Sawadee Ka!

I just returned from a short trip to Bangkok, Thailand for the APAIE Conference.  The conference was successful.  It is also really great to be able to travel with colleagues who have great vision for the future.  We were able to discuss what and how to improve what we do, and not having the distractions of the office meant letting the ideas flow.  Needless to say, I’m excited about what we will be working on in the near future – creative stuff, and efficient (I most appreciate efficiency at work).

I took a few photos during the trip.  We were at the conference for three days, 8:00 – 5:30, so I don’t have many taken during the day.  The day we set up our booth we finished at 3:00, so I did see some of the city in the daylight!

First, let me talk about the traffic in Bangkok.  It is horrible!  One day it took us 1.75 hours to get from the conference to our hotel.  In the morning it only took us 1 hour, though not exactly a short trip.  There is the Bangkok Transit System, but it only goes so far into the city, and our conference was on the other side of the Chao Phraya river.  On the last day just to change things up, we rode the transit to the express boat which is public transportation along the river.  It took us 1.25 hours, so I guess, unfortunately, a taxi is the way to go.  Although the tuk tuks drive on the same roads, they have far less fear about winding in and out of traffic.  I assume that’s why they are so popular.  We only took them going back a few times because we’d have street grime on us before the conference.  Ick.

V for Victory

Bangkok Transit System – Ploen Chit station

Hard Core Bikers, obviously

Bangkok Bus

on the chao phraya express

Tuk Tuk!

Monk waiting for boat transportation

Making flower garlands for shrines and temples

prayer amongst the heathens in Khao San

a shrine next to a market stall – interesting location for one

There are so many temples (wat) in Bangkok, so you’ll see monks almost everywhere.  I loved seeing them.  I’m jealous of their calmness and what I imagine their life must be like, without material things.  Monks can ride public transportation for free in Bangkok, and they always ride at the back and wait for everyone to leave before they exit the boat.  They also get priority seating in the Bangkok Transit System.  It’s obvious that they are well-respected by the Thai people.

More monks!

As I said, we didn’t have a lot of time during the day, and our nights were not crazy nights out like in the movies.  I hate that Bangkok has the reputation for debauchery when the city is so vibrant without it and the people are so kind.  A friend told me that there is a rhythm to the city, and you have to figure it out before you can appreciate it.  I think that’s true.  To be honest, I didn’t like Bangkok the first time I visited, and after this trip I feel like I finally felt the rhythm of the city.  I’d love to have more time there (not doing work) sometime soon!

My only HDR shot from the trip.

This shot was taken near Khao San Road, a popular destination for tourists and westerners.  I really wish we hadn’t gone there, even though I did find some fun souvenirs at the market.  I noticed that there were guest houses as we walked, and that translates into dirty people who stay in hostels and don’t appreciate a city for the right reasons.  Sure enough, the street was full of white people who had either gotten a new tattoo with Asian characters, gotten a new piercing, were “dating” a young Thai girl, or were just extremely drunk.  Not cool, white people in dreads, not cool.

Trinkets for sale

So, rant over, now on to the food!  Every morning I drank fresh mango juice.  The wide variety of fruit available is awesome!  I could juice mangoes every day.  The food is also freakin’ fabulous!  I remember last time I couldn’t put my finger on a really awful smell – well, I know what that smell is now because I ate it.  FISH SAUCE!  A little goes a long way, and it is in everything.  I think that smell had a big influence on how I felt about Bangkok the last time I visited.  I’m ok with fish sauce now, having identified it and even enjoyed a little on my rice, but don’t count on me purchasing any… ever.

rambutans!

Rambutans are little hairy fruits much like lychees.

juicing

You can just order a cup, and they’ll juice what’s in it.  Other stuff can be added too.

Fish to be steamed.

Street food and Fanta in a bag

More fish for steaming

Apparently almost everything is sold in a bag.

Mussels in a bag

see? bags of whatever is in that big bowl.

squid on a stick

When I lived in China, I ate “yang rou chuanr” all the time.  They are pieces of lamb on a stick cooked with Xinjiang spices and roasted over coals much like the photo above.  Oh my goodness – my mouth is watering just thinking about them.  I’m a huge fan of anything on a stick, and there is no shortage of things on sticks in Bangkok.

the best bowl of noodles ever

We had dinner one night at a little shopping area.  I ordered the spicy shrimp and noodle dish above.  It was so fresh and delicious.  I saw the cook take the kaffir lime leaves right off the limb.  So much lemongrass, galanga, shrimp, coconut milk, and whatever spices made it red.  Lawd have mercy!

As I said, lots of stuff is sold in bags.  Here’s me with a Fanta in a bag.  It was hot, so please excuse the sweaty me.

Fanta in a bag!

One thing I really regret is being unable to speak Thai.  I speak Chinese and French, and can read a little Russian and Japanese, all of which have been helpful with work and with travel.  I missed being able to talk with people or order food or ask questions or read signs.  I truly believe that everyone should be able to speak at least one other language, if only for having a more authentic experience when traveling.  I cringe when people assume that everyone should speak English when abroad.  Yes, it is convenient, but it is so arrogant to not even try to learn greetings or numbers before traveling.  And yes, I know that my having blonde hair and blue eyes makes me so obviously different from Thais, or Chinese for that matter, but the effort is appreciated I think.  Language is also so telling of a culture, which can give a traveler insights into what is valued by the people who speak it.  For example, in Egyptian Arabic, the word for “life” is also “bread.”  In Chinese, the character for “home” is composed of the radical for pig under a roof, and “peace” is the radical for woman under a roof.  Interesting stuff.  I love language.  And now I can say that I love Bangkok.

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