A Different Pace

This has been a different kind of trip for me. A lot of it has to be because I have already been to Chiang Mai and I have already been to most of the tourist destinations, and I would rather spend the time relaxing by the pool and going out to eat at many of the great restaurants that are out here, and there are quite a few of them. I have not gone to the smaller local ones yet, but I have already had some great Thai, Italian, and Mexican food and there are plans to get some Khao Soi and go to my favorite place out here, Rustic and Blue.

It is funny that when I have been to a place before the tourist sites don’t hold the same kind of sway over me, and I would rather look for a place to unwind. This does not mean that the vacation has been a total waste of time. We all need those moments of relaxation, and some times when we go to a new place, we are so busy trying to get the most out of the moment that we forget that sometimes our bodies and minds need that downtime.

That doesn’t mean that I still do not see some beautiful things and enjoy the moments that I have. It just means that I take them at a different pace. It might mean that I am starting to get into the spirit of the tropics where everybody takes things a little slower because the heat just makes it harder to put forth the effort. It might also be the current situation in the world where places are not able to push that tourist mindset because there really isn’t tourists anymore. There are only locals who have already seen what there is to see.

I no longer see the groups of people walking around with their cameras trying to capture each moment so they could look at it later. It might be the reason that I have taken less pictures myself. I flip through my phone and I already have these pictures among them, so why should I sit down and take them again. It is easier to just take it slower and enjoy the moment without having to record it for prosperity’s sake. This is part of the reason that even though this trip as centered around a lot of eating, I have not taken many pictures of the food I am about to eat. I am too hungry to make sure that I take a picture of it, and by the time I am halfway through the meal, I realize my mistake. But on the other hand I am satisfied because I have enjoyed a great meal.

I do apologize if this trip seems a little more boring than usual, and there are plans for it to pick up, but for right now, it is the perfect pace for me. I know I will have to get back to the hectic pace of being a high school teacher here shortly, but for a brief moment, I can enjoy the fact that the world’s pace has slowed down a bit, and I can take that in for myself every once in a while. I know this pandemic has stressed a lot of people out lately because it has forced them to take life at a different pace, but maybe it is not such a bad thing. This go, go, go attitude that we have all subjected ourselves to might not be the best thing for us. It may cause us to miss the things we would notice if we slowed down for a bit. It will give us the pause to really appreciate the things that we have and not worry about what don’t.

Stay safe out there, and enjoy those moments however they may come to you.

A Day in a Bookstore

I know they are all over the place, and it does not make a big destination spot for people going on vacation, but I have always loved bookstores and I look for them when I go on vacation. It must be the English teacher in me. They are the place where I can lose myself and I can spend hours in one of these places combing the various cases, looking for that one book that will hold the next adventure I get to read.

I usually try to avoid the big chains because they are all the same. When you have visited one of them, you have visited all of them. Barnes and Nobles comes to mind when I think of this. Granted there are some of them that are more open and airy, but the only thing I am going to find in one of these stores are your typical bestsellers and reproduced classics.

There are some megastores out there such as the Tattered Cover in Denver and Powell’s in Portland, Oregon that have some deeper cuts. Powell’s adds a new flavor to the mix by selling used books as well as new and it is easy to really get lost in either of these places. They usually have a coffee shop in them as well that adds to the enjoyment factor and will keep me in the place a little longer. The Tattered Cover partnered up with Twist and Shout, one of the last music stores in America, that forces me to split my time between the two places, but I always enjoy the day.

Things get a little more difficult when I visit bookstores in a foreign country. It becomes increasingly difficult to find books in English. Of course, I could use this as an opportunity to learn the language of the country I am by reading a book written in that language, but it was hard with Korean and even more difficult with Thai. Of course the bookstores I find usually come with books on how to learn the language, but I have enough difficulty with the apps that I am using to try to pick up some of the language that I am pretty sure the books would be just as useless to me. There are a couple of used places that are nice, the best one being Dasa on Sukhimvit in downtown Bangkok. It is a skinny little store with five floors to explore filled with well loved books and a variety that can’t be found anywhere else. I also found a nice one in Hua Hin that a nice selection of books but most of them were the pulp fiction mysteries that most people bring with them on vacation and then leave behind as orphans after they are done with them.

