Test Your Might.  Excellent.  Kano, Liu Kang, Rayden, Johnny Cage, Scorpion, Sub Zero, Sonja…. MORTAL KOMBAT!  Ever since I saw Liu Kang’s sweet moves and flowing locks, I’ve wanted to be transported to Outworld.  Just kidding, that would be weird.  BUT, before I went to Ayutthaya, I did some research and found out that this is where the 1995 masterpiece, Mortal Kombat, was filmed.

DSC_0577Ayutthaya was the former capital of the Kingdom of Siam and interestingly, it was the largest city in the world in 1700, not London or Paris.  It was the trading capital of Asia at the time and because of its contact with the Arab world and Europe it was arguably the largest trading city in the world.  Yet, most people have never heard of it because:

A: According to US history classes, history of white people is all that matters.  Except for the Ancient Egyptians, because they built cool shit and The Rock used to be their scorpion king.

B: Ayutthaya was destroyed by the Burmese in the late 1700’s and subsequently abandoned.  All that’s left are stone ruins of palaces and temples.

Rocket/Tuk tuk hybrid

Rocket/Tuk tuk hybrid

It’s only about an hour from Bangkok, so on one of my precious days off, my friend Bom and I got in a van for $2 and headed out of town.  When we got there, we hired a rocket ship/tuk tuk to take us around for the day.

The town has been repopulated, but the ruins were declared a UNESCO world heritage site so they have been largely preserved.  Although, you could easily still climb all over them if you wanted to.  The modern town is interesting because since the former city was so large, the modern buildings co-exist with the ancient ones.  We’d be driving down the street and a business would be built next to the ruins of a small temple.  The more expansive temple/palace sites had larger “grounds” surrounding them though.

Where's Johnny Cage?

Where’s Johnny Cage?

Tree hungry.  Tree want eat Buddha.

Tree hungry. Tree want eat Buddha.

At one of the temples, there is a Buddha head that is slowly being swallowed by the roots of a large tree.  I imagine that if I go back to Ayutthaya someday, I probably won’t see it again.  That tree is hungry for Buddha.  There is also a huge reclining Buddha statue draped in an orange cloth.  He’s real sleepy.

How dare he show me the bottoms of his feet.  Rude.

How dare he show me the bottoms of his feet. Rude.

After checking out the ruins, we went to a floating market.  They had a theater there where actors portrayed the brutal sack of the city by the Burmese.  I mean, the attack was unquestionably terrible.  Innocent people were killed, raped and enslaved, but as an outsider, the play was the one of the best examples of propaganda I’ve ever seen.  They must have taken lessons from American war movie producers.

I hope that elephant tramples you.

I hope that elephant tramples you.

One thing that really pissed me off was the ivory section.  Because of the time I spent with Meg in Cameroon, I’ve read a fair amount about how their elephants are being slaughtered so that ivory can be sold in Asian markets.  But this was the first time I’d actually seen it and it really shocked me.  I was just gawking and the sales people were saying to me “real, real, special price for you”.  In a very un-Thai like way, I gave them my best scowl and just said “This is awful.  So bad.”

After trolling the market and “zoo” for a little while, we decided to head back home.  To complete the full cultural experience, we sat in traffic for over 3 hours.  The ancient Ayutthayans probably could have walked back to Bangkok faster.


Categories: Ayutthaya, Ruins, Thailand, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Sam Pran Festival


My clue that the Sam Prang street festival was authentically Thai was when a 40 year old man with a pink Cannon Coolpix camera shamelessly took a picture of me.  I was the only farang there until I saw an old couple just as I was leaving so I got lots of

Farang representation

Farang representation

looks.  My friend Bom and I had a couple hours to kill before meeting another friend and her dad for dinner so we went to check out this really cool festival.  It’s in an old neighborhood in Bangkok where a lot of the buildings have been preserved and they closed down a couple streets to set up all the booths.  There were all sorts of street performances and arts and crafts set up.

Thai version of the human pyramid

Thai version of the human pyramid

From what I could understand, the purpose of the fair was to support anti-drug/anti-crime non-profits geared toward children and orphans.  It reminded me a lot of the Miller Mayfair (shout out to Wilton people), except the proceeds from our elementary school fair supported the affluent children of suburban, white parents.  Same Same, but Different.  There were little booths with all kinds of crafts set up and the best part, they were all FREEEEEE!  You could draw pictures, make beaded jewelry, tie dye, make a book, paint a piggy bank and all sorts of other fun things… for kids.  The only thing that was missing was a spin art booth and a rock tumbler.

Outta my way kids, it's MY turn

Outta my way kids, it’s MY turn

But as an adult, I still couldn’t resist the “create your own boat” booth.  The sail was actually already glued on, I just tied 3 knots on the corners.  I had to get a red one to rep 603; unfortunately there was no red paint to smear all over the sides, so it’s a more idealistic 603.

Food glorious food.

Food glorious food.



There were also lots of little non-profit vendors, food stalls and a puppet show.  I couldn’t understand any of the puppet show, but I can’t remember the last time I saw marionettes, so it was cool to watch anyway.

It was definitely a very authentic Thai experience.  Since there were no other Americans there, I had to make sure I represented for all of us and was as obnoxious and loud as possible.  Bom was not impressed.

Mong hee alai?

Mong hee alai?

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Most Dangerous Market in the World

Choo Choo!

Choo Choo!

No joke, Google it.  That’s where I went last week.  It’s called the Maeklong Railway Market.  It is literally a market on the rail road tracks, which would make sense, if the tracks were out of commission, but they’re not.


Spiderman beating up John

We met up at 8AM to head about 3 hours south of Bangkok via 2 trains.  I’m not sure what kind of train we were on, but I’ve never heard anything like it.  It sounded more like we were in the back of a really dilapidated dump truck than on a train.  The train rides were pretty uneventful except for when we hit some kind of construction equipment that was parked right where it belonged…on the tracks…  We were in the first car, so imagine the sound of a small train hitting a backhoe and that’s exactly what it sounded like.  Eh, no big deal, that didn’t stop The Little Engine That Could.

P1010554We actually got to experience the market from two points of view: riding into the market on the train, and standing on the tracks.  At about noon, we rolled into the train station, which also happened to be the market area.  The stalls were literally less than a foot away from the side of the train so while I was sticking my head out the window, I had to take precautions not to get decapitated.  Basically what happens is when the train is coming, the people retract everything into their stalls and pull their awnings in, and within 30 seconds after the train passes, their goods are back out on the tracks and the awnings are deployed.

