Directly across Soi Suan Son from me, there looms a strange building. It follows the same basic model as the other units on the block, but stands a full two stories taller and, most ominous of all, lacks windows. Instead, aside from small vents where the windows would live on any other building, the only apparent entrance is an unguarded opening visible on the top floor. At night, between the wafts of karaoke and snarling dogfights, I'm sure I've heard unnatural noises coming from that building.
Kinda weird, right?
This is a fairly common sight on the street:
The strange, windowless building in this otherwise vacant block is the only part that appears to be well-maintained and painted. My strongest hypothesis was vampires (of course) who don't understand enough about human culture to realize that painting their building made it more conspicuous. They enter and exit through the roof when they take the form of bats.
I learned the truth this week, and I was correct that it is indeed a part of an entirely new dimension of reality. It has existed for more than 400 years, but I had never known of it until now: bird's nest soup.
Bird's nest soup is, well, exactly what it sounds like. It's not something people eat here in Thailand, but it's a rare, expensive delicacy in China. The nests in question are those of swiftlets, and are made from the bird's saliva. The birds naturally build the nests in caves, but since the things sell for something like $2000 per kilogram, it's a profitable venture to let them get cozy in your vast, empty concrete building instead.
So the creepy windowless buildings are actually birdhouses, and now I'm seeing them everywhere! The reason I learned what they are in the first place is that my coworkers Annie and Ryan just moved into a house down the street, right next door to a birdhouse in the making.
People apparently spend lots of money to modify the inside to be damp and jungle-cave-like, and construction on this house should finish in a couple of weeks. Then (with luck,) we'll then get to tour it before it's closed up and the birds (hopefully) move in.