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21 December 2005

in search of the almighty yellow citrus

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i can feel the devil walking next to me. i couldn't get the song out of my head for three straight days.

ten days have dripped away since i arrived in bangkok in the early morning hours last sunday with sayo [usa], raj [usa], geraldo [arg], and cheryl [aus]. in the traveler world of the khao san road, motivation to experience thai culture has continuously been one more movie away. i've allowed hours to drone by while watching movies on restaurant terraces, relaxing, eating, and allowing myself to forget that i'm on the far side of the planet. while the lazy days have done much to recharge my spirit, the hours haven't all been friendly, especially the ones right before i fall asleep.

about myself i know this: it's important for me to keep my mind active and occupied. since arriving in bangkok, i've found myself falling back into a nocturnal schedule and the late hours of nothingness have allowed a feeling of homesickness to creep into me. my feelings vary from day to day, hour to hour. i am really missing my girlfriend and family and to a certain extent the regularity of 'normal life'. i still have energy to travel and i'm very excited to see the countries remaining on the itinerary. i've regained my health after the incident in india. but there's a growing missing in my life and i'm increasingly anxious to return to the states... almost as if i want to return to the very thing which i wanted to leave... the every day like the one before. and i'm sick of wearing this damned money belt and blue jeans. blue. blech.

sayo had been to thailand before and i questioned her anxiously about the conditions in bangkok while we were waiting for our flight to depart from delhi last saturday. my big concern was that thailand would resemble india in terms of pollution and harrassment; i truly didn't think i could survive another beatdown. after we'd landed and had boarded a bus to khao san road, i discovered that the city that passed by on the other side of the window looked nothing like any indian city i'd visited. the city was clean and traffic flowed quietly down the streets, a modern urban metropolis indistinguishable from any large american or european city from a distance, given away by the tuk tuks, temple architecture, and ubiquitous images of the king. i immediately felt very comfortable in bangkok. relieved may be a better word.

as i mentioned, i've been watching a lot of movies lately. there are several restaurants near my guesthouse which play dvd's throughout the day on televisions positioned around the tables. the movies are shown in english and with english subtitles turned on and i've yet to see a movie where the subtitles have matched up accurately with the audio dialogue. most sentences are fairly close approximations... some not at all. i was watching 'star wars iii: revenge of the sith' and for the entire first half of the movie, the word 'jedi' was subtitled as 'chedar'. fits of laughter erupted frequently from the audience as the jedi counsel was consistently subtitled as 'the chedar counsel'. one subtitle: 'the chedar are use their power for good.' i've been able to see a lot of fairly recent movies that i missed while traveling... and some movies which are either currently playing in the theaters or haven't even been released yet. last night i watched 'the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe'... not scheduled for release here in thailand until 29 december. 'king kong' and the latest harry potter film are also playing.

a food stand near my guesthouse grills half chickens all day long. for about four straight days after arriving, i couldn't walk by that stand without stopping to buy a hot juicy bbq chicken for 30 baht (75 us cents). [given the recent avian flu scare (and the fact that the only deaths have occurred in southeast asia), there is a distinct possibility that my parents may have a heart attack after reading this... although i think i mentioned this already in a reconboard entry. i'm alive and well mom and dad!]. i've been splitting up my diet between thai food and standard western food like club sandwiches and bacon and eggs. i've been having a gigantic enormous unstoppable lemon craving lately... went to a tesco supermarket with sayo last week in search of the almighty yellow citrus with disappointing results. i had to satisfy my sour craving by buying salad preparations and enjoying a tasty balsamic vinagraitte green lettuce salad. after my supply of lettuce had wilted in my room, i continued to satisfy the urge at restaurants. imagine that... eating lettuce at a restaurant... i'd never have done that in india. i'm pleased to announce that i've had no ill affects from any food prepared here in bangkok... to the contrary, my digestive system seems to have stabilized significantly (although i think i made that claim after traveling in india for a short while and look what happened).

i finally made it out yesterday to take on some thai culture at a temple called wat pho within walking distance of my guesthouse. today i went out again to visit wat phra kaew and the grand palace. one word: wow. two words: kung pow! many of the temple buildings are covered with intricate geometric patterns of mirrored glass (glass?) which brilliantly reflect the sunlight and cause each building to shimmer and sparkle. giant stone guardians. golden buddhas. i had an overwhelming feeling of peace and calmness while walking the grounds. and the amazing sculpted trees... stunningly beautiful. i couldn't walk away.

this entry wouldn't be complete without a bangkok weather report for all of those experiencing the north american winter in the northeast: short version: warm and sunny. long version: http://www.weather.com/outlook/travel/businesstraveler/local/THXX0002 . t-shirt and shorts weather if you will. christmas is approaching and it feels very unchristmas-like here. despite the fact that the majority of thais practice buddhism (95% says my guidebook), i've seen store employees wearing santa hats while christmas carols whisper over the store sound system. i've also seen giant 'merry christmas' signs hanging on buildings in the siam square shopping area as well as manger scenes near lumphini park. still, i feel far removed from the holidays and i'm sure christmas and new year day will pass very much like regular days.

i'll end with some randomness:

. the thai tuk tuks are much beefier than the indian rickshaws. these things look like they could do some hardcore offroading.

. the thai people smile and laugh often and are filled with friendliness. this makes me happy.

. if you ever had doubt that the 7 eleven store chain was in jeopardy, come to bangkok and your doubts will be erased.

. while sayo and i were eating at a restaurant a few days ago, a woman came up to us selling small cages filled with tiny birds. what the hell is a traveler going to do with a tiny cage filled with small birds... or a small cage filled with tiny birds for that matter? a few days later a man carrying two baskets, one filled with a honeycomb 'display', came up to us at the same restaurant and tried to sell us a bottle of honey. he looked at me and then did a stereotypical 'muscleman flexing in front of a mirror' pose and then squeezed one of my biceps and looked at me pathetically. apparently his honey possesses magical properties which will help me grown giant muscles. i felt like such a girly man that i immediately purchased his entire stock of honey and drank down every last bottle on the spot.

. there are pictures of the thai king, his majesty bhumibol adulyadej, _all over the place_ in bangkok... hanging on the sides of buildings, along the streets, everywhere. he's also pictured on all of the thai currency... one note (not shown in the photo) shows him with a camera. my guidebook says he is the longest-reigning king in thai history. seems like a cool guy... the thais sure love him.

. fake dreads and tattoos are very popular with westerners in this area. there are several tattoo parlors in the khao san area and a billion (1,000,000,000) small dread/hair extension stands where for the small fee of x baht westerners can receive dreads or hair extensions. umm... no comment.

. took in a muay thai fight last week... not quite as brutal as i thought it would be. there were ten matches each of five rounds. the first two rounds were generally 'feeling out' rounds where the fighters didn't do much at all... rounds three and four were generally filled with a lot of locking up and knee kicks... the fifth round was the most exciting with flurries of knees and elbows. each time a fighter would throw a knee, the crowd in the area would scream out 'knee!' (or more likely a thai word that sounded a lot like the english word 'knee'). the band was comprised of two drummers, a pipe player, and a tamborine player. [surely these instruments are not called a 'pipe' and 'tamborine'... i couldn't find the real names after a cursory search. i am but an ignorant farang. my apologies to the band members.]

. i saw my first siamese cat here a few days ago. many dogs here wear t-shirts. [?]

. still taking the malaria medication... but who needs medication when you've got the kung pow mosquito punch? that's right... I TOOK IT OUT! DESTROY WHAT DESTROYS YOU.

posted by paul on Wed 21 Dec 2005 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)

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