Finally made it.

Getting over here was an adventure in itself. I have only travelled by plane twice before, and was much younger when I did so. Navigating airport logistics was pretty haphazard, and I actually feel quite lucky I managed to stumble through it well enough (though I almost missed my flight to China out of LA!) Certainly makes the title of this blog, which I created well before embarking on this trip, feel apt.

I landed late, and thus missed the chance to take the Skytrain to my hostel as I had originally planned. Exhausted from the long flight, I managed to get a Taxi and find make it to the hostel despite a lack of internet and a language barrier.

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Matchbox Hostel, where I booked my first couple of nights. With colorful rooms lined with stacked sleeper boxes covered by curtains, this place reminds me of something out of the movie The Fifth Element. The circles-within-boxes effect of the AC units lining the side the building is a ubiquitous aspect of the city’s aesthetic.
I took my first day here to just wander the streets of the Sukhumvit district and get a feel for the city. I have to say, so far I’m a lot more charmed with Bangkok than I had expected I would be.

Streets are lined with vendors making all kinds of street food as fragrant smoke billows from grilling kabobs and skewered fish. All over there are living walls draped with vines and flowers, and fern-like leaves furnish every block from countless peeking branches. Siamese cats walk confidently across the alleyways. Here the street and the sidewalk enjoy a much more casual and fluid relationship—whether on foot, scooter or bike, or in taxi or car, we’re all just a bunch of bodies being shuffled around anyway, right? That seems to be the attitude here.

All the elements of the city are more narrow and tightly packed, but rather than creating a sense of claustrophobia, it lends a feeling of coziness and ease. For me at least, it makes the larger infrastructure of the cities in the US that I’m accustomed to seem more alienating and inhuman somehow by comparison.  I was unsure of how I would take to the weather, but I find this dense tropical warmth very much to my  liking (granted, I’m getting the best of the seasons, between the scalding heat and the heavy rain.)

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I have gazed (and strolled) down a good few alleys that carry this “just-so” aesthetic quality that I see in so facets of the cultures throughout East Asia. It always gives me a warm and fuzzy—even oddly nostalgic—feeling inside. It seems like a penchant toward a very particular kind of beauty is written into the cultural DNA of these places. This photo could barely capture (and certainly not reproduce) the sunlit narrow stream of water dripping from the corner of the upper balcony and crashing down on the tin roof below, dispersing.
Spirit houses, like this one, adorn the corners of several properties (and similar houses sit in the corners of many homes from what I’ve read). They can be found in abundance on just about every block. In houses such as this reside the phra phum (or spirits of the land). Near some of them I have seen open bottles of refreshments, with straws dropped in them, left as offerings to ancestors.

My big task of the day was to find a good first Thai meal. It was challenging not due to scarcity, or shyness, or linguistic challenges—but rather to the sheer abundance of choices. I decided to start at a nice and quaint Thai family restaurant, and the food was great, and cheap! Exploring the cuisine here is going to be great. Also, while I certainly don’t intend to make a habit out of it, I had to go for one of the famous Thai red bulls.

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Can’t wait to try the varieties of food offered here. The delicious lychee frosty  was the perfect cool-down for this spicy dish. Followed by taro ice cream.

I am really excited for all that this trip will have in store.

I have to admit though, I am finding it very difficult to unplug from all that is happening at home. I keep opening broswer tabs on my phone with op-eds and news stories, trying to keep up with the pace of political discourse that is going on and make sense of what feels like a growing intensity of cultural and political polarization in the US. I feel a real sense of heaviness around all of it.

