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balance (2): July 2005

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

an 'x'-ray

'x' came to visit. it was nice.

we drank with a very affable scottish friend who likes his gals cheap and dirty. but both went to our respective homes early and fine. (me to slither into bed drunkenly beside 'o'). i did manage to tell 'x' many times how happy and surprised i was too see him, and give him a hug or ten. (and hit myself in the head, both for being stupid and to see if it was real).

then we met again today (after i walked all over to collect last minute materials -like books- for my life in koh phangan before i leave bangkok), in hanako, my favorite japanese restaurant in bangkok, with thick mats on the floor and cheery lanterns. and spent a weirdly sober time over lots of seafood that 'x' just smiled benignly over and ignored. were attacked by some jolly and inevitably weird japanese guys who wanted to practice their english and pester us to drink whiskey nipon. yawned. i realized 'x' isn't maybe as grumpy as i thought. we said a weirdly casual goodbye that was entirely heartfelt. and i went home alone since 'o' apparently took the opportunity to meet girls while i was gone (not really). but i am happy, and hoping my "friend!" is safe with his valium to keep him sleepy on the plane.

Monday, July 25, 2005

hrmm

la la la la

'o' disappeared for 3 days again and i had just given up on him when he re-appeared shrugging innocently, plopping himself on my bed and sleeping nonchalantly as though he had just gone for a brisk run. sigh.

on friday night my & 'o''s aged hippie friend, 'a' from canada, called up and announced that he was spontaneously marrying his chinese-thai girlfriend, a rather hatchet faced but decent lady who grew up her whole life in the same banglamphu neighborhood that we live in. wandered out to the hole in the wall place they had chosen to celebrate it, which was also one of the few places we could find beer on the first day of a 3-month long buddhist lent. we ate seafood and i chatted with a nice thai boy from chiang mai who related to me like a foreigner (and thus had my clutches in him all evening). afterwards we went back to 'a''s nice hotel room for a little party with canadian smokes and whiskey, making videos of the bride and groom to be.



the next day we awoke rather sluggish, and spent the day ratting through piles of standard backpacker outfits and assorted nerdy office clothes, to find something acceptable to wear to a wedding. i realized with chagrin that everything i own is either hippie style or too slutty. we managed to look halfway normal and decent though- i in my long skirt and white blouse, and 'o' in dark trousers and a button down shirt. i made 'o' buy a bouquet of lovely flowers for about 250 baht, and took my bike to the wine shop for champagne. grabbed our scruffy friend 'd' from his sad little bar and dragged him with us to the royal hotel. we felt like frauds walking into a room full of chinese families and wedding cake. we threw our gifts at 'a, in his starched pink shirt, and ran for the table in the back with his smiley peaceful friends and some thai people our own age, to hide out from all the other discerning eyes.




thai weddings are really just whisky-fueled big karaoke parties. 'a' and his new wife shyly went through a ritual of exchanging jasmine wreaths, triple shouts of "chai-yo!" with raised glasses, and an exchange of rings. when it came time for the kiss she turned her head to get it on the cheek, after which there was an uncomfortable silence, then the tiny, hired karaoke couple headed to the stage for bad (her) and charming (him) renditions of old american music in broken english. we passed around trays of rather bland chinese food (not fond of the chinese in general here) and all the boys got instantly drunk for free (poor 'a' and his eventual bill). the one sweet thai couple we knew ended up fighting and leaving in a huff, slapping at each other and crying. the resident kiddies in pigtails and muay thai shorts made their presence loudly known and posed for cutesy pictures with the newlyweds. 'd' and the hippies exchanged stories about how much they wish they were native american indians. 'o' took every opportunity to hog the spotlight and microphone (but he's pretty good at it), and spent the rest of the evening petting me placatingly and yawning. a grinning and wrinkled old thai man kept trapping me in corners and dragging me out on to the dance floor, where in the eaves i heard inevitable whispers of "farang!". soon everyone was relaxed. and wasted. we danced until the grumpy staff flipped on the flourescent lights and kicked us out. we threw 'a' into bed with his gal and handfuls of rose petals, said goodbye to our returned and amorous as usual thai friends, and i half carried 'o' home to bed slurring and tripping from a purring taxi.

