Nerdy Cat Scuba Travels

A Cat Lovin' Engineer taking a career break by traveling, doing a divemaster internship, and diving around the world

Month: December 2016

Trying to be a Local in Bangkok and Failing

Ten days later and I’m still waking up each day in disbelief that I’m in Thailand now. At least I’ve mastered   crossing the street, hailing/riding scooters, and using my BTS rabbit card for everything.

Suan Phlu – the Local Market

I’m living in the suburb area between the Sala Daeng and Chong Nonsi BTS stop. The local market, within a 10 minute walking distance, is called Suan Phlu. Suan Phlu is like America’s farmers market but available everyday. First visit:  I walk around starving.  My stomach  decided I should eat everything. There was a line for some stand where the woman was mixing something in a large wooden bowl. It must be Som Tum (papaya salad). I didn’t want to wait in line, so I left and did my grocery shopping making a mental note to come back later.

I pick out an assortment of fresh veggies and pay $3. Feeling quite  accomplished, I head over to the woman  with the wooden bowl and ordered whatever it was that she was making. I also did the  “cross -arms” no spicy sign language. She responded with lots of Thai and kept pointing at a pickled pepper, so I said OK. Then she started making “it.” She pulled out a FISH about 4  inches in length and began to smash the fish into a paste with the pickled pepper.  Then, lots of fish sauce.

Utter horror. What is going on? Where’s the papaya? I start looking around the stand and notice there are no papayas. Yes, green beans, but not much else. Standing there, I tried to hide that dumb look on my face. Waiting for her to finish smashing. She shoveled the paste into a plastic baggy. 20 baht. (75 cents). I placed the smushed fish into my grocery bag and walked away. So much for Som Tum. I guess I still am quite the tourist.

Next,  I decide that I should stick with what I know. Fried Chicken. Yup. That’s easy. I follow the smell and find  fried chicken pieces  on a stand. I point – she chops and boom. Food served. 2 pieces of Fried Chicken ( 2 pieces of thighs and drumsticks connected) for $2. Can’t complain there.

Starting to gain my confidence back after the smashed fish incident, I order some more coconut desserts and wind up at a noodle restaurant. Its filled with people, so I figure it must be good. I point to the wall- and boom they know what I want. Noodles and tea for 55 baht ( $1.50).

Content with my Suan Phlu grocery day, I decide to grab a scooter back instead of walking in the hot sun.

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Tourist Time – Grand Palace and Wat Pho

Nina’s friend from Chicago came into town and had 2 days to tour Bangkok. He had many “must see” items on his list. I grew tired from just listening. But trying not to be a grinch, I decide to tag along the first day.  First, we went to Wat Pho.  The temple with the Giant Golden Buddha is laying on her side.  Last time my cousin and I got some really great massages from the students at the temple.

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This time around I skip the massage and just walk around.

Her friend spent ages taking photos on top of photos. I tried to take photos, but the hot sun got the best of me. Making me lazy. My new thai name- “the laziest tourist in thailand.”

Next – the Golden Palace

Thousands of people are standing in line to pay respects to the King. Only Thai people are allowed to visit the King; one must dress appropriately (ie. all Black). In the weeks after the King’s death, all department stores had sold out of black clothes. You see it all around. All government works are wearing black for the next year. There are white and black ribbon lacing street fences. Images of the King memorialized in front of every business. His death and his memory are all around.

The line to pay respects for the king wraps all around the palace. At dawn, the line to see the king forms and the waiting time quickly grows from 4 hours and even longer throughout the day. People from the country side are coming to Bangkok to pay respect to this Great King.  It’s incredible to see their love and dedication.

On the tourist side- its a different story. The heat reminds me of death valley. There is no breeze and the marble floors seem to reflect the light in such a way that you just feel heat from all angles.

The temple within the Golden Palace houses the famous emerald buddha.  No photos are allowed in the temple. The legend goes that long ago the King of Russia visited the King of Thailand. The Thai King offered the Russian king anything in his kingdom. The foreign king requested the Emerald Buddha. Without hesitation the Thai King gifted the emerald buddha. Taken back by his generosity, the Russian King would like anything in return, and  the Thai King responded ” the Emerald Buddha.” Check Mate. Win.

I found the temple within the golden palace and the emerald buddha beautiful and peaceful. Once I came back out outside, I was reminded of the tourist attraction. Cameras and selfie sticks everywhere. Hot and sticky. Sweaty and stinky.

