You Never Know When Someone is Watching

The hordes of tourists that crowd Bangkok’s Khao San area can be a great source of entertainment and fascination. Hanging out in the neighborhood for two weeks, I had lots of time to observe both Thailand and tourists.

Khao San: Vegas of the Tropics?

Khao San: Vegas of the Tropics?

Bangkok’s Khao San “backpacker ghetto” certainly isn’t the “real” Thailand, but I wasn’t looking for a culture fix after Beth left.  Really, I just needed a place where I could work uninterrupted for hours on end. Where a healthy, delicious, cheap snack was never more than 100 steps in any direction. Really, I just needed a break. “A break from traveling?!,” you ask. “How could that be?!”. Well, as Peter Moore says in No Shitting in the Toilet,

Going to the Doc in Bangkok: how a broken ankle can make you a celebrity

Seeing a Thai orthopedist to check on my busted ankle blew my mind. In spite of possessing at least a handful of functioning brain cells, I’ve still been socialized to believe everything in America is the best and everything outside of America is not the best.

Not just American medical care – Hollywood American medical care.

My subconscious set me up. I knew about Thailand’s international reputation for fantastic medical care. But somehow, I still expected an exam room from a 1950’s time warp. Not even the sets of ER, Scrubs, House, or Grey’s Anatomy, which one assumes represent quality American medical care, could have prepared me.

7 Lessons Travel Made Possible

What I like about travel is that it contains a dearth of opportunities to observe yourself. Having no job is a preferable ingredient. There are other ways to observe oneself if shucking your job isn’t an option. Meditation, therapy, and prayer come to mind. However, traipsing around in places where core functions are different – from what’s for breakfast to how strife is dealt with – practically forces the traveler (at least subconsciously) to learn about, compare, and evaluate all the different ways of being/operating/living.

I should say here that this entry is entirely and unabashedly about me. And hokey. You’ve been warned.

Ladyboys: Thailand’s third gender (and lesbian lessons)

The scantily-clad ladyboys at Calypso Cabaret are stunning. However, being mired in spreadsheets and delusional from the combined heat of the tropics, forty computer processors, and a busy kitchen – I nearly forgot to attend the show!

Sophisticated LED diagrams for Bangkok’s gnarly traffic.

A safe window to get across Bangkok on a Friday night (for a tourist who has never been where she’s going and would rather spend an hour sitting and waiting at her destination than be late for a performance) is two hours. I had 90-minutes to show time.

Bangkok Dental Care: one woman’s medical tourism experience

Even dental care can be an adventure in the context of a big, foreign city. Given Bangkok’s international reputation for excellent medical care, breaking my twenty-four-month dental abstinence in Thailand was an easy choice.

Not my photo, but the cab is the right color. And if you click the photo link at the end of the post, you can read a SE Asian (Malaysian) perspective on the BKK tourist scene.

Originally I planned on tackling the mysterious web of bus routes needed to get from Banglamphu to Siam Square. Two hours before my appointment I was feeling so anxious about screwing up somewhere, I scrapped the whole plan and jumped in a lime-green cab. I failed, however, to recalculate how I should proceed upon arriving in the neighborhood.

Thank god I have a photographic memory from which I could piece together a recollection of a few landmarks and their relationship with the dentist’s office. Lessons learned:
1) Bring the electronic device (with its maps and contact information), even when you don’t think you need it.
2) Always get the hotel reception to write – in Thai – the name of your destination. (Remember that worst English in SE Asia thing? The taxi drivers know no more English than you know Thai.)

No Speakeen English: adorable Thai translations

The English spoken in Thailand is some of the worst in SE Asia. I’m not being a snobby tourist who thinks locals should learn my language. Far from it. I’m happy when anyone speaks a language I know! But the Thai government is concerned that when the ASEAN community is realized in 2015, Asians with great English skills will flood Thailand usurping tourism jobs (6% of Thailand’s GDP) and leaving locals in the lurch (4 million currently employed in the industry).

"Sanuk" in action!

One might ask why the English is so bad in a country that thrives on tourism – a past-time whose auditory currency is the ubiquitous English language.

Portrait of Thailand: items of note in ‘The Land of Smiles’

More random observations from your’s truly –

  • “There’s a drink for that!” – the city trains in Bangkok have a loop of TV commercials using myriad stereotyped actors to advertise a variety of drinks that come in containers the size of baby food jars. Not sure what each drink does, but it all seems very exciting.

  • Waitress uniforms at popular restaurants involve short, one-shoulder dresses that would be beautiful if they weren’t colored to mimic and covered in logos from beer cans.

  • A pad thai street vendor

    It surprising, with food available every three steps, that the Thai aren’t more corpulent. Within a block, I saw

Being a Woman in Bangkok: beauty and shopping take a toll

A beauty spa is really a torture chamber in disguise. All my life I’d innocently assumed rich women go to be pampered – Cleopatra style. When Beth suggested we treat ourselves to a massage, body scrub, and sauna during her final days in Thailand, I though, “Why not? Might as well see for myself what this ‘spa’ business is all about.

This is how it all begins. Look innocent enough, eh?

First came the “oil massage.” We started on two mattresses behind a curtain, stripped to our skivvies.  The massage progressed just as my only previous Thailand “oil massage” did.  Unlike the kneading movements used by American masseurs, in Thailand, long firm strokes are the rule.  I kind of felt like a household pet, but when in Rome… (or Bangkok).  Unfortunately, things went from different to awkward when it was time to go belly up. Erroneously, I thought the Thai oil massage experience I’d had three years ago with Nicole was a one-off fluke. Not so.

Beth’s Bangkok Blast-off: Introducing the Filipina to Backpacking & Thailand

Beth and I on one of our fun, fantastic evenings in the Philippines.

I first met my spike-heel wearing, heat-packing friend Beth in the Philippines at a benefit concert for Bob, a man who has since passed away. I was enamored immediately. I make a habit of collecting blunt, passionate friends who tell me what to do. And don’t mind when I refuse. We had so much fun together in her home country, that meeting up in mainland SE Asia was a natural next step. Well, kind of.