Fizzling Out – The Last Hurrah!

It is not like I had grand plans for these couple of nights in downtown Bangkok. The whole reason I had come down here was to get some paperwork taken care of so I could move to Jordan next year. I also did not plan for it to be my last hurrah in Thailand as the rest of the year looks like it will be online and in my home. Like the rest of the world, it will be looking at the simple life and staying safe, and I just have to accept that this is the way of the end, not an a grand epic image, but a quiet fizzle sitting in my hotel room after getting some business taken care of.

Granted, things could open up again and I might have the possibility to have a quick trip to a nearby national park I haven’t been able to see yet, but the new cases in Thailand have stayed at a steady 1,500 a day, and the holiday of Songkron had sent people all over the country creating what will likely be a super-spreader event. Thailand has still not rolled out the vaccine yet waiting until the fall before they set their plans into motion, so it does not look like relief will happen soon. People will just have to hunker down and hope for the best.

Even my school is starting to dig into the trenches. There were a couple of close calls over the last couple of weeks, but finally a person has come down with the disease and nobody is allowed on campus anymore. Luckily, most people have not been on campus for a couple of weeks because of Songkron break, and the fact that we had gone to online learning right before the break, but it is still disconcerting to know that Covid is creeping ever closer.

But for a lot of other places in the world, this has been the norm, and nothing new. I have been lucky that most of the time I have spent in Thailand was Covid free and I was still able to get to know this country I had just moved to. But there is really no way to keep this pandemic from reaching the borders of all the countries in the world. Even though North Korea claims that they have never had a case, I’m pretty sure that it has visited there as well.

With all of this in mind, it just means that my time goes out in a fizzle. Rain kept me inside most of yesterday after I got my chores done, and even if I wanted to go out and explore, a lot of the businesses are starting to get ready for the oncoming onslaught as well and it just meant that things would be hit or miss to begin with. But with each ending, there is a new beginning. Things may be looking down right now in Thailand, but they are starting to improve in many places in the world. I have a new adventure to look forward to soon by moving to a new place in the world, and in a couple of months I will be back in the United States and get to see my family again. So even though this is not the ending I was hoping for, the beginning is looking good.

Staying on Top of a Mall – The Last Hurrah!

The view from outside my hotel window at the Centara Grand hotel on top of CentralWorld in downtown Bangkok, Thailand

The big department store in Thailand is Central. It is basically like any other department store that you would find in any other mall across the world. When you enter one, you have the option of many different levels you can go to with each one designed to meet the needs of certain individuals. There are usually two levels designed for women, one for men, one for children, a combination of all three for sports gear and sports equipment, and couple more for toys and knick knacks, and another for kitchen supplies. Central takes it one step further with having some of their department stores adding one more level that features many fine restaurants that you can dine at like a five star food court including glass ware and fancy silverware.

Central also takes things one step further than many of the other department stores around the world. Though all of their shops are found in malls like many other department stores, unlike the other department stores, Central owns a lot of the malls that they reside in. They don’t only make money off of their own store, but they also make money off of all of the real estate that they rent out to the other stores in the mall. These big monstrosities are in all the big cities across the country with Bangkok having a few sprinkled throughout the city.

The biggest of all of these malls that I know of is the one in downtown Bangkok off of Sukhumvit, the main thoroughfare in downtown, called Central World. Just like any other mall, it is filled with a bunch of the biggest brand name stores, and tons of restaurants to eat at, both quick and sit down. It even has a movie theater. But what makes it stand out over all the other malls would have to be the luxury hotel that has been built on top of it.

Granted, this is downtown Bangkok, one of the places in the world where any piece of real estate is worth a small fortune. Add on to that, that this is the central part of this downtown area. It makes sense to make the most out of any space that is offered. Building huge, multi-purposed skyscrapers makes the most perfect sense. The CentralWorld Mall has done a great job of capturing this aspect with a large sprawling shopping area, a convention center, and a Centara Hotel to top it all off. It comes with its own outdoor pool and two full-sized tennis courts. It offers comfortable rooms with amazing views of the Bangkok landscape.

It is a little weird having to walk through a mall with all of your bags to get to the elevator that will take you to the Hotel’s reception, but otherwise, it has been a great spot to get done what I need to get done in downtown Bangkok. It is close to all of the places where I need to go, and it is connected to a BTS station so I can get to any other place quickly as well. I know it is not the craziest experience of my life, but under the current situation and the fact that this will be my last hurrah for my time in Thailand, I will take it and enjoy it while I still can.

The Last Hurrah! (Maybe)

It wasn’t planned this way. Of course, a lot of what happened over the last couple of years have taken all of our plans, thrown them out the window, put the car in reverse so it could run over them and drive them into the mud, and then had gotten out of the car so it could have the pleasure of smashing them further with the heel of its boot. The common phrase I have heard during this time is that we will have to wait to see what happens, and then plan for the worst. And the worst is never the worst; the last couple of years have always found a way to make it worse.

