Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A rainy night in Bangkok

I heard someone call my name. It was Vergina.
"Whatever happened to your Israeli friend?"
"I left him in Phi Phi. I fly home tomorrow."
"What do you do in Bangkok?" I said with a smile.
"Shopping" We both said simultaneously.

After some screaming I managed to get a Tuk Tuk to take us to Bai Yoke for 100 bhat. There was more traffic than I had ever seen even for Asia. The air was so thick you stuff cushions with it. Bai Yoke is a sixty some odd story tower. I think the entire thing and something like eight surrounding blocks are filled entirely with T-shirts. There are enough for everyone in the world to have two and I don't need a single one. I have an entire box of never-used "memory" shirts already. What ever happens to all of this crap when it doesn't sell?

Vergina was also unimpressed. She crossed a few more presents of her list and then we headed to Pantip Plaza. Now that is something. I needed to replace my DVD player and the one I got for a little more than a hundred bucks plays everything. There were even a couple of formats listed that I had never even heard of like SVCD. What's that? I think if you filled it with stones something would appear on the screen. Maybe even the history of the earth.

Pantip is not just a white market but in the cracks and crevices of the multiple floors and thousands of electronic vendors is a black market. We were after cheap movies. If you buy ten you get one free. You give the seller the money and he or she disappears for ten minutes. Then, if uncaught by the police they return with the merchandise. One of our girls almost didn't make it. Then she appeared suddenly with our goods. Out of breath she pointed us out and an associate of hers passed them off to us. Then she disappeared.

We made a dent in our money. Clutching our bags the heavens opened. Despite the gaily colored roof the Tuk Tuks don't keep out much rain. We had our victory dinner in the little row of Thai hipster restaurants on Phra Artit. It's nice to know they exist.

Vergina promised to email me. I've been traveling for enough years not to bother with oaths like that. It was nice to have a shopping buddy for one last night in Bangkok. That was enough. The next day I went to the Travelpoint on Chakrapong. Vergina said that was the cheapest place around. When I walked in I knew immediately where all the settlers from Gaza had disappeared to. I settled in behind a monitor before I got this creepy feeling. Someone was staring at me. It was him.

Friday, August 26, 2005


The blind man plays his leaf song in the town square. He is old. He is crippled. He sits cross legged on a mat. His hair is white. His skin is like hand tooled brown leather. He has a plastic cup filled with spare leaves in front of him. He holds the leaf between his lips and blows. The song he makes is as tunful as the wind and as soulful as the last unmated cicada. If you make a donation he might loan you one of his extra leaves. Maybe he will even teach you how to play it.

The sea park stretches endlessly along the Krabbi bay. The night market is there and you can buy anything you want to eat, even a plate of fried grasshoppers. There is an old woman who makes paper thin cookies, dabbed with meringue, then coconut, then finly shredded baked carrot. Other than the shopkeeper with the ice chest full of western style ice cream treats it is the only sweet in town and everybody knows it.

The main strip is filled with trucks and motor bikes and motor bikes with side attatchments that almost qualifys them as trucks.The Thais do not honk their horns much. Even in Bangkok. At the main intersection there are two bronze statues on two meter high pedestals. They are half man, half ape like, and they face each other.

The pharmacist, who spoke English was happy to tell me where I might buy a CD I was looking for. The driver on my kakyak trip was playing it in his car. I made him write down the name in Thai script. This is a very helpful trick.

The buildings in this part of town are all of poured concrete. They are of a utilitarian post modern style. Built probably a half centuiry ago they are streaked with great stains of black mildew. Johannes would love the architecture. It reminds me of East Berlin.

There is only one movie theater. It is somewhere on the edge of town. It is a great hulking empty place with a giant curved screen. It must have been quite the thing a long time ago. There is only one show daily at eight o'clock. Before it begins you must stand to honor his majesty the king. They play a trailer promotion which can only be described as: creepy. You never see his eyes, only his tinted glasses. I went to see The Island there. It was dubbed into Thai. After the show the motorbike driver who had driven me there was still waiting. He demanded to take me home for the same price for which he had driven me there. His friends were lurking a little too near. I didnt want it but then I did the math. We were talking about $1.25. Better to pay him and walk away.

