Feb 022004

At the feet of a giant gold reclining Buda

The feeling of peeing in the ocean is surprisingly pleasant. I do not know how my urine effects the local ecosystem on the beaches of Thailand…but it produces a warm relaxing sensation in my bathing suit.

Right now I’m in Starbucks in Shanghai writing this. I’m having some problems. I felt happy to be home, yet at the same time I felt homesick for San Jose and San Diego. I also immediately missed the warm (maybe a little too warm) sandy sunny beaches of Thailand. I missed how Thai people drive with courtesy. I missed how they don’t stare at me or Haga. I missed how they act friendly. (IMHO, every place has friendly people, but Thais, like Japanese, value politeness and they think showing a friendly face is a part of what it means to be polite). I find that I like Chinese people’s higher “volume” voice better though. And although I appreciate how complaining is not “cool” in Thailand, I think China is more suitable for me in this area.

OK. So here is the synopsis.

Left on Wednesday the 21st at 10AM. It was the start of Chinese New Years. We left early because we thought there would be a lot of traffic. There was no set fireworks or activities going on; Chinese people generally like to go home on new years, eat (and drink a lot) with family, and maybe watch the cheesy entertainment variety show that the Beijing entertainment authorities put on every year. I think they watch it in the same way I watch the Superbowl – I don’t really care about the game, but it stays on during the Superbowl party. Individual contributors were lighting fireworks off all around Shanghai. Because the geography is relatively flat here, we saw fireworks in every direction. I imagined that the fireworks was part of a sending-off party just for Haga and I.

On the bus, we talked with two nine-year old children who sat in front of us. Their family was going to Thailand for vacation. Chinese kids usually seem well adjusted and friendly to me…at least the kids that have brother / sisters (or substitute siblings ) around them. There are also a lot of chubby spoiled single child kids around. If I’m friendly with a child, they always refer to me as “Uncle,” even if we just talk for 5 minutes. The kids’ parents also refer to Haga and I as Uncle / Aunt. Its sort of nice. Anyway, the kids asked us riddles, which we didn’t really understand because our Chinese level is not good enough yet. I tried asking one girl the Riddle of the Sphinx:

“OK. I got a question for you. What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon…”

“Uncle, Its a man! That’s an easy one!”

China Eastern Airlines sucks. The food is horrible and there is no leg room. They do have an in-flight magazine with lots of profiles and pictures of airline attendants. Somehow the pretty one’s in the profiles seem to be missing from the crew of the plan I was on.

Arrived in Bangkok at 1:30AM last Thursday the 22nd. My friend Tony and friend Amy picked us up and brought us to Amy’s house, where we slept.

Did I say this is a synopsis of the trip? I have not even gotten to the trip yet!

Amy is a very cool woman. She is pretty. She is 32 and single (not counting whatever relationship she has with Tony, who is determined to move back to America and be a corporate whore even though he will receive 3000 Euros a month unemployment package for the next two years after his layoff from NEC France). She owns a house in a gated community in a Bangkok suburb. She has a lot of interior design taste. (one exception: there was a ceiling lamp in the guest room which was deliberately paced there so that I would repeatedly hit my head on it). She is well organized, but comes off seeming very casual and laid back. She is inquisitive, intelligent, and warm. If she moved to America, I think she would be most at home in San Diego. She is also a devout Buddhist. I’ve talked with a lot of non-observant Buddhists, Jew-Buhs, and Commie-Buhs, but I think she is the first devout Buddhist I have ever really talked with.

On Thursday we all went to see the tourist spots. We saw some markets, a giant gold reclining Buda, and some other stuff. I’m not impressed with Asian temples: where Amy sees a visage of the personification of kindness and enlightenment, I see power systems, mineral extraction, and idolatry. I gave Amy small doses of my opinion and we had interesting conversations.

Haga and I separated from Amy and Tony for a while. We wound up getting a little lost. And we discovered that taxi drivers and “TukTuk” drivers (basically motorcycle cart taxis) jack up their prices for foreigners. Taxi drivers also shut off their meters, claiming the device to be broken. They try to cheat us while keeping pleasant smiles on the face; Haga and my reactions were more Chinese.

At night, we ate a cool restaurant on the river. The food (and most food we had in Thailand) was delicious, but too spicy. The main foods that I ate were a) mango or papaya salad with mint and an unbearably spicy pepper that I accidentally ate, b) Pat-tai – fried noodles with bean sprouts, mint, and an unbearably spicy pepper that I accidentally ate, c) rice – noodle soup, with mint, fish balls, and an unbearably spicy pepper that I accidentally ate, d) Muslim curry over rice, with chicken, shrimp (somehow Thai Muslims don’t have a thing against eating shell fish), mint, coconut, and an unbearably spicy pepper that I accidentally ate.

On Friday we went shopping all day. I bought a Speedo bathing suit, a surfer shirt, and lots of other stuff. At night we fulfilled our dream; Haga and I saw Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

That’s it for today. I’ll summarize the next week in the next post.

 Posted by at 10:02 am

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.