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balance (2): December 2004

Thursday, December 30, 2004

catastrophe

i must apologize for my seeming insensitivity, which is due to the fact that i have little contact with real civilization right now, meaning no newspapers or tv. so i didn't realize that what i at first thought was just a storm was actually the disaster of the magnitude it seems to be in asia. i can't believe it happened just an hour away from me, and having been there last month and seeing what various sorts of people might be lining the shores of phuket or ko phi phi and now might not exist, it's sort of overwhelming. gone would be taxi drivers, food sellers, umbrella guys, sunbathers, divers, dogs, shops, bar girls.... all people i see every day here as well, so it feels close to home and extremely sad. i am remaining blissfully unaware with no media frenzy in my face, and after living through 9-11's similar media orgasm i am very relieved at this. no need for more fear being vomited on those who are already down. i wish i could go help out but as i have no applicable skills or blood types i would just be in the way. so...i do send out fervent hopes that everyone's family, friends, and selves manage to recover safely and move on, and i am sorry for their losses. chok dee

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

going down

2 weeks left. i am entering a miserable phase where i desperately cling to everything i have here knowing i will lose it all in an instant. it’s very strange to pick up in the midst of a very pleasant life in which i have everything i could possibly want, and move unwillingly to another completely different life on the other side of the world in which i have absolutely nothing at all and am very unhappy. i am trying to look at it as a challenge but underneath there is something in me that just wants to cry myself to sleep every night instead.

Monday, December 27, 2004

yawn

whit knocked on our door at 8am this morning and dragged us yawning and protesting towards a taxi to haad rin. supposedly there is an after party all day long. i had absolutely no interest in this as i am not a morning person and the thought of a full on party complete with drunken fools in the middle of the day did not appeal to me. nevertheless we went. the party is at a place called the ‘backyard pub’, up in the jungle. as i expected, full of staggering, mushmouthed people and horrid pounding techno music. give me a break- at 10am? i didn’t bother to go in, and instead sat outside on a cooler watching people stumble to and fro. several guys tried to pick me up, to ot’s amusement, until they realized he was my boyfriend and disappeared.



ot and i were exhausted, so we wandered away from the clatter and down to the beach to look for money that had fallen out of peoples’ pockets the evening before. i am telling you, the beach is a virtual treasure chest after a full moon party. we only looked for about 5 minutes and we found 550 baht. we skipped to a bakery to spend it on breakfast. over a delicious capuccino, we watched the reports on the creepy asian tsunamis which took place yesterday (unbeknownst to us on our isolated beach). it really put me in a bad mood to think of all the nice fisherman and shop people who were simply washed away, and only an hour away from me, and the media’s greedy, gloating distortion and replay of the events made me sick.

finally we caught a taxi back over the rough roads to our beach, and flopped into bed for several lovely hours.

i went to pay the rent on my room for my remaining 2 weeks here, and the fat bitchy owner of the place tried to kick me out. argh. almost two weeks ago, when ot and i returned from pai, we made flyers for whit’s bar and passed them out on the beach as usual. we are friends with everyone at our place and they have an agreement with whit that it’s ok. however the owner of our bungalows had just arrived on the island after a long absence and freaked out when she saw us distributing our flyers, and screamed at ot for it (very un-thai). i didn’t much care what she thought because it is a normal business practice to distribute flyers, and several groups of people do so daily on the beach, however she was really hung up on the fact that i am a farang and insists we were trying to steal her business. she rudely asked me to leave at that time, but i sent whit down to her to explain who i was and what i was doing and he insisted everything was fine. i smiled at her and attempted to make amends for a very innocent mistake next time i saw her, but she was not amenable... and i gave up and didn’t even think about it again until today, when i went to pay and she refused to look at me or talk to me at all, leaving me standing and spluttering stupidly for 15 minutes. i had to find someone else to help me and when he did he translated for her that i was not welcome to stay any longer. i was furious, looked her right in the eyes (knowing she can speak english despite her pretending otherwise) and said “i am sorry if you want to make a problem with me, but i see no problem. i am a nice person, i wanted to help my friend, who is also your friend. i understand you don’t want us to bother your customers and i won’t from now on, but i am spending a lot of money myself to stay at your place, so please allow me to pay for the remaining 15 days i have, thanks”. and i handed her 6000 baht. she coughed nervously and muttered under her breath, but the boy took my money. i left in a huff. i cannot stand thai peoples’ business practices, which are ruthless and greedy and illogical. most likely she will come break into my bungalow (i have removed all my valuables except my laptop, which is locked to the window) or try to set it on fire or something. if nothing else she will definitely spread rumors to the whole village about how i swaggered into town with my farang superiority complex (never mind that ot and whit were there) and set out to ruin her. the thing is, she is the richest person on this beach. she owns bungalows, a restaurant, a mini mart, an internet cafe, travel agency, a taxi service, speedboat service.... on and on. when she has all this, why should she care what meager business whit’s little bar gets from the beach? stupid cunt. apparently she is like this a lot- kicks out farangs on a whim. just likes to be miserable i guess. she has so offended me with her pettiness that i will do what i can to make sure she loses business from now on. i recommend that no one stay at central cottage on xxxx beach, as they are overpriced and rude and stupid.

