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May 18, 2006

"one of the leading hotels in the world"

i got up ridiculously early today to check out of my USD$10 per night singapore hostel and head off to the airport, where i met C. in outside my boarding gate in the high-tech hallways of singapore airport.

i flew out to thailand on garuda air (while the ticket may have been cheap, the food was terrible. if you're flying from singapore to bangkok, i recommend either flying on malaysia air, or on the new tiger airways that people are talking about).

after arrival in bangkok, we checked into the sukhothai hotel, where i went through hotel culture shock at changing from a cheap hostel to arriving at the immaculate lobby of "one of the leading hotels in the world" within the space of 8 hours, for one of the occasional splurges of my trip. one of the signs you've arrived in a fancy-schmancy hotel -- the evening room turndown, which always catches me offguard (but ensures a wealth of clean, dry towels, along with those handy slippers by the bed). a quick patch of my ipod into the room's bose sound system, and we were enjoying the sound of nat king cole singing to us "straighten up and fly right" before heading out for birthday celebrations that evening.

it was also time for one of my periodic resupplies, and like the hatch residents on lost, it was time to get the little luxuries i'd been waiting for: a new pair of board shorts to fit my leaner, post-cubicle-life frame, a game boy micro, the video cable for my ipod, emergen-c, and other odds and ends.

happy. sleepy. very glad to be with my girlfriend again. 'night.

May 22, 2006

i'm a little rascal on my little rascal

we've been out on ko tao for a few days now, living a relaxed diver's life at our jungle bungalow at sensi paradise.

when not being lulled to sleep by the odd calls of a bird that sounds like a wild goat-bird (or "broat", as we've been calling it), or the screeches of another bird whose mating call is evidently a series of hysterical bird screams, we've been diving during our afternoons here.

while finishing my PADI advanced open water certification, we decided to do an "adventure dive" with diver propulsion vehicles, or DPVs. this means that we were issued small underwater scooters which a.) resemble something used by the bad guys in any james bond underwater scene and b.) also make me think of the infamous Little Rascal scooter whenever anyone uses the word "scooter".

so we dove into the water with our divemaster with our scooters. the closest thing i can use to describe these little gadgets are the snowmobiles of the sea -- while they get you around fast, they do make a racket, but are fun. so i dodged my way through an underwater slalom race, buzzed over beautiful coral reefs (fin tips up!), and had a great time fooling around in the way of people on mechanical contraptions. while i wouldn't want to dive with one all the time, they are a lot of fun to dive with now and then.

the rest of the time? we're watching the latest Lost episode thanks to iTunes, sipping mai tais and snacking on thai appetizers served by a waitress with fresh flowers in her hair, and watching the sun set.

good times, good times.

May 24, 2006


I grab the bones and I let 'em fly.
so come 2 come 3 come 4 come 5 come 6 come 7 come 9
it doesn't matter to me now
'cause I've got all kinds of time.

The Mountain Goats, "Hello There Howard", from their album "Hot Garden Stomp"

lately i've been feeling like i'm back in college, with organized fun being the order of the day interspersed with occasional bouts of studying. i've been learning how to identify fish i see while scuba diving, working on new hobbies, and discovering/rating long-lost songs on my iPod (which has been a wonderful process of rediscovery, like bringing a library's worth of books packed into a space the size of my hand. lauryn hill is the latest artist i've only now just taken the time to really listen to -- and yes, i know that i'm years behind the pop culture zeitgeist on this.)

as i write this now, i'm sitting next to a window on the ferry from ko tao to ko samui, watching the sea spread off into the horizon without a break.

one thing i've been thinking about is the world cultures class i took in college, whose media component included a long video series from the early 80s about cultures from around the world, filmed on location in various places around the world, complete with a world-travelling narrator. i never forgot watching these videos in a dusty dallas classroom, half-dozing in the afternoon sun, never guessing that i'd actually end up going to visit most of these places several years later.

i don't know what the future is going to bring after this, but right now i'm glad to have the time to do a lot of the things that i've always been meaning to do. including just enjoying the world around me.