Today I do some shopping as my stay winds to the end. The shops and streets are plastered with colorful signs. The people who fill them are small, brown, smiling and endlessly friendly. You can imagine why. They are home.

Leaving from Ao Nang beach, Poda, Chicken Island, Princess cave.

There is nothing elegant about a long tail boat. You take an old car engine. You attach a long metal bar to the main drive shaft. You screw a propeller onto the end. You bolt it to the back of an old wooden boat. You stick it in the water and you turn it on. They never go as fast as they do in the movies. James Bond would be long gone. "Chaa, Chaa" as the Thai say, "Slowly, Slowly."

We snorkeled on an ismuth between two islands. The coral was filled with painted fish and clams with giant purple lips. We swam between two massive limestone outcroppings, riddled with caves and covered with green brush. On Poda we lunched under palm trees then walked to the far side of the island.
"Take a picture of me." I asked Victoria. I left my things on the shore and posed in the surf. A bull monkey slipped down from a tree and started going through the pockets of my shorts.
"Hey!" I yelled. His surprised look reminded me of Moe of The Three Stooges. He retreated. I grabbed my pants and he made a run at me with fangs bared. Victoria and I took off down the beach laughing.
"I don't know if it get's any better than this." I said later as we walked along the beach. "I have to keep revising my standard of Paradise, but I can't imagine topping this. This really has to be as good as it gets."

The clouds were painted on the horizon by Dutch masters. Not a single one above us all day. Then the winds picked up. The rain would soon follow. They are brother and sister. I looked at the rising waves from the leeward side of the longtail boat. The medical student from Holland asked me.
"Why don't you take any pictures?"
"I don't like to."
"But your missing all of this spectacular beauty."
"It diminishes the experience." She seemed vaguely interested so I went on.
"You start out with a memory and then you take a picture and then before you know it you only have a memory of looking at a picture. You take a picture and what? You click. When you write you have to really think about it, because it's tricky."
She arched an eyebrow. She was just hanging in there so I went for it.
"See, I can't write "This is the most amazingly, beautiful bay I have ever seen in my life. It's what's called a glittering generality, it says nothing. So I have to look at the scenery, like at that island over there and say, see how it goes in around the bottom? I would write something like 'The massive rock seemed to float impossibly on the turquoise sea' and then I remember it forever. She thought about it for a moment as the boat churned the ocean waves. The motor chugged.
"The sandy ismuth that stretched between the towering rocks was as warm and white as mothers milk." She offered.
"It rose from the ocean like a giant green haired lizard." I countered.
"Like the back of a craggy dinosaur the island chain jutted from the green depths."
"Or see that one with the gigantic chunk lying on the beach, it's like they forgot a piece, or it didn't fit in or it was left over or something."
"Yeah, Yeah."
"See with photography, there is no poetry.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Fire Dancers

As I walked on the path along the beach I saw two moons. One in the sky. One the white ass of a German girl peeing in the dunes. As she stood she glanced over her shoulder, saw me and laughed.
"You mooned me." I said.
"What is that? Moon you?" She asked in accented English.

We went to the Hippie bar for a drink. There was a tall man with curly hair staring at her. He seemed to hate me already.
"Is that your boyfriend I asked."
"No, we travel together, we meet in Ko Pha Ngna and again in Krabbi, so now we share a room. Every night he wakes me up and says: "Vergina if you want to have sex, go ahead, I don't mind.""
"Sounds like he has a different idea about your relationship."
"That's just how Isrealis are, very agressive."

It was midnight and the fire dancers began to dance. The ocean curled in lazily behind them. Palm trees leaned into the breeze. One by one they twirled burning batons or petrol soaked balls of flame attached to long chains. The DJ deftly egged them on. They leapt, they spun, immersing themselves in a trance.

When I left the Israeli was still staring. The next day whenever I passed him he would give me the evil eye. The people in the dive shop also looked rather glum as I passed. Ko Phi Phi was begining to feel like a very small Island. It was time to get out of there.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Hin Muang Hin Daeng

Then the line snapped. Narata and the other two divers who were already in the water began signaling and yelling. I was suited up on the back of the speedboat. The dive master told me to jump in.
"Don't you think we should rescue them first?" I mentioned. He looked at me like:
"wa -huh???"
"They're drifting away." I yelled above the noisy waves. It began to register on him that there was a problem.
"amateurs." I thought to myself.

