’s a Sunday evening in spring, a little after 10 p.m., and it’s still over ninety degrees. Night falls on the city like a damp sheet pulled out of the washing machine before the spin cycle has finished.
“Give me 20,000,” he says, “for 20,000 it’s yours.”
“But that would include shipping, wouldn’t it?”
“No. It costs extra.”
Since the days of American R&R, Bangkok has been a place where you – not just as a soldier on a short vacation (rest and recreation) – can get anything for money, so it is surprising that it took so long until this discarded military plane appeared at a flea market and we are sitting in its shadow. And a helicopter if there isn’t that much space at home. If you wander around the Srinagarindra Road Night Market long enough, you’ll also discover antiquated gas pumps, Dustbowl-era pick-up trucks and life-size ancient saints in and in front of the old warehouses. The flea market is a fair bit outside of the center, tourists rarely come here. Instead, Chanchai and his colleagues wait between their ancient motor scooters, billboards and confessional booths for people from the movies, who sometimes shop here for the sets. Interior designers are also good customers. The holy St. Christopher may soon be used as a decoration in a new club in town. Chanchai will still spend his evenings here, rocking on his plastic chair and occasionally looking up and squinting.
* * *
It’s always too hot or too cold in Bangkok. Always. You go in to cool off and out to warm up. The Thais seem to have gotten used to the thirty degree temperature difference between inside and outside. The only ones you hear sneezing and coughing are foreigners. In the ice-cold Skytrain, many Thais still wear face masks. They don’t do this out of fear of the virus, but because of the smog in the city. A portable air filter was recently presented in the “Bangkok Post” that commuters can use to get clean air to breathe on the train, namely in an area of – note – 1.63 cubic meters. Of course, no one has anywhere near that much space on Bangkok’s Skytrain. If everyone had such an air filter with them in the future, the air would be filtered twice and three times.
* * *
Incidentally, after just a few years, the pillars and tracks of the elevated railway already look older than the oldest wat in the city. Of course, Bangkok’s temples also receive visits from painters and decorators at regular intervals. Then their white is whiter than white and their gold is so glaring that depending on the position of the sun you have to look away. And because the red and the blue and the green are applied again and again, the wats often appear as if they have just been taken out of the foil in which they were delivered.