moon

full moon party time again. this time it’s huge. between christmas and new years’, just about every little trendy european kid has come to ko phangan to invade my privacy. the bungalows are completely full, and everywhere i go i run into someone annoying.

i wanted to go check it out but whit convinced me not to. there would be something like 40,000 people there, meaning it would be impossible to move, the percentage of crazy people on drugs would be higher, and there would be traffic jams for miles to and from the party. i was disappointed at the anticlimax of a night, in which nobody came to our bar and we went to bed early.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

merry xmas

christmas? heh? there is not one sign of christmas in this place despite the ‘merry christmas’ banner that whit hung halfheartedly over the dj booth and the light-up santa hat he gave me to wear. as this is the third christmas in a row i have spent in asia i don’t feel much of the spirit any longer.

what i did for christmas was take a longtail boat around the island to go snorkelling with ot. it was...eh. i don’t much like boats, and longtail boats have a tendency to feel like they will capsize at any second, especially when the big swells surprise you around a rocky bend. we were soaked before we reached our first destination. once there, the boat parked about 200 feet away from a small island, to which we were supposed to swim for snorkelling. i learned my lesson last time this happened on a trip and stayed right where i was on the boat, watching everyone else panic and choke as they made the long trek out and back. not much to see anyway, and there are still stinging things in the water (i have since learned that they are called ‘sea lice’). we headed afterwards to another beach to have lunch, which was mysteriously not included. and then on to another island for more snorkelling.



we didn’t ever make it to the next island. instead we had to rescue three bedraggled men who were floating forlornly out in the middle of deep water- clutching their sunken rented boat. sigh- thailand. we took them back to their beach and did some halfhearted snorkelling there in which i saw one sea sausage and a bunch of rocks, and that was the end of our trip.

ot and whit were too lazy to do anything else for christmas so we relaxed at the bar with a steamed chicken and went to bed early.


Saturday, December 25, 2004

:(

i received a short jumbled email from x, who is inside a hash-brown cloud in amsterdam. he informed me that the girl who is subletting my room in NY will be joining him for an intimate christmas and new year’s celebration, and they plan to travel together around eastern europe. he had purchased a $2k ticket to thailand initially, but cancelled it at the last minute, knowing he would only fall into the role of sex tourist again and he was averse to that. (?!) he is sick of girls who give themselves freely (or nearly free). and he is finished with his website.

which explains a lot. i am guessing x did not so much go insane as he just fell very quickly for this other girl. which explains why he is throwing me out of my own life with little regard to how i feel about it. but just because it makes sense doesn’t make me feel any better. now i have to go back and live on a couch in what is now their living room until i can find a job and a new place, while they meanwhile tap their fingers waiting for me to get out. and then there is the fact that i have been in love with x myself, so though i am happy that he is happy, it makes me quite miserable myself to have to live with them in their honeymoon phase. i don’t know how i am going to get through it honestly. i feel like jumping in front of a train when i think about it. i knew x and i were destined to be together in some aspect from the very first minute i met him, without a hint of doubt. we have always been so close- even when we weren’t together we talked to each other on the phone every night or emailed from neighboring countries. suddenly it’s just- stopped. how can one person feel this sense of destiny so strongly and the other shrug it off so casually? i suppose i am not the first person to have asked that question but it’s not a very fun situation to be in. i need to be patient but that is not one of my strong traits.

anyway it’s beautiful here, blah blah....

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

yim

i am lucky to be here, even if i did somewhat earn it. i can’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else.



this morning i awoke to the yawning blue sea outside my doorstep. i had myself a sample swim. the tiny jellyfish-like things that i have not yet identified (or seen) were in full stinging force. i compromised by sitting in the sand at the edge of the tide so i had water too. toasted myself in the sun. made friends with a tiny british girl whose rich parents must have just dropped her off on this beach and disappeared.... she was twirling her hair and staring sadly into the surf. there is the occasional hippie doing yoga, but other than that it’s the village people for me. the one-intersection street. my aptly named thai hippie friend ‘romeo’ tells me we are everyone’s children, as the whole village comes together to feed, clothe, and entertain us. i like this family. i cannot convey how gloriously perfect the beach is, especially before noon when there is no one else on it. but the village culture is what gets me.



the boys are getting sick of me though. not much to do with a girl. they humor me, and are happy when i give them things, and take the occasional peek at me but otherwise it’s a lot of fast talk in thai. i get the gist of it, most of the time. they don’t know that, and i stay silent.

i found some flourescent paint and painted a menu sign for over the bar. printed some tallysheets. helped the boys hang up their new muay thai bag on a tree. bought three days worth of food for ot and i to cook in the kitchen (today was stir fried pork with vegetables and canned mackerel in tomato sauce mixed with curry and chilis). i realized i have gotten a lot of free cooking lessons and thai language lessons from him, and i can practically do professional thai massage after all of the ones i have had (ot can be the judge of that). i run the bar when nobody’s looking. i feed the dogs and change the cds. i nod and say ‘sawasdee kha’. i tickle the children. i buy the stinky fish sauce. i sweep the floor.

i was born to live in this country. ‘farang’ or not.




