Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Day 6: 28 February

Sawadee Ka!

I’ve learned that that is the more proper way of saying hello. In my first post, I’d written “Sawat Dii”, which isn’t incorrect, but the greeting actually sounds more like “Sawadee”. Also, you generally want to use the honorific modifier: “ka” if you’re a lady, “kap” if you’re a fella.

Yes, I believe I am becoming more and more immersed in the Thai culture. I was approached by Thai people the other day, asking me something in Thai! I was psyched and flattered, but then I felt bad because I couldn’t help them. Isn’t that moment so interesting- when 2 people who don’t speak each others’ language are trying to connect, and then they realize they can’t understand each other. The apologetic look from one, the “oh, you don’t understand me” look from the other. Sometimes you keep trying to speak, as if speaking slower or repeating what you said will lead to an understanding. But then there’s nothing left to do but smile and walk on. Babel, yo.

Most people still seem to know that I’m a foreigner. I’m often asked what my ethnicity is. Malaysian? Chinese? Thai-but-can’t-speak-my-own-language? It’s interesting how frequently I’m asked this question…I suppose I appreciate their curiosity. But I never know what to say after I tell them I’m Korean. They’re clearly Thai, so I can’t ask the question back to them. Not that I would know how to say that in Thai anyway. So we’re just left in one of those awkward, nervous-giggle moments.

I rode the Skytrain on my own yesterday. The Skytrain is Bangkok’s Metro- like a Super Monorail or the Airtrain to JFK in NY. I perused Siam Square (where all the young peeps hang out) and visited the Jim Thompson House (, which was BEAUTIFUL. I would love to have a tropical house like that someday…where you can have an entire downstairs area with no walls (so it’s somewhere in between being inside and being outside), Buddha statues from around the globe, windows that open into jungle-like surroundings, with a river surrounding the grounds. It was lovely.

Today we took a Tuk Tuk ( for the first (and hopefully last!) time. They seem cute, fun, and almost romantic, but actually leave your lungs and boogers covered in sooty exhaust (kind of like the horse-drawn carriages in NYC…nice in theory, but actually quite bumpy and stinky once you’re aboard). We didn’t have much of a choice, though. We were fairly far from home, and none of the cabbies wanted to take us. Those that were willing were asking for 200 baht, which is less than $6, but when you compare it to what the actual price should be – 60 baht – it’s rather ludicrous. Also, because Jay speaks Thai (yeah! Jay speaks Thai- I’m so impressed!), the cabbies knew they couldn’t swindle us by driving without the meter running or taking us in circles.

The Thai sun, smog, and fierce aircon systems seem to have taken a toll on my body as I’m currently a bit sick with a sore throat, stuffed nose, coughs, sneezes, and mild achiness (I’d be perfect for a Robitussin ad!). No worries though- I’ll be fine. I have my magical concoction of Airborne & EmergenC (which I highly recommend to ward off sickness) and I slept 12 hours last night. *sheepish grin. Sleeping: gooooood.

Did you know that Bangkok means the City of Angels? So really, I’m still in Los Angeles. And actually, sometimes it feels like I am! People text message here not just while driving their cars but riding their scooters! And sometimes those scooters are carrying 7-month old babies in a little basket on the front, too! Okay, so I haven’t seen that myself, but Jay says it happens. And also like in LA, every other person carries a Louis Vuitton bag.

Jay tried to take me to one of his favorite Bangkok eats- a fish market run ma/pa style. No frills, just icebeds of fish and other seafood (like ginormous lobsters stir-fried with chilli sauce). To our dismay, we got there and instead found a ginormous new mall. Consumerism takes Bangkok! Boo! I was totally looking forward to eating in a stinky fish market, too. Because for real, food here is serious. I’m even impressed with their Korean food! Last night we had bibimbap ( They served it very authentically in a piping hot stone bowl with the ingredients still raw, awaiting our own personal mixing and mashing. They did good on the sauce, too.