May 28, 2006

my trader vic's agenda

besides spending a year travelling around the world, my trip has always had another agenda nested within the "go around the world" plan: visit every trader vic's in the world. currently there are 22 trader vic's restaurants in the world (not counting the 4 senior picos and 1 inaka-ya restaurants). these bar/ restaurants are located in the united states, england, germany, spain, japan, taiwan, thailand, the UAE, lebanon, bahrain, oman, and qatar.

coming from california, i was already quite familiar with the trader vics in san francisco, palo alto, emeryville, and beverly hills. and while planning my trip last year at the expansive bar of the san francsico trader vic's while drinking a planter's punch (i originally started drinking these after reading p. g. wodehouse's glowing description of them in one of his jeeves stories, and haven't looked back since), i glanced down at the locations list they have on a cocktail napkin, and thought... why not visit every trader vic's in the world?

and so after a few emails with the fine management team at trader vic's to let them know my plan, i put together a plan where i would cross paths with every trader vic's in the world as part of my trip. since my first place on my trip where i would cross paths with a trader vic's was bangkok, i haven't mentioned this plan in my blog before now during the first 3 months of my trip.

when we'd returned to bangkok from ko samui, the time had come to visit my first trader vic's "on the road": trader vic's bangkok.

since i'm usually at trader vic's with friends eating on their bar snacks and drinking rum drinks, i decided to continue that theme through all the trader vic's i visit. at bangkok their crab rangoon was perfect (right down to the butterfly-shaped hot mustard and sweet dipping sauce plates), the beef cho-cho was great (although it seems the bangkok recipe calls for less sauce than the US version, and adds an extra topping on top to boot!), and the crispy duck pancakes had a delightful abundance of crispy duck and hoisin sauce. the rum drinks were perfect, as befits a trader vic's (note the differences of the TV bangkok drink menu from the US drink list -- for example, i don't recall seeing the "starboard light" or "portlight" in san francsico!) did i mention the decor was classic trader vic's as well?

i had a great chat with the bangkok TV's general manager, pongporn, who took a few minutes to sit down with us and chat about trader vic's, was generally a great host, even arranging for the waitresses to dance the trader vic's dance (which was ogled by a number of single farangs)! there was also a piano player with two female accompaniments, who were great singers, especially when singing my request of "straighten up and fly right".

if i have a free evening before heading out to my next destination from bangkok, i may even try to visit the senior pico in bangkok. ah, if only it was cinco de mayo... but how could i resist a description like "fare is Cal-Mex-less rich (lian) than Tex-Mex cuisine" -- i can only hope that they'll have brought over the chips and queso concept from tex-mex cuisine!

thanks to everyone at the bangkok trader vic's for a great night of hospitality. looking forward to the next trader vic's in tokyo or taipei!

May 30, 2006

happy happy life

after leaving ko tao, C. and i headed directly for chaweng beach on ko samui. we settled into a almost-beachfront bungalow at seascape beach resort, and spent our time relaxing on the beach and enjoying excellent thai food and mai tais. (and of course, hooking up my iPod to the tv so we could watch the Lost season finale together!)

then it was off to the bangkok banyan tree (simulatenously breaking almost all of their no-backpacker rules during check-in), where we spent a few afternoons sunning ourselves at the pool on the 17th floor when we weren't exploring bangkok. if you're slacking off on a weekday, there is nothing like doing it from a pool with a great view of office buildings... that memory will probably sting me next year when i'm back in the working world once more. we tried not to get stuck inside the hotel too much, such as our adventure navigating the wilds of chatuchak market (avoiding the pickpockets!), negotated with various street vendors, looking at thai tailoring, and generally taking full advantage of C.'s thai language skills.

but all good things must come to at end, especially such luxuries being driven around bangkok by C.'s friend's driver and her jaguar, and my gilrfriend is heading back home on an early-morning flight, and i'm checking out of here a few hours after that. (i'm realizing that it's actually quite difficult to remain in paradise forever) we have one more romantic dinner together in bangkok, and then i'm back to the budget solo backpackers life (for now)!

May 31, 2006

loud booming sounds

i was in my hostel room on KSR when i heard the sounds of what sounded like explosions in the street. after they kept going, i looked out my balcony window and realized they were fireworks in honor of the king of thailand's 60th anniversary of his succession to the throne. so i headed on up to the roof deck and took this video of the fireworks. happy anniversary, King Rama IX!

June 1, 2006

lifestyle adaptation syndrome

i left the banyan tree in a taxi (with the meter on, a luxury only available when being picked up at hotels or other major taxi pickup points, otherwise you end up negoitating a fare that ends up being higher than the meter no matter what) and appreciated it when the driver didn't actually sneer as i asked him to drop me off at khao san road (KSR) -- although i did get the recommendation that i'd be "better off going to the airport". this marked the end of the lifestyle splurge that i was doing with caroline, and the return to my budget backpacker ways.

i arrived on KSR in a blaze of midday heat, humidity, and noise. i immediately headed for the chart guesthouse, which i'd stayed at the last time i was in bangkok on KSR, three years ago. i realized it had gone into some decline after i checked in, but by then i'd already paid for a night in my US $5/night fan-"cooled" room. one handy tip that the hostel you've arrived at is not where you want to stay: you don't see any other backpackers once you arrive (an especially bad sign in a backpacker-rich area like KSR). i spent a sweat, sleepless night in my small, cell-like room, complete with shared shower and bucket-flush toilets (but remarkably, no power outlets at all), and woke up the next day resolved to find a better hostel.