Gaggan “World’s Best Restaurant in Asia”

According to some website, Gaggan is the best restaurant in Asia. Nina’s friend made reservations 2 months in advance. Tasting Menu for 22 courses for $150. The chef came from El Bulli. That super famous restaurant.  I decided to join in the bougieness,”Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to Me.” This meal was my year end treat to myself.

The usual Bangkok traffic. We sit waiting for that one light that only changes once every 15 minutes. This place gives LA traffic. Nina calls the restaurant to tell them we are stuck in traffic, the hostess responds ” Try your best to get here on time.” Ok lady. Now that you mention it, we weren’t trying that hard. ha.

The Green Light gods shine down on us, We arrive on time. Randomly, we got selected to be seated at a new chef’s table. My phone is out  and on the table. I’m not one to be ashamed of my food porn. Embrace it.

All 22 courses were innovative and exciting. While I didn’t fall in love with some of them, I appreciated the thought and new tastes.  Uni in a wasabi cone with some fruit: Love it. Gold covered Chocolate gusher ball with spicy sauce: Not so much.  Each dish had its own interpretation of Japanese and Indian cuisine fusion.

The bad side. I only have 2 complaints.

  1.  A fly landed on a piece of sushi during preparation and none of the chefs noticed. Or at least they didn’t react to me pointing and saying “Hey! There a fly on that!” Nina was mortified. Like those card games on new york streets, I kept my eyes on the prize and made sure that I followed the sushi as the chefs served each of us. The dish was served to someone else, I dont think they saw the fly. So all is well.
  2. Using the same spoon to stir and taste. Whatever happened to that one spoon in a chef’s apron.

All in all, I enjoyed dinner. It reminded me of happier and richer times. Definitely innovative eats. I loved the lips starter, sushi, the uni cone, the crab curry, and the tomato soup.

 

 

Lazy Tourist in Thailand – Bangkok and Chiang Mai

About 10 days in Thailand and 4 massages later… I finally visited a Temple. Since its my third time here, I haven’t been really motivated to do all the touristy things. I mean, yes, I have eaten a lot of papaya salads and gotten massages, but I haven’t rode an elephant or gone to aw cooking class. I haven’t been adventuring out and trying to find new things.

Have I become a lazy tourist?

Probably, its almost been one year since I’ve been “working” as an engineer. I set my own schedule, and when someone asks if I want to do something, I look at my schedule and do it. Anything that I had planned, I push it to the side and figure it can wait.

My Top 5 thoughts about Thailand right now:

  1. I still hate mosquitos. They still love me. Its a love/hate relationship.
  2. Wintertime in Thailand = Awesome California like conditions around high 70’s to low 80’s with low humidity. Love it
  3. Food Game is Strong. Bonus- Food is extremely cheap. Lunch for three people – $10. My biggest splurge so far was a burger with fries and a drink for $8.20 (converted from Thai Baht).
  4. Massages cost less than $10/hr. Being American- I always tip at least $3. I constantly fight my American urge to tip. Anytime someone hands me change, I want them to keep it.
  5. Thai People and Ex-Pat vibe is generally positive. I don’t get that Venice Hipster “Im so much more fabulous than everyone else” vibe here.  I could be wrong, but people seem generally happy. Not as much “I hate my life” vibe going on.

My Airbnb accommodation in Chiang Mai has been out of this world. A modern condo building with a nice lap pool (that no one is ever in) and a OK gym. My apartment is a one bedroom (almost like a studio with moveable walls), large flat panel TV, washing machine, AC in both rooms, patio only costs $32 a night. I thought I snagged an amazing deal. Then I found out one of the locals pays about $350 a month for her apartment.

Odd Thought of the day:

I chatted with my local friend here about wages. I wondered if our tourism was taking advantage of the massage therapists and if they were “slave” labor. Then he told me about his favorite massage therapist. She works everyday from the time the place opens till midnight. She takes one lunch break a day. After a few months he goes to get a massage and sees a bandage on her face.  Did she get abused? In a fight? No. She proudly states that she saved up enough money to get a nose job. She wanted to higher nose bridge. What does that even mean??? Well, look at an Asian face and you find that its flat at the nose right between the eyes. Now look at my European descent friends.. its like a mountain between the eyes. I’m digressing.

But the moral of the story is that she couldn’t possibly hating her life and slaving away at some sweatshop massage place if she was able to save up money for plastic surgery. Right?

I felt better knowing they like what they do, and I like paying them and tipping them.  Speaking of which- I think I will go get a massage now.