The second point of view was when we were walking through the market and the train was coming back the other way.  As the train was coming, we had to position ourselves in whatever small pocket of space we could fit into so as not to get run over by the train.  You’ve gotta be fairly confident that you have measured your proportions correctly and fit all of your body into an appropriately sized space, because when a train is coming at you and passes within inches of your face, there isn’t much room for error.


Back to bidnass.

Why is the market ON the train tracks?  I have no idea, and neither does anyone else.  It just is.


A pig, turtle, Powerpuff girl, Hello Kitty and a fish (?)

After making it out of the most dangerous market in the world intact, we got some noodles.  In case you were curious, if you boil blood, it turns out kind of like Jello.  I passed that along to my Thai friend as it is still one of the few foods that is just a little to strange for me to eat.  We then got some street pancakes and boarded a Tuk Tuk to take us to Amphawa, the floating market.

I'm foreign therefore I automatically love tuk tuks

I’m foreign therefore I automatically love tuk tuks

Food boats.  The ubiquitous moustache graphic indicates quality

Food boats. The ubiquitous moustache graphic indicates quality

Aaron “misplaced” his iPhone in the tuk tuk and with some creative teamwork, he and Bom were able to find it.  While they were on the iPhone treasure hunt, the rest of us did some wandering around the market and bought grassheads.  It’s a stocking filled with soil and grass seeds and then tied in specific places to look like a dog or a fat man or a turtle.  It’s now sitting on my kitchen counter; no growth yet, but I am optimistic.



Next activity: riding a long tail boat on a tour of several temples along the river.  At the second temple, there was a monk giving blessings so we sat with him and he sprinkled some kind of holy water on us (I’m “Catholic” so this is the closest analogy I can make).  Then he gave us a necklace and a bracelet and sent us on our way.  We also stopped at one with animals.  I think they call it a zoo, but it was mostly just animals in poor condition chained up or caged in a way that would make a PETA advocate cry themselves to sleep for a thousand moons.  But we got to feed them bananas and grasses so at least they seemed to be eating well.  The coolest animal was a peacock in full bloom (?).  He had all his feathers displayed, I thought it was pretty rad, but the lady bird was just not that into him.  After our Tour de Temples, 5 to be exact, we motored back to the floating market.



En route to the van, we stopped to get some delicious juices served in bamboo mugs which we got to keep.  I got real coconut water for like 10 cents.  The exact same stuff I can get at Whole Foods for $5.99 a bottle.  Our van obviously got stuck in the horrific Bangkok traffic on the way home, but it was a small price to pay for an otherwise really cool and unusually problem free trip.

This is the gayest picture of 4 straight guys I have ever seen.

This is the gayest picture of 4 straight guys I have ever seen.

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How to Use 3 Weeks of Vacation

The White Temple in Chiang Rai

The White Temple in Chiang Rai

I spent the last 17 days travelling around Thailand during my 3 week break from school.  I spent most of my time in the north (Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and Pai) and a couple days around New Years on an island east of Bangkok called Koh Kood.

Chiang Rai:

I was high-so and I decided to fly up to Chiang Rai on 12/18.  It was the first stop on my trip to the north.  I headed to my hotel, which was an awesome Bed and Breakfast that used to be a Kindergarten so it had a really unconventional layout and more importantly, lots of toys!  I dropped off my stuff and, despite only getting 3 hours of sleep the night before, I had my hotel get me a taxi to take me to see the White Temple.



The guy that designed this thing is obviously very brilliant and totally deranged.  It’s the work of a modern Thai artist and it really is one of the coolest things I’ve seen since I’ve been here.  The whole thing is white and covered in tiny mirrors.  He also created some pretty graphic sculptures of hands rising up out of hell and the faces and skulls of people who are there.

Who, me?

Who, me?

People who’ve done some travelling around SE Asia seem to say more often than not that once you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen them all and therefore they don’t need to see the White Temple.  I say, those people are idiots.  This place is more like a crazy person’s brain exploded and created a cross between Rivendell and a disco ball.

When I was done here, I was planning to head back to my hotel and chill.   But my taxi driver had a different plan which he clearly explained to me… in Thai, and I agreed to… in Thai.  All I know is that he must have called like 7 of his friends on the way to our next destination with frenzied excitement and the only words I understood were “white girl”.


Mount Singha

Then we arrived at the Singha (as in the beer) farm.  Um…ok?  So we stood around for a little while with some other Thai people while my taxi driver kept talking at me in Thai until a guy driving what appeared to be a tour trolley filled with cheering Indian people came ripping around the corner and literally hit the brakes so hard that it screeched.  This day kept getting better.

I'm a hippie now.

I’m a hippie now.

The Indian people filed off the trolley, sober, much to my disappointment because that meant that there was no free beer on this tour.  The whole thing was in Thai.  I understood one word, straW-berrEEEEE, because it is “the same” in English.  We toured around the farm and saw flowers, tea, cabbages, and a bunch of other stuff that I had no idea what the hell it was.

Old McSingha's farm

Old McSingha’s farm

After taking like 10 early millennium camera phone photos with my taxi driver, I paid him 300B (9 USD) and headed to the night market

Nom nom nom.

Nom nom nom.

for dinner to get some of the famed northern Thai food that I had heard so much about.  Every stall had the same assortment of fried things, except for the guy selling bugs and the noodle shop.  So bugs it was.  Just kidding, I am too much of a wuss.  I also decided to book a day tour for the next day, which normally I don’t do for a variety of reasons, but I only had a day so I wanted to see as much as possible.

I got up early for my trip the next day and saw my tour buddies: a mom  and her 18 year old son.  soooo….ok…. We took a cruise on a river boat to an elephant camp first.

Ride 'em cowgirl.

Ride ’em cowgirl.

First of all, my elephant pilot (I don’t know what else to call that guy) had the best moustache ever.  Secondly, he could speak enough English to tell me my elephant’s name (Dee Dee, which translates to good good) and teach me some other words.  And lastly, I didn’t get trampled at all.  This was pretty cool, although slow going.  We wandered around and crossed back and forth across the river for about 40 minutes.  I suggested we caulk the wagons and float, but Dee Dee decided to ford the river.

Dee Dee hungry.

Dee Dee hungry.

Next we went to have lunch with a traditional hill tribe.  AKA, ye olde hill tribe Pad Thai and Coca Cola restaurant.  But this is where things started to go awry, and one of the reasons I try to stay away from group tours.  People need to know their limits.  If you are 50+ years old, overweight and not accustomed to hiking in the jungle, or anywhere for that matter, when the guide suggests that the trekking portion of the trip is too aggressive for you, gracefully bow out rather than trying to be some kind of hero.

