Through My Eyes

Timing was everything.

When in BKK

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Day 1 in Bangkok:

Arrived yesterday afternoon and realized, wow, my pack is fairly heavy. I thought I had packed light, but when it was weighed at SFO, it was well over 50 lbs. Not a good idea to carry a 50 lb. pack on your back for three months, knowing that I will accumulate additional items along the way. I just may have to send some things back. (My mom was pretty funny at the airport. She said, “Oh no! Maybe you should buy a rolling duffel bag or a backpack with wheels so it’s not so hard on you.” Can you imagine?! A backpacker lugging around something with wheels? Wouldn’t that be ironic? Wouldn’t I be ridiculed by the backpacking community for rolling something on wheels for three months? I do not plan on sacrificing my pride, but thanks for the suggestion, Mom.)

I had checked the weather before departing and the forecast called for rainy days this first week. It’s been a humid 86 degrees and sunny with no signs of wet. You won’t hear complaints from me, but I know now that I probably didn’t need to pack an extra jacket. I’ve been hearing that this is the best time to be in Thailand, since November is usually dry and cool in most regions.

Last night, I got in touch with my friend Tan, a young lady whom I worked with at a sushi restaurant during my last year at UCSB. Tan moved back to Bangkok six months ago to begin the Sasin MBA program at Chulalongkorn University and was kind enough to invite me to her school fundraiser down by Siam Square. After getting lost with my non-English speaking taxi driver for 30 minutes, I arrived in front of Tan’s campus and had to laugh at how under-dressed I was compared to everyone at this party. I had decided to bring only my Nike Plus’ and Rainbows on this trip, thus was not prepared to greet an enormous number of local Thais dressed in these stylish fashion forward gowns and all made up for this event. I wore my Rainbows, a long tunic, and black tights. If you know me well, you most likely know that I rarely leave my apartment looking underdressed for anything…this was a great moment indeed.

I shrugged off feeling like bum and decided this was a perfect opportunity to get to know some of the locals and hear what they had to say about living in this city. Tan was the most gracious hostess and introduced me to some of her friends and classmates as the girl from the US who is traveling ALL BY HERSELF FOR THREE MONTHS (*not completely true as my sister and a friend or two are meeting me later throughout the trip). I capitalize those words because that is the only way I can communicate the tone in her voice when she said this and the reactions she got from her peers. “Are you sure you want to do that?” “Why all by yourself?” people kept asking me. Umm, yeah, it’s too late to change that and all by myself because have you ever tried asking your friends whether they can take three full months off to explore southeast asia with you? I doubt most people are in the situation where they can say yes. Even though it’s going to be a little lonely at times, and I know there are going to be moments where words aren’t necessary and I want to turn to someone and share an experience with, I am happy to be doing this.

Anyway, back to the fundraiser. Tan’s planning committee hired a local Thai band called ETC to perform. They were incredibly talented and even I was able to enjoy the catchy tunes. There was a moment during an especially moving song when Tan turned to me and asked, ” Can you appreciate the music even if you don’t understand what they are saying?” I thought about this for a second, and I’m not sure if I conveyed this to her, but I felt like I was appreciating it even more so because I was trying to grasp every single lyric, trying to recognize a familiar word, even trying to listen for words that might be similar in Cantonese. You know when you’re listening to a great song, and you don’t know the words, but you sing along to it anyway? That’s exactly what I was doing. Just yelling along with the rest of the audience, although if you really listened, none of the lyrics I made up even made sense.

Outside of the main hall where ETC was performing was a giant swimming pool and bar/food stations set up to accomodate the thirsty/hungry crowd. We looked over to Tan’s friend, and Tan realized she was talking to a Thai movie star (and/or singer) who is also part of the program but completing the Executive MBA on nights and weekends. It’s funny, I always seem to run into celebrities while in Asia. Guess they hang out with the locals and are a little more low key in terms of needing a posse or security guards all around them. We chatted with them. He asked me the same questions the others asked.

All in all, I had a wonderful time catching up with Tan and talking to her friends about how frustrating and complex Thai politics is (thank you Lonely Planet for briefing me on the history of Thaksin and the differing views of the Reds/Yellows), their dating experiences, and lifestyle changes since going back to school. Tan, if you’re reading this, thank you so much for a great first night in Bangkok. If you ever need a place to stay in SF, my apartment is always open.

Day 2:

Got up this morning and decided to get out on the town for more sensory overload. One of the girls at the front desk has been so helpful and friendly and recommended that I check out the weekend market called Chatachuk. Although I have become somewhat hesitant to frequent these markets as they are usually overflowing with tourists, as well as pick-pocketers, I decide why not. I know I can’t do any of the good stuff since Wendy would be offended if I didn’t wait for her so we could do those things together once she gets here. (Also, note to self and others: when in doubt and lost, try to seek out a teenager in school uniform. 90% of the time, they are capable of speaking some English and are willing to help you – that is if they are not in a hurry to get somewhere themselves.) I wait at the bus stop and am surprised when a lady starts speaking Thai to me and asks me to help her open up a bag. Before I left the states, someone asked me whether I thought I would have an advantage being an Asian traveler here. Initially, I said I wasn’t sure. I’ve always felt that I stuck out like a sore thumb every time I’ve visited Hong Kong since moving to CA. Maybe it’s because of my clothes, or because my skin has a darker tint than the creamy white most Asian girls try to achieve in these countries, but yes, always felt different – sort of torn in-between, neither feeling completely American nor completely Chinese (or Hong Kong-nese in this case). Anyway, to answer his question: Yes, I do feel like I’ve been able to get by without too much trouble or unwanted attention because of what I look like. So far, most of the vendors in Bangkok have mistaken me for Thai, Filipina, and Japanese. All so different, I know, but those are the few ethnicities that they have labeled me in the last two days. When I politely correct them by saying that I’m originally from Hong Kong, they say “Oh yes, that was my next guess.”

Today is Halloween. Think I’m going to accept an invitation from the front desk receptionist whom invited me to check out Ko San Rd. with her and her friends. Hopefully, no costumes are necessary as I have not created one nor do I have any ideas just yet. Ko San, a block consisting of restaurants and pubs, is supposed to be crawling with backpackers, but also very popular for the locals once the sun sets. Not really expecting anything, but should be a fun night getting to know more people and hopefully hearing more live music. Oh, and Aaron, if you are reading this, the music I keep hearing all over town is Lady Gaga. Paparrazi to be specific. Bangkok kids these days…

Happy Halloween everyone. (Will also put up some pictures to go with this post soon. To my blog Followers, sorry if this goes to your inbox twice b/c of the pics…)

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Written by winniewongsf

October 31, 2009 at 8:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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