10 April 2010

My Blazer's Too Tight!

Geographically and economically situated as it is, Bangkok provides no shortage of fascinating confluences of culture. Nija already commented on some of the features produced by the butting-up of Asia's cultural tectonic plates with one another, and many of Thailand's most high-profile exports, like its food, owe their existence to this intermingling of traditions.

For whatever reason, many of Bangkok's tailors are Indian, and have earned the reputation of running scams on unwitting tourists out for one of Bangkok's supposed bargains. Perhaps it's their command of English and access to fine imported fabrics that made them historically well-placed to (apparently) dominate the industry. A quick Altavista search (for old times' sake) will turn up sour tourists' exhortations to stay away from the Indian tailors, especially those hawking suits in the tourist purgatory of Khao San Road in beautiful Bang Lamphu. People gripe about the ill-fitting sacks they came home with, the awful fabric that didn't match the swatches, the rude treatment, the switcheroo, and so on.

Be-flip-flopped tourists are, of course, notorious for their predilections for fine haberdashery, and love being cold-sold on it from a guy standing next to a noodle cart. How they ever suck in any pigeons is beyond me, though these fellows aren't without their charms. And the suits they're wearing typically aren't that bad.

That said, look: call me world-weary, but hands up if you think you can stumble on a great deal on a fine suit while shuffling through one of the world's most heavily-trodden tourist districts. Only the dangerously naive would walk into such a situation and hope to get anything decent out of it.

Despite the reputation, deserved or not, the tailors maintain a high profile in these areas. They harangue you with the best of them, holding signs with pictures of suits and jabbing at passersby just like the guys trying to drag the masses of the bloated and burned in for a Fish Massage.

(Photo courtesy of larryoien)

In the few days we were staying in Bang Lamphu I didn't get accustomed to the suit vendors. The typical sell alone was enough to befuddle me: "Hello sir, care for a custom suit fitting today?" Well, no, actually, I've been sweating for three days straight and feel like a walking potato chip. I feel like beer, not searsucker.

So after the novelty of streetside fashion pushers wore off, I didn't expect to be impressed when one wily, handsome young salesman attempted his sell on me:
"Anything for you today, my friend?"
"No, thank you," I said, and returned his salutation, "my friend."
Disappointed but unsurprised, he cocked an eyebrow, expelled a little shrug, and then, looking at Nija, said "And what about you, Madhuri?"

Vile cad! Nija blushed and giggled all the way back to the hostel.

1 comment:

  1. Other Bang Lamphu ephemera: we stumbled into May Kaidee's Vegetarian Thai Cooking School and Restaurant on Th. Sampan, which is definitely worth visiting if you're in town and are a veggo. May is a true character and a self-promoter par excellence. She's got it all: the cooking talent, the entrepreneurial vision, an outgoing nature, charisma, good looks, a touch of shamelessness, and a theme song.

    She runs very popular cooking classes, sells her pastes, sauces and cookbook, and runs a decent and hospitable restaurant. Something of an institution (and if you don't think so, she'll prove it).