The best bookstore that really highlights the culture of Thailand while giving a wide selection of books happens to be a chain brand. It is an Asia Books in Chiang Mai. You never know what you are going to get when you walk into one of these bookstores. Sometimes they are huge with a wide selection, and sometimes they are so tiny that they only focus on a couple of titles and a bunch of games for kids. The one in Chiang Mai is the only one that has a section dedicated to Thai history, culture and literature. Of course, you can always find some of this in the other stores, but nothing like you can at this one. I like it because every book I read about Thailand as well as living out here give me a little more perspective of the place. I have read a lot about the last century but I know that there is more to this country than that. Yesterday I found the depth I was looking for at the bookstore. I was able to add a book of folk tales to my collection that will give me insight about the history and culture here that came before the 1932 revolution, and I look forward to learning more about it.

It is not the exciting thing to write about with your vacation, but I do recommend stopping at these places when you come across them. You will find that you will learn more about your travels by going to a bookstore rather than just absorbing the culture around you.

The Same Town Second Time Around

It was only a year ago that I was in Chiang Mai and I even find myself at the same hotel we were at last time, the Shangri-la. During my last visit, we stayed here because we wanted to pamper ourselves a little bit, and even though that is part of the goal this time around, it was not the main reason we decided to stay here. Hotels are having great deals right now because they are competing for what little tourist dollars are out there considering the only people who can visit right now are the ones that are already in the country. For a country who has 40% of its economy based on tourism, this means that there are a lot of great places that are empty right now.

It is nice to stay in such a beautiful hotel, but we are not spending every minute here to get the most out of what we are paying per night. We still spent a day at the pool because it is a great pool and it is a wonderful way to unwind after a tough quarter at school. But we did not spend the whole time at the hotel. We have gotten out a couple of times and enjoyed more of what this city has to offer. It is crazy what you notice when you go back to a place you have just recently been to.

Small little things you see make you laugh because you are no longer looking at all of the sights. We saw this advertisement in the airport and at first glance it looks normal, but after a second glance, it is obvious that it was not written by a native speaker. First off, I know that there are a lot of Swiss people who live in Thailand, but I wonder what language that they believe they speak there because they have included it as a language on this poster.

Secondly, I am not quite sure what they mean by “Female Native Speakers”. Does this mean that they should be females, and if that is the case, I would hope that they rethink the picture that they used to accompany this picture. Or they are native speakers that know how to speak the females, in which case the guy in this picture starts to look even creepier.

There is also some really good street art going on in certain parts of Chiang Mai. I didn’t really pay attention to it the first time I was out here, but I have been surprised by the little corner I turn around and find these masterpieces waiting to show themselves to me. This has to be one of my favorites, a Bansky inspired piece that really speaks to the culture and people of Thailand that no other piece could.

I have travelled to a lot of different countries and places all over the world, and it has always been a great experience. Sometimes I enjoy the trip more than other times, but I always learn something new from going to these places. But rarely do I get to make my way back to certain places and really absorb the culture there. Many places I have been to top my list of places I would like to go back to someday because they hold a special place in my memory, but rarely do I make it back there. It is even worse that those select places where I do make my way back to, it takes me many years before I am able to get back there. I guess one of the advantages of the current situation is that I get to make it back to places in Thailand and really absorb the culture here. If it wasn’t for that, Thailand would have ended up being a hub for me, a place that I could jump off to so I could see other places in southeast Asia. I am glad for the chance to really experience the place I am living in now and get to know it better. It was one of the reasons that I decided to go into international teaching in the first place, and even though at the time I first made that decision, Thailand did not top my list of places that I hoped to know more about, I am glad to have landed here during this tumultuous time in world history.

When it gets back to that time to travel the world again, make sure you take advantage of it. Until then, take the time to really get to know the corner of the world you find yourself in. It may surprise you how rich it is in history and culture, and it will help you appreciate it more.

Back in the Air

For those of you who follow my blog, you know that on a regular basis I am making my way to the local airport to take a voyage to various places around the world. With a pandemic taking over everywhere, this option has not been made available and I have not been on a plane since last January. Though I do not miss being packed into a tiny cabin with thousands of strangers and trying to find a way to entertain myself while trying to get comfortable, I do miss the opportunity that this minor inconvenience allows me to take. I miss the excitement of travel, going to see things I have not seen before, and eating new food and having small adventures. I get that this is not the way of the world right now, and there are people that are making bigger sacrifices to get through this trying time, but it has been my way of recharging my batteries and getting ready for another long stretch as a teacher. So when the first break came along this school year, I hopped on the opportunity to get out of Bangkok and visit another part of Thailand. Granted I only voyaged to a place where I have been before, Chiang Mai, but it is nice to have a change of scenery.

