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5 years
ago

 

Enlightenment! And Caves.

Some guy standing next to the River Kwai started cooing at Hannah and convinced us to get into his long-tailed boat and go for a ride. At the time, it seemed perfectly reasonable, and off we floated. In typical Thai fashion, he never made our destination clear, or if we even had one. We didn’t ask. Half a mile down the riverbank, we came…

5 years
ago

Whistling Past the Graveyard

We’re now in Kanchanaburi, a mellow riverside town in western Thailand that backpackers love for a reason that may or may not have something to do with pot. It is also, as you surely know, the birthplace of the Buddhist monk Phrabhavanaviriyakhun. (Luang Phaw Dattajeevo, for short.) But Kanchanaburi is perhaps best known for…

5 years
ago

 

Cheer and Loathing in Thailand

Is it possible for every person within a particular 200,000 square miles to be passive-aggressive? Yes, it is, and that area is called Thailand. All the natives we’ve met have been deferential and polite and outwardly wonderful while silently giving the impression that they’d prefer to see us eviscerated by a pack of rabid dogs. They’re genetically gifted at making you feel guilty, usually through…

5 years
ago

Elephants Are Jerks

We went to an Elephant Camp today, which is basically a part of a jungle where industrious Thais have trained unlucky elephants to cozy up to tourists. Or at least not kill them. Apparently, these Dumbos have been domesticated enough to dull their natural instinct to trample us to death, and they all look vaguely depressed about their fate—though not enough to…

5 years
ago

Thailand Death March

The air conditioner in our hotel room turned on us at some point in the middle of the night and began blasting us with painfully cold air. We were so tired we slept through it, which meant I woke up with no feeling in my feet and Arctic boogers clogging my nose. The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was Sarah’s frosty breath filling the air. We had to take Hannah outside to thaw her out before changing her diaper…

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6 years
ago

School of Wok

So Sarah’s all, “Let’s take cooking classes while we’re in Thailand,” and I must have agreed, because now we’re shopping for ingredients in a Chiang Mai food market with a chef and a gaggle of Australians, Norwegians, Welsh, and Swiss. The highlight of the tour was watching a dour woman bludgeon a…

6 years
ago

Fear of a Thai Planet

We’re currently staying in a Chiang Mai hotel called the Riverview. The charm of any locale that calls itself “Riverview” is directly proportional, of course, to the charm of the river it views, and this one—a Liquid-Plumr backup called the Ping—is so green it makes the Chicago River look like the Caribbean. A quibble, though. We’re well positioned to take in Chiang Mai, the second-largest city in Thailand, and enjoying the…

6 years
ago

The Spice Channel

Bangkok’s reputation as one big, nocturnal XXX sex show full of tattooed pole dancers and post-op ladyboys beckoning with flesh and degradation? It’s obviously still out there, but we’re too blinded by diapers and Elmo books to see it. Besides, we go to bed at 8.  Tonight, though, we kept Hannah up late and met some friends for dinner at one of Bangkok’s many night markets. I wondered if I would if I would see some…

6 years
ago

I Wanna Be Sedated

“All the sidewalks in Bangkok are cracked,” I recall thinking just before I stepped in a hole near the National Museum and heard my right ankle snap like a Village beatnik circa 1954. As I hopped around in agony on my one good foot, my daughter began clapping, assuming this was some funny impromptu dance for her entertainment. It may as well have been. Once the pain subsided enough for my wife to examine my ankle, we realized I hadn’t broken it, just twisted it unnaturally, and everyone but me lost interest…

6 years
ago

 

Foreign Grocery Stores and the Ugly American

During my travels abroad, I was obsessed with supermarkets. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t shake my deep-seated Ugly American tendencies, making the names of products on shelves endlessly amusing. I got so carried away that a suspicious security guard in Hanoi escorted me and my camera out the door. Eventually, Sarah forbade me to bring the camera in, and I was forced to do actual shopping rather than snicker at the tiny cultural differences that bring out the 19-year-old boy in me…

6 years
ago

 

Buddha Envy

You know how they say everything’s big in Texas? Mofos ain’t never been to Thailand.

New York never sleeps? Bangkokers make Manhattanites look like my grandmother after an afternoon mahjong game.

This city is bigger and hotter and more crowded than everywhere else combined, and the throngs of humanity everywhere make virtually every moment claustrophobic. Half the people seem to be street performers, which in Bangkok leans to legless men paddling around on skateboards singing into a microphone…

6 years
ago

 

Tusks of Gold

An elephant walked past me on the sidewalk today. He was just strolling down the street, looking kind of bored, like he was on his way to the 7-Eleven on the corner for a Slurpee, when our cab passed him.

“Did you see that?” I asked Sarah, who was busy looking out the opposite window at lines of old women skewering chickens on the sidewalk, sending unruly streams of smoke into the air…

6 years
ago

 

Swimming With Sharks

Ever hear of Eileen and Tom Lonergan? They were a couple from Baton Rouge who went scuba diving off the coast of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia in 1998, and accidentally got left behind due to a faulty head count taken by the boat crew. No one noticed they were gone until their bags were found in the boat two days later. A vast search followed, but they were gone. Eventually their empty wet suits, tanks, and dive jackets washed ashore. Most likely they met a shark or…

6 years
ago

 

Flex Time

Good parenting, as anyone will tell you, is all about flexibility. And bribery. And Cheerios. Yes, that’s it: flexibility, bribery, and Cheerios. Am I forgetting anything here? Oh, yeah, mindless repetition. If you haven’t the ability to listen to the same mind-numbing song, read the same stupid Elmo book, or feed the baby the same icky goop over and over again without…

6 years
ago

 

Tropical Depression

While sitting at our private table on our private island, sipping cold drinks under our private umbrella, our toes in the warm private sand that no one else’s toes are allowed to touch, I had a terrible thought. This is not paradise I find myself in. It’s hell.

OK, stick with me here. I’m going to go off on a navel-gazing existential rant—which makes no sense given the fact that…