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April 27, 2007

One Night in Bangkok

A crocodile bag found in Bangkok's La Sourire

OK, give the Materialist a break. She's always wanted to use that hed, and besides which, she's feeling a bit cooked.

Don't get the Materialist wrong--Southeast Asia is fabulous! Great food, great infrastructure, genuinely great service, great orchids (a great profusion of all tropical flora in fact, that is making the Materialist long for Honolulu, where she WOULD be renting a house this summer were her friend Rupert not such a tightwad).

But good god, it's hot here. Today it was 38 degrees C. Do you know how hot that is? Neither does the Materialist, and she's afraid to find out the exact figure because she knows it'll leave her even more depleted than she already is.

But to give you a sense of how it feels: Today the Materialist saw an albino water buffalo shuffle by. The buffalo looked hot and hostile and fat and smelly, and it was like looking in a mirror, except without the yoke and the urchin swatting her idly with a piece of grass. But at least the buffalo was headed for a nice dip in the rice paddy, whereas the Materialist was headed to the gym to try and burn off the sticky rice-with-coconut milk concoction she'd gobbled seconds before while trying to figure out how she could stretch four pairs of underwear over the next nine days without doing laundry until the end of her trip (laundry is not in the budget; apparently, the potential funkiness of its employees is not a big priority here at old CNT).

Where was the Materialist going with this? Oh, Bangkok. Anyway, there's no semi-witty lead-in here, only that the Materialist's pal Cynthia Rosenfeld-the most voracious Asia shopper since Marco Polo-gave her a bunch of Luxe City Guides before she left, which, despite the infuriatingly, race-inducingly twee style in which they're written, have hands-down the best shopping suggestions of any guidebook series the Materialist has used.

One of Luxe: Bangkok's suggestions was a joint called La Sourire, which promised crocodile bags. After making her poor guide and driver toodle around the city for 45 minutes, the Materialist arrived at a peeling colonial building and was led up a staircase leading up to a cluttered mezzanine outfitted with decorative details (stuffed animal in the shape of a cat made with rabbit fur; tattered dressform; various unexplainable debris; pages torn from ancient glossy magazines) that wouldn'tve felt out of place in Jame 'Buffalo Bill' Gumb's pad in Silence of the Lambs. The Materialist was then shown a fatigue-green crocodile bag by a nice middle-aged woman. "You like crocodile?" she whispered hoarsely.

"YES," said the Materialist firmly, a la Harriet the Spy.

The Materialist was then led up another, secret staircase to a warren of small, cluttered rooms filled with crocodile bags. There were bags shaped like Birkins, and others like tote bags. There was a lilac croc computer case, and a butterscotch evening bag. But the thing the Materialist liked best were the large ostrich and crocodile skins-in royal blue and scarlet, topaz and alligator-green-that were heaped on tables, the backs of chairs, and the desk.

The prices? Well, they weren't cheap. But they were far less expensive than any croc bag the Materialist could ever hope to buy in the States (or any Asuka Ohsawa painting, for that matter). So what to do? The Materialist took La Sourire's card. And you'll just have to wait and see if there's a part II or not.



ok-a little personal but on the laundry front I learned 2 things trekking in Nepal--1. underwear reverses (2 days instead of one), but the best was...panty liners. Bet you never thought you would see those 2 words in a response to the "Materialist" blog - hysterical description of you and albino water buffalo...if not a teeny bit exaggerated.

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