Saturday, March 17, 2007

Day 23: 17 March

Konichiwa!


I now write to you from Tokyo. I don’t think I could have picked a more opposite place to be from Thailand, at least within Asia. It SNOWED tonight. Wait- did you catch that? IT SNOWED. I went from tropical hotness to freezing ass (yes, this yogi uses fresh language) coldness. I go out in Uggs, leg warmers, jeans, 3 layers of shirts, a full length wool coat, mittens, and a cashmere scarf that is about 20 feet long (yes, 20 feet long!!…I know some of you have seen it!) and I’m STILL cold. My lips are cold-chapped and my toes are freezing. It’s so cold that it’s almost funny.


Almost.


Did I already mention that it snowed?


Another hugely different thing is how clean it is here. It’s unreal. I saw a wall with graffiti on it, and somehow even that looked clean. There is absolutely no litter anywhere, no fallen branches or leaves, no rubbish at all whatsoever. It almost looks like a fantasy city.


And a final difference is how damn expensive everything is. Average water bottle: 10 baht (= 27 cents) to 100 yen (= 95 cents). Average tax ride: 50 baht (= $1.40) to 900 yen (= $8). But the craziest thing is we saw a $35 watermelon yesterday. Wait- did you catch that? $35 for a watermelon!!!!!!!!! A new friend I’ve made here says she almost never has watermelon.


A similarity is (I’m not sure when this turned into a compare/contrast essay) the food: Stupid good. Happy food dance good. “Make you wanna slap yo’ mama good.” Japanese cuisine is my friend – it’s so delicious, simple yet decadent, clean, healthy – oops! I meant to write that Japanese cuisine is my favorite, but I left my mistake there because it made me laugh and because it’s also true that it is my friend, why not? HA! Anyway, I LOVE Japanese food, particularly sushi. I have had a lot of good sushi in my lifetime, and I can confidently say that the best sushi is undoubtedly here in Japan. Check it out: tuna tartare drizzled with sauce, mixed with the most perfectly mushy avocado, and topped with a raw egg.


Like I said- stupid good.


I’m here with Kancho Cameron Shayne for a Budokon Teacher Training. We had our first day today, and the Japanese Senseis are looking really great. It’s a trip to hear them teach our art form in Japanese. It’s beautiful to be here and be a part of it, because Kancho and consequently Budokon are so influenced by the Japanese arts, culture, and people. They really are a beautiful people- sweet, genuine, respectful, attentive, and peaceful. All those that I have met today are perfect examples of a Budokon Sensei- talented, strong, focused, driven, non-competitive, humble, watchful, patient, unafraid, playful, aware.


Could I use any more adjectives?


I miss Thailand, though. And 2 of my favorite men in the world whose hips I was attached to for 5 days. Who have matching visors from Ice Bar in Thong Lor and matching names (Paco) from Spanish class in school.


I love to travel and I’ve been fortunate enough to have done a fair amount of travel in my day. I was born in Chicago but grew up in California. I studied in Hawaii. I interned in Korea. I’ve been on family vacations to various countries in Europe, various islands in the Caribbean, Mexico and even Morocco. I’ve visited loved ones throughout the States. Through all this travel, I’ve learned to read my vibration with a particular place. I know immediately upon stepping onto a new land whether or not I vibe with that place. While I’m always eager to be somewhere new, unknown, and different, I feel a very clear distinction between a place I feel connected to and a place I know I could always only be a visitor to. I have always felt connected to and at home on any given island, and I felt similarly connected to Southeast Asia overall.


I was becoming rather familiar with Thai words and areas. I even said my first full sentence in Thai at dinner: “Can I please have some green tea?” I asked. And when I was leaving home to go somewhere, I clarified with Jay, “Now do I want to catch a cab on the Sukhumvit side or the Thong Lor side, or do you think I’ll find one out here on the Soi?” His answer to that was, “Look at you, all Thai! But I thought we decided you were going to take the Train?”


Oh yeah, oops! So maybe I’m a little ADD…


My last few days in Thailand were spent trying to get as many checks as possible on my To Do During My Last Few Days In Thailand List. I did pretty good. Here’s a glimpse:
-eat street food
-shop
-take brother to a movie in theatre so he can pledge allegiance to the King
-Phra Athit Road
-yoga @ Prana Yoga
-yoga with Adrien @ Yoga Elements
-experience the worst traffic in the world (no, this wasn’t actually on my list, but it happened anyway, and yes Bangkok traffic is worse than LA and maybe even Seoul)
-get a massage (the proper kind)
-go to Brown Sugar, a jazz club
-retrieve Akie’s mug – quite possibly the most loved plain white mug in the entire world – from the Westin


Some notes:
-Bangkok street food is sooooooo good. Marinated and charbroiled style meat (think Korean BBQ) on sticks paired with divinely delicious sticky rice given to you very matter-of-factly in a plastic baggie. You can get a full meal for 35 baht (= ~$1), and I totally didn’t get a belly ache.