Hin Muang and Hin Daeng are tiny little rocks in the middle of the Adaman. A single step would take you from shore to shore. The full moon had just passed and there was a terrific current. The dive master began to yell to them to swim to the island. They couldn't make it. They were quickly becoming exhausted. I began to wonder if this clown was going to get his shit together before things got ugly. In the open sea things often do.

The boat captain took control and powered us in reverse towards them. We were able to get them another line. The captains idea was to tow them back to the island.
"Jump in." The dive master said to me again for the third time.
"Shouldn't we wait until we get them back?" I said wondering just how stupid was this guy.
"Oh yeah."
It wasn't pretty, them hanging onto the rope gulping seawater as we dragged them across the choppy waters.

We made our return to the island and the rest of us dove in. Five meters below the surface the current was still powerful but not overwhelming. The reef there has a thirty meter drop. There are plenty of big coral formations and considering how warm the water was is, a good amount of color. We didn't get to see any whale sharks or giant mantaas though.

The weather turned bad again on our return trip to Ko Phi Phi. The speedboat pounded the waves. It was Naratas turn to get sick. He looked quite green as he puked into the roiling wake of the twin engines.

As we hung up our gear in the dive shop I mentioned to Narata about the chaos on the boat while they were adrift. He told me it was my duty to tell the shop owner. With great reluctance I did. They were ok guys, just disorganized. Naratas point was that can be fatal at sea. It was a good one.

The owner was deaf and he had to read my lips. He responded to my story by telling me how he was going to make their night hell. It wasn't at all what I wanted. I thought a review of safety procedures, establishing a chain of command, that might be helpful. But you can't tell anybody anything.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Ko Phi Pi

The smell of Thailand. I certainly won't miss that. Next to the bugs and the sticky wet heat the smell of feces contaminated waste water is the worst thing about old Siam. It runs just below the street in open cement girds everywhere, Chiangmai, Bangkok, and Ko Phi Phi. You often get hit with it in unexpected, nauseating bursts.

Still the spectacular natural beauty of Ko Phi Phi makes you forget all of that. The gigantic limestone outcroppings that rise from the turquoise sea, the white sandy beaches dotted with longtail boats, that is what burns itself into your memory.

I had to go from Phuket to Phi Phi by speedboat. I met an odd guy named Narata onboard as we bounced along the choppy waters. We were both going diving so we decided to team up. He looks Mongolian but proudly declares himself as one hundred percent French. Ok. He is a doctor there. That was convenient because an hour an a half on a speed boat in rough waters made me want to puke. Narata was nice enough to talk me through it.

When I first saw the islands I thought:
"Oh, this is why people think of Phuket as a trash heap." There is a little Provincetown on the ismuth that joins the two main islands. We took a longtail to the other side, to a more secluded beach. The bungalows at "Relax" are made entirely out of bamboo and teak. I jumped from the wooden boat onto the warm white sand. Narata handed me the bags as the warm salt water washed around my legs. Little bare chested brown Thai men ran up to help. It felt like I was in a movie.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Finally in Paradise

In the north you often meet people who say without being asked that the North is the best of Thailand. Its like those people who talk about how much better Chicago is than New York. While in New York people rarely even mention Chicago.

Then you fly down south. You leave the rainy north behind. You forget about the filthy Ping flooding its banks. You forget about how hot it is in Chiang Mai even though its raining, and even though it's raining you still cant breath the air.

It's paradise down here. Nobody has to boast about anything. Even Phuket which is supposed to be the worst of it, with it's fairy tale mountains surrounding the bay, with clouds like the masts of ancient sailing vessels drifting towards the setting sun, is the kind of place that you can imagine would have sent James Mitchner running to his bungalow, where he would spend the night drinking rum, smoking cigarettes and hammering away at the keys of his old Royal typewriter.

