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Life is a Journey, Savor it.


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High-stakes, big rewards Bangkok

More than New York City, Bangkok is the city that never sleeps. Motorbikes zoom past, tuk tuks chug along, street cart grills hiss and fry, people are on the move. And, more than anywhere else I’ve visited during this trip, Bangkok is the city that buzzes most and demands the most from its visitors. It also rewards the determined.

10pm, traffic, moto-taxis, office lights and BTS all full speed ahead.

10pm, traffic, moto-taxis, office lights and BTS all full speed ahead.

Stay attuned, watch where you go, immerse yourself. It’s not safety per se that obliges your full attention but rather a vigilance to not be subsumed, silently and with little fight, which excoriatingly threatens you. Famously when the lead character is lost in the Hangover 2’s Bachelor party Blitzkreig another whispers: “Bangkok has him now, and she’ll never let him go.” There’s no truer line in this Hollywood party blockbuster. Like a sailor on rough, unfavorable seas the existence you so cling to and feel entitled to is at best fickle and fleeting in the merciful grasp of this beast. Don’t forget this merry piece of trivia.

For all the effort that Bangkok demands to occupy its havoc, the plight tribulations resurrect generously fruitful. Any long time inhabitant will proudly share their tales of urban conquest–tales akin to epics but which pass as the everyday survival. The citizens are an inexplicable blend of grit and suave, with a determination born out of salmon-swimming-upstream diligence and the finesse enough to navigate with daring, strategic congeniality.

Bangkok rushhour: you're perpetually swimming against the current, gasping for air.

Bangkok rushhour: you’re perpetually swimming against the current, gasping for air.

I can’t really put my finger on this place– it would take lifetimes to map the pulse of these 8.2 million inhabitants–but in my fifth reluctant visit I’m am starting to taste the umami beyond the bitterness. For starters there’s the food: a bounty of it and damn good. Stay away from the touristy places with simplistic names (e.g. “MyThai Love”) instead search out places with humble street fronts and a few poorly lit menu photos. Look tempting? Take a lean 30 degrees to the left or right of the frontman and glimpse the interior. Is it packed with chattering Thais? Go there. Sultry breast of duck with wonton in fresh broth beckons.

Duck with wonton, noodles and fresh broth.

Humble, no-frills duck. Tastes unimaginably better than it even looks.

As you dine observe the customs of the patrons and proprietors. In the best places you’ll find a harried owner darting from table to table with an affable air and dogged love of his offerings. He may even sing to the praises of his dishes, staff and customers. Alternatively scan the room for the hawk eye, the manager/owner who watches over all with precise vision. The servers do not dare look up to catch her gaze but they are profoundly alert to the scrutiny they must constantly bow under.

Typical set up of a street stall. Carts like this can whip out between 3-8 dishes within less than 2 square meters.

Typical set up of a street stall. Carts like this can whip out between 3-8 dishes within less than 2 square meters.

The energy of Bangkok is palpable, like a troop of teenage boys on prom night. Anticipation is placed on every moment and even the briefest lapses in the doting attention of suitors are punished with swift disregard. Flatter the courtesan that is Bangkok. Her beauty may be mysterious and vaguely grotesque yet nothing short of full, consuming yearning (albeit with no promise of reward) will suffice. That is the mystique, the addiction, the folly that Bangkok offers. Play by her rules like an unquenchable but daft suitor; observe and attend to her. Be aware of thine enemies at all times.

Beautiful, astounding and sometimes harsh Bangkok. Click here to see more of the Grand Palace, Boat Taxis and temples.

Beautiful, astounding and sometimes harsh Bangkok. Click here to see more of the Grand Palace, Boat Taxis and temples.

This is the High-Stakes Gamble that is Bangkok: The stakes are towering but with study, luck and intuition the table is mighty favorable. So, do ya feel lucky?

Get spun by the whirr of this great city--careful where you land.

Get spun by the whirr of this great city–careful where you land.

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Ode to My Mamacita

It’s hard to believe it was nearly 15 years ago that my mother and I argued over banal shit (oops, sorry mom: banal stuff). We’ve both changed by multiple measures since those days of being co-hormonal and grinching about the laundry, what to have for dinner, each others’ driving skills (or lack thereof, depending upon perspective).

Both of us have experienced tremendous losses of multiple loved ones. Sometimes we’ve shared those losses: uncle/brother, best friends, parent/Opa. Each subsequent loss has left us each more tender to the world but raw towards each other, isolated and hurt in our grieving. More often than not, our mournings have been separate as we glimpse at one another, cautiously offering empathy from afar but never quite comfortable co-habitating in the difficult emotional spaces of tragedy and disease.