In particular, I am feeling the weight of the events unfolding at Standing Rock, ND. It seems like all of the most fundamentally important issues of our time are enfolded into this massively historical event. And now, word has it, the Army Corps of Engineers has provided notice that officials have been sanctioned to force the Oceti Sakowin camp from the land they have been occupying sometime around December 5th. Oceti Sakowin is nearest the site where the drilling is occurring to send the pipeline running under the Missouri, and in one sense is technically owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, but only if the breaking of the 1851 Fort Laramie treaty—which guaranteed that land to the Standing Rock Sioux—is continually disregarded. The force used by the militarized police  forces against the peaceful protestors has gradually escalated over the months, and I feel mounting concern around what means will be employed during next week’s attempted displacement. I give my thanks and prayers to those who are standing up for that most vital of necessities—water. The North American Indigenous tribes that have gathered together are fighting centuries of ongoing oppression, and in doing so are standing up to the fossil fuel industry and climate change. If that isn’t ample evidence that at the core of it their struggle is also our struggle, and as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, that we are all held within a web of mutuality, woven into a single garment of destiny, and that a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere—I don’t know what is. It’s tough being right in the middle of a time carrying such a sense of moral urgency, and trying to let myself be where I am, here, and fully sink in and embrace the experience while others are bravely putting their bodies on the line not just for the millions who rely on the Missouri River for their water supply, but for the well being of all, and the future generations to come.
I think that a news and social media fast will be necessary for much of my time here. I can jump back into the mix when I return home, hopefully with a clearer head and a renewed vitality to engage the world in a way that is helpful.

For now, I think it’s time to start looking into making a quick excursion to Cambodia before Linden gets here to join me on the 6th of December.

I can’t make any promises about how much I will be posting here… I’ll try to share all the major stuff 🙂

Thanks for chiming in…

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15 thoughts on “Welcome to Bangkok…

  1. Thank you for keeping us updated. I look forward to hearing more about your adventures abroad. We love you Sam.

    Sarah, Sasha & Eleanor

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  2. It’s such a pleasure to read about your experiences, to see your language unfold with such elegance, questioning, and nuance as you observe the new worlds open up to your senses. I hope you continue to post throughout your travels, not only for the sake of us as your readers but for your own digestion of the experiences as well. It’s a joy to be able to see these parts of the world through your inquiring eyes.

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  3. Travelers in SE Asia like to rip on Bangkok…I’ve always liked it. If you return on this trip definitely check out the Soi Rambuttri neighborhood… a bit of a crowded backpacker mecca but unlike anything I’ve ever seen at night time. Reminds me of Burning Man:-) Looking forward to future posts!

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  4. Hi Sam, I am happy to read about your first experiences in Thailand! I’m curious how you plan to travel up to Cambodia and what places you plan to see there! I went to a few places and I doubt you’ll be disappointed by Siem Reap. I have a friend that is a tuk tuk driver there and is a great “tour guide” and wonderful person. I can give you his information if you feel it would help you. I know it would help him 🙂

    Safe travels and great adventures ahead. – Truly
    Also Greg says Hi!

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    1. Hi Truly! Great to hear from you.

      I’ll be taking the bus service that is offered from Mo Chit Station to Siem Reap. I’ll only be in Cambodia a three or four days before returning to Bangkok to meet a friend and continue traveling in Thailand.

      I would love to get in touch with the tour guide! And if you have any recommendations for things to check out in Siem Reap I’d love to hear about them!

      -Sam

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  5. Pad Ka-Prao! Excellent choice for your first Thai meal (it’s certainly one of my favorite dishes).

    Enjoy the summer, and I look forward to more of your musings when you find time to craft your collected observations.

    xo!
    Erica

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  6. Sam!!!
    I am so excited to hear about your experience so far, the descriptions you use to describe Bangcock made me feel like I was there. I read your post to Doug, Zach, Amanda and Lisa, we all enjoyed it immensely and miss you and all the great conversations! Keep in touch! I miss you already and we love you so much!

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  7. If you go to Chiang Mai, maybe you would love Elephant Nature Preserve, truly dedicated to rescue of elephants and dogs. You can arrange volunteering there as well, for free room and board, and amazing opportunity for deeper contact, if that interests you and if you have time..
    Monica

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  8. Sorry about your phone. I’ve had similar thins happen to me. One of those gutwrenching lessons in non-attachment….I guess. Thai cooking courses are pretty rad, eh? Really enjoying your blog posts, Sam! Safe travels!

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