Here are some photos of my one Temple I visited while in Chiang Mai- Wat Suan Dok.  ( I went to Doi Suthep last time…)

 

My Journey to Thailand

Leaving the Bay Area for Seattle

I left San Jose and flew to Seattle with Jade early morning on Tuesday.  Jade for the most part was a pretty good kitty. The flight attendants weren’t as cool as the last flight and told me that Jade needed to stay under the seat the entire flight. Meow. Meow. Meow…. then she gave up. Every 10 minutes she would give me a short meow just to let me know she was still there. “Flight attendants prepare for landing.” Jade could sense the change in presure. M E O W.  In that frantic high-pitched meow… THAT meow… it means I just pissed myself and I’m really upset. Once we landed I hopped into the little bathroom in the back of the plane and cleaned her up. Thank god for pee pads.  I got my luggage and then hopped in my rental car. From there, Jade got upgraded to my lap. Nice Kitty.

The stay at Seattle was pretty short and shorter than I anticipated. For the most part, I stayed at Christina’s place making sure that Jade got all her stuff organized and settled into her temporary home.

jade

First DOH! moment

Brushing my teeth the night before my departure, i get that gut wrenching feeling. CRAP! I forgot my scuba weight in the back of my rental car when I returned it the other day. Lazily, I had left it in the car because i didn’t feel like lugging it into the house with all the other luggage. Then I had a brain fart while returning the car and didn’t check the back seat. For the next hour, I stormed around like a mad woman trying every which way to contact Alamo. Calling their Lost and Found, filing a claim on-line and doing that call/repeat dial every line I could think of trying to reach a human being at midnight. No luck.

In the morning, I went back to the rental car company at 5am, only to be told the lost and found wouldn’t open till 6am and that the car had already been rented out.  I checked into my flight, and then took the shuttle bus back over to lost and found and waited till 6am when they opened. No luck, no weight. By now I’m just kicking myself for being such an airhead and forgetting my weight. I’m more disappointed in myself for being an idiot.

Second Doh! moment

But wait- thats not all! I fly to Los Angeles and get a text from Christina that I forgot my medication at her place. I probably could order it in Thailand, but I don’t want to leave that up to chance. I hop off the plane and call an uber to take me to the nearest Rite Aid. From there, I get my prescription transferred (only a month’s supply for a refill) and then uber my ass back to the airport to get back into the airport. Thank god for Uber.

The one and only saving glory that day was that I still had platinum status on American so I strolled into the one lounge and took advantage of all the free stuff.  I looked over at the bartender. He looked bored as ever- wiping  glasses dry with a rag. I get his attention and order a bloody mary. He excitedly decided to make my bloody mary from scratch.  OH the sweet taste of alcohol never felt so good.

bloodymary

Things started to look like they were turning around. On the plane, I got more legroom than I could use. Bulk head seat score. My legs stretched out so much I could have been lounging at the pool.  JAL also hooked it up with the food and I ate everything on my plate. Each meal was a cute bento box. I chuckled as the flight attendants tried to speak english over the intercom. Very endearing, yest struggling to get the words out. Always with a happy face, the flight attendants kept coming around with the best snacks. Three twins ice cream, hot green tea, cold barley tea, rice snacks…. I barely had time to sleep.

Once I got to Tokyo, things started to change. The flight was delayed and my seat was in normal economy where my knees barely fit, scraping the front seat. I dont know how anyone about 5.5ft tall flies. Another 7 hours to go.

I should just staple everything on myself

I get off the plane and jump into the priority immigration line. I figured the worst they can do is tell me to go in the normal line. I manage to get out of immigration in less than 5 minutes. I reach into my bag to check my phone because I forgot where to meet Nina’s driver. Thats when it hit me. Crap. My phone. Its gone. NOOOOOO!

I’m out so early that no one is even in baggage claim. I walk over to the Thai Airways baggage counter and they call JAL. I tell them, its a Cat Case IPhone. So embarrassing. They found it. Praise Jesus. They describe to other person that I’m wearing a grey shirt with Cat on it, and they will meet me at the baggage carousel. God I can’t believe I’m that CAT LADY.

My bags come out really fast, but then I wait there another 30 mins while everyone leaves. Finally a lost and found lady comes out with her bright orange vest. I flag her down and she talks to another woman. Then an AH-HA moment look comes across her face. She’s been there the entire time waiting for me to come to her and I’ve been doing the same.  This marks my first Thai miscommunication.

I get out of customs and find the driver and all is great.

thailand

Thailand I’ve arrived!