But I have tried to keep a positive outlook on life, and luckily I have found myself in a place that was not hit as hard by the Corona Virus pandemic, so at least I could travel around the country of Thailand and enjoy it beaches and beautiful sights. I just couldn’t leave. It led to me making the decision for seeking a new position in a new country next year, and as the days ticked closer to the last days in Thailand, I kept anticipating the last trip I would take in this country. It would be my last exploration of this culture, the last run through the tropics, the last hurrah of Thailand.

But then Covid reared its ugly head again. It has come and gone many times throughout the last couple of years, but it was never a huge threat. It would just shut things down for awhile and then open them up again so we can go back to life with a semblance of normality. But it came again as I was taking on that final stretch into the end of my time out here, and now, what my be my last hurrah is not as exciting as I thought it may have been.

One of the things I needed to get done before I left was to visit the police station in downtown Bangkok in order to get a background check for my time out here in Thailand. It wouldn’t take that long, but I would need to take a day off in order to go through the process and considering that it is so difficult to drive down to downtown Bangkok and back, we decided to get a hotel room to take care of it. We could get a nice meal out of it, and hit our favorite spots down here one last time. But considering that everything is closing up again in Thailand, it might be the last time that we are able to get out of the neighborhood before we leave. It is not as exciting as I was hoping, but it is all I am going to get, so I have to make the most out of it.

It is a typical way of looking at what has been happening to not just me, but all of the people all over the world. The expectations we have had over the last few months keep getting put on hold, and we have to make these adjustments to allow for life to continue. Of course, it is not the ideal, but it is also not as bad as I thought it might be either. It just a lesson in being flexible and making the most out of what life gives us. It might not be the last hurrah, the amazing blowout, that I had hoped for, but I am still getting the opportunity to have a last hurrah. I should be happy that I am getting that because there are many people all over the world that are still stuck in their homes and haven’t had much to hurrah about over the last months at all.

And who knows? Thailand may get this outbreak under control quickly, and I will be able to have that last hurrah I was hoping for. Either way I will be ready for it.

Lunar New Year

They have told me not to pay attention
To the importance that they give a name,
For it does not matter the intention
As the identity will be the same.
Ownership comes with specification
To the ones who had first called it as so,
No longer belonging to that nation,
Letting the imperialism grow.
When you go off to the celebration,
Discuss why you go to dance and sing.
Does it matter that the iteration
Of a country is part of the ringing?
So I would like to raise my glass in cheer
To this great holiday, Lunar New Year.

Chinese versus Lunar

I am probably making a bigger deal about this than I should, but there is something about Chinese New Year that bugs me. It is a day that is celebrated all over the world, and it is based upon the waxing and waning of the moon. It is so popular that people in Thailand even celebrate the Chinese New Year, and I am sure that there are other countries in Southeast Asia that celebrate it as well. But South Korea does not celebrate the Chinese New Year. They have their own celebration on the same day that focuses also on the waxing and waning of the moon, but they call it Lunar New Year instead.

All of these countries get excited about this day, and it is often considered one of the biggest holidays of the year. They decorate the malls, and have many places where you can get your picture taken to prove that you were alive when it became the Year of the Bull. So my problem comes from the fact that it is called Chinese New Year in countries that are not even China. I get the fact that some holidays are specific to certain countries, and the celebration of them should hold the title of the country that they come from. But this is a holiday that is based upon legends that are shared by many of the countries of this region and is based upon a single day in February that changes with the moon. I agree with Korea that the title of the day should be Lunar New Year and not Chinese New Year.

I am pretty sure that it is a big party in China every year on this holiday. Though I have not experienced the same level of excitement associated with it in Thailand, I think part of my experience might be because the current state of the world which has probably toned down the celebrations in China as well. The point being is that there is no one holiday that is celebrated around the world that has the same kind of association with it. We don’t call it America’s Christmas even though there might be a few people who think that this is a more appropriate name. It isn’t the Celtic Halloween even though this is the place where it originated. We don’t even call it the Vatican’s Easter even though the history of this event has been distorted throughout the years and does not look like what it did when they first celebrated it.

I have no qualms with China continuing to call the day Chinese New Year either. I am just surprised that countries that wish to retain the autonomy and their own culture are so willing to give into the pressure of calling it the same thing even though that has nothing to do with the way they celebrate it. When it comes down to it, I believe it is a great holiday to celebrate, and I enjoy seeing people come together to ring in the New Year. I just hope in the future they look towards the day and recognize it as a part of their own culture and not some import from a different part of the world.

Sorry about the rant, but I hope you had a wonderful Lunar New Year, and that you find luck and happiness in the Year of the Bull.

The Sushi Attraction

One of my favorite things about getting out of the house and traveling is trying amazing food from all around the world. There are some really great places to eat in my neighborhood, but there is something special about trying places in other neighborhoods and countries. Heading to downtown Bangkok gives me this opportunity to try other worldly cuisine. Of course, there are many Thai restaurants downtown, but I probably have the better examples in my neighborhood that is not toned down to meet the tastebuds of millions of tourists who visit this city every year. Rather, I like to look for the other world cuisines that are not as present in my neighborhood, and one of the types of foods I always look for is a good sushi restaurant.