Monday, December 20, 2004

peace

party tonight. it’s like the jah bar all over again, though the people are much better here than they were there. at least i can consider them friends. whit even drove to pick us up when arrived yesterday morning via nightbus and ferry, loaded down with most of ot’s personal belongings (had to bribe the driver to let us carry them). he is here for good, planning to work at whit’s bar (lucky him). i went back to central cottage to find another dreamy bungalow. this one is also right on the beachfront, and my dog happy took about 2.5 minutes to race over, jump all over me, and plop herself down to sleep on the porch.

a shower and a smoke later i felt twenty thousand times better than the entire last week combined.

we escaped the welcome but stifling heat later to the blue oasis, up in the leafy jungle. whit was happy to see us back and i gave him the muay thai punching bag and gloves i had bought for the bar. i collapsed in a hammock and he put on bob marley. otto and i relaxed finally. i even caught him smiling at me every now and then.

an old german couple traipsed up later on. germans are the dorkiest of travellers. german men seem to all have big round bellies and long skinny legs with knobby knees. they wear embarrassingly short cutoffs and socks with their flipflops. and an open shirt to reveal their flabby physiques. also, only german men seem to have mustaches these days. their wives are inevitably fat but pleasant, talkative but submissive. this couple was no exception. the man kept shouting “live your life!”, and the woman sat quietly knitting a shawl in her lap. they drank about 16 fruit shakes combined.

so it was surprising to see a tall, handsome man join them a few minutes later. i had to do a doubletake because i first thought he was thai- turns out he is half thai half german (a popular combination). i was torn between being irrationally and uncontrollably attracted to him and wondering how he felt having a mother who was in all likelihood a prostitute. he looked like keanu reeves. he must have sensed i was interested in him because he came and sat right down next to me. sigh. i made some smalltalk with him and then dutifully made it known i was with otto. not that i am. not that we are physically engaged or anything. but he is living in my bungalow so what can i do.

anyway back to tonight. i have spent most of the day alone, with exception of a long luxurious swim (occasionally punctuated by tiny jellyfish stings) and a laying out on the sunny white sand with ot. i snapped at him for chewing with his mouth open (he brings out the total bitch in me) and he harumphed and took off for the bar early on. i will go up later and help him bartend and fend off girls. overall, it’s a good thing i am leaving in a couple of weeks, but for now i am feeling alive again.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

bangkok redux

we had planned to stay a whole week in the north, but it was just too cold. i called and changed our tickets to leave 2 days earlier. we left early this morning to return to hot, sunny bangkok.

i am horrified to realize i only have a little more than 3 more weeks left here. oh how i dread my nearing future.

chiang mai redux

back to chiang mai. not much to tell. cold, long trip..... ot and i testy with each other. no idea what i will do from hereon.... most likely the island i am thinking.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

brrrrr rabbit

first thing this morning ot ran to get some fresh sheets and a thick quilt from the reception desk, and i took a very long, very hot shower. we were still rather snippity with each other, so he ventured off to visit some friends from ko chang (the ex owner of the jah bar who wants me dead, in fact... and co.) and i sipped a cappuccino in a quaint little cafe which was humming old jazz. we both resolved to have a better day, and it was almost possible for a few warm day hours.

we rented a motorbike and went to visit the hot springs, which trickle down a woodsy mountain about 7k out of pai. we passed several elephant villages and some breathtaking views. the hot springs were steaming and boiling and smelled like sulfur. we dipped our toes in and relaxed. at least we had fresh air and nature.



back in pai, we paid a visit to another friend of o’s (funny how he has friends absolutely everywhere). he was an older sort of hippie guy named ‘ed’, who had made his own teepee and set up shop in it selling handmade silver jewelry and didgeridoos. he rolled a cigarette and we settled back. i expected o to do the talking in thai, but instead he dozed on a mat, leaving me in very awkward silence with our very quiet host. i perused the various native american art scattered around the teepee. i commented on the jewelry. i felt ill. really ill. o finally came around. i wanted to escape but sat politely through the next hour as our host poured us tea and put on chillout music. he and o chatted- i listened. ed mentioned (not realizing i understand most thai) that he didn’t much like farangs, and had no desire to spend time with them, which cheered me up immensely. as did o’s equally unaware response that it was too expensive to travel around unless you had a farang to take you..... ugh.

