Saturday, July 2, 2011

Shelter from the Storm

A man waits out a rainstorm in front of a bridal shop in Bangkok.

I left the Pheu Thai rally in Bangkok Friday night early because it started to rain. An end of the world, frog strangling, full on apocalyptic downpour and while I had a cheap plastic poncho for myself, I didn't have my rain gear for my ThinkTank camera pouches and I didn't want my cameras to get drenched. 

It turns out I should have stayed at the rally. By the time I got out to the street I was completely drenched. My cameras stayed sort of dry (because I buried them under my the poncho and my shirt) but I was completely soaked head to toe and the rain was coming down in buckets. Sometimes literally when canvas awnings over street stands burst because of the water they collected. I was in a part of Bangkok I had never been in before and had no idea 1) where I was, 2) where the nearest light rail station was or 3) how to get back to the hotel. I flagged down a taxi and the driver took one look at me and drove off. I didn't even have a chance to tell him where I was going. I flagged down a second taxi and the driver looked at me and when I told him where I was going, he drove off without so much as a "no way." So I started walking. And I kept walking for about 45 minutes in the most miserable heavy rain I've ever seen (and while we live in the desert now, we used to live in Florida, where it ain't a dry heat, so I know rain). I sort of, kind of headed in a direction that I sort of, kind of thought the light rail would be. After 45 minutes of slogging through the downpour, watching taxi after taxi pass me, laughing I'm sure at the stupid farang (Thai for European foreigner) on the street, a cab pulled over to let a fare out. 

I jumped in before the woman even finished paying the cabbie. He looked at me and shook his head. I told him where I wanted to go. He shook his head again. I shut the door and stayed in the cab. He looked at me and didn't say a word and I stared right back and then he burst out laughing, punched the meter and away we went. After another 45 minutes of navigating streets that were flooded we turned onto Petchaburi Road, a street I recognized. 

I was going through my camera gear to see what I had wrecked and was surprised to find only piece of gear was DOA, a flash (as an aside, it's been my experience after three years with my 5D Mark II bodies that they're nearly bullet proof). As we passed the bridal shop I saw the man with the umbrella in front of the bridal shop. I already had my 200mm lens on the camera and grabbed three frames through the window of the taxi and we floated past. It had been so dark at the Pheu Thai rally that I already had the ISO at 3200 and much to my surprise the photo of the umbrella man came out. 

Fifteen minutes later, the cabbie dropped me at the front door of my hotel, where the front desk staff laughed hilariously when I walked in still soaked and now freezing from the cab's air conditioner which had been on full blast the whole time.