06 January 2006

Holy smokes, batman

You know that feeling where your head's about to crack and it feels vulnerable and dull like an egg that was boiled three weeks ago and left on the table to collect dust? Neither do I.

I was in Laos a week ago. A week ago I was in Laos. Now I'm back in the land of freedom fries where everyone's huge and old. (Thai people are so small...and they age so well, Thailand feels like the land of children now. My mind is filled with visions of skywalks filled with Thai uniforms.) It's cold here. And the sky is brilliantly blue.

The refrigerator's different. This is more disturbing than it should be. Apparently, our old, brown, faithful fridge bit the dust the night before Thanksgiving, and now there's a looming, white, sterile, foreign intrusion in our kitchen. It's very white. And big. And it doesn't hum--it makes a quiet, hissing, boiling water sound instead. Reality blinks every time I walk into the kitchen.

Scratch

"Don't eat those beets, they'll make your teeth turn red." -- The Mad Prince

03 January 2006

Control burn

I'm leaving Bangkok today at 8 pm. Weird. How do these things happen?

Ironically, I've been pretty careless this whole trip about eating streetfood and [gasp!] drinking tap water, but my body waited until the day before I leave to get sick. (Mmm...20 hour airplane ride with an unhappy stomach...sounds thrilling...I blame the ever-sketchy Shangrila restaurant in Chinatown. Stay away. Stay far away.) Actually, it's not half bad. It's given me the excuse to lie in bed all day and collect my thoughts from where I'd left them.

The most tragic part is that my appetite took off running at the first signs of trouble. All those mouth-watering Thai dishes I wanted to try for the last time...one sniff and my stomach jumps into my throat. Rice, bread, and salt-water it is, then. (BTW, ginger is pretty damn effective at stamping out nausea. )

I've spent the last month traveling with Eve and my family. I didn't realize it would be so hard to travel with other people. I felt so responsible for them. When I travel on my own I tend to get incredibly lonely, but I don't worry too much about myself. I can deal with just about anything: strange food, street-cons, pushy tuk-tuk drivers, cold showers, grubby rooms, filthy streets. Suddenly I found myself worrying about 4 other people. What could they eat? Where should I take them? How can I protect them from making all the traveling mistakes I've already made?

I feel like I've relived Thai culture shock twice through Eve and my family...I had to experience Bangkok through their eyes in order to show them around. I'd already settled into Bangkok pretty comfortably, but when they arrived, I had to force myself to remember all the unsettling things I'd stopped noticing.

That aside, it was absolutely smashing to hang out with my brother and Eve. Good times. Ask me about Mike's special passport sometime.

Highlights include:
  • Riding the train 1st class
  • Dancing on the beach in thunderstorm winds
  • Random haircut while waiting for a train in Surrathani
  • Surrathani's night market
  • Watching a game of kataw (think volleyball with feet)
  • Trekking in Northern Thailand (yummm...silkworms and green chile)
  • Battlescars from bamboo rafting
  • Laos (and spilling hot chocolate, coffee, tea...)
  • Vampyre and the Jazz club
Modes of transport I've used in Thailand/Cambodia/Laos:

Foot, bike, taxi, tuk tuk, public bus, skytrain, motorbike taxi, subway, friends' cars, riverboat, canal boat, train (1st class, 2nd class sleeping, 2nd class sitting, and third class), inter-city buses (VIP, 1st class, and 2nd class), songthaew, pick-up truck, airplane, elephant (okay, that one doesn't count), mini-van, mini-van with a rigged gas tank (shudder, shudder), long-tail boat, ferry, and express boat.

Best way to travel between cities: train
Best way to travel within Bangkok: riverboat
Best way to travel within Bangkok runnerup: skytrain

No coup d'├ętat. Apparently it was a rumor spread by Thaksin for nefarious purposes. Whatever.