i am under no illusions as to the nature of ot’s and my relationship, but i do wish he would stop pretending otherwise. thai and farang relationships are funny things. for most people they amount to nothing more than a shared curiosity about each others’ culture and a mostly sexual short term fling. the ones that last longer- i dunno. it seems a lot of westerners come to thailand in search of something they can’t find at home. we are missing something in the west. a certain guileless simplicity. puppydog affection. buddhist casualness. lack of pretentiousness and materialism. i admit it, it’s why i am here. i am attracted to the new things that ot constantly shows me, the blissfully laid back lifestyle, the near worship he gives me... but i love thailand more than i love o. i have to keep in mind that this is a holiday romance, and really more of a friendship. and o, though he professes to love me and i feel this is to some extent true, more likely is in love with the lifestyle i am able to give him while i am here. whenever we approach real life- living together, discussing business, talking about the future, certain problems pop up. i dislike taking on the man’s role in a relationship. i don’t like making all the decisions. ot feels he has to agree with everything i say since i am his benefactor. i am attracted to strong, intelligent, motivated men. o is not really any of these things, not in the western sense anyway. the funny thing is, those strong intelligent men i have always met in the past have always treated me like scum, and are partly what i am here to escape. o treats me generally very well. we are not necessarily equal but we are balanced, and we manage to have a good time..... x always tried to tell me that this sort of relationship is just as credible as any other, even with some element of a transaction in it, and i see that he is correct. but at the same time i doubt i could feel truly fulfilled here with o. i can not talk to him like i can to western men. i don’t feel it’s very honest overall, and there is a certain respect missing from both sides. thai culture believes that women are one step below men on the evolutionary scale, and o finds it awkward to discuss anything serious with me. he explained to me that women are only for fucking and family. i am revolted by this concept. thai men also feel more powerful and respected the more women they have strung along, and that cultural trait, though accepted in thai society, will never be okay with me. my intelligence and success will always intimidate o too, and i am sure he wishes i would be more compliant and less inquisitive. i am sure he wants to start a family and live happily ever after in a bungalow in the jungle with a somtam stall. though this does appeal to me in some way, i doubt long term this could ever fulfill me, considering i usually have a new life every six months or so. i have the drive instilled in me by the western world. and hence i keep o at arm’s length (we are still being "friends").... but... but... but i do care about him and i do really want to make his life better, which in turns makes me feel fulfilled too, so who knows. it remains to be seen.... i was shocked to find out a former friend of mine (a girl from france) just had a baby with her thai boyfriend and is planning her future here with him. i find her either very brave and optimistic or very stupid- not sure which is the final verdict.

anyway we thankfully left ed’s and hurried on motorbike to catch the sunset at the hot spring pools. i wanted to go to a farang-style resort but o steered me towards the thai style one, which ended up being not as fancy of course but overall better. it was under an ancient bridge in the middle of nowhere, overlooking the mountains and the valley. just a few concrete pools that tapped into the river, but the surroundings were gorgeous and we had the whole place to ourself. we paid 20 baht to the small, stooped tribal lady and stepped into the pools. it was bliss watching the sun go down and when we stepped out to dry off our skin was silky soft and warm.



i extended the bliss by splurging on massages for us both upon our return to the village. o supplemented it with a trip to the tea vendor. my massage had to be the best ever, not thai style but absolutely perfect. o and i were zombified by the relaxation. we spent an hour or so in silence, wandering through the quaint village.

the cold had set in again already so we headed early towards the bebop bar. i had been before when it was at another location- it is now in a much bigger venue and is more new orleans-style. a geat live music venue. i was surprised to see evidence of the band o plays with occasionally (zuzu) plastered all over the walls- apparently they are quite famous in thailand. we sat at the bar and ordered a sangsom set. the bartender was a friendly long-haired, mustachioed guy from laos. he was talking to a lone french canadian girl, whom i invited over to sit with me. i do not enjoy talking to american girls, but i inevitably get along with french canadian girls very well. not sure why this is, i think they are more honest and less caught up in their image. she confessed to me that she was travelling with her best male friend, and she was secretly in love with him. having just ended a similar relationship, i did my best to dissuade her from him. she commented on another lone guy in the bar who had caught her eye and when she went to the bathroom i invited him over to sit with us. she returned with a look of dismay and i told her to roll with it. they were enraptured with each other for the remainder of the evening. the bar got crowded and we got more drunk- me especially so. o made a snack run and came back with bags of little sausages, peanuts, and chips. i ate the whole lot while he chatted with some new thai friends, and i felt immediately very sick and very very drunk. i begged him to take me home. the french girl gave me a big hug and said she was so impressed by my perspective, that she planned to take every opportunity presented to her from now on, despite how stuck in her ways she felt like being. i was surprised to have inspired her and hugged her back. o and i left, rubbing our hands together before a makeshift fireplace on the way out. we zoomed towards home in the frosty air. he wanted to go visit his friends, so i went to sleep alone. he returned shortly later crying that it was far too cold. we snuggled under the thick quilt, and though this night was better than the previous, we still decided that we had had enough of pai.