It is obvious why Phuket is the epicenter of the flesh trade. It is so warm. It is so relaxed. The sea is clear and the water is as warm and as salty as freshly spent semen. It is a simmering volcano of reproduction. Life didn't crawl from the sea here. It marched out in divisions.

I swam in that ocean today. Then happy brown men put me in a halter, attached to the back of a speed boat. The boat took off pulling me and my brown companion hundreds of feet into the air. Our miracle of flight was aided by the orange para-sail attached to my harness. The little man used his feet and arms to twist the ropes and myself, guiding our trip, pass the setting sun and across the bay.

Tomorrow I get up at dawn and take the ferry to the next island in the chain of the Adamans. Ko Phi Phi, the last piece of heaven on earth.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

My little neighborhood.

The first few night I stayed in the frog hotel. That is the place run by an ex-thai cop. He has a framed picture of himself in uniform over the desk. I don't know how long ago it was taken but it is in sepia tone like something from the forties. I can't imagine it is that old. His wife is framed right next to him. She is also wearing a military style uniform of some sort.

I had to quit that place after four nights because the frogs were driving me crazy. I like the sounds of nature at night but these creatures were unbearable. What sounded like hundreds of them shrieked incessantly from dusk to dawn. Kreee! Kreee! Kreee! Kreee! They live in a little swamp behind the hotel. On the edge of which is one of those ancient teak houses on pillars. I kept peering out the window to see if there was an albino Thai sitting on the porch playing the 'serng' .

Still I like the area I had found. It was on a back street in the old city. There was a curve in the road that made the tuk tuks slow down or avoid it all together. There are many more trees and vegetation on the back streets. They create little pockets of relief from the air pollution here. Across the street is a massage parlor. I got to know the woman there who runs it.

She has a little dog named Moonjee. Moonjee is a white poodle that she dresses up in a pink jacket with tu-tu. There are some other costumes that she has created for her but that one is my favorite. The little critters nails are also painted pink. Normally it is the kind of dog I don't like. But Moonjee adores me. She curls up under my arm when I am being massaged and lays her head against my chest. If I have to move, she arches backwards to pin me down, whimpering.

I moved across the street from D. N. House to V. I. P. guesthouse. The room was fifty cents more per night but bigger and no frogs. There is a whole crew of European ex-pats who make their home there. They are a funny bunch. They are all in their forties and a little worse for wear. All of them have extraordinarily beautiful and young Thai mistresses. It is very common here. The girls speak very little English and the guys make almost no attempt to learn Thai. They are all amazed when they hear me speaking it. They sit in restaurants at their dinner tables talking with their chums while the girls stare listlessly into outer space.

Chiangmai is filled with "Farang" or westerners. They are lonely old men that can only be described as big dumb beasts. Fat and ugly they lumber around in the heat, moping the copious sweat from the bright slash of sunburnt red across their brows. They are the most sought after, most desirable males, by the young Thai women and ladyboys alike.

Everyday I travel to and from Chiangmai RAM, Grace Dental and my little place. There is a little massage parlor on the first floor. I have gotten to know all the ladies and daily have a massage there. In the evenings we sit out front under a large oriental paper umbrella eating tropical fruits and aahaan Chiang Mai which is "phet maak" "very spicy".
"Mai daai." I often say. "Can not do." As I gulp water.

The Farang from the hotel sit there too. Loud, abrupt but still good hearted. I have had many debates about these men and their Thai wives and mistresses. The women from the west despise them. But these are the same women who would not give these men the time of day back home. Here they are considered a rich prize. I once asked a particularly strident Israeli woman if "on the other hand" would she marry a Thai man.
"Why not?"
"Because... I'm not attracted to them."
"So you are not attracted to an entire race of men?" She had to think about that.

I have to wonder why there is NO attraction. Could it have something to do with the fact that they don't have any money? Which is worse?

The men are lonely. The Thai women want to secure their future. They want to be able to take their children to the hospital whenever they need to. They want to care for their parents. The Farang make this all possible. In return the Farang have someone to care for them, give them companionship. Make them feel needed.

