December 2003 Archives

Back in BKK

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I've made it safely to Bangkok. I was going to spend a few days in Tokyo, but at the San Francisco airport I decided to put off that trip until later.

I will try to post some of my holiday trip comments and pictures later this week...

Still Safe

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By the way, I just wanted to say that I am having a very productive, frustrating, tiring, cold, wet, fun trip so far. I just haven't spent much time in Internet Cafes, so I haven't updated my site much. I've been keeping track on my laptop, though, so I will upload my journal when I get back next week.

In any case, I am safe in Washington DC with my family. Today, we'll visit museums and go see Return of the King tonight.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thai Missionary

I think my first impression of San Francisco is that it seems very clean to me. Of course the moment I say this, I realize the irony of the statement since for all of the years I lived here, I complained about how dirty it was. But again, everything is relative. Compared to Bangkok, the air of San Francisco is very clean (which interestingly enough makes the sun much brighter); the houses are brightly painted; the streets and sidewalks are clear of trash and people and food carts and dogs. San Francisco seems very quiet to me. Where is everyone? On the roads, I marvel at how well the traffic flows; how everyone stays in their own lane and stops at every red light.

I did have a good time last night. After dinner with Kenley I went to the swim team party. I felt like the Thai Tourism Association should be paying me a commission, since I was trying to talk everyone into visiting Thailand. I felt like a missionary spreading the good news to the unknowing heathens.

In any case, yesterday wasn't very productive since I was so tired from the jet lag and from staying out too late the night before. But today I was determined to tackle my storage. When it was time to leave, I had gone through 7 boxes and had thrown out two bags of trash. I feel a little discouraged though, as if my progress has stalled. So much left to do!

On the social side of things, I had a pretty good day. I had lunch with Richard near his home in Alameda and tonight I stopped by the pool to see my friends from the swim team. Manop and I had Vietnamese for dinner. I am still a little afraid to try Thai food in San Francisco. I think I will be very disappointed.

Feeling at Home in San Francisco

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I don't know what it is exactly, but there is something special about San Francisco. There is something about it that makes it feel like home to me. I felt it on my very first visit in 1997, and I feel it on my return this Christmas season.

What about the city makes me feel so comfortable and at home? Is it the fact that I have so many friends here? That is certainly part of it. Is it the beauty of the bay and the rows of victorian and modern houses built on winding hillside streets? No doubt it plays a part.

Or is it just the diversity that appeals to me so much? Last night, Kenley and I ate dinner at a small Mexican steak restaurant near his new condo in the Mission. I sat there amazed as I realized the the crowd was a microcosm of the City. There was a table of 8 gay guys who were black, caucasian, and asian. Two other tables had straight couples -- one All-American caucasian couple from the Marina and one made up of an Indian guy and a caucasian woman. At the bar, 4 Mexican guys sat with their baseball caps on backwards and drinking MGD.

We were lucky enough to sit at the window, and the street scene outside was as typically San Franciscan as the inside. People of all races walked by, many of them walking their dogs. Across the street was an old church, painted some funky orange-redish color with aqua trim and was sitting next to a few old victorians.

But what I am describing is just surface. There must be a deeper attraction. I don't know what it is, but perhaps Rupert spoke correctly and I really am home now.

Wow.

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sadaam1.jpg
This is what I woke up to today. Wow.

Welcome Back

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After 13 hours in the air and 2 on the ground in Japan, I have arrived in San Francisco. My friend Rupert just picked me up at the airport. He started to say "Welcome Home" but realized I don't live here any more. So "Welcome Back" had to do.

It's going to be an incredibly busy week for me here. First on the list is going through all of my stuff in storage and getting rid of it one way or the other: giving it away, shipping it to my parents, or shipping it or taking it back with me to Bangkok.

That part of the trip won't be much fun, but seeing all of my old friends will be. Should be an interesting week...

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Today, Piyawat, Francois, and I played tourist. We drove about an hour outside of Bangkok to visit the Damnoen Saduak floating market. We had heard that it would be touristy, and it was for sure. But it was kind of fun too.

When we arrived at the canal around 8 AM, there were many boats already in the water. Most of them were being rowed by old women who were selling all kinds of foods and goods from the boat.

We rented one of these wooden boats for one hour for 300 baht (US$7.50) to take us around the canals. It was fun to pull up to another boat to order noodle soup or pomello fruit or fried bananas. But at the same time, it was extrememly annoying because there were shops set up on both sides of the narrow canal and the shopkeepers kept trying to sell us the usual tourist souvenier crap that you see at tourist spots all over the country.

Eventually, though, the boat rower eventually believed us when we said mai ao talat (we don't want the market) and he tooks us down the canal far enough to where there were no shops. It gave us some idea of what Bangkok used to be like -- no roads, no cars, just old houses built over the canal with coconut and banana trees behind them. It was very peaceful and beautiful.

Last night, I had dinner with royalty. Well, not really...