Monday, July 18, 2005

yowza

spent friday on a hectic visa extension trip which took me all the way to the other side of bangkok. afterwards 'o' was hitting himself in the head for not going to the temple recently and clutching the amulet around his neck all the way to koh phangan where we hurried this weekend to scope out our options for living. it seemed that fate or some evil force disagreed with our choice of abode- we had absolutely the worst luck ever on the way there. the traffic was at an utter standstill when we grabbed our backpacks and left the house- 2 hours before our scheduled train. we attempted to take a bus but were still in front of our house after 40 minutes. we panicked and tried to walk it, but there was no possible way to get there in time. we made it to the canal boat and got off at the first stop- bobae market, which never ever has any taxis and is a one way street so there was no hope of one. decided to hoof it to hualampong station from there. in the hot sun we were wilting and puffing... until we finally managed to find a tuk tuk to race us the last 15 minutes there. no time to stock up on beer, water, newspapers.... alas 'o' and i prepared to hunker down in front of the window in our nice lower sleeper bunk, when we realized that the agency had sold us 2 upper beds instead. we pouted as two old and uppity thai people theatrically unfurled their sleeping mats in our spot. shrugged and headed to the dining car- which was full. the smiling waitress pushed us into a booth with a young dutch girl and her father- on hiatus after the recent death of her mother (his wife) from cancer. we got drunk together- first hesitantly and then later voraciously (luckily i love dutch people, even ones with problems). 'o' and i managed to trip through two rattling cars and into our claustrophic beds by 11pm.



next morning, we realized the train wasn't stopping at 6am as promised, but due to the mangling of a cow on the tracks we arrived 3 1/2 hours late to our destination, which was the speedboat to koh phangan, which should have gotten us there by 10am, except that we'd missed it. the agency most unfriendily made us buy whole new tickets for the slow boat (2 1/2 hours to koh phangan) for which we would have to wait for 3 hours. sigh... a whole entire day gone already. we choked down some horrid bus station noodles and glared at everyone from behind magazines until the bus came to pick us up and take us to the boat. the huge, top-heavy tourist bus was full of unhappy inconvenienced travellers, room for all with exception of 'o' and i, so we squished in next to the driver for a front row view to the thai traffic (which freaks me out so bad i have to stare down at my hands to avoid jumping out at a red light).



on the stinking car ferry we slumped down in the air conditioned but still hot and crowded VIP room and snoozed all the way to the island. rented a motorbike near the pier, 'o' and i argued whether or not we should spend the night in trendy and overpriced had rin (beach). a long drive away and full of annoying people (i protested). he won. halfway up a mountain being torn up by construction we started sliding backwards- our tire was flat. arrrgh. we were in the middle of nowhere so i started walking and 'o' coasted along on the crippled bike. a handsome german boy with a long black ponytail sidled up and 'o' forcefully threw me on his bike and told him to follow, despite raised eyebrows. finally we ended up at a fix-it shop, grimy and swearing..... after a long time ruminating as to what sort of guesthouse we wanted and not finding anything closely resembling it, we finally managed to push our way through the fratboy crowd in had rin to a quiet thai guesthouse that was empty except for us- in one dark musty bungalow. sighhh. i made 'o' come drink german beer and american barbecue with me in a bar full of foreigners, which he hated. had to sit through a norah jones video the whole time. flounced back home grumpily- me to bed to thrash about sleeplessly, 'o' to the porch to drink a half bottle of whiskey alone in the dark.



the next morning we awoke with fake smiles. ate a crappy breakfast served to us by awkward burmese kids on the main street. threw glances around the boutique- and falafel joint-filled had rin. i ran guiltily into a bookstore and snatched up the new harry potter book for almost 1000 baht. grabbed my helmet and whipped driver 'o' on our way to ban tai, near the busier side of the island, to find a home.

at the 7-11 we dialed the real estate agent i had made arrangements to meet with over the weekend. she refused to answer her phone. mystified, we started asking random thai people on the street if they knew of good house rentals. we ended up looking at this lovely, lovely thai style teak house built on a tall platform on the main road. it had cable tv, a/c, a kitchen, a huge bed, phone lines, a bathttub!!!! underneath the house was a concrete area where we could entertain. it was surrounded by a grassy clearing, and that by thick jungly bush. ack! perfect except far from all that we really love on ko phangan. we told the smiley, cunning, toothless old grandma in a colorful sarong to hold off, and against our better judgement took off at breakneck speed for thong nai pan- kilometers from civilization.

the drive to thong nai pan is long and lovely, though the road is rutted and crumbling. we guiltily grabbed a concrete bungalow with a pool full of dutch kiddies and air con, and took hot showers. sat on the porch grinning at butterflies and geckos. took gulps of pure, fresh air. were almost blinded by the sparkling white sand and calm, turquoise surf. sigh....