You see the same thing in New York. The pretty young women flock to the most powerful, wealthiest few. Here it is only more obvious. It is a mirror held up to them. That is why they are so pissed off.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Chaing Mai RAM

I wandered out of the old city today past the broken battlements trying to find my way back to Chaing Mai Ram. It is the Queens birthday or "Mom's Day" here. Everywhere there are huge portraits of the Queen. There are candle light vigils and bands playing.

I found the hospital after some searching. I had a complete physical exam. They gave me a battery of tests. I had a blood test, urinanalysis, blood pressure, EKG, AIB, chest x-ray, visual acuity and ultra sound for a grand total of $92 dollars.

They took all the samples and did all the testing this morning. I arrived at 9am and I was done by 10:30am. At 2pm that same afternoon all of the results were in and I met with a physician to review them. Can you imagine? In New York City it costs me $100 to go to the "free" clinic. I have to wait at least four or five hours and then I get about ten minutes with a doctor. If I need any additional tests It can take weeks.

Chaing Mai Ram is a private hospital. You don't need to make an appointment. You just show up and there is little or no waiting. There are hospitals that the government subsidises for the rest of the populace. The situation there is the same as it is for me in the U.S.

I decided that while I was there I might as well have my ears tested. The doctor gave me a physical exam then placed me in a sound proof booth with headphones to analyze my sensitivity to various frequency ranges. Then He used another instrument that uses some kind of sonar technology to test the resiliencey and elasticity of my eardrum and the surrounding bones and tissue. That was another $30.

The doctor told me that I had a diminished receptivity to frequencies in the 1000 to 1200 megahertz range. Normal conversation is between 600 to 800mz. Still when I watch movies or TV it is like a slice is missing which makes everything else hard to understand. I asked him what I should do about it and the answer was the most depressing one.
"That's normal for your age."
Owch. Yeah, get used to it. Soon you will die and you wont be able to hear anything anyways. We save our resources for the young who might benefit. Why don't you crawl on out of here old man?

In the end I decided to replace every filling in my mouth, a lifetime of dental work in four sessions over two days. Dr. Chanaka made it as painless as possible. My face was numb and cranky for days but my mouth was filled with beautiful new white teeth. There I got a second chance. I promise to brush and floss three times a day, under one nation, to have and to hold, till death do we part.

The eye doctor gave me a prescription for bi-focals. I really only have a problem with reading small print (which can be a disaster in airports) so I just got reading glasses. I found these snazzy emerald green ones at Tokyo Optic. A small fortune here at $75.

My festival of health care ended and I had still spent under $500. That would buy me only one week of insurance back in Ameri-kaa. I was happy to pay it. I was proud to pay it.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Grace Dental Clinic

Well, she certainly did a good job. I feel like the sun is shining inside my mouth. The office was snazzy too. It was completely modern and spotlessly clean. It was the kind of place that made you wonder if your shoes were good enough. Fortunately they make you remove them before you go into the examination room.

Her name is Jarunee Wattanakra and she is the best dentist I ever had. She explained everything to me. She offered me options. She was painless. She had big color diagrams of teeth which she used to discribe what she was going to do and what she had done. She answered all of my questions without treating me like an annoying idiot. We spoke in Thai, in German and in English.

The best part for me was the price. In New York it is unaffordable for me to go to the dentist. I certainly would never say things like:
"Do whatever needs to be done."
She examined and cleaned all of my teeth down below the gum line.She polished them. Then she talked to me about a polyp I had on the inside of my gum. It had been there for years. She said it wasnt imperative that I have it removed but that sometimes they can cause problems later. She said it could be removed with a lazer. It would be painless and the advantage over a knife is that it would not bleed and would not require stitches. The whole proceedure would take about ten minutes.
"Get rid of it." I said. And it was done. The cleaning cost me 1,200 bhat. The surgery 2,000 bhat. The medicene, (pain killers, anti bacterial mouth wash) 30 bhat. The total in U.S dollars? Eightyone.

Monday, August 08, 2005


I had to resist temptation last night when a very pretty hooker started following me down the street.
"I give you good massage ok ok?"
There is plenty of legitimate massage in Thailand but not usually offered after midnight on street corners.
"Mai aw, Mai aw!" Don't need, don't need! I said shaking my hand and running as fast as I could wearing sandals. Its so cheap here, maybe 25-30 bucks.I think an hour with a hooker in New York City starts at around $200.

