Book Recommendation

I'm reading Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdett now. It's a fun read and provides some interesting insight into Thai culture, even though it's written by a Westerner. Bangkok 8 by the same author is supposed to be just as intriguing.

Update: I finished reading this book and didn't have the best aftertaste. It was entertaining and I'd still recommend to anyone interested in Bangkok. But the more I read, the more bothered I became that a Western man was writing as though he had Bangkok totally figured out. Seemed a little smug. But let me know what you think if you end up reading it.


Officially a Resident

I have an address in Bangkok now. My studio apartment is right off Soi Rangnam, a sweet street known for its unassuming restaurants that serve some of the best Isan (Northeastern Thai) food in the city. Almost all of the residents are Thai so it's not as expensive as more touristy areas. (Apparently, though, more farangs have moved here recently as they've caught wind of the perks. Seems gentrification is alive and well all over the world.) I have just about everything I need right outside my door: dry cleaning, laundromat, video rental, 7-11, grocery store, tailor, internet cafe, coffee shops, bakery, movie theatre, karaoke bar, a gorgeous gym/pool/sauna in a nearby hotel. But my favorite neighborhood attraction—my respite from all the hustle and bustle of the city—is the lush park with ½-mile walking path. Masses gather there every evening for Tai Chi and aerobics. The latter is a sight to behold as music blasts from the speakers and instructors spur their pupils on with great animation. There are always several badminton matches in progress. A small “gym” in one corner contains structures for stretching, pull-ups and sit-ups. There's also a pond, which produces an impressive lights and water show set to classical music every night at seven. One thing that threw me the first time I experienced it: At the same time every morning and evening, park officials blow their whistles and everyone stops still in their tracks to listen to the national anthem. It's just a sight you don't see everyday. Well, I suppose I do now. Anyway, I feel so lucky that I'm in the perfect neighborhood for me and it's convenient (four Skytrain stops) to work, thanks to having Sarah know where I'd be happiest. I'm sure without her recommendations, I could be having a much different experience.

Backtrack: My transition. It wasn't exactly a walk in the park. The relentless pace of Bangkok was an abrupt slap of reality after the lackadaisical vibe in Chiang Mai. Sarah and I crossed paths in the air as she went to vacation in Northern Thailand, so I was left to my own devices, which was a good thing in retrospect (character building and all that). I negotiated the city looking the wide-eyed awkward tourist part I'm sure. A Thai native from my school took me apartment hunting, which was heaven-sent because I have no idea how I would have done it without speaking Thai. Luckily she was also available a few days later when I needed to move out because of an adverse reaction (understatement) to the mold-ridden walls. But all's well that ends well because I love my new mold-free apartment on the corner with lots of light. And I'm starting to feel quite at home in my neighborhood and excited about all the adventures this city can offer.

Aerobics in the park: The old man in the yellow tank top is there all the time and could probably outfight any 20-something




I'm staying in Chiang Mai for a few days to unwind before moving to Bangkok. In that spirit, some friends and I took a sawngthaew to the hot springs about 30 minutes outside of town. Groups of people spread their blankets and picnics along the stream, the proximity to the springs dependent on their tolerance of heat. The pool for swimming is the perfect bath-water temp and a forceful waterfall provides a make-shift back massage. Some people boil eggs over the side of the springs for a snack. A relaxing afternoon followed by a breezy ride back at sunset was just what I needed.



Well, I’ve done graduated as Jethro would say. I got a job where I wanted in Bangkok and start teaching in about a week and a half. Yesterday was bittersweet as we were all happy to bid farewell to homework and long hours but sad to see the group dissolve. We spent so much time together and really bonded. The instructors took us to a nice dinner last night to celebrate and then we carried the party to the lobby outside my guesthouse. Allan’s beau brought some Thai delicacies, including fried grasshoppers, from the market. Good thing there was also plenty of whiskey on hand.


Here She Comes...

Ahn is the tour guide who operates out of the lobby of my guesthouse. His passion is collecting photographs of Miss Thailand and he'll proudly walk anyone who's interested through several large albums of pictures that date back to the '60s. He says he's 90% finished with the project. Some friends and I went on one of his day trips bamboo rafting down a river and swimming under some waterfalls. We rafted to a “restaurant”, more like a gas stove under a hut in the woods, and dined on whole fish, roasted chicken, and a variety of potato chips. It was really nice to get out of town for a bit and breathe some country air.

Allan, Vee, Ahn

The group stepping very cautiously on slippery rocks