Pictures from Bangkok are up! Please go here for my photostream. Unfortunately by the time I got into southern Thailand I was feeling way overwhelmed by the effort to get home, so I didn't take any photos in Hat Yai or Malaysia. I promise to go back and do Kuala Lumpur properly at some point in the future. And I want to do that train trip again too, maybe all the way down to Singapore.
Saturday/Sunday mental soundtrack ---> Love Is All -Minor victory: when the counter agent is impressed with how small your bag is. -Murky Seattle vistas. -Holy crap, I'm flying to Asia for the first time ever. -I stopped counting after the Marine in the seat next to me ordered his seventh Jack & Coke. And then there was his Skoal. -The Tokyo airport has its own manga-style mascot. Yes, even the toilets are cute. -Scoping out shopping and eating opportunities for the return trip. -Suntory bottled water and sumo wrestling on TV. -The Bangkok airport smells amazing, all spicy and edible. -Halls throat drops from my car driver when he heard me coughing and sniffling in the backseat. -Cutest room ever: #211 at Reflections Rooms. -I love it here I'm never leaving. Except now I must sleep.
Monday mental soundtrack ---> Andrew Bird -The plan is to eat noodles for breakfast every single morning. Because I can. -Hello Kitty Kleenex. -The Skytrain rules hard. -So does the Chao Phraya Express Boat. -Monk on a cell phone! -Very important street-crossing technique: put a native Thai between me and any oncoming traffic. -Art students and napping kitties in the Silpakorn University sculpture garden. -Confusing the security guards with my poor Thai in my attempt to find Wat Mahathat. -Bargaining monks in the amulet market. -Riverside food vendors. -Sanam Luang all decked out with displays to honor the recently-cremated princess. -An ice cream bar in the park to fight the heat. -Being unexpectedly moved to tears by the displays of devotion at the feet of the Emerald Buddha in Wat Phra Kaew and sipping fresh mango juice on the grounds of the Grand Palace. -Prayers and offerings at Lak Meuang. -Tourist status sealed by getting the "temple is closed" attempt outside of Wat Pho. -Wat Pho itself a serene meander to find the ginormous reclining Buddha. -Spring rolls, pan-fried sea bass, melon in sweet coconut milk at Deck, all with a view across the river to Wat Arun. -Bad-ass Bangkok street kitties. I'm adopting one. -My first Thai massage. Holy moly, bruises for a week.
Tuesday mental soundtrack ---> Spiritualized -Pre-democracy Thailand history at the King Prajadhipok Museum. -Wow thunderstorms really do feel good in the tropics. -The entire city at my feet from the top of Golden Mount. -Alleys in Monk's Bowl Village filled with the soundtrack of hammer ringing on metal. -Saran-wrapped Buddhas in religious shops. -Sao Ching-Cha, a newer model of the swing upon which Brahmans once defied death. -Marble sign spelling out Bangkok's official (and very long) Thai name. -Killer vegetarian stir-fry and curry at Arroi. -More tears inside Wat Suthat in front of its Buddha and sky-high murals. -Friendly monks getting ready for an ordination. -Man stopping to feed a street kitty in Rommaninat Park. -Drying laundry and all manner of food vendors alongside the khlong. -Sino-Portuguese shopfronts built a hundred years ago. -Saphan Hok, a lever bridge back to the more touristy royal island where I was the day before. Sure enough, the tuk-tuk drivers started chasing me again. -The distinctly Victorian Saranrom Royal Garden. -Piles of wholesale flowers and vegetables at the Pak Khlong Market. -Pomelo salad with dried shrimp, coconut and peanuts at Greyhound Cafe. -Nutella ice cream.
Wednesday mental soundtrack ---> Cornershop -Well, by occupying the international airport the anti-government protesters just cemented my poor opinion of them. -Saris and Bollywood posters in Phahurat (Little India). -Indian sweets and snacks in Trok Huae Med. -Commerce on steroids: a glut of Hello Kitty pens and stuffed animals in claustrophobic Sampeng Lane. -Peaceful intermission amongst old Chinese shophouses before plunging back into the Lane. -A beautiful old Bangkok Bank. -After some moments of complete and utter disorientation, finally locating the queue of people shuffling into Trok Itraranuphap for more street retail insanity. -Fresh cashews, lotus seeds, shiitake mushrooms and more for sale in Talat Leng-Buai-la. -Managing to order a bowl of veggie soup (and to find a seat) at Hong Kong Noodles. -Lively times at Wat Mangkon Kamalawat where an ancient man yelled at me in Thai that I didn't need to take my shoes off as I was respectfully slipping out of them. -Yawning monk. -Atmospheric shophouses and street food along Thanon Plaeng Nam. -Custard tarts from Hua Seng Hong. -Dingy neon on Thanon Yaowarat. -Wat Traimat and its 5+ tons of Golden Buddha. -Greasy machine shops in Talat Noi. -A Singha on the top deck of the River View Guest House. -Guava juice on the walk home. -Parliament might be dissolved...time for dinner! -A "Lady's Set" at Fuji Japanese restaurant. -MTV China.