Keep in mind that shaking your head "no" means nothing here. You have to shake your hand like the Queen of England only a little faster. Anything else only confuses them. Imagine what you would think if somebody said hello to you while shaking their head "no"?

I am having some very lazy days here in Chaing Mai. The idea is that learning to speak some Thai would make everything more enjoyable. Yet there is so much I would like to do. I would like to go to Pai. I would like to visit Suko Thai the ancient capitol. I want to have some diving down in the south, maybe Ko Phi Phi.Royal says the kayaking in Krabbi is not to be missed.

There is also the idea of affordable health care. I think I need reading glasses. Well, I know I need reading glasses but I keep lying to myself. The computer screen has ruined my eyes. Katerina was laughing at me in Bangkok when I held the menu across the table to be able to read it. Her father is an optomotrist. Here one can see a doctor, get a prescription, glasses everything here for around 25 dollars.

I also wouldn't mind having my teeth cleaned and examined.

For as long as I can remember I have had this little pain in my side. It comes and goes. It is never debilitating so I just ignore it. MRI (including radiologist fee) at Bangkok General Hospital? Around two hundred and fifty dollars. Hard to pass up.

That means I would need another week in Bangkok. Time is running out already.


Saturday, August 06, 2005

Doi Inthanon

I said I didnt want to see any elephants abused. She assured me that the drivers have a stick, but "never use". That was untrue. When we got to the elephant farm all of them had one or two fresh bruises on their noggins and a score of scars.

We rode the big grey beasts into the jungle. A driver perched on the head and two passengers on a metal bench. The driver smacked our girl, a massive female with baby in tow, several times shouting.
"Quay Quay"
Somewhere in the wood I asked him if I could take over driving. He smiled and exchanged places with me. He offered me the stick and I said I didnt need it. Instead I petted big mamas head, sang to her and gently urged her on. We got back to the base before anyone else. My fellow passenger David said it was because I was driving her nuts with my singing.

We hiked on into the forest till we saw the first waterfall. With the monsoon in season the stream was raging.We were jumping from rock to rock, diving into the cool water when it started raining in torrents. Our packs on the shore got the brunt of it. We would not be completely dry again for the rest of the trip.

Our first night we stayed at the Meo village. The mountain is home to the Hmong people who have a seperate language from Thai language proper (which is actually a local Bangkok dialect). They were friendly smiling people. They had crafts to sell us, and chips and beer and whiskey and coke. Of course coke. Its everywhere. You can't escape it

Everyone kept emphasising that there would be plenty of beer and whiskey available. I didnt know why they kept saying it. Why would I want whiskey on a nature hike? The first night we were all so wet and exhausted we fell asleep immeadiately. There were about 25 or so villagers and maybe thirty or more trekkers in the tiny hamlet. We were spread out in three seperate one room teak houses on thick mahogony stilts. The bathroom was a single hut down the hill. In the middle of the night we could hear screams coming from the hut that contained a score of people from Ireland. It sounded like they were getting rip roaring drunk.

The next day we hiked some more, visited another waterfall nestled among the huge rock ledges and then stopped at Karen Village. We found a volley ball net and a shrunken but playable ball. Surrounded by mountains we bonded in a riotiously competitive game. That night our guides smiled, played guitar, sang and coaxed the group into a drinking game. I had one or two whiskeys with coke. I fled when I saw it start to tip out of control. The Aussies needed the least persuasion. By ten o'clock everyone was screaming at each other demanding that they take a drink according to the rules of the game. They were ossified with liquor.

The next day they staggered one by one from the hut, holding their heads. I saw how it worked now. It was like a trip to Vegas. Still the drinks were cheap, and what amounted to a fortune for the village barely dented a single westerners bank account. There was one more waterfall to dive into and blissfully no more rain.

Our journey ended with a long lazy ride down the Wang river on bamboo rafts. We passed magnificent trees, rickety bridges and small stretches of tiny rapids. Wet again, we climbed into the back of the truck and headed home.