Monday, December 13, 2004

pai

the fact that there are 12 days until christmas feels less unreal in northern thailand, where i am told it is 2 degrees celsius. this means nothing to me as i can not translate to farenheit, however i can verify that it is indeed freezing when you have only a light sweater, a few tank tops, and flip flops. i sipped a guilty coffee at starbucks this morning, bemused by the christmas music in the background, and then otto and i caught the 4 hour public bus up the mountain to pai in the scant sun. the ride is beautiful, but by the time we arrived we were horribly sick from the twists and turns, combined with the clouds of exhaust fumes from a bus in front of us and an adventurous sampling of the traditional noodle dish called ‘khao soy’ at a rest stop. we staggered dizzily off the bus into the village of pai.



i had read online about a guesthouse called ‘ban nam pai’. i highly recommend it. we stayed in a gorgeously designed bungalow for 800 baht. it was elevated like a treehouse near the river with a huge comfortable bed, crisp white sheets, and a beautiful open air bathroom with a stone floor and lots of plants. it also had very hot water, which would become essential in the next two days.

every single place i have gone on this trip has ended up being in the wrong season, to my exasperation. when they say it’s high season in thailand, they mean it’s high season in bangkok and central thailand. the north is far too cold and the south far too rainy until a few weeks past the new year. otto and i were flabbergasted when we left the room to go explore the village. it was deathly cold, especially after spending so much time on a tropical island, and we were grossly underprepared. this brought out the vicious beast in us both. we snapped and snarled at each other most of the evening, between convulsive shivering. i stopped at a stall and bought socks, a hat and gloves for us both, but it did little to calm the trembling or the mood.

so not only were my favorite places in pai no longer in existence (the spectacular shan restaurant i had eaten at two years before had gone belly up, and the small ‘ja dong’ bar with the chatty owner was nowhere to be found either), but the usual fun things to do there were not accessible at this time of year either. the valley was not as beautifully green but more of a dehydrated brown. the river was freezing, so there was no tubing- ditto the green swimming pool. ditto the waterfall slide. ditto just about everything. even the hill tribe people stayed home. the one saving grace was a smiley burmese man wrapped in colorful scarves who stood on the street in front of three boiling kettles of tea. he ladled steaming ginger elixir into two stalks of bamboo (as makeshift cups) for 10 baht, and we were able to feel almost warm for about ten minutes. we walked around the shops full of hippie wares and laughed at the various hippie people traipsing by (it’s been awhile since i have seen people so decked out in thailand). we perused the small thai market. we stopped at a corner thai restaurant which was not so exposed as the other mostly open air restaurants and shared some hot soup with pork broth and some delicious cashew chicken fried with vegetables served to us by giggling burmese girls. we sauntered bravely back out into the night to try to find a warm bar- only to find all the warm bars packed to the brim with said hippies. we sighed and went back to the room by 9p, to bury ourselves under a thin blanket and sheets for the remainder of the evening.

the night was so cold, i can’t begin to explain. we suffered miserably as the wind eased itself into our room between the wooden slats of the walls. we snuggled together to get warm, and grumbled at each other for not providing enough warmth. we tried scalding hot showers and jumping back into bed, but the cold was insidious even through the layers of sheets. we put on every piece of clothing we owned. we thrashed with unsettled nightmares through the long night. ot was too cold to go to brave the trip to the bathroom and actually (to both of our embarassment) peed in the bed in the early morning. yes, it was that cold. we huddled in the dry corner of the mattress until dawn- trying to balance not being able to breathe under the covers with not being able to have our faces exposed to the air. we groaned and moaned until sunrise, and were unable to move out of bed until around 10am- an excruciating 13 hours.

chiang mai

chiang mai is a beautiful city- feels more like a town in fact. much more clean and peaceful than the usually maddening bangkok. it abounds with coffeeshops, small bars, bookstores, and galleries. most of thailand’s prominent musicians and writers hail from here. it is set upon a series of canals, which used to be moats, as at one point the town was surrounded by a large stone wall. remnants of the wall still remain. it is surrounded by mountains, there are flowers everywhere, lots of sculptures, ancient samlors, and colorful markets filled with hill tribe wares.



it is also much, much colder than either otto or i anticipated. i seriously mourned the lack of any winter clothes whatsoever, and ot positively screeched with pain and shivering.

today was a whirlwind day of unabashed tourism. we rented a motorbike in the early morning from our little thai style hotel (a great deal which we found next to the night bazaar only after an hour and a half of traipsing from door to door from one full guesthouse to another). our first mission was to get to wat doi suthep- a beautiful temple at the top of the mountain. we wrapped gorgeous handknit scarves (50b) around our necks and sped through the city up the long twisting road. about 9 km up there is a quaint tourist market filled with hill tribe people and shops. a (very) long staircase intimidates you upon arrival, ascending to the top of the mountain and the temple.



tribal children line the steps, singing softly in their bright costumes and dancing for handouts. monks tiptoe around in orange robes. tourists clutter with cameras. the temple has various areas decorated with buddhist statues, alcoves in which to pray. ot, being devoutly buddhist, had to attend each and every one. (our friend whit in ko phangan was just mysteriously attacked by a crazy thai man and went to the hospital with a twelve inch slice down his arm, the 2nd bad thing that has happened to him in a week or so when you count our motorbike accident, so ot felt it necessary to beg for good luck for all of us). he bought lotus flowers, incense, and candles to offer to the buddha. on the far side of the wat there are a series of large bells, which when rung echo majestically all over the valley. we went to the lookout and listened, breathing in fresh air and sunshine. ot was so excited to be somewhere new that he called his mom and babbled ecstatically, until she informed him that she is seriously ill- but that’s another story.