Thursday mental sountrack ---> The Clash -Waking up to the news from Mumbai. Suddenly grateful to be enduring a mere political crisis and not terrorism. -Making instant friends with the woman who was my guide through Jim Thompson's House and its lush garden. -Thai iced tea by the koi pond. -My first Thai mosquito bite. What were the symptoms of dengue fever again? -Across the khlong to Baan Krua, the Muslim village where Thompson got his silk. -Following the sound of clacking looms to find the weavers. -Chatchai Puipia's collection of old artifacts, magazines, books and movies at 100 Tonson Gallery. -Thanksgiving lunch: Caprese salad, mushroom crepes baked under cheese, apple crumble with vanilla ice cream at Gianni Ristorante. -Megamalls around Siam Square nearly breaking me, but still managing to score some items I couldn't get anywhere else. -Passion fruit/beet root juice. -Flight canceled! After pondering trying to get out via Phuket, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, deciding just to hunker down in Bangkok for maybe a few extra days. -Grill-my-own veggies at Yuu. -Strawberry ice cream.
Friday mental soundtrack ---> Super Furry Animals -Sheesh even a declared state of emergency happens on Thai time. -Gorgonzola salad, garlic-and-chili-seared black kingfish, mango fritters at Cy'an. -Sakarin Krue-On's exploration of the past, present and future story of H Gallery, an old house turned art space. -Street food vendors in Bangrak Market. -Red bricks and stained glass in the Assumption Cathedral. -The faded exterior of the East Asiatic Company building. -Iced chai at the Oriental Hotel. -Awesome decrepitude at the Old Customs House, now housing the fire department and their paintball games. -Sleeping cats in Haroon Village. -Tempted by the biryanis at Naaz, but saving room for dinner. -Peering longingly over the closed gate at the Bangkokian Museum into its garden. -Finding many many temptations at River City's Old Maps & Prints shop. I did not give in, but they sure would have been easier to carry home than the Buddhas for sale nearby. -Drinkies in the form of gingered vodka and a spectacular sunset 64 stories above Bangkok at the State Tower's rooftop bar. -Coconut shrimp salad shooters, green curry eggplant, brownie-toffee malt at Spring. -Kind of wishing I was still going home Saturday. Definitely wishing they'd just kick those jerks out of the airport already.
Saturday mental soundtrack ---> Mew -Literally everything under the sun for sale at the Chatuchak Weekend Market. -Fried squid, fried mussels, fried egg croquettes at Tapas Cafe. -Quantum of Solace, Thai megaplex style. -A little more retail therapy. To take my mind off the airport situation, of course. -Mattar paneer, garlic naan, mango sorbet at Hazara.
Sunday mental soundtrack ---> Matmos -The sitting around waiting for something to happen is killing me. Time to spring into action and get my ass home. -And the last train ticket out of the city today is mine. Manifold blessings to the nice advance reservations office lady. -Back to the hotel to throw my stuff in my bag and profusely thank the staff for all their help. -Lunch from Mr. Bun at the Dutch-designed Hualamphong Railway Station. -The southern Thai countryside (and its cows) from the window of my 1st-class sleeper car. -My roommate: a PAD supporter. Of course. At least she apologized for my trouble and offered me a sesame pancake.
Monday mental soundtrack ---> Caribou -Being the day I rolled into Hat Yai just north of the Thailand/Malaysia border and promptly holed up at the Novotel while I waited for the next day's train to Kuala Lumpur, making ample use of my room's Asian entertainment channels and the last chance for a hot shower for a few days.
Tuesday mental soundtrack ---> Kraftwerk -What do you mean the train to Kuala Lumpur has been canceled? -But thank goodness for new friends who share their whiskey and keep me company on a hastily-procured overnight bus to Malaysia.
Wednesday mental soundtrack ---> School Of Seven Bells -Even if the aforementioned bus dropped us off on a rainy KL street corner at 4 in the morning. That's what 24-hour Chinese cafes are for. -Only mad dogs and white girls from the States go out in the Kuala Lumpur sun. -The old Kuala Lumpur train station and its Moorish turrets. -Gleaming white against a brilliant blue sky, the utterly modernish Masjid Negara (National Mosque). -Next door, the Islamic Arts Museum and its fascinating collection housed in an impressively-designed building. Domes and geometry, oh my. -Bird calls in the tropical jungle of Lake Gardens. -The KL skyline, brand-new skyscrapers smack up against colonial remnants. -Arriving at the airport to hear the protesters are finally leaving BKK. Who wanted to fly out of there anyway? -Feeling the closest to home that I have in this whole long journey. -Malaysia Airlines: two thumbs up.
Thursday mental soundtrack ---> Feist -The unintentionally hilarious (and vaguely disturbing) Chinese immigration and quarantine video, compulsory viewing upon entry to the country. -Japanese noodles at the Shanghai airport. -Home.
So my holiday in Bangkok was extended a bit when anti-government protesters took over the city's airports early last week and effectively stranded over 300,000 tourists, myself included. After much hemming and hawing I decided to take the long way home via Kuala Lumpur rather than sit tight and await some resolution to the uncertain political situation in Bangkok, and am now an expert on how to get to Malaysia by train and bus should anyone else ever need that information. Otherwise the rest of Bangkok was blissfully unaffected by the crisis, and I had a fantastic time exploring its nooks and crannies. A full trip report (and a gazillion pictures) will be up soon. But oh I am so happy to be home, especially after it took a full five days of travel to get here.
Things have been a little hectic lately, but as of tomorrow morning I'll be on a plane to Bangkok where I plan to spend a week sipping fruity beverages by the river, checking out the local art scene and eating a ton of amazing food. Oh yeah and getting a massage every day. Have a happy Thanksgiving, and I'll see you on the other side.