My last note of the evening is about the long tail boat ride we took on the Chao Praya river today. The boat could probably fit 40 people or so, but it was just the 2 of us, which was nice. It took us through the river community – by homes that literally pour into the river or are on the river (houseboat, Essence!), the myriad temples and golden Buddhas dotting the riverside, and the beautiful green vegetation growing from and around the river. And though the residences seem low quality by our American living standard, I actually felt a lot of peace and contentment as we passed through. Doggies lazily napping on the river banks, their paws dangling over the water…peeps lazily napping on hammocks above the river banks, gently swaying like babies in cradles. It reminded me of the really nice houses around the Marina in Marina Del Ray, except that the walls and roofs of these houses are made of tin or simple wood, or are just nonexistent. Pretty wild.

It made me appreciate what I have and my living accommodations back home, but at the same, I felt curious – if a bit envious – of the simple life these people live. And I love the idea of living in such close proximity to water. I’ve always felt most connected to and protected by the Universe when I’m in or near bodies of water. I think I was a mermaid in a past life.

Swim on, brothers and sisters.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Day 4: 26 February

(My Sense of…Taste in Thailand)

I’ve just come out of the biggest food coma of my life. I finally had proper Thai food tonight and it was wicked tasty…and wicked spicy. I do believe that the spiciest Thai food (which apparently I haven’t tried yet, and don’t know if I will be trying as I feel pretty content with the level of spiciness that I’ve consumed thus far) may outspice the spiciest Korean food, which I realize is a rather hefty statement. We had pork satay (yes, this yogi eats meat, if you didn’t catch onto that from my hot dog statement earlier), pad thai (which I guess isn’t called simply “pad” in Thailand) with prawns, stir fried morning glory (which, my Budokon family, is not like morning meat), and basil prawns (which was way less basil and way more the-spiciest-concoction-of-peppers-&-sauces-ever). I was sweating not just from the tropical heat but from the tropical spice, wiping my face in vain with the toilet-paper-square-sized pieces of tissue they call napkins here (I guess cuz Thai peeps are so little!) (I feel rather tall here, which is kind of nice.). The restaurant itself was super cute…a delicious garden atmosphere complete with decks for flooring, an open-air roof (so…no roof, really), a river-like bed of water, mist, trees, and oh, of course- mosquitoes.

(My Sense of…Touch in Thailand)

They’re wicked, these Thai skeeters…they bite where it’s hard to scratch, like the fingers, the tops of the feet, the ankle bones, and the knees. Evil little suckers. Although, to be fair, I guess they’re just doing their thing in the world like the rest of us, hm?

So we came home after dinner, and the aircon had been off all day so it was steamy inside. My eyelids felt heavy, my belly was happily stuffed, and I needed to lie on it (which I realize isn’t a proper aid to the digestion process, but it comforts me). So I lied down and drifted into an indulgent food coma which lasted 3 hours!

Now that’s the sign of a good meal, yeah?

(My Sense of…Sight in Thailand)

I car-watched today, sitting in one of the nicest, biggest Starbucks ever. Yeah- I’m in Thailand and I’m spending time at Starbucks, but this Starbucks has a huge outdoor area surrounded by lush green, open to the blue sky, equipped with giant fans and cushy seating areas. It’s more like the W or the Standard- a heavenly coffee oasis (yes, this yogi drinks coffee). I’m reading Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki (which I highly recommend). It’s simple yet heavy reading, so every now and then, I pause from the reading to let my intellectual mind catch up to it. I find its truth in the leaves of the trees, in the tropical heat, even in the pesty mosquitoes.

Amidst my car-watching, I felt called to seek a red car. Watching, watching, watching…no red car. And then: pink car, orange car, a quarter-red bus, a half-red taxi, a red motorcycle. Close, but no red car. I shrugged and went back to my reading. A few minutes later, I looked up and saw three red cars: one parked on each side of the street and another one passing by in the same moment.

