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.

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