Archive for the 'thailand' Category

Bangkok -> Tokyo

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Suicide chicken

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Thai people’s sense of “fun” extends to pretending to shake up your can of soda (and accidentally doing so while miming it) and also to carefully judging your spice tolerance and then throwing in an extra handful of chillies, as the person who prepared my noodles today did when she thought I wasn’t paying attention. Next time someone asks, “Spicy OK?”, I’ll be a little less confident when saying Yes.

On a related note, I meant to record that China’s love of spice apparently extends to ice cream. While were were waiting at the Hope Star Cafe for Joel to arrive, we saw “Vanilla ice cream with spicy sauce” on offer. Reading the Japanese description gave us a clearer picture: “Vanilla ice cream in Tabasco sauce.”

Thailand’s Tijuana

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

I got the news about our new President-Elect first thing this morning.

I’m staying on Patong Beach, which is lively, but also fairly seedy, full of touts who seem to have learned English from New Yorkers: “Hey, brotha! Where you from, my man? You need a suit? I hook you up, good price!” They all want to shake hands so they can physically hold you in place during their patter but I’m wise to that trick. Some guessed I was German, so I also got the following: “Wie geht’s? You Berlin? Alles gute!” There are no zonkeys, though.

The Ronald McDonald statue in front of McD’s on Bangla Road has his palms pressed together in a wai, the Thai name for the gesture of welcome and thanks that looks like prayer.

Dairy Queen is just as prevalent here as in Shanghai, but the Shanghai cup that is called a “medium” there is a large here, which suggests that China will plump out on foreign fast food sooner than Thailand will.

I ate on the beach, though, red snapper and shrimp while listening (trying not to listen) to a two-piece combo murder one Abba song after another (the male keyboardist singing falsetto) at the request of four little blonde Swedish girls who were flitting around the stage.

Bangkok –> Phuket

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

I took my seat (we were herded in with no seat assignments on AirAsia), memorized one lesson from my Chinese textbook, took a nap (critical to allow the new vocabulary to sink in), and touched down in Phuket before I knew it.

The taxi into town cost 300 baht, with an additional 100 for the driver, who has registered his car with Phuket airport. This was still 150 baht cheaper than the “official” cars for hire (by suckers) inside the airport, but 280 baht more expensive than riding in the back of a pickup truck.

For the extra three bucks for a registered car you get a postcard to mail in to the airport taxi association with a handy checklist for the ways you have been ripped off:

  • “Overcharged fare metered rate”
  • “Switch off the meter”
  • “Drop off passengers before reaching destination”
  • “Others”

I thought the “s” after “Other” was less limiting than our convention of leaving it singular.

I booked an overpriced (1700 baht) hotel from Bangkok, but only stayed one night. I found a guesthouse directly across the street for 800 baht, or about $25. My food costs are running about $10/day, which means I can stay here basically forever.

The guesthouse is clean and quiet, but the staff are loopy. When guests check in, the manager gives them a fruit, but it’s an unripe, bitter, nasty-tasting fruit (How do I know, you ask) that looks like a kumquat. I saw several guests eat them and disguise their reaction to be polite, but she liked the ones who made a face; she laughed and shrieked, “I joke you!”

Life in the slow lane

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

I got email from Andy S. today asking, How’s life in the slow lane? (motto: Nothing. Ever.) and catching me up on work happenings. Apparently the Christmas Party (as it’s called in London) has been canceled, which a cynical eye might see as a harbinger of layoffs.

As for life in the slow lane, it goes at a good clip in Bangkok, so I’ve booked a flight for Phuket for a week on the beach starting tomorrow.

[I’ve added the “prophesies” tag to this post. The prophesy is that there will be layoffs. An easy one, I know.]

View from the top

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

I extended my stay in Bangkok because Andrew came out for the weekend, but had to find a new place because the one I was in was booked solid for November. I got a room in the hotel three doors down called Top Inn. The reason it was available is because it’s literally on top of Nana Entertainment Center. This is the view from my window:

Even seven stories up you can hear (and feel) the bass from the clubs. They shut down at 2:00a, though, so you can get some sleep, and the hotel offers “old skool” services like laundering your safari suit (or just the jacket).

Pat(Ping)Pong

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Andrew and I went to Somboon Seafood for dinner and had prawns almost as big as your hand:

We went to Patpong afterward. Beer is cheaper than at Nana, and it’s pretty tame compared to its reputation, but we didn’t see any of the “shows” on offer, so I can’t say for sure it doesn’t get worse. We walked down the nearby street that caters to Japanese tourists, and I marveled anew at the inflated prices Japanese people are willing to pay abroad to establishments that adapt to their culture. Everyone avoided us until we spoke Japanese, but we found that there is an hourly charge of 600 baht, plus 100 baht per beer, plus 200 for a “lady drink.” That’s 900 baht for an hour compared to 240 baht for the same thing (minus karaoke machine, but with no hourly charge) literally two streets down.

We ended up in the quieter side street sharpening up our pool game. There we saw the small but stout female bartender roust out a drunken German using a truncheon. Apparently he comes there regularly and she throws him out regularly, and sometimes beats him up too. It wasn’t entertaining — he may have been obnoxious, but I don’t think he should be beaten with a club. (Though maybe he keeps coming back because that’s what he’s looking for.) She smacked him twice and I had just decided to say something when he retreated.

Halloween in Bangkok

Friday, October 31st, 2008

On the morning of Halloween, we went to the huge Paragon Mall to get a camera for Andrew. It was a super deal compared to China or the UK — the same camera I bought but about $250 cheaper, with the chance to get your face painted Halloween-style for free.

We are still at the tail end of the rainy season, which resembles Florida’s more than Tokyo’s: 20 minutes of rain every afternoon rather than days at a time. The problem in Bangkok is drainage. I once went three stops on the sky train and alighted to see that it had started to rain while I was underway. Before I got back down to street level, the sudden shower had stopped, and I was congratulating myself on my perfect timing when a car drove through a standing puddle and soaked me.

We had a solid hour’s worth of rain during dinner at Ruen Mallika (in a fantastic, leaky, teak house), and when we took the taxi to Soi Cowboy for a beer afterward, the taxi was throwing a bow wave. (The pictures are on Andrew’s new camera.) When we got to Soi Cowboy, the entire street was flooded, and all the patrons who were already there when the rain started were essentially stranded.

We didn’t feel like wading (literally) through the water, so we went to Nana instead.

Sausages and chicken wings

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

There’s way more chance of a street vendor trying to speak Thai with you than any waiter in a sit-down restaurant, so I’ve been eating at the carts a lot. Andrew is here for a long weekend.

Sausages and chicken wings

Begging: Rio vs Bangkok

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

The last time I gave money to a beggar, he and two of his friends followed me secretly until I was passing through a park and then the three of them mugged me.

I only had $40 in reais in my pocket, but they took my pen, compass, and watch, and I had to fight over the key to my hotel safe, which they eventually threw on the sidewalk. This was in Rio.

The funny part was that in my next Portuguese class, we got to Chapter 5, “How to Report an Assault to the Police.” I had fresh details to practice with, and learned that all of my instructors had been mugged multiple times, sometimes at gunpoint, which I guess explains why it’s a chapter in the textbook.

There are a lot of beggars on Sukhumvit Road, but they are generally not just poor. Most are amputees or have otherwise deformed or diseased limbs (and sometimes faces). Giving these people money is easier than deciding what to label it in the expense diary I am keeping for this trip. “Charity” seems too grand.