(My Sense of…Intuition in Thailand)

To me, this simple, if silly, red car exercise means that in life, you should know your intention, what you want to manifest in your life. Your intention must be pure, true to your spirit. Be aware of what you want and be brave enough to ask for it. Then you must watch and wait; you must relinquish control and not look so hard to find it. Let it go. When you are truly detached from it is when you will be prepared to receive it. When you are prepared to receive it is when it will come. I have no doubt that the universe works in this way. Try it out with something little. See what manifests.

(My Sense of…Smell in Thailand)

One of the loveliest experiences I’m having here is suddenly-appearing, magical smells. The other day, I was sitting on our patio when seemingly out of nowhere came the smell of fresh lychee. I can only assume that someone was happily cracking open this tropical fruit and the smell of its juicy, fruity goodness was generously, if teasingly, wafting in my direction. Then today, sitting in my coffee oasis, the smell of island flowers (though no, Thailand is not an island) was floating in and out around me. I couldn’t detect where it was coming from, but it was soothing, nourishing, and lovely.

(My Sense of…Hearing in Thailand)

Less soothing, nourishing, and lovely is my uninvited alarm clock every morning – the melodically luring sounds of none other than – construction. Unfortunately, these sounds are not any nicer in a tropical place, not any more tolerable to this supposedly calm and centered yogi, not any gentler being made by the gentle people of Thailand. No, these sounds are still biting and offensive (a literal rude awakening) (but an awakening nevertheless), nothing like the inspiring, beautiful sound of Yo-Yo Ma, to whom I’ve recently taken quite a liking. But construction means growth and vitality – growth on the streets of Bangkok and vitality of the culture and economy of Thailand – which contribute to the growth and vitality of human kind, the world, the universe, and all of existence.


Sounds like Jay just smashed a mosquito outside on the patio.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Day 2: 24 February

Being in a new land is so interesting because it’s so different – different language, different peeps, different foods, different cars, different vibes – and yet, so the same…it’s just people living life, doing their thing…breathing in through the nose and out through the nose.

I went to a club last night. Those of you that know me well know that going to clubs is not something that this homebunny does. But, it was my first night in Bangkok and the re-opening of a popular club called Zantika. So popular in fact that Eminem was there performing with a Thai cover band. Did you catch that? Eminem was there performing with a Thai cover band! It was funny and weird and cool all at the same time. Eminem did pretty good…in addition to his own songs, he performed some Kelis, 50 Cent, and Justin Timberlake. It was pretty impressive.

The mosquitoes are quick and vicious here. This morning I woke up with bites on my face! A couple directly under my eyes…and it sort of feels like I got hit in the face.

I’m sure everyone is wondering about the eats here. My old boss, Bryan Kest, once told me that Thailand has the best food in the entire world. I am beginning to see what he’s talking about. What’s funny is that I have yet to eat proper Thai food! I’ve had Middle Eastern, Japanese, and Malaysian food, and everything has been deliciously high quality and almost disturbingly cheap. Emphasis on the almost. I love how normal it is to find customary Asian foods such as squid, anchovies, and pickled vegetables as accents to plates. It makes me feel at home. As usual, my appetite seems insatiable…even moreso as I’m surrounded by loads of new flavors that are eager to please my tastebuds. But as much as I’m eating, I don’t believe that I will gain any weight- I’m pretty sure I’ll sweat everything out on the walk home.

The traditional Thai greeting/showing of respect is a bow they call Wai. To me, it resembles the yogic Namaste exchange: hands in prayer as you bow. It’s particularly beautiful because you pause, you slow down, you quiet down, and you Wai. You don’t halfass this custom. You’re fully present with the other person in that moment. There’s a very direct, intentional acknowledgement of the other person. There’s a deep, sincere feeling of calm, peace, respect, and love. Even our friend’s beautiful, adorably rambunctious 3-year old quiets down to properly Wai. She adds a gentle smile, lowers her eyes, and slightly tilts her head as she brings her hands together, fingertips at her lips. It’s pretty freaking cute. (And then a few seconds later, she’s roaring like an angry lion…which is still admittedly pretty cute.)