-Shopping in Bangkok is intimidating and a bit out of control. Shopping areas are overrun with both locals and tourists and there are so many beautiful things that I just wanted one of everything. I discovered and treated myself to some beautiful Buddha pieces and some Thai elephant décor. I’m a pretty non-committal shopper, mostly because I make an effort not to be attached to material things so I rarely see anything that “I’ve just got to have!” but I’m even more non-committal in bargaining situations. Bargaining is a rather confrontational thing. I’m worried about seeing the same thing at the next shop over for half the price because I don’t want to be the foreigner that was gullible and overcharged but at the same time, how much does saving a few cents really matter, is it more about saving those cents or is it about being the winner of the bargain?


-When you watch a movie in a theatre, before the movie begins, you stand and pay respects as they play a 1-minute montage of the King. I love it! Also, at 9a and 6p everyday, the national anthem plays out of public speakers, and everyone freezes mid-whatever-they-were-doing/wherever-they-were-going for the duration of the song. I love that, too!


-I visited Phra Athit Road at the urging of my sweet friend Emily, who told me it’s her favorite road in Bangkok so I just had to go visit it in her honor. It’s near the uber touristy, backpacker area called Khao San. Phra Athit is much less tourist-ridden (nothing against tourists, I’ve essentially been one for the past month), but spending time there, I realized just how authentic of a Thailand experience I’d been having just slipping into Jay’s life there…living in an apartment in just another neighborhood of Bangkok, going to the local supermarket, going to restaurants where half the time we got things we didn’t order (but they were always just as delicious if not moreso) because the restaurants generally just cater to locals and therefore the servers don’t speak much English. But Phra Athit is charming and its eateries, from the super fresh fruit carts to the hole in the wall restaurant Roti Mataba to the American-style café Coffee and More, are true to Thailand in their deliciousness.


-Yoga classes in Asia was pretty good, but aside from Lek (which I was delighted to learn means “little” as she is quite a little Thai woman) at Prana Yoga (www.pranabangkokyoga.com), I was left uninspired. Yoga is quite new in Asia, so I think people are still working through the truth that it’s not about the pose. Classes rarely went beyond the externalities of the asanas and rarely talked about the breath (which is the key to the practice!). Those of you with a cherished yoga studio and/or teacher wherever you live- be very grateful you’ve been given this blessing.


-Massages in Thailand are as good as they say. Who knew a little Thai woman about half my size could be so strong?


-The jazz band was Thai, and dude- Thai people can rock it out. Who knew a little Thai woman could so soulfully belt her heart out? We befriended 2 French fellows, Frederic et Mattheu, that night. I used the petit peut de francais que je sais and I impressed both of them, Jay, and Mike. The jazz club closed at 1a but being Frederic et Mattheu’s last night in Bangkok, they were reluctant to end it there. So we suggested Ice Bar where yes, the bars are made of ice. We all squished into a cab, and about 7 minutes into the cab ride, Frederic says, “So where are we going?” HA! :D How cool that these guys just hopped in a cab with 3 people they just met, having no idea where they were headed in a foreign country. French peeps are cool, yo!


Sorry about the long blog, but let me leave you with a few last thoughts:

I’m convinced some of the mosquitoes in Thailand have invisibility powers because sometimes I could feel them, but when I looked, there was no bugger there!


Thailand has phenomenal bread: blueberry, carrot, milk chocolate, whole wheat crossiants, whole wheat English muffins used as buns for our homemade hamburgers, Asian buns with red bean paste, and huge slices of raisin bread sized perfectly for egg in a hoooooooole! (The best waffle is still at the Omelet Parlor on Main Street in Santa Monica.)


I had yellow watermelon for the first time in Thailand! It pretty much tastes like red watermelon, but it was fun to see and eat it in a different color, and no, it cost nowhere near $35.


Budokon family: get ready for Fighting Crocodile in Reverse and the Inch Worm.


Arigato gozai mas for reading. Sending you snowflakes from Tokyo!


PS I’ll be home next week; my first class back will be Thursday the 22nd @ 7p @ Bodies. My schedule shall resume as usual starting with that class.

2 comments:

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

hey--

glad to hear you're having fun!

- jordo (from my old bosses account!)