This was also the first time that I have gotten back in a plane for a long time. It was only a one hour flight, but it was nice to know that this part of my life was starting to boot up again. Of course there were come concerns. Is it safe to be in a cabin with recycled air with so many people? How will things be different? Are they going to be as strict or will there be even more regulations, making air travel even more annoying than it was before?

Would there be some benefits? Would they separate us even more on the plane, giving all of us a little more room? Would they stop with food and drink service because it would require us to take off our masks and it was only a short flight anyways? Would getting off the plane be more organized without people pushing and shoving each other to beat each other off the plane?

Well, all of my questions were quickly answered. It was basically the way it was before, except everybody was required to wear a mask, and we had to wait for them to dismiss our row before we could get our bags and walk off of the plane. I actually liked that part. There are places in Asia where it is ridiculous to get off the plane. As soon as they land, people lose their minds as they try to be the first person off of a plane, even if they are seated all the way in the back row. I have had people shove me out of the way to try to make it one or two rows further up and get off the plane a couple seconds before me. I get the idea of wanting to get off a plane quickly, but I think when you do this, it only slows down the process, and lowers the respect I have for humanity in general.

As for the recycled air, I did happen to watch a piece on the nightly news the day before we left that demonstrated that air travel is actually safe, and even though you are seating right next to a person, they way they move the air through the cabin makes it like you are seven feet away from each other. Basically all of the air is pushed to ground and they are constantly bringing new air in from the top of the plane to replace the air that is being pushed out at your feet. All small air particles are pushed down away from places where you could get infected by a deadly disease. It was reassuring to hear this, but I have gotten sick after many plane long plane flights, and wondered how this explanation could account for that. Luckily this was a short flight, and I can’t recall having the same problem with my health on flights like this.

Overall, it was a quick, easy, and now very affordable way to get to my destination. I am still not able to leave the country because of a fear of being able to get back in, but it is nice to know that air travel is an option if I want to use it. I noticed that many international flights were cancelled yesterday as I looked for where I checked in, and hopefully someday these restrictions loosen up as well. Until I can see other nations of the world, I will continue to explore this great country of Thailand.

Until next time, be safe, and experience something new.

Drive on the Coast

We have made the afternoon for a drive
Over the wooded hills along the coast.
It feels good to get out of the hive
To chase away the collected year’s ghost.
Others are not willing to venture out
And reclaim the civilization’s shore.
Taking their time is what it is about,
And I should not coax them out of their door.
Until then, I am alone on the road,
Breathing in deeply, the wafting sea air
Where, at one time, my memory had stowed
What it had once been like to have been there.
This idea of freedom is fleeting,
But at any chance, it is worth repeating.

Consumption

Do I really need to move from this spot?
I have become very comfortable.
Though this lounge chair may have started to rot,
It is still close to the feast at the table.
I will continue to gorge myself here
While the legs of my seat begins to bow.
I know that there is nothing I need fear
When I ignore all that I need to know.
Passion must be driven forward by glut,
Smacking away the hands that reach in need.
I’ll just buy a new pad to hold my butt
As I wave for the meal to proceed.
When my heart makes the system fall apart,
I’ll claim others have the sin in their heart.

The Common Fight

We face this situation together.
There is no way we can reach victory
If we do not look out for each other
By protecting common territory.
I know we live in the land of the free
And our beliefs need to be respected,
But my right to freedom ceases to be
When simple courtesy is neglected.
These are the rights afforded to all men
To feel safe while walking down the street,
But this allotment begins to end when
My rights and your comfort start to compete.
It comes down to a simple thing to ask,
Have the decency to please wear a mask.

Greatest Hits

In life, sometimes you need a vacation
Where you do not witness anything new.
You need to fulfill your relaxation,
And to make sure the surprises are few.
You know spots where they treat you like a king,
Ready to serve your favorite meals.
You won’t engage in any sightseeing
Or search out the touristy appeals.
You’ll surround yourself with the familiar
As you walk down paths you’ve walked down before.
The last time you were here, they were a blur,
But this time around, you know what’s in store.
You know that the short time only permits
You to revisit all your greatest hits.