The conversation basically went like this:

Kin (guide): I saw you try to walk up that hill and you were out of breath, the trek is going to be too challenging for you

Mom: I am fine, I will go slowly but I can do it.

Kin: We can just drive to the waterfall and do an easier walk.  If we start the other hike, timing is very important because we can’t be there when the sun sets.

Me: (WTF. I am not here to go for a walk)

Mom: No, I don’t want her (referring to me) and my son to miss out because of me, I promise you I can do it, I will just go slowly at my own pace and be fine.  Trust me, I can handle it.

Me: (awkward turtling my hands in my brain and staring at the thatching on the roof)

Son: Look, I know we’re American, but she can do it, I know she can.


Where’s Mowgli?

And this is why I find American tourists to be particularly annoying on so many levels.  So off we went into the jungle.  And I am talking real jungle, not like a wide path with bridges over the streams and seeing other people kind of jungle.  Real, compass referring, machete wielding, anti-venom carrying guide kind of jungle.  Chiang Rai is also mountainous, hence why many people go here for trekking so the terrain is not exactly forgiving.

About 1 minute in, Mom tells the son and me to just go ahead and she’ll catch up with us.  The son, being an American Hero, does as he’s told and goes off.  Kin is trying to find some kind of branch to hack into a walking stick for the Mom and I am wondering what picture they are going to use of me on the evening news.  Mom keeps telling me not to wait, but I am not an idiot and I know to stay near the guy with the knife which I finally tell her after I am finished being polite.

This is the photo that I took so that when they found my body, hopefully my last photo on my camera would help identify me.

This is the photo that I took so that when they found my body mauled by a tiger or wild boars, the last photo on my camera would help identify me.

We got to a pretty big hill and when I got to the top, I waited about 10 minutes, and then Kin showed up.  We basically had a what the fuck moment about the whole situation and I used my often recited “not all American’s are like this” speech. Mom showed up about 5 minutes later and says “Ok, you go on, I’ll head back” like it’s no big deal.  We were 1/4 of the way into the hike and had just finished the easiest part.  Son is nowhere to be found.  Kin told her that we had to continue on because we were too far in.  After a bunch of back and forth, I was literally like LOOK, Kin you take her back to the bottom, she can’t do this, I will wait here for the kid, Go now, I hate you lady and you are a fat, stubborn, old fool who put everyone in danger.  The last part was actually more of a subconscious thing but probably should have been vocalized.

Near an Akha hill tribe village

Near an Akha hill tribe village

Kin and Dumb Dumb headed back.  So there I was, alone somewhere in the Thai jungle wondering if and when Captain Idiot was going to find his way back and when I was going to get attacked by fire ants.  The kid showed up first, about 30 minutes later.  I gave that little mofo a talking to about how dangerous it is to separate.  Kin busted through a wall of bamboo and Tarzan vines about 40 minutes after that.  What is my life.

DSC_0653We continued on our hike and it was aggressive to say the least.  But eventually we got to the hill tribe villages, which were cool to see.  They are people who are traditionally nomadic and come from Burma and China.  The Thai government barely even recognizes them and it’s a bit controversial.  They’ve been forced to more or less settle and use slash and burn techniques for agriculture.

Shortly before I discovered how cold it was.

Shortly before I discovered how cold it was.

Next stop was a waterfall.  It was pretty impressive, and very cold, which I discovered when I fell in.  I’m always so graceful.  We wandered around here for a little while and sure enough, when we got to the bottom of it, there was the Mom, waiting for us.  In retrospect, I’m actually glad she stupidly went on the hike, because if she had backed out and we just did the walk around the waterfall, I would have missed out on a really amazing trip.  So thanks stubborn American Mom for endangering all of us.  It was worth it.  Next “stop” according to the person at the tour office was a tea plantation.  It was actually more of a drive-by.

And the final stop was a hot spring.  It was nice to get in there after the hike, and even nicer to hear Mom and Son humble brag about all the hot springs they’d been to in other countries and how this one was OK in comparison.  I had had about enough so I went to hang out with Kin.  Someone who speaks 50% English is better than people who speak 100% English but you wish spoke 0.

And that was pretty much the end of Chiang Rai.  I hopped a bus the next morning and headed to my next stop to meet Allison, Steve and Sarah:  Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai:

Now I can die happy

Now I can die happy

Upon arrival at the bus station, I got a tuk tuk into the city.  As usual, my white skin means 2 things: that I am super rich and don’t speak a word of Thai.  They started at a cool 800B.  I told them to go fuck themselves and ultimately got it for an acceptable price, paet sip baht.  80.

I heard so much about this Khao Soy stuff before I got to the North.  So my number one priority was to find it and eat it.  I couldn’t find it in Chiang Rai, so I was on a mission.  And I succeeded.  It is one of the most delicious foods I have ever eaten, and it costs 60 cents.  I think I ate this every day for the rest of my trip, sometimes twice.

My pet dragons

My pet dragons

Once we all got situated and I got my Khao Soy, we headed to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep which is a temple on top of a mountain outside of Chiang Mai.  Apparently, 700 years ago a magical white elephant told them to build it there.  It was an impressive campus with an awesome view of the city.

The real gold standard

The real gold standard

Unfortunately, my shorts were not long enough, so I wasn’t allowed to go into the golden chedi area and defile it with my knee caps.  I wandered around outside while my friends  checked it out and I found a basket of pants.  So I just put a pair on and went in.  I guess I was supposed to rent them for 10B, and the ones I grabbed were out of the “dirty” pile.  But they were free, 31 cents saved, is….. 31 cents I can spend on beer later.

Talk about golden.  This place was so bright and gold everywhere it nearly gilded my eyeballs out of my head.  There were dragons everywhere and lots and lots and lots of gold.  The photo to the left is the main chedi (Thai word for stupa).  This is another one of those temples that is actually worth your time to check out.

Scrooge McDuck would approve

Scrooge McDuck would approve

We then headed back to town, went to a fairly disappointing dinner at a street food/night market area, and went to bed.  The uneventfullness of day 1 was made up for on day 2.

We got up early the next morning for a day of elephants and white water rafting.  We got picked up by a 12 passenger mini-bus/van and headed north.  The other people in our group had also signed up to ride ATVs for an hour at the end of the day, but the four of us opted out of that portion because ATVs in Thialand have a reputation for being shit.

I wish I brought my elephant chaps.

I wish I brought my elephant chaps.

Apparently this little guy can be a real dick

Apparently this little guy can be a real dick

We got to the elephant place and I was lucky enough to get to ride on it’s head.  Which, by the way, causes a fair amount of chafing if you aren’t wearing long pants.  The kings used to ride on the elephants heads, so I felt pretty royal up there.  I bet they had pants.  As it turns out, riding an elephant’s head is really unstable.  With every step, I felt like I was going to fall and get trampled to death.