afterwards we continued up the mountain, following signs towards the thai king’s winter palace. it is surrounded by rose gardens and neatly landscaped grounds. there is a certain reverence and adulation towards the thai king that i think only thai people can understand. i personally find it disturbing the extent to which he is deified, however like i have said before he seems like a nice man (hmmmph). i expected to be able to tour the interior of the palace, which really looked like your average wat (temple), but as it turned out the 50 baht entrance fee only allowed you to walk around the grounds. luckily it did pay off anyway- ot stumbled upon a famous thai musician (mr. chai muang singh) and took a souvenir photo with him. and that was the extent of the excitement at the palace.

next was the zoo, since it was right there at the bottom of the mountain. unlike the zoo in bangkok, it was pathetic. there were additional charges for most of the attractions, and the state of the cages was disgusting and sad. many of them were empty. the animals looked rather forlorn. the main attraction is a pair of giant pandas which have just been imported from china- thai people have been orgasming over these stupid pandas for the last year since they are thailand’s first. everything panda was on sale- panda masks, panda t-shirts, panda dolls, etc. ad infinitum. they also charged an extra 100 baht just to get a glimpse- i refused just on principal (thai people pay only 50 baht). after ot got his forgettable peek, we booked it out of there, never to look back.





ot has a rich uncle in chiang mai, whom he hadn’t seen for twelve years. we went next on a wild quest to find his house on the back roads near chiang mai university. surprisingly enough, ot’s impeccable sense of direction led us straight to his house within ten minutes. it was a huge, sprawling thai style place with cool tile floors and a huge kitchen. and cute puppy dogs underfoot. his uncle was moving a huge dresser when we arrived- apparently he had just sold his place and was moving to the countryside to live peacefully on his ‘lam yai’ farm. he was a lovely man. he had put himself through law school, learned several languages working in the middle east, and had made lots and lots of money through various land deals. he was totally laid back, and absolutely fawned over ot and i. i felt an instant connection with him, and we talked over a huge dinner and several beers about life, religion, politics, you name it. he left us with a lonely bear hug and pleadings to come see him again soon.

then the cold set in. we headed towards the night market, where i had hoped to find some handmade jewelry from the hill tribes, but there were no hill tribe jewelry sellers to be found. we wandered disinterestedly past stalls of woven handbags and torches, slippers and wall hangings. when we could no longer feel our fingers i decided we had seen enough.

finally we spent the evening and most of the early morning at the legendary riverside bar on the waterfront, teeth chattering and fingers turning blue in the dark corner until our sangsom got us sufficiently drunk and we had warmed our extremities over the candles. the live bands were average, but entertaining and the ambience was great. we had an inebriated shopping spree at a 7-11 on our way home in the wee hours.

i have learned to expect nothing upon a return to a place, and thus was not disappointed in the comparison of chiang mai now to when i visited two years ago. nevertheless, we made plans to head towards the village of pai the next morning.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

art

having nothing better to do in the stifling heat of bangkok today ot and i headed towards the queen’s gallery on rachadamnoen road to see an art showing for thawan duchanee. ot’s idea, actually, which surprised me. i have said before that there is not much in the way of original art in thailand, and having been to a couple of galleries here i still maintain this is true. however duchanee was one of the best shows i have ever seen in my life. he is an old, grizzled thai man who owns 35 very unique houses around the world, which he fills with some very curious, sort of twisted art. his work over 3 years filled an entire 3 floors of the gallery- talk about prolific! his paintings are gorgeous- mostly garish, imaginative beasts splashed onto disturbing bright colored backdrops. in addition he creates strange furniture out of various parts of animals- including a magnificent bed of tanned hide (sparse sticky fur still on) stretched across a frame of bone and crowned with a huge beak of some sort of bird. he also makes various gorgeous knives, jewelry, and other implements from bone. what a guy. we left the gallery in a worshipful haze.

then, out of the blue i decided it was time to leave bangkok, and i bought 2 round trip plane tickets north to chiang mai (for $100 total!). we packed up and left within one hour.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

more nausea

sick in bangkok.... i would swear i was pregnant if i didn't know for sure otherwise. different smells make me violently sick. i can't eat anything without chucking it up soon afterwards. i have passed out twice more since coming back here. i have a fever.... yuck! bangkok feels so poisonous this trip.

i would love to take otto somewhere new... new to him anyway... and have been thinking of going north to the lush greenness of pai. but i am more tempted to get back to the fantasyland of xxxx beach. i miss my bar and my doggie. in the next day or so i am off to one or the other.


