December 31, 2013 – Day 152
In Thailand, the last day of the year is a holiday. That explains why the family and I were able to skip school and work and travel out to one of the premier landmarks in Bangkok, the Grand Palace.
This post will contain no pictures of this majestic structure because we never made it into the heart of the Thai capital.
We had planned to take a river ferry from our neck of the woods north of Bangkok to the Grand Palace. We had maps from Google. We had directions from neighbors. It was all for naught as we could never find the right off-ramp from the main road that would take us to correct ferry.
While I was unsuccessful in finding the correct water-borne method of transportation that would have taken us to the official home of the Thai monarchy, I was finally successful in discovering the Thai word for “bathroom”.
Yes, the deficiency of which I wrote about earlier did finally come back to bite me and I paid the price by sacrificing a sliver of my pride.
While making our fourth crossing over the Chao Phraya River to find the elusive water taxi, we spotted a pier and boats that looked suspiciously akin to ferries. One craft even had a green flag flying from its mast and since we were looking for something called the “Green Flag Line”, we thought we had finally found our watery Shangri-La.
We parked by the pier and that is when the call of nature rang me up.
No problem, I thought to myself, as there surely must be a public restroom in this public location as there was a ferry stop, some eateries, a temple, and even a 7-Eleven.
Here’s a fun fact about this area of Thailand (this fact may be true of all of Bangkok proper, but I have few data points to measure against so this tiny pocket of land will have to do for all of Thailand): Visible public restrooms are nowhere to be found.
With pressure building (my apologies for being blunt), I went for broke and entered the 7-Eleven. I saw no sign for the toilet, but I was hoping that there would be an employee facility that I could use. I was, in the words of Blanche DuBois, relying on the kindness of strangers.
Now I knew from talking to others that the word for “bathroom” in Thai literally translates to “water house”. I also happened to know the word for “water”, which is “nahm” (a tip of the hat to my daughter for this word). Sadly, I did not know the word for “house” so I could not put 1 plus 1 together to make 2.
With my linguistic deficiency, I approached the cashier and asked from “nahm”. He helpfully took me over to the shelves housing bottled water. This was not the location I was hoping to be at, but then again, he had taken me to exactly where I had asked.
With pressure even more building, I dropped ninety percent of my pride and (Disclaimer: it become even more blunt here so you have been warned) pantomined the male pose on The Go Sign and made a hissing sound.
There was absolutely no reaction or hint of recognition from the cashier.
Dropping the remaining ten percent of my pride, I next pantomined…well, I’ll let you use your imagination because anything you can dream up will be infinitely funnier than what I actually did (plus, it keeps me from utterly embarrassing myself by telling you how I did manage to convey what my immediate needs were).
His eyes lit up with the scent of understanding and he said, “Hoag nahm”, and then directed me through a door and up some stairs where the employee washroom was.
I have vowed never to forget to “Hoag nahm” is Thai for “water house” aka “bathroom”.
In turns out we were at the wrong ferry and we never saw the Grand Palace, but I learned something far more important. No, not what the word for “bathroom” is. Instead I learned how far I’ll go when I have to go.