Friday, January 27, 2012

Things Suzanne Sugarbaker Might Say
Day 34 of our Southeast Asia Odyssey

So, there's a wonderful moment in the Designing Women episode in which Julia and Suzanne travel to Japan for a brief, specific task, which, if you know anything about the awesomeness that was Designing Women, you may remember and you can definitely appreciate. (If you don't know anything about the awesomeness that was Designing Women, hie thee to Netflix to remedy that, won't you?)

On the plane, the ever intelligent and earnestly sophisticated Julia says that in their brief time there she hopes that they get to see "the real Japan."

"Oh, I don't," Suzanne replies. Naturally, the crowd laughs because it's a typically unexpected-and-yet-expected-from-Suzanne response.  She goes on to explain, "I've noticed that whenever people talk about seeing 'the real' anything, what they really mean is 'hanging around with poor people.' I figure, I don't hang around with poor people at home, so why should I do so on vacation?"

I was thinking about Suzanne as we galavanted about the malls of Sukhumvit in Bangkok.  Now, I will say that we saw some interesting sites, like the greatest food court in the world (no, really! this incredible place with every possible kind of ethnic cuisine) and lots of shiny atrium space and gleaming glass and marble floors and so on and so on, with walkways and plazas and what have you. And, we eventually made our way to a fantastic bookstore full of a gazillion English language books where Brian and I spent several pleasant hours reading and browsing and he found an insanely great book about Thai hawkers' street food.  HOWEVER, it was just funny, for me, the loather of shopping and in particular shopping malls, that Bangkok's malls were not only the theme of our day but really its whole point and purpose.

As we were strolling from one glorious shopping paradise to another, I was thinking about how many places I've been in the world where I've inevitably been taken shopping. I particularly thought about the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, which everyone was so hopped up about -- the bazaar! the GRAND bazaar! grandest in the world! -- which was quite uninteresting because when I finally caved and checked it out it turned out to be, frankly, a mall.  I chuckled to myself today because in my head I sounded like Suzanne Sugarbaker, only my quick is distinctly un-Suzanne-like, because she adores shopping, but I could hear myself saying, "I've noticed that whenever people talk about seeing the 'central marketplace' anywhere, what they really mean is, let's go to the shopping mall. I figure, I don't go shopping at home, so why should I do so on vacation?"

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