After I didn’t fall off the elephant and die, we got to check out the baby.  Apparently he is the most dangerous of all of them.  It must be the same affliction as the baby vampires in Twilight.  We said goodbye to the pachyderms, and headed to lunch where we got our “safety briefing” for rafting and got suited up with our one size fits all life jackets and helmets.

Rafting was pretty cool.  We got to go through some pretty decent rapids and our raft was the only one competent enough not to flip over.  Do we get a girl scout badge for that?

Saying I've had a friend for 20 years just  made me feel super old.

Writing that I’ve had a friend for 20 years just made me feel super old.

Post-rafting is when things started to get a little bit “Thai”.  We drove to the ATV place and it was pretty late in the day.  Allison and Steve got a good price to rent them on the spot, and Sarah and I decided to pass.  Long story short , literally all of the ATVs were broken in some way, and when they finally got all of them working at the same time, everyone drove away into the sunset.  Sarah and I took a nice stroll around the lake and went back to the rental place when the sun had completely set and it was dark.

Not surprisingly, 8 of the 10 people and 6 of the 10 ATV’s returned.  Where were Allison and Steve?  Good question.  The guide had no idea, nor did they seem to care and since it was pitch black and there were no headlights on any of the ATVs, none of the other riders knew.

Alright so Allison and Steve are hopefully on the road but potentially in the Thai mountain jungle at night.  Let’s get the van driver and go find them, then head back to town.  Oh, he drank 3/4 of a bottle of Scotch in the last hour and closed the car door on his own head  when he got in? (not a typo, head not hand).  No big deal.

Thumbs up is right.

Thumbs up is right.

So P’Drunkface took us down the road, swearing the whole time he wasn’t drunk.  It became abundantly clear about 1 turn into the trip that our driver was absolutely hammered.  Luckily, Steve and Allison were on the road not far from the rental place and we didn’t run them over when we stopped to pick them up.  It took a lot of convincing, and now the driver has no face, but we finally got him to agree to let Steve, our American friend who drives on the right side of the road, pilot the manual, 12 passenger minibus filled with tourists back to Chiang Mai… an hour away.

The driver said “NOW I DRIVE” about every 4 minutes the whole way back, and we explained every time that we know he isn’t drunk, but that Steve was going to take us back to Chiang Mai.  Luckily, our evening didn’t get any more eventful than that.  With the exception of turning the windshield wipers on every time we needed to turn, which he meant to do anyway…. he did an awesome job.

P1010107The next day we had to be up at an hour that, as of recently, has been when I go to bed, 5AM.  Ziplining through the jungle was the plan for the day.  It was pretty cool.  We zipped on 20+ lines (one of which is the longest in the world), saw gibbons and got to spend a little time hiking around a waterfall.  We had a pretty hilarious guide named Woody who taught me some useful words in Thai and didn’t kill any of us.

After ziplining, we ate more Khao Soy and just chilled out.  That night, we headed to a Muay Thai fight.  Only problem was that it was kids night so the fighters were like 40 kilos.  So we watched some kids beat the piss out of each other at a Lady Boy bar for a little while.  The show did get more entertaining when they blindfolded 3 guys and put them in the ring.  There were a lot of windmill arms.  The ref was also not off limits so when he was unlucky enough to get in the way of the “I’m just moving my fists like this, don’t walk in front of me or it’s your own fault” guy, he got a beat down as well.  We checked out a place called The Warm Up after that, which is super Thai and a lot of fun.  I got back on my normal 5AM bedtime schedule for a night.

The next day, my friends headed to their respective next destinations and the rest of the day was pretty uneventful for me.  I spent an irresponsible amount of money at the night market, but got some cool stuff and ate more Khao Soy.

I'm a Thai chef now.

I’m a Thai chef now.

My last day in Chiang Mai, I took an awesome cooking class.  It started at the food market where I learned the Thai word for pumpkin: fuck tong – and string beans: tu ah fuck yao.  I’m also very mature.  I don’t remember anything else I learned other than making curry paste with a mortar and pestal is a huge pain in the ass.  Much to my surprise, pretty much all of the things I made had fish sauce in them.  Who ever thought that leaving fish fermenting in a barrel was a good idea…  I cooked 6 dishes without food poisoning myself: Coconut Soup, Glass Noodles and veggies, Mango Sticky Rice, Som Tam, KHAO SOY and stir fried veggies.  I’m ready for food network.

Also, I carved a flower into a carrot.

nom nom nom

nom nom nom

I ended that day about 4 pounds heavier and ready to head to my next destination, the hippie woderland, Pai.


I got off to a good start on this trip by being hand selected by the driver to sit in the front seat of a 12 passenger mini bus.  He said, “ok you alone, you sit front”.  So my thought was that all the other passengers were travelling with someone and therefore it was better for me to sit in the front so that they didn’t have to split up.  There were 6 other people in the van….  What a fun 3 hour drive this was about to be.

The driver’s English was at about 30% but, lucky me, all he wanted to do was talk, for the. whole. trip.  He also kept reminding me that if I didn’t talk to him, he would fall asleep and “we die”.  About 90 minutes into the trip, he started calling me darling and put his hand out and started shaking it around which apparently was a signal for me to hold it.  I pretended not to notice and when that didn’t work, I pretended not to understand what he meant when he said “you hold my finger!”

About 2 hours in, we stopped at an army check point/pit stop.  I was minding my own business, intently looking at bags of potato chips in the store so that he would leave me alone, and in he came with 4 of his army bros to present me with the rib of some kind of animal to eat.  What a delicious treat.  Aloy mak and thank’s life.

By the time we got to Pai at 10PM, I got out of that van at the first hotel I saw and lied and said I was staying there even though I didn’t have a room booked anywhere.  I found a guesthouse with a mattress on the floor and a mosquito net for a whopping $9 USD, which was well out of my budget, and went to the night market to find some street food.

I can breathe air here

I can breathe air here



The first day, I hired a guy to take me around and show me stuff.  His English was terrible.  Like, so bad that we spoke Thai.  Pai is unbelievably beautiful, just as everyone says it is.  It is about a 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai into the mountains.  The town itself is filled with more hippies than I have ever seen in my entire life.  It has recently been “discovered” by tourists so it still retains a lot of it’s charm.  And the scenery is breathtaking.

Day one was pretty uneventful, but it was Christmas.  My Christmas feast was a pizza and a can of Coke Zero.  The total cost was double what my new room at Mr. Jan’s guesthouse cost per night.  It’s weird, when you aren’t being bombarded with Christmas ads every waking moment of your life for 2 months, and it’s not cold, and you aren’t with your friends/family, it’s really not Christmas, it’s just another day.