we headed up to our favorite bar in the jungle to find that nothing has changed. our weird but friendly friend 'w' welcomed us wholeheartedly with treats. he also showed us a great house, which his parents own. it is half cement half wood, cool, multi-leveled, with a grassy yard, toothless thai neighbors in sarangs, surrounded by children, puppies, chickens.... i gasped with pleasure before i realized that the neighbors would be 'w''s family on one side and the bar we want to not get trapped at on the other. no no no. we freaked out and left in sudden defense- went back to catch our breath and think on the perfect, placid beach with a thai friend. watched him practice his cocktail juggling and chick luring tricks (lots of scandinavian and french girls in bikinis). dug our toes in the sand, stopped shaking. decided to wander around the village. ate at the little open-air food shop on the main strip in thong nai pan noi- run by a lovely thai family who have grown a lot in 6 months. were sitting on a wooden platform with an old grandma lady and a friend a didn't recognize until an hour later, when our friend 'dum' came by- with a swollen ankle from muay thai boxing and a recommendation for another house. we shrugged and hopped on motorbikes over to thong nai pan yai. deep in the jungle near a waterfall is a place. it is two bungalows, joined together by a wooden platform. one of the bungalows is open-front (with triangle pillows and mats on the floor), and one is closed (a sleeping room). it had a kitchen area and a magical clearing outside the door. damn! this was good too! but thong nai pan yai is not very accessible in an emergency, to get mail, to renew my visa... it is also easy to get trapped in! freaked out again, 'o' and i raced back to ao noi's beach to eat marvelous fresh seafood barbecued on the dark beach. i fed the dogs nuzzling my ankles. 'o' drank quietly.

we managed to make it back to ao yai one more time for a party in the dark with lots of people we knew, none of whom were really friends. then i went home to again thrash sleeplessly (and with aching joints) in my room, while 'o' disappeared to the beach to get drunk with friends.

..........next morning, we awoke partly after just 2 hours or so of sleep. raced frantically to reach the pier. resigned ourselves to a perch on the sidewalk to wait for the boat, which was of course late. stared at the deep blue of the sea out the window of the speedboat ferry. hopped off the ferry at koh samui. 'o' and i had a huge, huge fight over in retrospect a huge misunderstanding right in public. managed to stay calm and get a taxi that wasn't extorting shocking prices. barely got to the airport alive and on time, upscale koh samui blurring past, and finally passed through the small dark airport and hopped on the plane back to bangkok. sighhhhhhhh. the plane food was good. the dizzying heights outside the window gloriously blue.

in bangkok, still not speaking with each other, 'o' and i took a long bus ride through the notorious traffic to our beloved home in quaint, old town banglamphu, and here we stay, trying to relax and not think too much, but being pent up and overloaded down with conflicting thoughts (mine including surprise emails from both 'x' and his new gal, and a lack of emails from my job, who has been ignoring me for a week including a timesheet i submitted so i could get paid) .....yikes!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

now

i'm thinking koh phangan with it's long motorbike drives flying across pitted rainforest and it's placid beaches. the herbal steamroom at the temple, a local expat community (however temporary, but the food is necessary). i found a house there with a kitchen and international satellite tv, since islands can get boring, though pleasantly. with space for a garden and a puppydog i am tempted to actually pay the inflated rental price as well as for the tech guy to travel across country and over ferry from phuket to install a satellite internet system for me (!). if i can even get him to respond.

but that seems so permanent.

so i am considering koh chang, instead, which won't be anything new to me. lush lush lush thick jungle. beautiful long drives that i can do myself (not on the back with 'o' driving). local expats (who i will just have to decide to gossip with!), 7-11s and good nightlife, and probably at least one place with a phone line. if i go with 'o' it's here, probably to quickly break up when the place fills up with scandinavians.

hrmmm.

or there is bangkok, where i am now, feeling claustrophic in my box/room/office with a tiny sliver of bird-filled sky out the window, too many bored nights sitting in 'o''s friends' crappy bar and listening to him and his unintelligible friend get drunk. and know i at least have to leave here. too many people, too much pollution, feel like i can't get to anywhere without almost dying. there are a lot of good things too (shopping, sneaking out to meet a nice finnish boy who reads my website and a ridiculously hot australian guy who would have scored in different circumstances, in gulliver's (bar), tiptoeing past all the neighborhood regulars to shyly order a bowl of kway tio noodles at midnight). i could just move to a nicer place here, but i would want to move near the skytrain and have not yet found the "perfect" place. there is a tall building on the riverfront which has views and a pool, but it's in my same neighborhood so not much adventure... and there is a similar place nearer the skytrain which sounds "perfect" , except that it is in my illicit lover's building (shucks).