happy

Thursday, December 09, 2004

nausea

i was amused and dismayed to see that my ex-pal x has a sudden interest in being "honest" in his online journal, and has decided to air our dirty laundry in a biased public format. sigh... i can not tell you how disappointed i am to find what a seemingly worthless person he is after all. you are welcome to form your own opinions based on his writings, but i have known him intimately for almost 8 years. though i knew all along he was selfish, egotistical, and cold-hearted... he has used and discarded every single person who loved him in the course of the years i have known him... i stupidly thought i was the exception to the rule. he seems to believe that everyone else has the same underhanded motivations he does- i don't think it has ever occurred to him that when he hurts me and i have a knee-jerk reaction, it is because i am so stunned at his calloused cruelty, not because i would ever in reality follow up on any idle threat. i have never once done anything to hurt him. i am a good person. but i admit it, i am human. i am hurt easily. he despises my pain and taunts me for being weak.... i can no longer reach him- he has decided he is bored with me and i am as disposable as any other girl. he has re-neged on our agreement, allowed the girl who is subletting my room to actually take it over, has gone behind my back to change the lease and bills into his name so that when i return to NY i will be in a very bad position and living like a dog in his front room until i can find another situation, and he refuses to even try to be civil.

what kind of friend is this? my only crime was being unhappy in NY, and the root of that problem was sitting on his fat ass in his dark room all day and passive-aggressively insulting me at every chance he could get. he makes me feel low and stupid and ugly and useless- i can't write beautiful lies like he does, i can't design bubblegum graphics, i can't manipulate corporate drones, i have no desire to be a decadent fiend... i am not him!, and i never will be... but he knows i would do anything for him, i have so much to give in my own way... turns out he wants none of it, and has nothing to give back.

it's not worth worrying about anymore. i am sick of being hurt by his eccentric moods. i am sick of his greasy, greedy perspective and his utter lack of humanity or diplomacy. in short, i am free of him, and i really do believe that is a good thing. from now on i only want to associate with people who have the obvious best of intentions.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

hitched

away from the sublime unreality of xxxx beach, i worry about o and i. we don't generally get along in bangkok. but as it turns out, something has changed with us. we are no longer sex mad for each other, but have instead spent our time getting to know each other much better. our relationship is no longer based on the transaction, though it is true i do support him. we have evolved into something calm, with no expectations- friends with mutual respect. i do respect him more now that i understand certain cultural differences. i can appreciate the fact that he has concrete plans for the future and i am happy that in some aspect they include me. i am constantly surprised by his insight and generosity. we have a great time and i have been unusually happy with him the past couple of weeks.



x says i should meet more thai guys, find someone better for me. what he really means is i should fuck different people. i have surprised even myself by the realization that i don't want that. i have found a connection that for once is good- we make each other happy, we give so much to each other, we build each other up. we live life to the fullest together.... i don't want to be married, i am not selling my soul, but it's nice to be able to spend time with someone who really cares, and if i can manipulate the future to include more of it, i will be quite satisfied.

Monday, December 06, 2004

happy birthday king bhumibol

having various things we need to get taken care of in bangkok, mine including a visa extension, i bought 3 tickets on bangkok airways from ko samui to bangkok for otto, whit, and i. we awoke bleary-eyed at 5am and headed for the airport.

our plane was rickety and hot, and we arrived in bangkok in rather foul moods. to my surprise a young thai girl met us with a baby in her arms- she is soon revealed to be whit's 'mia noi' (minor wife), and the baby his illegitimate son. thailand will never cease to astound me. we head in a taxi towards banglamphu- shocked by the loudness and pollution of this sudden civilization. the taxi driver speeds too fast and tells tales of farangs he has robbed.

it is the king's birthday again- he is 77 years old. the city is decked out in lights and shrines. fireworks are shooting off, everyone is singing.



ot gets a call from his mother- she is in bangkok for one day, with his father. as the king's birthday is also father's day, he pleads with me to go visit them. i accept very reluctantly, i have never met his mother but i hate the pressure of family gatherings. we take a 300 baht cab ride to the outskirts of bangkok to his aunt's suburban plastic neighborhood. ot's nieces and nephews greet us smiling, jumping all over 'loueng ot' and presenting us with candles. there is a ceremony in a small grassy area dedicated to the king. i feel awkward when everyone bows to pray. we put our candles in a big flowerpot under the picture of the king. i distract myself with a puppy who is frolicking underfoot.

ot's smiling aunt leads me into her house and dumps a basket full of pictures on my lap. i am the center of attention. everyone stares, smiles, takes pictures. ot's mother says i have a great body and if i don't be careful someone might take advantage of that. ot shrugs and pats me on the knee. i blush. ot carries a strand of jasmine from the kitchen and bows before his father. they exchange blessings for father's day. ot hugs him warmly and his father beams happily.