Khao Soi Gai

Before I went trekking in the mountains I sent off an email to a local Thai teacher in Chaing Mai. The address I found was easystudythai@yahoo.com on a little slip of paper torn from a notice that had been plastered to a cement fence. Three days later I returned from the jungle. I found a cheaper hotel with better TV on a nice side street with more trees. I dropped off a 4 kilo bag of laundry. I ate some 20 bhat food. Then I checked my email and there was an answer.

His name is Ting and he met me at my hotel. I rode on the back of his motor bike to a tree filled plaza by a local monastery. There are monks and monasteries everywhere in Thailand. Almost every young man spends a few years in a Buddhist temple. Even the king, as a prince, spent a few years with a shaved head, wearing an orange frock, meditating and sweeping the parking lot with a palm broom.

We sat on a little cement table by a tree and he ran me through the basics. He is a very slight, very dark young guy. After an hour or so we finished and made plans to meet again. He is doing very well because it was hard to find spots in his crowded schedule.

I decided to try it out and went to a restaurant I like called The Wok. It is a stones throw from The Anodard. They make wonderful food, but perhaps is a little pricey for the locals so it is often filled with horrible Brits. They are all so white and so loud with streaks of bright red sunburn on their foreheads and extremities. The backs of their legs are often covered with the little sores that one gets from scratching mosquito bites too often. One of them was yelling into his cellphone at the table opposite me. He had had a motorbike accident on the road to Pi which he was quite proud of and wanted everyone on this side of the mountain to know about. A group of three girls sauntered in tossing their blonde locks about. One of them had a skirt so short that when when she tugged on it to adjust it, it popped right off, down to her knees exposing her tiny black panties. The English girls are often quite homely or fat or both, but I guess they do make up for it by being wonderful sluts.

No one even tries to say hello in Thai in that place. The waiter came to my table and I greeted him in his own language. He bowed slightly in greeting. Then I said
"Phom jaak kin Khao Soi Gai, Khrap" (I would like to eat the ((Chaing Mai curry)) fried noodles with chicken, please)
His eyes almost lept out of his head. This time he bowed hurridly and scurried off. I had never seen a waiter in Thailand move so fast. I began to wonder if I had gotten it right or if I had cursed the land his grandmother was born on.

The food came and it was what I ordered, including the drink without ice. I was making it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Not the Night Train to Chiangmai

Now I hear that the night train is quite lovely. The beds are OK and you can actually sleep. Last year in Vietnam it was such a horror that whenever I hear that word I shudder. In Harlem Night Train is a cheap alcoholic wine-ish drink that only the most desperate drink. Too me.. it seemed consistant.

I opted for the day train which takes a little longer. Still you get to see the country. Plenty of it. It took 12 hours to go from Bangkok to Chiangmai. 8 across flat plains of the central highlands. The last four in the mountains. That is when I was happy to see out the window. In the north it seems that people take special pride in their railway stations. They are special little houses with pitched roofs, nicely painted and little, very well kept gardens. If there was not so much to see in so little time I would like to have visited one of these towns. One where not one single flip flop wearing back packer has set foot in.

The train itself was good enough. You could actually use the bathroom without gagging. I hear that on the bus it is like visiting one of the outer rings of hell. They had food service as well. You could eat it. They randomly gave out two kinds of meat, white or red. It didnt really matter. It tasted as if the choice was either dog or rat. Still, you could eat it.

At the station I stopped at the Visitors Information desk to ask about a hotel. The attendant led me out into a completely dark parking lot and asked me to wait in a broken down blue Van. Its amazing what you will do when you are traveling. You have to trust everybody.

The hotel I stayed at is called the Anodard. It is a beat up 1970s style with close to 300 rooms or so. The place was empty. I think there were maybe only 20 guests in the whole place. My room was large with wood paneling like the kind you see on the Brady Bunch. In fact I thing the Brady Bunch dad might have been one of the Architects on this project. His signiture style is everywhere. It has a beautiful swimming pool surrounded by tropical plants and a sort of Walt Disney-esq fake waterfall. Too bad you cant jump from it any more. There is a sign with several Thai words on it blocking the steps leading up. Under the Thai script it says simply "No" in english. Isnt it nice our language is so compact?