since my lonely planet thailand book shuns listing most guesthouses on KSR, and i wanted to stay in this location for convience's sake, i used wikitravel's page on KSR to find the D&D Inn, which is next door to the chart guesthouse, and similarly priced, but worlds away in terms of experience.

full of backpackers, the D&D Inn had excellent facilities, with a restaurant showing movies, a rooftop pool and bar (!), same-day laundry service, and pleasant air-con rooms with shower/bathroom and satellite tvs in every room. best of all, this meant that the tv was plugged into the room's sole power outlet, which i promptly jammed my 40 baht 3-outlet adapter into, so i could charge up my DVD player and cellphone with while catching up on whatever hollywood feature that star movies was showing that day. my room even came with a little balcony! in short, the perfect place to acclimate to backpacker life again at only US $12/night.

i'm now taking advantage of one of the many travel agencies on KSR to arrange my onward visas for burma (aka. myanmar) and vietnam (laos is able to grant visas upon arrival, which helps to streamline things quite a bit), in addition to taking care of any last-minute "big city" errands, and doing research on my next stop, burma.

the 25% mark

now that i've been travelling on my around-the-world trip for over three months, i'm past the 25% mark and now officially on the longest trip i've taken in my life.

while musing on this milestone, i decided to do a mental check and see whether or not i feel i'm ready to return to california and start a project to solve some interesting problem on the 'net. while reading through the latest blogs on bloglines, i found a link to this blog entry from the founder of riya. it sounds like well-managed startup fun (and they've got a pretty amazing product), but i have to say that at this point in my life, returning to that type of envrionment is the last thing on my mind. looks like i'm not ready to return to silicon valley quite yet.

so let the trip continue!

June 2, 2006

luxury movie theaters

i've developed a certain fascination with the concept of "luxury movie theaters". i think it started with the promise (never truly delivered upon) of san francisco's metreon movie theatres. when i first read elliot hesther's book Adventures of a Continental Drifter about his experiences at the empire hotel in brunei's movie theater, my apetite was only whetted further. my experience at the theater in brunei was that is was nice, but it could definitely be better. the black leather-covered couch seats were great, but couldn't they go really over-the-top with movie watching decadence?

then i heard about bangkok's several "VIP/Gold" movie theaters, complete with massive overstuffed power seats, pillows, blankets (for that always overpowered AC), and service to-your-seat by a waiter from to satisfy any thirst (or popcorn) cravings that you might have during the movie. now THAT sounded interesting.

i first went to the siam center's EGV Gold "VIP" theater to see X-Men: The Last Stand. (wired magazine also has an short article on the same theater.)the luridly red massage seats with electrically extending foot rests were a nice touch. the whole fancy entrance, fully stocked bar with uniformed waiters ("would you like some popcorn with your gin and tonic?"), were all great. and all this for the same price as a regular movie ticket in san francisco!

the only drawbacks were the subtitles and thai movie censorship where they edit out "inappropriate" parts of the movies. (however, the gray-market DVDs of the same movies sold at patpong night market have no censorship at all applied to them. the irony of this situation has not gone unnoticed by the press.)

the sound in the room was amazing, as was the video quality aside from displaying the code "E13" scratched into the celluloid every 30 minutes or so, which i can only assume is part of some anti-piracy measure in case people were filming the screen in the theater. (in my case, i was at the last showing of the evening, and the theater was almost empty aside from myself and a farang with his thai "girlfriend".)

all in all, i had a great time. one of the better $10 entertainment values in bangkok!

June 14, 2006

character moments

i'm back in bangkok again for a few days to obtain Yet Another Visa (China) while in between countries, and enjoying the absurdity of tourist life.

sitting in an internet cafe, i'm watching a slightly ragged-looking older italian tourist, unshaven with his white shirt partially unbuttoned, shouting his way through an international phone call to someone he met on his travels that he needs to give his number to. evidently he doesn't trust the other person's ability to write down a simple phone number, so he is constantly repeating in his thickly accented english "you repeat the number, madame" over and over again.

i love the brief personal sketches that i get from the odd characters i see on this trip... most of the time i have no idea what their story really is, but i'm just enjoying observing and imagining.

and hey -- you in the corner, stop videochatting away all of my bandwidth with MSN Messenger. i need that to upload to flickr!

About Thailand

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to gone living in the Thailand category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Tanzania is the previous category.

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Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.