The real Santa actually lives in Thailand

The real Santa actually lives in Thailand

The thing that was so backwards about it all was that while I was walking around the night market, Santa was also there.  He had a big sack filled with bags of candy and potato chips and all sorts of little food items.  Whenever he saw a kid, he’d say “ho ho ho!”, call them over and little Mongkut and Samchai got treats.  America won’t shut up about Santa, but can you imagine if someone did this in America? And actually did what Santa is supposed to do?  He’d be in jail in 2 seconds.  That’s some gingerbread for thought.

I decided that the next day, I was going to rent a moto and just see what kind of things I could find.  When I went to get one the next day, bright and early at 11AM, they were all rented for the day, which I probably should have taken as a sign that I should not get a moto.  Ever.

Phase 1 of my transformation to a hippie complete.  Self portrait in a field of flowers.

Phase 1 of my transformation to a hippie complete: self portrait in a field of flowers.

Instead, I decided that I would just go for a nice walk in the area around the town for a few hours and then head back and dick around there.  Well prepared with my map (which I soon learned was not drawn to scale), camera and no water, I headed out for a 3 hour tour.

Moooooo.  Which actually means pork in Thai.

Moooooo. Which actually means pork in Thai.

I admit, the first 5-7K of my loop was really nice.  I was walking along a small road so there wasn’t much traffic at all.  I put my iPhone on speaker and pumped some music for the walk and life was good.  There were farms and nature and I only saw one hippie couple chanting in a field of wildflowers.

By the time I got to the elephant camp, I was pretty thirsty so I stopped and got some water.  I asked the woman about how much further town was via the loop I had planned to go.  She told me 18-20K.  Oh well, she must have not understood my question, because my map clearly shows that it isn’t that far.

Well, it was.

Saway mak.

Saway mak.

I don’t know how far I had to walk on that road, at least 18K.  I had like 4 people stop their motos and offer me a ride, but at that point, I was determined to finish that walk, even if it killed me, which it almost did when a truck narrowly missed hitting me.  By about the 20thK of my “nice little walk”, I must have looked like death because an old man monk who was sitting on the side of the road looked dismayed and offered to give me his food and water.  And strangely guessed that I was from Chicago on his first try.  So wise.

I finally got back to my $6 a night guest house just before sunset.  3 hours turned into 8 hours and 25ish kilometers of climbing up and down mountains.  Damn that map.  Before scarfing down a bunch of street food, I treated myself to a 1 hour, $4USD massage.  Since I was certain that I wouldn’t be able to use my legs at all the next day, I made a pact with myself (because when you travel alone, you go a little nuts) to get up early and get a moto.

Zippity Do Da.

Zippity Do Da.

So the next day, at 10:30 AM, I went to rent a moto.  Luckily I only had to wait a half hour to get one.  I spent the $1.30 on insurance, just in case, which proved to be the best gamble I have ever made in my life.

Ahhhh, 110 CC’s of pure mint green Honda scooter power.  I pretty much spent the first 3 hours of the day driving to a waterfall and then freaking out on my way back toward town because the gas gauge was well past E.  By some stroke of luck, my legs weren’t sore, so I knew that if I had to get out and walk, I was clearly capable.

A photo while there was still a road to drive on.

A photo while there was still a road to drive on.

Later in the day, I took that stallion “en brusse” as they would say in Cameroon or “into the bush”.  I was riding it on hill tribe/farmer people roads (and I use that term loosely) and audibly smashing the undercarriage on rocks.  I had to make sure to get my insurance money’s worth.  When I crashed into a fence and almost road it off a wooden bridge for the second time, I decided that it would be better if I stayed near a road that someone might drive down once in the next 3 days in case I crashed.

DSC_1151So back toward town I went.  On the way, there was a little turn off with a sign that just said “Land Split”.  That sounds like something I might be able to jump my moto across, I should go.  When I arrived at this little place, I was greeted by a Thai family and quickly ushered to a hammock in the shade.  Then I was served bananas, tamarind, peanuts, roselle juice, roselle jam, and banana chips.  Ok, so far so good.  It turns out that the man’s family had farmed the land for decades, and in 2007, the hilly land that they farmed just started to split open and created 100 foot deep crevasses.  It made the land basically un-farmable so now they tell their story to people passing by and make a living on donations and welcoming people with the fruits and juices they make from their garden.  The whole thing was a really nice treat.  One of my favorite experiences so far.

Onward to my next destination.  Another waterfall, can you believe it?  When I got to the waterfall, I met another American and we took our shoes off and walked up the river to try to find it, but apparently it didn’t exist.  Instead we found some Thai guys who’d driven their pick-up on to a sandbar and were 4 bottles of Sang Som deep and playing cards.

We decided to see if we could find another waterfall that wasn’t far away.  It was about 5PM at this point, so it was going to be the last stop of the day.  It turns out that the last stop of the day for me was the ER at the Pai hospital.

Yes I was wearing a helmet.  It was pink.  These are some of my injuries.  My face swelled up way more.

Yes I was wearing a helmet. It was pink. These are some of my injuries. My face swelled up way more.

I was just cruising down a straight, flat dirt road, and the next thing I remember, I was on the back of Koa’s moto heading to the hospital.  I don’t know what happened, but I do remember swerving hard left, then hard right, and that’s it.  Moto go smash.  Apparently the whole right side was all messed up, I also don’t remember seeing that.

My brain started to function again at the hospital, which I think was about 20-30 minutes later.  I was beat up pretty bad, but luckily, it was all road rash and nothing requiring stitches or a cast or a brain scan.  I was being a pain in the ass about it all and just wanted to get outta there after they cleaned my wounds (which they did a good job of), but since I asked Koa the same question 3 times in about 5 minutes, he politely suggested that I stay and talk to the doctor.

The doctor informed me that I didn’t have a concussion, which is a complete impossibility.  But I just said thank you and got outta there.  It cost me $12.  When I went to the ER in America, it cost me $12,000 and I came out with the same diagnosis: you’re fine, if you vomit or pass out, come back.  ‘Murica, ‘Murica, ‘Murica!  All in all, I was really lucky.  I made it out of that crash with all my teeth and all my eyeballs.  But I broke my good Nikon camera.