and thus i bleat.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

return to elephant island

koh chang. with much trepidation, i managed to stop bickering with 'o' long enough to almost break our necks in a seatbelt-less taxi with a maniacal driver (i had a full on panic attack imagining scenes of our destruction and had to make him pull over, after which we screeched across three high-speed lanes to brake loudly to a stop and he yelled insults in thai at me. sigh....) to get to ekamai station in time to catch the night bus to trat. (blurrrrrr....) until we arrived in the pouring rain at a dark 5 in the morning and sat blinking in the bustling night market watching fish jump out of the buckets, sleepy women in sarongs carving designs into pineapples, boys with new haircuts stacking vegetables onto tables, and 'o' and i slurping hot pork broth.

we got a private truck to take us to the car ferry 30 minutes or so away, which took us on an additional 40 minutes on the morning sea to koh chang. ah, the lush tropical jungle home i spent far too long indulging myself on.... 'o' and i panicked last minute and couldn't decide which beach to stay on or if we would even be safe on this island due to certain enemy presence.... we decided to brave the ride to lonely beach. at 8 in the morning and still bleary-eyed from the whirlwind mountain taxi ride, we were utterly shocked into a standstill by our old home. i can no longer recommend siam beach resort as a good place to stay, since certain of 'o''s stupid ex-friends built a bar right on the prime beachfront, which is thus totally trashed (think white trash digs in the US) which leaves me with no old home to worship :(. i was quite verbally unhappy.

we wandered down the beach to see that it was virtually deserted- no bars otherwise, a totally re-vamped but silly looking nature restaurant. siam huts looked like slum ruins and the beach has been swamped with rocks. we shrugged at each other, frowned, and ran back for the songthaew headed to the other end of the island, shaking our heads in a daze, and finally at white sand beach in some hoity toity overpriced hotel on the main road, we stayed.

our room smelled like indeterminable bodily fluids. but it had a huge bed with clean white sheets on which to completely pass out.

woke to stand on a balcony overlooking construction on the beach. (well... that's white sands for you). the beach isn't too bad, and there aren't many people there now. there are nice thais in the cafes (we drank a beer in tantawan with old musician friends and a poor beach seller friend from isaan whose wife left him recently, taking absolutely everything he had, leaving him waiting for her at her family's house feeling stupid and in vain. he was sad.) we rented a motorbike asap.

the drive from white sand beach to lonely beach is the main reason i love this island. i don't like to come back to a place, but when i do there are certain rituals which give me endless pleasure, and feeling the wind make it's way through thick trees from the ocean towards me racing on the side of a cliff to the top is one of them. once there, we dodged familiar faces and grabbed a decent room at nature beach resort. 'o' and i passed out again for awhile (snoring with developing colds) and awoke in the afternoon to go driving. we found our old gentle hippie friend 'd' at his small cafe deep in the jungle. he has nice cats and dogs, good music, and a barbecue. we drank beer with him and an australian girl who is living there and gossiped a bit. utterly serene in the thick singing jungle.

later we watched boys throw sticks at a poisonous green viper, visited a thai family in kae bae in the sun, raced to the market in klong prao to select fresh seafood and vegetables for grilling, and shared a lovely but very draining social evening with old friends, and the new set of long-term farangs which have shown up to take my place (they all think they know everything about thais and talk shit about each other, sigh... i can't say i miss the community there much). our friend from bangkok had joined us and we walked home together amiably drunk to our huts in the rain on the pitch black jungle road.



sleep. 'o' restless. i can't face another day of gossip. i tell 'o' to leave me alone and go keep his friend company, and sleep late, guiltily cozy on the huge bed, with the sun leaking through the bamboo slats, geckos tickling my feet, and the waves lapping at the sand outside.

after a cool shower i snuck up to the restaurant and tried to avoid my old acquaintances there with whom i am cripplingly shy, but failed. i pretended to read a book in the corner and scarfed down a club sandwich. 'o' and his pal joined me and drank a beer, sprawling with pillows on the mats and smoking. we watched the sun drop low. the dark clouds burst.



decided nevertheless to visit our friends in bang bao, and raced there on the wet road. they have 3 beautiful, bamboo and palm places hidden in the jungle next to a private beach. the mosquitoes were alarming but otherwise we felt as though we had left everything. it rained softly and the animals tiptoed out of the forest to circle our huts. we ate piles of fresh fruit picked from the market, listened to music, and chatted with our thai artist and musician friends about their very nice lives. crawled back out of the jungle to overeat and get drunk one last time at the treehouse bar perched on the rocky shore, and tiptoed back to our little huts to sleep with the drumming rain to lull us.

woke. and left. a lot of the above in reverse, in the rain.


my new bangkok wheels that i am too scared to ride in the street

now back in bangkok i am freaking out. my lease is up in 3 weeks and i can't decide which jaded expat community i want to join (bangkok, koh chang, or koh phangan?), how to get a house there with an internet connection, and whether or not to break it off with 'o' (who wants to stay in bangkok with his slimy little friends). hoping that the answers fall into place.

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