Where are those skyscrapers?
They are not there.
It is mesmerizing.
The place. Yes, the area.
I am brought back to the past by a time machine I guess.
All I can hear are the chuckles and laughter in the simplicity.
Something that may have been difficult to find.
Something that may have long gone in such busy city.
Yes, in a busy city.
• • •
It was a quiet morning, the cafe was not opened yet and I was sitting on one of the high chairs with a cup of Cappuccino on the table, watching how the people roaming around by taking the small motorboat in the canal. It was interesting. Young, old, even I saw a dog on that boat. Each time the boat passing by, I could see some slow ripples were created. I was thinking, in a country that I didn’t understand their language and in this area with very few people understand English, I was still able to enjoy my Cappuccino. It proved that coffee is a ‘universal’ language or probably that’s only my thought.
Back to one day earlier, I waved at one taxi from a distance with all my luggage standing next to me, right in front of the apartment. That was the second-to-last day of my nine days Bangkok trip. It was supposed to be my last day but I had to extend for one more night because my return flight was cancelled by the airlines and the earliest available flight was only on the following day. Meanwhile, the apartment where I stayed for the earlier few days had been fully booked. So, I had to find other places to stay. Have you ever heard of AirBnb? Ya, that’s where I find my accommodation in Bangkok.
“I want to go here,” I said to the taxi driver and showed the address I saved on my phone at the same time. I couldn’t speak Thai and he couldn’t speak English. The driver was a man at his 50’s I guess. It was around noontime, the traffic was busy and moving slow. The sun went to the hottest as it possible could I think, I felt warm even the air-con was on.
“Call..call,” said the uncle with his one hand on the steer and another hand pretending to make a phone call. His eyes were looking at me from the rear mirror prompting me to call the owner of the place where I would stay to ensure that we got the direction right. So, I called and passed over my phone to him to talk to Pao, the owner of the guesthouse.
• • •
Yes, his name is Pao. I wasn’t aware in the beginning until I saw someone riding bike waving at us. He waited for us at the last turn into the market at Lat Krabang Road. His place was right behind this market across the Prawet Burirom Canal, about 200 m walking distance from the spot where we stopped. We had to cross over a bridge to get there.
The market reminded me of my childhood days. When I was still a little kid, I like to follow my Mom to the market to shop for foods, snacks and sweets. We would usually go back home with bags of foods, snacks, vegetables, meats or fish which after that my Mom would start to prepare our meal for the day. I realized, it has been a long time I have not been to a traditional market like this. The market was already closed when I reached there.
Pao rode his bike ahead of me, helped me carrying my trolley bag on his back, while I walked slowly pulling my other luggage, looking at the two-storey wooden shophouses along the alley. The neighbourhood looked old but no way I saw any single trash there not even any spiderwebs. Rustic, probably that’s the proper word to use to describe the place that was also known as Hua Takhe Art Market.
Some of the residents, supported by the local fine art schools, make an effort to revive the area by holding an art market on every first weekend of the month. From afar, I saw Pao was standing at the end of that block. He waited for me there and ready to show me to my room. The guest rooms are on the second floor while the ground floor is set up as a cafe.
The guest room was like what I saw on photos, back to basic with all those wooden interior. So, actually the whole place was rebuilt using old woods to give the rustic feel. With the mosquito net hanging on the top and old posters hanging on the wall, seems that I was going back to those good old days where everything was simple and natural.
All guest rooms are without air-con and each room has its own private balcony facing the canal. Once in a while, I could see people taking the small boat passing by. That’s the main transportation for the people there, else, they have to walk very far from one block to another. I was hungry and I went downstairs to see what I could order from the cafe. Pao prepared this grilled pork noodle for me and I noticed that there were some crushed peanuts on it. I don’t know how to explain, but the crushed peanuts added some nice textures to the noodle in whole besides the meat. It was unusual but it was delicious.
The hot sunny day then slowly turned to cloudy and it rained not long after. It was still drizzling when I saw a few children ran happily to the bridge from the window outside of my room. They were standing in the middle of the bridge long enough before they eventually jumped one by one from the bridge. Chuckles, a scream of excitement was the only thing that I could hear. I took a deep breath seeing them jumping down but then I smiled. At least I was seeing kids who were not occupied with gadgets all the times. They were playing and having fun together. Something that I hardly to see anymore in a busy city.
I fell deep into my thought with my hand still holding my half-emptied cup of Cappuccino until Pao approached me and told me more about his place, Si Yaek Hua Takhe Cafe and Guest House. ‘Si Yaek’ means intersection because his place is located at the intersection of the canal. He just started to run the guesthouse and café early of this year and he was so excited to know that people have made the reservation until the beginning of next year. He was such a happy and friendly guy.
His place had been used a few times for local film setting and once for Hong Kong movie set. I walked around the cafe and looked carefully every corner of it then I stopped in front of a wall that was full of beautiful photos taken around the neighbourhood by Pao himself. I admired the photos as I admired the place where I spent a night last night.
One quiet corner in Bangkok,
where we can have a cup of Cappuccino by the canal,
where all the skyscrapers are seen nowhere,
where all the traffic noises are replaced with children laughter,
Hua Takhe, is the place where you can find it all.