I happily woke up the next morning with a January 1st pain level hangover headache from smashing my face on the ground.  I got my stuff together to get on a bus back to Chiang Mai and then continue on to BKK.  Again, fairly uneventful except the bus to Bangkok was the second shittiest overnight bus experience I’ve ever had.  Only surpassed by the African death bus in Cameroon.  I finally got back to Bangkok at 4AM, got my bag off the bus and promptly rolled my left ankle and sprained it to the point where I couldn’t walk.  So now my entire right side of my face and jaw line was swollen and cut up, I had bandages around every limb on my body except my left leg, and I was dragging my left foot behind me as I tried to find a taxi.  But I made it.

North of Thailand: 0

Joc: 1

I went back to my apartment to sleep and do laundry because that night, I had an 11 o’clock bus to Trat to go to Koh Kood (an island) for new years with my friends.  Wouldn’t they be surprised when they saw me.

Koh Kood:



I met everyone at the bus station after my brief stop in at home.  For the record, going to a beach when you can’t go in the water, can’t drink, can’t go in the sun and can’t get sand on most of your body due to open wounds is an interesting idea.  If I wasn’t going with 11 friends, I would have bagged the trip, but this was definitely a trip more about the company.

I wonder what the sand and water feel like?

I wonder what the sand and water feel like?

Koh Kood was beautiful and totally chill.  We got a bungalow and it reminded me of being at camp or something.  I experienced my first sober New Years in nearly a decade, with the exception of 2006 when I was so sick I was hallucinating, so it was nice to start 2013 not barfing.  We lit lanterns and at midnight there were fireworks.  Very chill.

The real excitement of the trip came on the way home.  I thought that I might have a totally “near death experience”-free trip, but alas, it would not be this one.  We were about 3 hours away from Bangkok on our bus back from Trat.  It was night and we were cruising along at about 60MPH (100K for you metric people).  I was staring out the window probably thinking about something having to do with food.

The outliine indicates that this moto was murdered

The outline indicates that this moto was murdered

All of a sudden, I saw a moto and another moto with a side car get out of control and smash into each other.  The sidecar moto drove off the road, but the other one swerved toward the bus as the bus swerved to miss it.  I heard a “thud, thud” and I was sure that we just decapitated someone.  In my shock of watching that happen, I didn’t notice that our bus was swerving off the road.  We ran over a tree and the wheels on the bus were not going round and round anymore.  They were more going sideways.  We almost flipped over.  They let everyone off the bus and I was convinced that we had run over someone, but talk about lucky.  That guy just ricocheted  off the side of the bus and it appeared that he made it outta there with just a foot injury.  Unbelievably, another bus showed up within an hour and took us back to Bangkok and I finally got to come home and sleep in my bed for the first time in 16 nights.

And I am alive to tell the tale!  And if you’re this far, you are still alive after reading all of this.  Despite my literally death defying two and a half weeks, I think my greatest challenge will come this Saturday: my birthday.  Open bar.

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Since I’ve been here, a lot of people have asked me about the food.  Probably because most of my friends are American and we are the best at thinking about and eating food.  In fact, 65% of us are true professionals according to the CDC.  Here’s what I know so far: everything I have eaten has been delicious.

Delicious fruits

Delicious fruits

I want to give special attention to fruits because there are so many of them, and they are all so delicious and cheap.  For example, I bought these pineapples yesterday for 7 Baht each, 60 cents total, for 3.  There are street vendors selling all kinds of fruits pretty much everywhere you go.  You can buy them whole (as I do sometimes and bring them home) or they will cut them up for you if you want to eat them with a stick while you walk.  One of my favorites is dragon fruit (above).  I had only ever had the white flesh one until I got here.  A funny thing about the wine colored dragon fruit, it dyes your pee blood red.  After I put the pieces together and realized that my kidneys weren’t shutting down, it became a funny story.

Fruit takes many forms here.  Thai’s don’t really do Thai desert, but they have this stuff called Mango Sticky Rice which is amazing.  It’s exactly what it sounds like, sliced up mango and white sticky rice covered in coconut milk and sugar.  My students always say, “Teacher! you get the most fat if you eat!”.  I say, bring it on.  Then they stare at me, clueless, because that expression is not in their book.  Thirsty?  No problem, some street vendors stand there all day and hand press fruits into juices; oranges, pomagranates, guava, coconut etc.  The fruits of their labor are so delicious and cost me 20 cents.  Som Tam is a salad made from unripened green papaya, chilies, fish sauce and sugar.  Papaya is tangy when it’s not ripe, so this actually turns out to be really spicy and savory, not sweet.  Apparently the working women especially enjoy it because it doesn’t make them fat.

Noodles.  24/7.

Noodles. 24/7.

Noodles are a staple here.  This is Bat Mi Nam, which is basically just noodles with soup and veggies and spices and costs 60 cents.  This is another thing you can get just about anywhere, any time.  This is a photo of 4AM noodles.  There are LOTS of variations of how they prepare these.   I could probably eat a different variation every day for the whole year.  When I ask my students what they had for breakfast, it’s almost always noodles.  A lot of people have asked me about Pad Thai.  And that is actually the only thing I’ve eaten here that I didn’t really like.  Probably because they make it with dried shrimp which I’m not a huge fan of.  I hear that in the farang (white man) areas, you can get it with chicken like they do in the States, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Oh so painful, yet oh so delicious

Oh so painful, yet oh so delicious

Curry is another staple.  From least spicy to most spicy: yellow, green, red.  I have only ever had yellow.  Even the yellow is so spicy that it physically hurts my mouth but I just keep eating it.  I think I would die if I ever ate red.  Maybe I will try after I have had about 10 Chang beers to numb the pain.

You can also get pretty much any food to go, including soda, which they give to you in a plastic bag with a straw.  Like every other country in the world except America, they re-use glass bottles so they keep the bottle to get the deposit and you get a sack of Fanta.  Also, as I learned last weekend, do not try to pour hot curry out of a plastic bag into a bowl or you will burn your hands, swear a lot and make a huge mess.

Curry to go.

Curry to go.  Hopefully not onto the floor next time.

On top of the staples of fruit, curry and noodles, there are a gajillion other kinds of street food.  Pancakes, fried chicken, sausages, balls of various meats, sticks of meat, omelettes, rices, ice cream, sushi, baked stuff (although they kind of suck at this), schwarma, alcohol and I’m sure there are many I am forgetting and many more that I just haven’t seen yet.

People have asked me what I miss.  There are a few really specific American foods that I miss (Lou’s?), but for the most part, I can get everything here.  Bangkok is a huge cosmopolitan city with a lot of ex-pats so Western food isn’t terribly hard to find, fast food and otherwise.

Hi So.  Tuna tartar at a roof bar.

Hi So. Tuna tartar at a roof bar.

