December 2008 Archives

My Year in Cities, 2008

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At the end of most years (but not 2007), I make a list of all of the places that I spent at least one night. This year I was able to mark off several locations that have been on the top of my list, like Seoul, Korea and Phonsavan, Laos.

This year I didn't keep good records like I have in the past, but here is the alphabetical list of places that I can remember:

  • Denver, Colorado *
  • Hua Hin, Thailand
  • Ko Samet, Thailand *
  • Luang Prabang, Laos *
  • Pattaya, Thailand *
  • Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  • Phonsavan, Laos *
  • Pranburi, Thailand
  • Pyay, Burma *
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Sam Neua, Laos *
  • San Francisco, California *
  • Seoul, South Korea
  • Taipei, Taiwan *
  • Vieng Xai, Laos *
  • Yangon, Burma *
This year, the * marks the places I went in the last quarter of the year: 11 out of 16. As I thought, the first nine months of the year were slow, travel wise, with an explosion in the last three months.

I wonder which places will be on the list for 2009.

At the End of 2008

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I am in a plane some 30,000 feet over the southern coast of Alaska, on the way back to Asia after spending Christmas in the States. With just two days left in Year 2008, perhaps now is a good time to reflect on what I have been doing for the past 363 days, and where the road might lead from here.

The first five years of my life in Thailand were perhaps the best five years of my life, to date. For some reason, I never went through the stages of culture shock when I moved here. It was, for the most part, all honeymoon.

This past year, however, the tide turned. I started to understand the Thai political scene more and more, partly due to one very interesting biography which shall not be named and partly due to finally finding some good political analysis online by people who are a lot more familiar with the way things work than I am. What I read and what I experienced and what I learned was troubling. My naive view of the Land of Smiles and its institutions began to fade away, replaced by a more realistic, yet much more depressing view (to me) of the culture and of the state of affairs in my adopted country.

My explorations and adventures in Southeast Asia over this past year were squelched as well. For the first nine months of the year, I threw myself into my two jobs (one based in the U.S., and the other a company that I own in Bangkok) and put in some long hours in front of my computer in my big office at Sam Yan. Several different business models were tried with my Bangkok-based company, and all failed. The company grew in size, but not in income, so by the end of the year, the big office and the great staff were just a memory.

Towards the end of the year, work came to an abrupt halt in my U.S.-based job as well, due to reaching an artificial salary cap imposed by my employer, and I found myself with more free time than I have had in quite a while.

So I decided to make up for lost time in the last three months of the year by doing what I love to do the most: hitting the road, visiting new places, seeing familiar faces, and taking as many pictures along the way as I can.

First up was two weeks traveling the mountainous back roads of northern Laos, then five days with my toes in the sand of Ko Samet, four days visiting golden pagodas in Burma, five days catching up with old friends in San Francisco, and six days with my family in Denver. The upcoming five days, which straddle 2008-2009 will be spent in Taiwan, first to celebrate the New Year in Taipei, and then hopefully exploring the northern part of the eastern coast of the island with my best friend in the world.

So the first nine months of the year can be summed up by, "I worked in my office on the computer a lot." The last three months of the year was the opposite. Mysterious prehistoric sites as well as recent American bomb craters were visited. Hill-tribe children were taught English. A waterfall was climbed. A motorcycle joy-ride to deliver groceries to a tiny village was stopped by the police. Countless hours were spent reading about U.S. politics and obsessively checking presidential poll data. Debates over the future of Thailand were waged.

Buckets of mojitos were shared through straws. Fire-juggling youths entertained and enthralled. Hundreds of steps were climbed to reach towering golden pagodas and white sitting Buddhas. Hip new lounges and restaurants were tried and enjoyed. Presents were bought, wrapped, and opened. Numbers and letters and manners were taught to a young niece. Old friends visited me and others were re-acquainted. And new friends around the world were made.

So that was 2008. A long, hard slog in the beginning, with changes in perceptions and perspectives along the way, and finishing with a wonderfully crazy, emotional explosion at the end.

And now, I wonder what is in store for 2009.

I never give much thought to a New Year and its obligatory resolutions. But this time I feel like this New Year will be a new start for me. Even as the global economy slips further into the abyss, and deep divisions are bubbling to the surface in Thailand, I feel optimistic.

My U.S.-based work will pick up as soon as I get back to Bangkok, and January looks to be a very busy month, including a business trip back to Dallas in a mere three weeks. The Bangkok-based company will get cranked back up again as well, but on a smaller scale this time around. I am still optimistic that I can find the equation needed to make it profitable.

On the personal side, as much fun as the last three months have been, I am looking forward to spending more time in Bangkok this year with the one who is most important to me. And I hope to continue on my never ending quest of learning to speak and read and write the Thai language, as well as find a way to get this extra 15 pounds off my mid-section.

Are those New Year's Resolutions, Hopes, and Dreams too much to ask for?

Christmas in San Francisco and Denver

It has been a great, but mostly uneventful trip back to the US for Christmas. My first stop was in San Francisco for a few days visiting friends there and checking out some of the cool new night spots, such as the very highly recommended Pisco Latin Lounge. This bar is owned by a friend of a friend, and is very stylish and the picso cocktails are tasty. Small neighborhood bars like this one is something that San Francisco definitely has over Bangkok.

Then, I headed to Denver, where I spent several relaxing days with my family. It wasn't snowing much this year, so we were able to get out a bit. The family all piled into the truck one day and headed down to the "Garden of the Gods", a cool rock formation outside of Colorado Springs, where I met up with Pete, a good friend from college. I hadn't seen Pete since graduation, so it was great to catch up with him and meet his family.

We also stopped by the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and walked around a bit. They have an amazing cathedral there that looks like it is made from huge airplane wings. It is definitely one of the most unique houses of worship I have ever seen.

I posted a few pics to Facebook, in case you are interested in seeing the Garden of the Gods, or the USAF Cathedral, or my friend Pete!

Now, it's on to Taipei for New Years with Piyawat and some of my Taiwanese and Singaporean friends.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2008 is the previous archive.

January 2009 is the next archive.

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