Here’s sending you a virtual Wai.

Friday, February 23, 2007

:: Musings from Thailand:: Day 1: 23 February

Sitting out on the patio. There’s the perfect amount of shade and opening above me. The air is tropical thick, but the breeze is sweetly forgiving. Even in this little nook on the patio, there is so much vegetation- green and alive. And the green is GREEN-green, vivid…this is one of my favorite things about tropical places.

I seem to have avoided jet lag. I’m not sure if it’s because my friend Jay made such a big deal about how jetlagged I would be and through sheer will, I have proved him wrong, or because I’m just a champion sleeper and had no problem going to bed when he did and waking up when he did. Ah- it is probably both! Why do we always have the need to make things black and white, one or the other? We are more complex than to make decisions in such a base manner!

I spent a few hours walking around Thong Lar this afternoon. Jay very seriously warned me to be careful walking on the trick-tiled sidewalks and crossing the street. A warning needed for the average pedestrian, but those of you who know my clumsy, ADD ways (I think the only place where I’m remotely graceful is on my yoga mat), you know that the warning is particularly serious for me. They drive on the opposite side of the road here so I have to remember to look all ways before crossing. Apparently if I do get hit by a car, the driver will jump out not to check if I’m ok, but to yell at me for being in the way. I did already witness a car back into a girl on a scooter…no one was hurt because the car was creeping very slowly, but I don’t know what was more interesting- that the driver didn’t stop even though people were slamming on the car to make her stop, or that the girl on the scooter was completely nonchalant, making zero effort to move out of the way. (Let it be noted here that sometimes I think it’s okay to not be non-reactive.)

People wear normal clothes here, even though it’s so hot that even if you were walking around nude, sweat puddles would form on the ground around you every time you took a step. Jeans, button up shirts, sometimes even sweaters! Do Thai people just not get hot?

Street food on sidewalk cafes seems to be the most popular places for locals to eat. It reminds me of Korea. Or the carts of bacon-wrapped hot dogs outside of Staples Center. You know that feeling you get as you consider getting one of those hot dogs? It smells sooo delicious but you wonder how safe it is to eat it, and you spend a moment wagering if it’s worth the risk of a heinous stomach virus? That’s how I’m feeling about the street food here, so I haven’t tried it yet. But I will; I’ve come prepared with antibiotics should I come down with a case of watery diarrhea (Thanks, Dr. Kim!). There are Starbucks and 7-11s dotting the streets here like all other cities in the world. They look fairly out of place, and yet I would be surprised if they weren’t there. I picked up some groceries- fresh vegetables and fruits (they have organic produce here, yeah!) (and Sara, they don’t cost a freaking arm & a leg like in the TCI) and seaweed-flavored potato chips. YUM!

I love Thai writing…it looks like a cartoon version of Sanskrit and sometimes the letters look like elephants! I haven’t yet seen any elephants, but I suspect they don’t roam the streets of Bangkok…perhaps I’ll see them when I travel to some of the more suburban cities.

My thoughts on what little I’ve observed and experienced about Thai peeps is that they are gentle and loving and kind and hard-working. When I come into contact with someone who speaks Thai to me, only to immediately realize that I’m a foreigner, he smiles and tries some English. There is no disdain towards me for being a foreigner, unlike certain places (ahem- France). I thought maybe I could blend in – I AM Asian and dark-skinned, after all – but another foreigner walked right up to me and asked me a question in English, so there goes that illusion (illusions are good to strip away, anyway).

I’m eating deliciously crisp and juicy watermelon. A serving of 5 fairly large (palm-sized) pieces for 9 baht. That’s about a quarter.

Yup- this is going to be a sweet trip.

Sawat Dii!