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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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Beguiling Filipino “CR”

In th Philippines I eat pink chewable pepto bismol tablets as if they are candy. The candy is especially helpful on long bus rides inching along at top speeds of 25 kph through mud and muck in the middle of nowhere jungle. A recent 141km journey from El Nido to Roxas took four hours and included an impromptu stop that nearly broke both axels off of the lime green Roro Coach.

Waking up in the mornings there’s a gurgle in my tummy and a feeling of sheer dread. I automatically evaluate my restroom options for the day and in the immediate vicinity. Filipinos are fond of inexplicable devices that pass as toilets. A favorite is the itsy bitsy commode; these are white porcelain bowls the size of a toddler’s training potty and they are no more than a foot off the ground, usually pushed deep into a corner and smack dab against the wall. It creates a predicament for men and women alike: to squat or not..? Aim and good luck? Sit? (Heavens no to sitting!)

To say toilet paper is lacking would be a gross misstatement. To call it a luxury would also be a misstatement. Toilet paper is a precious resource retained by the ultra-privileged, the 1% if you will. It’s fitting then that we tourists seem to be the only ones concerned with its presence. Befuddlingly, it’s easy enough to procure TP and is readily available in most stores, yet it has been appropriated for a great many causes which do not involve its appellate purpose. The Filipinos utilize TP as FT, face tissue and who knows what else. At any rate, it’s lacking in proximity to actual toilets and so is soap for that matter. Befuddling.

The common Filipino nomenclature for the bathroom further drives home the fact that the joke is on us tourists, as if the name used to refer to restrooms is in itself specifically intended to administer a very small but inescapable dose of justice to balance the scales of dignity. Or perhaps the nomenclature is more benign than that and intended to merely perplex, amuse and describe… It accomplishes each of these feats…

Whether it be a deluxe apparatus with stalls, seats and flushing capabilities, or a mere hole in an outhouse or just a corner at over-that-there beach, each of these spaces is universally referred to as a “comfort room.” It’s the bane of many a traveler in The Philippines who find the CRs beguiling at best and cruel, punishing torture devices with a demonic sense of humor at worst.

One determination about the CR is beyond argument, you’ll find no comfort here.


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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!

Image

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

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Grand Palace, Bangkok

Collage of all Bangkok photos. Once internet improves a link will be provided to all individual images. Thank you for your patience!

Collage of all Bangkok photos. Click below to access individual images on Flickr.

Even to sit here and take it in, the Grand Palace in Bangkok is unimaginable.

The level of attention paid to every element of aesthetic design–from the colorful glass and tile mosaics on temple columns, to the multi-tiered gilded window portages and the handpainted porcelain tiles along the low walls–it mystifies and muddles the mind. Too detailed, too much color. A complete visual immersion into sophisticated and historic riches of generations and generations of Thai monarchies. Continue reading


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Bags temporarily packed again: I’m off to Chiang Rai to the North in the morning.

Por que? To visit a fellow Duck and friend from International Studies (!!!) AND for my first meditation retreat. Good times ahead 🙂