Toby’s – A Breakfast Story

The French toast with a side of bacon

I recently talked about my staycation to downtown Bangkok being like a greatest hits album where I didn’t take any pictures because I have been to all the places I went to before. Therefore, it was pointless to take pictures because I was already so familiar with these places. But there was one place that I do want to talk about, Toby’s. I have never been here for dinner, and I have heard that they have some amazing Italian food, but I have been here a couple of times for breakfast, and it might be one of the best places for breakfast that I have ever been to.

How do I describe it? To go back to the analogy of a greatest hits album, there is always one song on it that stands out above all the rest. Yes, you still love all of the songs on the album, but there is the one song that everybody gravitates to. It is that band’s best of their best. It is the “Satisfaction”, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Joker” on the album. And this is what Toby’s is.

Toby’s is a small restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 38 and you really have to have your eyes open to see the place or you can easily drive past it. But there are hints that you are close. There is usually a group of people gathered outside waiting to get one of the few tables the place has. Cars are collected on this sleepy street near to the entrance of the place. And your stomach will start growling because it knows the treat that it is about to experience.

The bacon platter with eggs done over medium

And yes, this place is worth searching for when you are hunting down a good brunch. The food is fresh and obviously prepared there. Most of the time, the dishes come with a selection of fresh fruit, unless you get the bacon platter (yes, they have a platter dedicated totally to different kinds of bacon), and this still comes with a bacon jam that I would recommend smearing all over the two eggs that come with the dish. But the best dish that they have for breakfast has to be the French toast. I have always enjoyed this dish and I have had some amazing versions of it, but the one here is made with crumpled corn flakes that gives it a crunchy coating that is so good. And instead of topping it with butter, they give you a scoop of vanilla ice cream that makes this entre more of a dessert that you will come back to time and time again.

It was the perfect spot to complete my greatest hits tour. It filled me up with the great food that this city has to offer before sending me back home and the reality of life. I will come back again someday, but for now this was a great way to enjoy a weekend in Bangkok.

Vacation’s Greatest Hits

It hit me last night at dinner that I had only taken one picture during this trip. Usually I am looking for great moments as I experience them, but I never even really thought about pulling out my phone and taking some pictures. It took me a moment to think about why this was, but it came to me as I took another delicious piece of sushi to dip into my soy sauce and wasabi mixture. I had done all of this before.

Don’t get me wrong. It is really nice to get out of my usual routine and go some place where I usually don’t hang out, but going twelve kilometers away to where the big building I usually see in the distance is not really getting away. It is more like making things a little more convenient for me as I go to the places where I really like to go in this city. And that is exactly what I did. I had bar-b-q at the Smokin’ Pug, lunch at Dim Ti Fung, and dinner at my favorite sushi place downtown. I did nothing new on this little excursion. Does that mean that I am getting into a rut and I can’t find anything exciting in life anymore? Should I blame it on Covid and the fact that my options have been limited? Should I push myself in the future to make sure I make the most out of every moment in my life?

Does it really matter if I am still enjoying myself?

I compare it to a concert I went to during my high school years at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Steve Miller had dusted off his guitar and took it on tour that summer, and considering my love for Classic Rock at the time, I just had to see him. It was a great show, and I had a lot of fun singing along to all of the songs that I was extremely familiar with. But there was nothing profound about what I saw there. He played every song off of his Greatest Hits album, and even hit a few songs that was on his other Greatest Hits album that not as many people listen to, but they still know the songs. He played for an hour and afterwards, I was always able to say that I saw the Steve Miller Band once in my lifetime.

Does the fact that he did not push the boundaries mean that it was a bad show? I don’t think so. These are the songs that people cherish, and it makes them happy to hear them. They go to the concert to hear those songs, and they would be disappointed if he decided to play some deep tracks instead. Yes, I do not claim it to be one of the best concerts I have ever seen, but it was still a good time, and I do have a couple of fond memories from the night. The same goes for this trip downtown. No, I will not be raving about my experience for years to come. I won’t even have pictures to look back as mementos. I did not do anything spectacular, but that does not mean that it wasn’t worth my time. Sometimes, it is okay to go back to those comforts, and enjoy the experience without worrying about taking a dozen pictures in the meantime.

It might not be the best trip, but I still had a good time, and I will walk away with a couple of fond memories from the experience.

I guess that is what the greatest hits are all about.