hours later, full of spicy salad and friend pork and overwhelmed by the family atmosphere, i beg ot to call a taxi and we escape. we arrive at his house very late, and i am asleep halfway up the stairs. ot croons to me and rubs my head as i sleep.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

accident

after a long night of goodbye celebrations (i felt horrible leaving my dog 'happy') and an excruciating morning of dodging storms on the ferry, whit has made arrangements for us to stay at his cousin's house in ko samui for the night. otto and i smile shyly at his thai family and make a beeline for the back room, which has a comfortable bed and air conditioning. we sleep like the dead for a couple of hours. whit knocks at dusk, he has rented a car which is much too expensive for him. he is too much- i have never met anyone so polite and generous. he lives to make people happy... he drives us around the island for sightseeing.



on the cliffs are ancient rock formations in the shapes of female and male genitalia. they are called "grandma" and "grandpa". we sip cold beer and watch the flocks of thai tourists line up and snap photographs with their hands inside the vaginal rock, or kissing the penile one. somehow it isn't obscene but ceremonial.

we head towards lamai (beach) for dinner. i have a bad feeling. the truck feels wrong- i scramble for a seatbelt. whit speeds too fast, ot tells him to take it easy. we round a bend and and see the shocked face of a motorbike driver in our headlights, coming towards us in the wrong lane. we hit him head on. i watch as in slow motion he is thrown half a block. his motorbike nearly misses a family at a foodstall. his shoes land on our roof.

ot gets out and runs spluttering over to the man, who is writhing in pain. don't move him, i say- but too late, a group of thai men have already surrounded. they unceremoniously snatch him up and throw him into the back of a pickup truck. i hear his head hit the side. the injured man has his eyes rolled back, he is moaning. i don't see any blood but something is obviously wrong. they speed off to the hospital, but not before i am able to push a stuffed toy pig under his head and whisper to him that everything will be fine. i never find out what happens.

once our shaking subsides and we are able to escape the crowd of gossiping people, a second passenger appears. he had been thrown as well, and had ripped his pants down the seams so that his rear was showing. a group of young girls titter from the sidelines. he looks pissed and rather stunned. he sits and shakes his head, over and over. the police arrive and inspect the scene. the driver had been extremely drunk, it wasn't whit's fault. but the passenger seems to be well acquainted with the officer, and it is decided that whit will pay the damage to the vehicle. whit accepts meekly. they draw lines with chalk, take pictures, fidget and try to look official and overbearing for much longer than was necessary. ot and i run in secret to a nearby shop and down a beer quickly to calm our nerves.

the night was somber after that- we headed to lamai and ate fried oysters at a stall next to the open air beer bars. there were two stages- one with singing 'katoeys' (ladyboys) surrounded by bargirls eyeing the crowd for potential customers, one for muay thai boxing. we couldn't get into it. we stared in silence, swallowed our food without tasting it, and drove slowly back home.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

moon

x pulls a box of freshly picked mushrooms from his refrigerator and grins at me in the dark. i tremble with sick-sweet anticipation. i haven't eaten mushrooms for about 6 years. we fry an omelette, it tastes like earth. i bury it in ketchup and chase it with orange juice. the mushrooms dig their way to the smallest atoms in my body, tickling them and making my brain instantly dizzy. i steal a glance at otto, trying to ignore the spinning twirling flourescent patterns in his eyes. i feel like dancing. otto has never done any drug other than marijuana. he looks bored and says "mai kun"- it doesn't work. he sighs and beckons me towards bed. i am torn between being with him or following the "wailun" to a party on ao noi. ot grabs my hand and pulls me out of the jungle and i am decided.

we head to the beach. i drag otto to the water, where suddenly he gives a gasp. i look over and he is staring up at the moon, pregnant with white warm light. it's trying to suck me up, he says. it's beautiful. i have never felt like this in my whole life.... the beach is alien- white and barren. the waves lap like living beings at our ankles. i have an obsession with the wet sand between my toes, it feels motherly and sweet. our dogs race around us. one minute it is dark and peaceful and the next they are gnashing teeth and dirty fur in our face. we jump. we can not stop laughing. we hold hands and walk. if you look up at the moon it feels like you are walking in place he says. i look up and am shaken by the sense of not being anywhere at all. i can't feel my body. the moon is singing. we are walking to the other end of the beach but it feels like days. why are we not getting any closer? he asks. why is everything so soft and green? i grab his hand and we run to the end, where the water snakes between broad rocks and reflects the moonlight. if we look long enough we can see the future. i want the future to be a surprise he says, so we cover our eyes and skip back to our room.



we lay a sarong on the sand and stare at the stars. the stars are dead i say. i think i am dead too he says. it's lovely here. this nowhere.

back at the hammock i light a candle and we curl up in each other. we study our faces in a small pocket mirror. i look beautiful with huge dark eyes. his skin is insanely soft. he smells like a child. he buries his head in my stomach and starts talking. we tell secrets. we giggle like schoolchildren. happy comes to lick our feet and cock her head curiously. we feel heavy. we see identical shapes in the colors in the dark. we are the same, he says. i can feel you thinking. why didn't you understand before...? why didn't i? i smile and fall into the swirling darkness. voices whisper in my head- you are home. everything is benign. everything will be fine. i sleep a buzzing crackling dream-filled sleep.

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