Thailand, the beautiful

The night air hangs thick with humidity, pollution, and sin.

Fluorescent light from the hawker stands illuminate the narrow, dirty sidewalks of Suhkumvit soi 16. It is the longest road in Bangkok, and more illicit activities are transgressing at any point along this behemoth passageway than any five mile radius in America.

Down the street from our super-swank hotel replete with two roof-top pools, Jamie and I are sitting at a small table and stool on the sidewalk. Having just landed in Bangkok after some adventures in the South, we’re impatiently waiting for a hot bowl of seafood stew from a vendor when a madame approaches, speaking in Thai and gesturing at Jamie and I to clear out because we’re squatting on the island of tables that belong to her charge, the svelte, heavily made-up early-30ish woman lounging next to us. I only want a place to eat my food, she wants ideal client-luring positioning, so we quickly negotiate over to the tables on the other side of the sidewalk.

My memories of Thailand, when I went last year in February, are hazy from time and booze, but after writing two articles about New Rod Dee, Thai restaurant in Allston, and a Thai red curry recipe, I decided it’s time that what happened in Thailand, …goes on the internet?

This is an account of what I remember when sifting through my “Thailand Feb-2009″ folder. Some of these I don’t remember at all, so I will make it up as I go along. As you read this, I suggest clicking the play button on that Job2Do video to feel as if you were there as well.

Doo Ter Tum by Job2do

Even the color-blind can see this

In Thailand, every color symbolizes a day of the week, for example, Tuesdays are pink and Sundays are red. I totally just chose my two favorite colors for that. Pink cars are prevalent, and driven by men as well. Thai culture is not so petty as to attribute such trivial matters like color to gender norms, like associate pink to emasculation. How liberating.

Tastes like soft-shelled crabs.

One of my favorite thing to do is frolic through Asian supermarkets in search of the Asia-specific-specialty flavors for American products. Like, “nori seaweed” or “garlic soft-shelled crab” Lays’ chips??? My question is, how can one tell whether it tastes like soft-shelled crabs or blue crabs or Alaskan king crabs in potato-chip form? Or is it like cloud watching? Shouldn’t it fundamentally taste like potatoes? Or is that an artificial flavor additive as well? Man, processed foods kind of weird me out sometimes.

While being chauffeured around, we pass by the government buildings and Red Shirt party protesters. For those of y’all who skip the South-Eastern news in the papers, they are the cause of all those airport closings and drama. They’re a rowdy bunch. Just two weeks ago, mid-April, one of the Red Shirt guys scaled down the side of a hotel from the third floor after po-pos converged on the room hoping to round up rebel leaders. This reminds me of a few parties I have been to in the past.

At some point, we wandered into Central Mall, officially the largest mall in Southeast Asia and inevitably, to find some things to please the belly. The only time before this I have had mall food this great was in San Francisco (where grilled sword fish was served in food courts, oh MY). The curries we ordered were fiercely spicy and after a few bites, Jenn, Jamie, and I were reduced to tears and sweating a little despite the strong air-con. The meal took longer than anticipated because we had to stop every so often to sob into our napkins.

I’d even drink the water from the Chao Phraya river to make my nerve endings stop hemorrhaging. Those river houses are quite adorable, and I wonder how much the residents were hating on all those, us, foreigners gawking at “authentic Thai living” and feeding their catfish bread. Who wants to eat catfish that overloads on carbs? If I were subsisting off the river I live on, I would wanna eat catfish that eats other fish, as they should, and rain violence on those people who are screwing with my food source.

After a few days of city adventures, my travel companions, Jenn, Jamie, Suvi, and I ventured south to Phuket, Phi-Phi, and Krabi to soak in more natural grit from sand and ocean. Here is a revealing picture of me descending upon shark and noodles, in the midst of my most carnal moment. The shark tastes like chicken, and the noodle was not bad, but the main draw was that we were eating on a beach and the ocean shimmered a rapturous blue-green in the near distance. In ten more minutes, I will leave this frame and leap into that vast and briny soup.

“Let’s park this elephant in the driveway next to the SUV!”

Thailand is the “Land of Smiles” but it is also “Land of exploiting elephants”. Actually, these furry beasts are quite happy since all we do is feed them bananas all day while we perch on its back as it happily tromps through the jungles and poos into the tiny streams. It’s like, if I “work” on the internet and my employer buys me lunch. Wait, that’s what I do anyway! Sweet!

That motorbike.. should not be moving. And yet.

In the middle of the photo dump, I find this. Oh, Jack. What a character. He is this random beach boy we picked up in Ao Nang who took us kayaking, and as Jamie and I were paddling in one kayak and he another, we hear a tiny voice shouting, “Help! Help! I’m stung by a jellyfish!” from Jenn. We beach on a random island-esque area, and like Jack, his namesake from Lost, our new boy-savior runs into the jungle, gathers some herbs, and completely heals the jellyfish stings on Jenn.

Hankering for a dip

The trio, sans Suvi (who had pressing matters to return to in civilized Japan), hire a long-tail boat to island-hop our way back from Krabi to Phi Phi and end up at this spectacular end of the world. Have you ever wondered what those picturesque looming cliffs in Disney films and Miyazaki animations are inspired by? Wonder no more. Nothing is more beautiful than what nature comes up with.

Danger, danger

But you would reconsider if you saw what was lurking underneath that clear Tiffany blue surface once the tide goes down. Rocks that would slice the unsuspecting. Unfortunately, most of the beaches around these parts are rocky once you go past the first five feet or so. Also, this is why those boats remain further out there. Same beach, three hours later. Vicious.

So the heroines resume their journey to Koh Phi Phi, tired out from playing leap frog on sharp rocks. I am in a coma on that hammock in the middle of the boat, Jamie is playing mummy, Jenn is cam-whoring from the deck, one of the crew is trying to lay bottle caps on Jamie’s leg without waking her up, and the captain is ignoring our ridiculous antics.

And the adventure continues with fire-dancers, heart-wrenching sunrise, stinky fruits, and Nigerian sex-traffickers.

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One Response to “Thailand, the beautiful”

  1. Jenn 04. May, 2010 at 10:47 pm #

    lol thx for the jellyfish tribute ;) lolol i still remember freakin out, and didnt we tip over @ one point? haha :D

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