Today was day 3 wandering around the city. Around every corner is another breathtaking temple (called a ‘wat’) and everywhere there is cheap, amazing street food. So, why wasn’t I loving it?
I realized tonight, it is because I don’t know it. I don’t know its stories, I don’t know its people. I don’t know its needs and wants. Now, let me say — traveling in India and Nepal for almost 4 months definitely doesn’t make me an expert – and I would never claim to be. But, over my time there and through my friends who live there, I feel that I have some understanding of that world. But here? Nope, no idea.
While I sat and ate my fresh fruit in coconut milk for the 3rd night in a row, one of the waitresses came over and commented on it (that I eat it every night). We got to talking, first about her name tag that she hates to wear (we commiserated about that and bosses that make you wear them), then her hours and the fact that she lives about 45 minutes away and then about how she is trying to work a lot so that she can make enough money to bring her daughter back. See, when the floods happened, her place wasn’t impacted because she lives on the 3rd floor, but the whole first floor was flooded, so she could not go home – so she sent her daughter to her village to live with her mom.
Ah, so now Thailand has a bit more of a face for me. A bit of a story. Now, I feel a bit of a connection.
I have spent lots of time comparing Bangkok to Nepal/India and here are some of my thoughts:
- Nepal and India – it was easy to eat vegetarian. Not so here (though I am sure you could manage). But here, seems to be easier to eat meat. It is everywhere. From the dried fish to fried chicken to grilled hot dogs. I had beef and pork for the first time in almost 4 months. And then there is the unidentifiable meat…. yeah, had some of that too.
- like india and nepal, there are temples everywhere. and i mean, everywhere. Whereas in Nepal and India, there were small ones hidden around every corner, here they are all huge and golden and ornate. How many pictures can I take of Buddha? apparently, i have yet to discover that answer
- there is no honking in bangkok. seriously. it seems SO quiet to me. and there are lights and lanes and people adhere to them…. whoa….
- there are women everywhere. women shopping and cooking food and … well…. just doing the sorts of things you do when you live some place. they are working alongside men and talking to them. it is definitely a different feel.
- people dress very differently — short skirts, lots of skin (it was almost shocking at first). and the hairstyles? awesome. lots of faux-hawks and punk styles. love it. i feel so plain.
- they are use to tourists here. they don’t stare. in fact, i am kind of invisible. once in a while i get a bit of a smile — but for the most part, i am totally non-existant to them.
- the markets here sell everything. today i walked around chinatown — everything from jewelery to clothes to rebuilt engines for cars to sex toys to chinese herbs to kitchen sinks to …. really, whatever you could ever want.
- people don’t harass me on the street. no one is asking me where i am from (ok, a few of them did here and there) but for the most part it is hassle free. no tuk-tuk drivers asking you if you want to go somewhere. no sketchy dudes asking you where you are from to lure you into their shops.
- the street food is safe and it is the norm. today, i had a lot of it (i kind of can’t stop myself… which might be why i am way over budget….). I had chicken noodle soup, pork noodle soup, some sort of curried stir fry with rice this morning for breakfast with an egg, a mango smoothy and fresh slices of pineapple. and there were so many other options… it is almost overwhelming… and some of it i don’t have the courage to try….
In other news… I had two big spends today. One was buying two pieces of fabric for skirts – though that was just about 9$ for each one and it is thai silk (or so I hope!). And the other big ticket item was sending the fabric home, along with a nepal guide book home (that belongs to katherine — thanks Kat!) and my india guidebook home and the two books and other material i have collected along the way. So — that _should_ arrive in the states in 2-3 months or so…. expensive, but necessary.
I want to describe my breakfast to you — I had rice with a chicken red curry and then some sort of octopus (I think? or maybe squid?) that was with green beans and spicy. SO good. and then I followed that up with an iced coffee (heavy on the carnation condensed milk) and then fresh slices of mango. All for about $$2. So, again, you ask me why i am over budget? ok…. so all the fresh fruit — how can you indulge just once a day? and then you can have fruit shakes with said fresh fruit. again – how can you do that but once? i guess it has been some time since i had fresh fruit like this…. It’s my christmas present to myself, right?! (too bad my account didn’t know we were celebrating xmas).
First thing tomorrow morning, i head to the airport and by 9:15 am, I will be in HCMC. I have a reservation for the first two nights and then… not sure. I always get nervous when I travel some place new. Once I get use to it and figure out how to negotiate my new world, i am ok, but until then, I get really nervous. I will be by myself from the 23rd until some point on the 29th when I will meet up with my friend Chloe. Not sure what my plans are… i tried to make some plans, but have not heard back from any of the guest houses, so it will have to be on the fly planning! my favorite….
in any case — happy solstice to you all. much love as we start this new year. i am so thankful that you are all with me. i feel your energy, love and courage. thank you.