Piyawat and I joined a few other friends (Mark, Dtri, Ake, and Devon) for "Christmas" dinner at the Banyon Tree Hotel. The Banyon Tree is one of Bangkok's fanciest hotels. At 61 floors, it also happens to be one of the tallest buildings in town. There is an open-air restaurant (aptly named "Vertigo") on the roof where we had an amazingly good and (for Bangkok standards) outrageously expensive dinner. But I have to say, the excellent food, the cool breeze and the 360 degree view of Bangkok at night made the price worth every baht.

But the highlight of the eveing came after dinner. We had heard rumors that a high-ranking member of the royal family would be dining at the same restaurant that evening. Sure enough, the royal (who will remain un-named) showed up with a 20 person uniformed entourage and walked right past our table to a special dining area.

Even Thai people rarely see the royal family in person, and when they do, it is usually at a far distance. Our sighting tonight only lasted a few seconds, but to be that close to someone of that rank was very exciting for us.


That Luang
I have posted the pictures from last weekend's quick trip to Laos. They include beautiful That Luang (shown here) and an afternoon in Odai's small village.

They can be accessed in the Pictures of Vientiane, Laos Photo Album. Enjoy!

(By the way, I also created a new picture category: Animals. Tigers, Elephants, Monkeys, Dolphins, Pigs, Cows, Ducks, Dogs and Fish, oh my!)

Long Motorcycle Ride to Doi Intannon

We had big plans to enjoy the Chiang Mai nightlife last night, but when our hour-long disco nap turned into a 11 hour sleepfest, those plans went by the wayside.

At least we were refreshed when we awoke today. We hopped on the motorcycle again and headed towards Doi Intannon, Thailand's highest peak. On the way, we stopped at Wat Chom Thom, a small Burmese-style temple built in the 1400s. Very beautiful.

On the way up the mountain, we stopped at two waterfalls. I had been to both before, but this time the water level was much lower, and so it was like I was visiting brand new waterfalls.

We had hoped to make it to the top of the mountain but about half-way up we had to turn around. I'm not sure if the road was too steep, the motorcycle engine too small, or if Francois and I need to go on a diet, but our trip ended a lot sooner than was planned.

On the way back to Chiang Mai, we stopped in Hang Dong at the wood carving village. We did a little shopping here, but were so tired we headed back to Chiang Mai quickly. But don't worry, we were able to satiate our shopping urges at the Night Bazaar in Chaing Mai later.

Father's Day Trip to Doi Sutep

Today is the birthday of the King of Thailand. Thai people love their king, and so his birthday is a huge celebration. Perhaps the best thing about it is the fact that we get the day off of work.

Another interesting aspect of the King's Birthday is that every year he gives a speech to the country. No matter what he says, the government immediately puts his words into action. Last year, the King said that Thailand should be concerned about drug use. Shortly after, Prime Minister Thaksin declared a "War on Drugs" arresting over 90,000 people and killing over 2,000.

This year, the King focused on the Prime Minister. Thaksin has a well-known reputation for being a hard-working and very successful businessman. But he also tends to be arrogant and dictatorial and hates for people to criticize him. At least that is the impression he gives the public. The King used his speech this year to tell Thaksin to accept and appreciate other people's criticism.

Of course the people of Thailand would never dare to criticize the King. They respect him and what he stands for very much. But the most interesting part of this speech was when the King mentioned his mother. The Nation reported it this way:


"I have no idea why they wrote in the Constitution that the King is above criticism. When the King cannot be criticised, sometimes the King cannot know if what he does is right or wrong. Mother is no longer here; she's in heaven. She was the only one who could teach me. Now all I can do is teach myself, because no one can teach me," he said.

In any case, to celebrate the King's Birthday, Francois and I caught an early plane to Chiang Mai, in nothern Thailand, this morning. We will be here for the next few days exploring the city and shopping at the world-famous Night Bazaar.

As soon as we arrived in Chaing Mai, the exploring began. We rented a motorcycle and went up the mountain to Wat Doi Sutep. It's one of the most famous and most beautiful temples in Thailand. I've been several times before, but I always enjoy the ride up the mountain, the 200 steps to the temple, the view from the top, and the golden chedi at the center of the wat.

Sixteen Again

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Francois, a friend of mine from San Francisco, arrived in Bangkok last night. I took Piyawat's car to pick him up at the airport. It was only the second time I had driven in Bangkok alone, and was definitely the farthest I have ever gone.

When I finally made it to the airport (with only one wrong turn) and then to Francois' hotel and then back to my house safely, I had to laugh at myself because I felt so proud. It was like I was sixteen again and my parents had just let me use the car for the first time to drive all the way across town... Alone!

Slow Motion

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I just updated my website with stories from my weekend get-away to Laos. What a great trip. The only bad part was getting back to Bangkok 2 hours late. At least I had interesting things to look at out the window, unlike Piyawat who was stuck at the train station waiting for me. What a good friend he is! (Sorry, Piyawat!)

But the train must have influenced me, because all day yesterday I felt like I was moving in slow motion. Sometimes I feel like I really could live that slow-motion "drinking beers watching the sunset" life. But then again, I think I would miss the energy and excitement of the city.

So for now, we will save slow-motion for the weekends.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2003 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2003 is the previous archive.

January 2004 is the next archive.

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