The quote may belong to Emerson but it is the parenting philosophy embraced by my mother.

The quote may belong to Emerson but it is the parenting philosophy embraced by my mother.

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If–>Then: Planning & Decision-making

I aim to be optimistic and always provide a genuinely encouraging portrayal of travel and life on the road but right now it feels downright dull and aggravating. Aggravating because of the combination of a plethora of options and my indecision paralysis are slowly driving me nuts. I know I don’t really have anything to complain about and I know my life is damn good; I’m blessed beyond measure to be able to travel footloose and fancy free–but I shall whine a bit regardless… Without the urgency of a compressed timeline (e.g. vacation, sabbatical) or the restrictions of needing to adhere to a specific itinerary, I find myself feeling listless and uninspired for the first time in months. I’ve been going for the better part of a year and it appears I’ve hit my slump.

For the record: I adore Waffle House (scattered, covered, smothered).

For the record: I adore Waffle House (scattered, covered, smothered).


My drive to pack up the backpack and hit the road is on hiatus. The itchy feet that plagued me months ago are feeling heavy and reluctant to put on more miles. The novelty of unfettered travel has lost some of its luster and now I feel like I’m sitting alone on a sticky vinyl booth inside an all-night diner; it’s 1am. The broken fluorescent lights twinkle off the dented silver milk tin next to my bottomless cup-o-joe as an indifferent waitress stares down at me. Though there are no other customers, she is impatient and irritated with me. Continue reading


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Arrived in Ayutthaya!

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After a lazy morning, rainy river taxi ride, and serene experience at wat pho in Bangkok (famous for the huge gilded reclining Buddha and as the birthplace of Thai massage) Kate and I hurriedly commuted across Bangkok and onto a train bound for the historical capital of Siam: Ayutthaya.

We couldn’t have timed it any better. Arriving at Sam sem station near the Dusit area of Bangkok at about 4:40, I stepped up to the window, announced my destination and paid a whopping 28 baht (28 baht, less than $1!!!) for a train to Ayutthaya! Not 5 minutes later the train arrived and we hopped on for the 2 hour ride north.

Upon arrival we had one of those cliche tuk tuk rides in which the driver insists he knows the location of your destination yet proceeds to drive in circles for the better part of an hour. Oi vey.

Luckily neither Kate nor I needed to pee and, thanks to my handy stash of PB&J survival materials, we’d sated our hanger. This left us only slightly annoyed at the inconvenience but also slightly chuffed at our sunset cruise around the ancient city. We watched the sunset over brick stupas and glimmered in awe as flood lights turned the millennia-old city into a dramatic scene that transported us to wonderment and awe….

Our hotel is delightful & dainty and gives free bike rentals so we’re sunscreened and ready to explore!!!

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Comfy shoes-ville

Coming back to Chiang Mai is like comfy shoes. The streets are familiar, I practically know the yoga schedules by heart, and there’s always delicious food to be had. Best of all there are familiar and friendly faces to reunite with and exchange hugs.

A common refrain amongst those who call chiang Mai home is that many–okay most–came here for a 2 days, were just passing through, or otherwise considered CM just one more stop along the SE Asian travel circuit. What none expected to find was a place that basically exudes a magnetic pull: if you feel it, you can’t leave the force field until CM decides to let you.
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Recipe for Adventure

Description:

This is a well-researched recipe for succulent adventure in a tropical local. For it you will need some basic ingredients (motorbikes) and some selective ingredients (Brazilian, Czech). In either case you should be able to locate these ingredients or suitably similar substitutes in most budget hotels.

If you follow this quick-adventure recipe you will arrive at a gorgeous, picturesque tropical beach with one flat tire, a mighty thirst, slight sunburn and encased in a layer of very thick brown dust. Improvisation and experimentation is encouraged!

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Pastered in a brown crust of sweat, sea salt, and road dirt/grime. Note the very fetching unibrow!

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Flight Roster of Filth

125 passengers on a recent Tiger Airways flight from Bangkok to Clark air base (budget airport 2.5 hours north of Manila):

3 families (5 kids total)
18 total female travelers (2 older teenage backpackers, 3 white female travelers, 15 Filipinas)
~20 Filipino men (including a group of about 10 adorable, 30-something gay men)

85 (the rest): bald spots, sunburns, oversized, overwhelmingly middle-aged to older white men Continue reading