They have: McDonalds, KFC, Au Bon Pain, Dunkin’ Donuts, Pizza Hut, Carl’s Jr., DQ, Applebees, Baskin Robbins, Burger King, Starbucks and probably a bunch of others that I am forgetting, plus their own fast food chains.  Incidentally, KFC soft serve is amazing and only 10B (30 cents) for a cone.  There are also lots of really nice restaurants for the Hi So crowd.

Is the food clean/safe?  I think this is a relative term.  In America everything is SO sterile, and yet people still get sick.  If you’re eating street food, basically all of the ingredients are fresh, so you’re not getting all sorts of processed crap.  Fruits are the size that nature intended, you can name all of the ingredients in your dinner without using scientific words and you get clean chopsticks at all the food stands.  If you use common sense here, you’re generally OK.  Occasionally you’ll feel a little funky, but in my opinion, it’s worth it.

Despite all of this good food, things I will not eat: dried squid heads, turtles, large worm/snake/eel things, fish balls or insects.  I’m not trying to be Anthony Bourdain over here.

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Loi Krathong – ลอยกระทง

Thais do it right, they have holidays all the time.  Yesterday was Loi Krathong, which is a festival to honor the Water Goddess.  It translates literally to “floating crown”.  People make krathongs which are like little rafts made from bread or bamboo tree trunks or for the environmentally conscious, styrofoam.  They put incense and candles and money on them and then float them away on some body of water.

A giant krathong

Normal size krathong

Basically, the rivers/canals/ponds all end up with a bunch of garbage in them, which I find particularly ironic for a holiday that honors a water goddess.  There’s probably like a million Baht on the bottom of the Chao Phraya river.  Ca-ching.

Loi Krathong is also a fairly romantic holiday.  According to the newspaper “many young people will have sex on this day”.  Double ca-ching.  If your krathong floats away with your significant others, you are destined to be together forever.  If one of them flips over, sinks or suffers some other equally catastrophic fate, which is almost guaranteed to happen on the river… you get the picture…

Farang party

We farangs (the Thai word for white person) went to the river in hopes that it would be filled with lots of little floating flower ships with candles etc.  But we were disappointed when we got there and saw that basically as soon as your krathong hits the water, it bounces around in the chop and then flips over and joins the rest of the raft of garbage floating down the river.

After we shot off some fireworks, ate street food and drank beers from the 7/11 bar (aka, we bought beer at 7/11 and drank it on the street), we went to celebrate with these:

How strong?

Many of us saw the sun rise.

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The Chao Phraya Armada

The Thais can throw one kick ass processional.  I went to the river last weekend to check out a royal barge processional.  I was expecting it to be 2-3 boats like the ones they make those people in the Amazing Race foolishly try to row.  I was pleasantly surprised when I got to the river and there were in fact 50+ boats processing.

The information that I could glean is that there was some kind of donation going to Wat Arun (the large temple which is further down the river).  The prince was on the giant golden dragon mothership being fanned by someone else.  That’s it.

All hands on deck

The thing that was really cool is that they were somehow all in sync.  All the boats rowed at the same time.  And if they were floating faster than the boat abeam of them, they fake rowed.  They knew when to do everything without any kind of coxswain, even the lazy fake rowers.

Also, the show would have truly been complete if these guys had turned their motor on, because I bet all my Baht that this zodiac would have flipped over backwards and I think all those medals would have sank this guy right to the bottom.

They’d fit right in at the Playpen.

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Being an expatriate patriot

It was nice to watch the final election results/speeches at 2PM instead of 2AM for once.  Being abroad for a US election was an interesting experience.  In general, I think it is a common misconception that people in other parts of the world give 2 shits about America.  Much like American’s really don’t care about other countries, unless they have oil, cocaine or Beatles.

Screen shot from my live streaming stunning high def. video

However, the election was a different subject.  In the weeks leading up to it, many people from all over the world asked me who I thought was going to win.  I said I didn’t know.  And the response from every single person, no matter what their background or nationality was some variation of “I hope Barak wins”.  As an American living abroad, you can probably imagine that I was a little on edge knowing that the polls were basically at 50:50 going in to the election and every person that I had talked to was rooting for Barack.

I’m no scientist, but do you think maybe there is something about the foreign policy of a Democratic administration that makes the rest of the world not be disgusted by Americans?  I’m sure there are some people reading this and grumbling to yourself “hand outs, Democrats make America weak, grumble grumble”.  To which I would like to simply respond, how is it a weakness if people from other countries have a positive image of the leader of America?  I think there is nothing stronger.

Needless to say, I was relieved when the results came in and I knew I would be answering the question “are you excited?!” vs. “what the hell happened?”  I felt a sense of pride about America on Tuesday that I never felt when I was living abroad in 2007 (when I, on several occasions, encountered burning US flags, Bush effigies and Death to America signs).  I was Canadian more than once during that time.

I get a special feeling of joy from all the people who updated their facebook statuses after the election results saying, “That’s it!  I’m moving out of America!  Rar rar rar”.  Well friends, go for it, and you will soon be very happy that when you show your passport, that there is a Democratic president associated with it.

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Pha That Luang

Laos, where the hell is that?   It’s a very poor, landlocked country bordered by Thailand and Vietnam and some other countries that are equally obscure to a non-geography bee winner.  It is a “People’s Democratic Republic”, aka Communist.  As an American, I couldn’t help but feel a little naughty spending my USDs there, but their silks and banana pancakes were too alluring.

I had to go there last week to get my work visa from the Thai consulate.  In order to get the proper visa to work here, you have to actually leave the country and go to a consulate in another country and then re-enter Thailand, makes a lot of sense.  Vientiane (the capital of Laos) is a popular place for people to go, so I hopped on the overnight train last Tuesday and headed North.

The icebox.

Trains in the developing world are a real mixed bag.  Almost everything about them is annoying, and you just deal with it, but there is always one thing that makes you completely insane.  On this train, that one thing was the subzero air conditioning paired with a “blanket” for sleeping.  Thank god I was smart enough to get drunk in the bar car with a British guy before heading to bed otherwise I would never have fallen asleep.  Remember in Frosty the Snowman when the little girl was dying in the freezer car with Frosty?  That’s what it was like after my delicious beer blanket wore off.

I made it to Nong Khai (the Thai border town), right on time, 3 and a half hours late.   I booked it via Tuk Tuk to the border so that I could get to the embassy before 12 when they stop taking applications.  The driver stopped at a travel agency to try to get me to pay them for forms or something and I was like, just go to the border NOW.  So I got to the border and fumbled around with all my forms and got my Laotian visa and headed across the Mekong River into Laos.  Unfortunately, I missed the cut off time for submitting my visa paperwork, which doomed me to spend an extra day in Laos.

