Bangkok: A Fever

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A little over a couple of weeks ago I was in Bangkok. Here's a bit of what I saw:

Like its aesthetic, I'd describe Bangkok as pointy and ornate. 

Do you like how crooked this picture is? It's this place. I dunno if you can tell, but it was terrifying to go up these stairs. It was pretty vertical and steep and once I got up it, I was silently freaking out about how to get down.  

10 big golden toes. It was funny, my airbnb host hadn't been here and had googled it and was like, this place isn't for me (the place is completely overrun by tourists and is one of the main things to visit in Bangkok). Once I got there, I was like, this place is totally for me. The people watching was so great and funny. There was a dude with a stick attached to his gopro so that he could take perfect selfies of himself. I love stuff like that.

I've never really been attracted to Thai food. I kinda blanked on what to eat in Bangkok. Pad Thai? God. But then I remembered when Jane and I went to Pok Pok in Portland and there was this dish that I absolutely loved there that was this crepe with mussels and bean sprouts. AND I COULD GET IT EVERYWHERE IN BANGKOK! And for so cheap too! And then all of the sudden I wanted to try everything that I saw. Also had so much Thai Tea. I have decided that it's the king of all milk teas. It's because it's so smooth. With Hong Kong milk tea and milk tea in Singapore, there's this sharp pull after each sip that gets to be a bit much after awhile. But man, Thai tea, even though it's that freakish orange color, it goes down so good.

One of the things where I was like, WHAT'S THIS, I WANT THIS (it looked so cool). They're skinny popsicles for like 50 cents and they come in all these bright colors. Once I put it in my mouth, I was like, man what did I just eat. It was strange, all the flavor had gone down to the bottom of the popsicle so it was super intense and salty. But then it got better.

This was awesome - coconut ice cream in a coconut shell and then there's a little buffet of toppings (unlimited) to put on. When you finish the ice cream, there's also some coconut meat scraped out for you to eat.

There's definitely a lot of cool art and design in Bangkok. What's happening here is this guy is holding a screen, and you hold it up in front of this projector, and sentences from Le Petit Prince come into focus as you move it in the right spot. 

One of my favorite things was riding the bus from where I was staying to the skytrain station. I had no idea what was going on on them. You just flag them and then jump on and then this person comes around to collect your fare. A person! And that person shouts out the names of the stops and then you go to the door to press the bell to indicate you want to get off. I just really liked sitting by the window and the air blowing so hard against my face as we went down these massive roads filled with cars and motorbikes winding in and out.  

Bus tickets. I was riding with this French man and he's like, "They're so simple yes?"  

Being in Bangkok, it was hard for me. It was like a fever. The city is big, busy, chaotic, messy, and overwhelming. I become delirious and disoriented and at a loss with all the choices and surroundings and then there would be these sudden moments of peace and calm and I'd feel okay. I was supposed to be in Bangkok for 3 weeks but ended up staying only for one. The city brought out extreme emotions in me where I wanted to jump on the next plane and get out as soon as possible, or I wanted to stay and explore all its nooks and crannies and questioned why I was freaking out in the first place. To be honest, I think Singapore spoiled me. If you ever wanted to go to an easy, clean, efficient city in Southeast Asia, Singapore is the place for you. It also didn't help that I was in Bangkok at the beginning of the protests that are happening right now to take down the Prime Minister. The protests (when I saw them) were peaceful, but I just wasn't feeling Bangkok that any little (or big) thing would make me think of all the possibilities and ways that I could get out of Bangkok as soon as possible. 

With Bangkok, you have to work more at making the city and your experiences in it yours. Or you have to be into letting it swallow you up. You had to let go and be open to its complexities and I was totally not ready and prepared for that. My head was still stuck in Mexico, I kept comparing everything to my experience there and just wanted it to be so much like that and just couldn't allow Bangkok to be what it is. A complex vibrant city with intricacies that are an experience to explore. And I would like to give it another chance again. But someone come with me next time, yah? 

Singapore Revisited

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I was in Singapore from December 15 to January 7 to spend the holidays with my parents and brother. Some snaps:

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I had come in while the Singapore Biennale was going on. This room was terrifying actually, it was glass and mirrors with these projections of traditional Japanese dancers and there was music blaring and you had no idea what was what. 

Totally forgot about how readily available cheap (and incredibly good) food is in Singapore. And that you could walk into a food court and choose from so many different cuisines (Singaporean, Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Western, etc, etc). I couldn't stay away from the juicy dumplings. Or the milk tea. Almost every afternoon I'd have this as a snack, or I'd get double the amount and just eat that for lunch. I'm becoming a dumpling. Ugh.

Christmas present from my brother. Can't tell you enough how much it made me love him and happy that he is my brother and only he could have given me this gift (well I guess other people could have too, but it wouldn't have been as funny or meaningful). 

Also a nice reminder/thing: getting my hair braided by my mom. I love when my mom braids my hair, super asian mom, makes it so tight. 

Hung out with David Lang. One night we tried to go to as many rooftop bars as we could (lol but managed 2). This is one of them. 

Oh brother. Also forgot (how could I) how funny he is and it was nice being around him. And of course it was nice being around my parents and having all of us together. 

Ugh this thing was so amazing. It's this pan fried flat dumpling thing with chives and egg. There's an insane amount of chive in it, but it's not overwhelming at all. And you also don't miss meat at all when eating this. And it's so good that you don't care about your chive-y (aka not pleasant) breath after. 

I know this animal is probably so bummed out and hating its life, but god it was cute and I needed everyone to see this. 

I also noticed more of the architecture in Singapore. There's a lot of really interesting buildings and structures. Cool. Although a lot of them are shopping malls. Not as cool. 

I was quite ambivalent about going to Singapore. I've been a couple of times before and even though there are a lot of different ethnicities there, it just felt like a somewhat non-descript city in Asia with a lot of shopping, eating, drinking, and singing. And it still is. I think it has a lot to do with how the country is run with all its infamous rules (although I don't really feel like they're as strict anymore) and it creates a somewhat sterile society (although of course there are some really really awesome things about Singapore that are specific to it and I am slowly discovering them) that is such a rat race. Admittedly, after going to other cities in Asia, the efficiency, cleanliness and how overall dialed-in Singapore is is appreciated and easy to get used to (ha!) Although there are some weird disconnects that kind of negate what the country was trying to do in the first place. 

The amount of consumption that goes on there (it's mall upon mall crammed with stuff and people) - it was a bit disconcerting and even though all the cheap shopping and food is amazing at first and you're in this happy delirious state from all the choices, the novelty wears off and you get a bit ill thinking of how this is all adding up.

All that said though, I was able to find a nice routine there (which really just involved eating noodles, swimming in my parent's pool, walking around, taking naps, and catching up on tv - god that sounds gross and who doesn't like that). I don't feel quite so whatever to the place anymore. Like everything that I don't like at first (for no good reason really), it needed time, space, revisitations. Basically it needed more of a better chance then I initially gave it. 

And now I kind of like it.

A lot actually.