After checking into my hotel, I went to do some ‘sploring.  Vientiane has a well earned reputation for being the most boring town around, but I happened to be there on some special Buddhist holiday when magic pink light balls come out of the river (?), or so I was told, but I didn’t know that until the next day, so I missed it.  But there was a huge market/carnival going on so at least I had one day of entertainment.

Ride ’em coyboy.

A finely crafted fun machine. Of Death.

American carnivals are so “safe” and “inspected”; this one gave me the real thrill that a carnival is supposed to give you… that “this thing is coming off the rails and I am surely going to die” thrill.  They had carnival games, bumper cars, a ferris wheel and a haunted house, which probably was actually terrifying.  There were a ton of people selling all sorts of crap.  I couldn’t help but buy myself a super hippie skirt, for 30,000 kip, which is about $3 USD.  I negotiated it down to that price which I kinda feel bad about, but when I bought that skirt, within about 5 minutes, a bunch of Laotians bought the same skirt as the whitey.  Free marketing.

Thumbs up from Mickey’s evil Mexican twin

After all that fun, I headed into one of the nearby temples to get some photos and it was really beautiful, especially since I was there just before sun set.  The monks had 6 foot tall speakers set up in the courtyard and they were bumping out Ke$ha and Britney which was incongruous to say the least, but I guess  Buddha likes to get down too.

Monestary at sun set.

It also happened to be Halloween when I was there.  My costume was “a white person”.  When I got back to my hotel, I noticed many other people in costumes.  They were wearing perfectly tailored military uniforms and had very realistic automatic weapons slung over their backs.  Oh wait, no, those weren’t costumes, that was just the military putting up a camp in the empty lot next to my hotel.  Yippeee.

I got up at the crack of dawn on Thursday morning, greeted the military garrison outside and headed to the consulate so I could get the visa BS taken care of.  As I’ve mentioned many times before, there is only one thing in the world that Americans are unarguably the best at: waiting in line.  No other nationality is better than an American at waiting in line.  So being the first person at the consulate (which I was) is a very different thing than being first in line.  I ended up 4th, because other people literally came up and physically pushed me out of the way to be first.  All part of the experience… I tell myself…

I got all that stuff handed in, and it takes a day to process so I couldn’t pick it up until Friday at 1, which means that my train ticket for Thursday night was useless.  Meh.  I spent the rest of the day wandering around and went to check out the big golden temple, which is about the only thing to see in Vientiane.

So much gold.

With the exception of when I got sexually molested by a monk and had to grab him by the neck (a whole different story), the temple was really cool.  Lots of golden Buddhas everywhere, and it was a beautiful day so it looked especially cool against the bright blue sky.  The next 12 hours after that were painfully uneventful, so much so that I spent about 40 minutes dancing around my room to techno like the iPod silhouettes.

Friday, I picked up my visa and got the F outta there.  All in all, I made it out of Laos alive, with a visa, some silks, and a good story, which is the best I could hope for.

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Monks Galore

All 2600 of them didn’t fit in my frame

I have been seeing signs for a big monk gathering since my first day here.  Pretty much all I could decipher was that it was from 6-8AM, there would be 2600 of them, and it was on October 20th.  So I dragged my ass outta bed this morning after only getting 3 hours of sleep to see what this was all about.

Which one is not like the others

Apparently the dress code for non-monks is white.  Whoops, missed that point, but that didn’t stop these staffers from wanting a photo with the farang.  So there I was, a giant whitey (I’m 5’6″ and these women are wearing heels and are still that much shorter than me), wearing the wrong color clothes and carrying a camera that doesn’t fit in my pocket.  Perfect disguise for them to believe I was a member of the foreign press.  I got into the photographer area, which gave me a wayyyy  better view of what was going on.  If sales taught me anything, it’s fake it til you make it, and that’s just what I did.

Ramen noodle for all.

Anyway, back to the point of the gathering.  I’m not 100% sure on this, but from what I can tell, monks gather food as like a charity thing.  Kind of how we buy the cheapest, most dented can of mystery meat/dog food at the grocery store and put it in the food donation box so that some lucky soul can eat it on Thanksgiving while we’re stuffing ourselves with human food.  The first part of the gathering is a Mass type thing.  People speak and the monks sit and listen and fall asleep, just like church.  I was kind of unsure of what this was all about, so after about an hour of speakers, I didn’t really know what was going on, and I was bored and hot (Bangkok is the hottest city in the world), but I knew that if I stayed til 8, then at least something would happen when the monks got up to leave.

Monks and their spiritual orbs, aka upside down bowls

Then at about 8:00, the monks started chanting.  And wow, that was cool.  I  have no idea what they were chanting, but it was awesome and way better than those “peaceful sounds” CDs you buy at Walmart.

When they were done chanting, that’s when the real stuff started to happen.  They all had these things in their laps, and I was thinking to myself, ohhhh, I’m so smart, those must be some sort of spiritual orb symbolizing the circle of life and Buddhist reincarnation.  No, they are actually just bowls that were turned upside down.  The real press all started shuffling away toward the long aisle through the crowd, so I did the same.

Monk parade

Monk parade

People were sitting on the ground on a huge white plastic covering all along the aisle with big tupperware boxes of food.  The monks all stood and lined up, and started parading down the aisle, single file, and I was smack in the middle.  I didn’t notice, but all the press were men, which is probably because monks can not touch women, can’t brush past them, bump into them, nothing, and it was a pretty narrow aisle.  Once they started their march, some of the women along the aisle called me over and pulled me in to sit down next to them to offer food to the monks.  So I hopped right in there with them and started handing out packages of noodles, drinks, corn, all sorts of non-perishables from these womens’ boxes.  They just kept handing me more and saying “put, put”.  Again, as a woman, I can’t touch the monks, that’s why they have the bowls.  As each one walked by, we put food in their bowls and gave a little bow.  Then they emptied the bowls into big collection bags.

If I’d known, I would have brought a can of creamed Spinach without the label

Once the monk parade was over, the holy men hit the streets, and all the regular people gave them food.  Walking through the crowd on the way out was a little tricky cause the monks have big robes and it was hard to not be the stupid, giant American that bowls over some old man monk by accident.

Some observations: 

1. Monks have the sweetest tats:

Monk ink

2. Monk CIA.  Don’t mess.

That radio is a direct line to Buddha

3. Monks probably hate cramming on to the bus just as much as the rest of us

Beep Beep, Monktown express

4. There’s always a gift shop

2 dolla

5. They have better uniforms

Make love, not war

6. Sometimes a monk just gotta holla at his boys (note the sweet ink)

Yo what up bro?

I’m hoping that Buddha will enlighten me and help me find the way to an apartment….

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