This is something that is harder to find in Southeast Asia than you would think. There are a couple of places I have found outside of Japan that are able to do this dish well, and one of the better ones happens to be off of the Phrom Phong BTS station down Soi 39. It is a small place with only six tables, but it does a great job of getting fresh fish and creating artistic bites to eat. It is by far the best sushi restaurant I have found in Bangkok so far. It does not rival the places that fill up during lunch time in Japan, but it would do really well in that country and hold its own against the people that created this cuisine in the first place.

My favorite part of eating sushi, besides the taste, is the presentation. I am not one of those people that take pictures of their food very often, and maybe I should be better at doing that considering I write a blog about my travels around the world. I know that people want to see those pictures, but usually when I go out to a restaurant, I am so excited to eat that when my food comes, I forget to pull out my phone and take a picture. But when I ate at Masu Maki, it was really easy to remember that this was something that I should do. They did such a beautiful job of presentation that I had to take a picture in order to remember it. I won’t give you the picture of what it looks like after I have finished because it isn’t as pretty, but when this gets placed in front of you, it is easy to get excited by what you are about to eat.

It is a great place to eat sushi in Bangkok, and if you have any other suggestions, please let me know because I love to find hidden gems like Masu Maki, especially when it comes to sushi.

Eternal Summer’s Version of Christmas

It is that time of the year again where the night sky is lit up with tiny lights and images of people bundled up against the cold get plastered on the side of every established business. Songs about melting snowmen and chestnuts roasting over a fire play over the lobbies of hotels and speakers at gas station all around the world. Kids bundle up in new pajamas as they make their lists for toys that they would love to have from the jolly fat man from the north, and parents fight holiday crowds and their bankbooks to make those dreams come true.

It is truly a magical time of the year.

I will admit that when I was younger that this was my favorite time of the year, and probably contributes a lot to my love of snowy days. One of my fondest memories growing up involved a Christmas Eve blizzard that trapped us in our house on Christmas day. I was very young at the time and I always thought that it had to snow on Christmas Eve and the light flurry of flakes that fell that evening as I walked outside in my new Christmas pajamas to pick up the night edition of the paper confirmed this belief. It started out innocent enough, but when I woke up on Christmas morning there was a big surprise of a couple of feet of snow that had not been on the ground before. I don’t remember at all what I got that Christmas because the snow was the greatest gift we could have ever recieved.

I have since grown up and after many brown Colorado Christmases, I now know that snow on Christmas Eve is not a guarantee. In fact, there are many places in the world where seeing snow on Christmas would be considered crazy. Some of the more memorable ones I have spent in recent years have come while I have been on the other side of the globe in Australia and New Zealand. It was a strange feeling enjoying the holiday in a place where I knew that it would never get cold.

I am soon discovering that this year will also be one of those years that will not have a chance of feeling like the picturesque holiday season. It won’t be completely bad because Thailand loves to celebrate this holiday just like any other country in the world. The malls are packed with people and deals, and they tend to pump Christmas carols everywhere you go. The stores also try to outcompete each other to show who can make the brightest of all of the holiday light shows. I wasn’t expecting it much, but I did feel that magical spirit start to bubble up inside of me while I walked around downtown and viewed all of the Christmas displays wherever I went.

The only difference is that I will never feel that cold that I so cherish this time of the year. I won’t even feel a cool breeze that might hint at a chilly Christmas evening. The closest I will be able to get will be to turn my air conditioning on high so I can bundle up under a blanket and watch some Christmas movie where they get to experience a white event. Despite this small problem, it will feel more like Christmas than a lot of places around the world. There will still be the people taking the time to spend with each other, the children excited about the arrival of Santa Claus, and the endless celebration that takes place during the month of December.

I know I am looking forward to it either way, and I hope that wherever you find yourself this holiday season that you are able to make the most out of this month as well. Have a great holiday season, and I will let you know about what is happening in the land of eternal summer as I enjoy mine.

Black Friday

Ever since I have moved overseas, Thanksgiving Day does not mean as much to me. It is not that I do not appreciate the holiday. It is just that the holiday is a very American experience and other places in the world do not celebrate it or even acknowledge its existence. Because of this, I have had to work on the past six Thanksgiving Days, and after the sixth time, it is hard to get excited about this day.

It fills me with sadness when I recognize this fact because for a long time it had become my favorite holiday. It was the one day where we stripped away all of the pretentious behavior of our daily routines, and get together with family to share a delicious meal and make memories. There was also the looming consuming beast of Christmas looming right around the corner, but we could put that aside for a moment to just enjoy being with the people we love. I know that other countries have holidays that are comparable to this, but it is hard to get into the spirit of them when they jump out at me from nowhere and I am expected to understand the traditions of these days. The traditions of my past are the ones that stick with me and which I yearn for every year around this time.

There are other Americans at the schools I have taught at that help to keep this tradition alive. I have had one Thanksgiving dinner already and I will be experiencing another one this weekend, and I appreciate that people take the time to make sure that this holiday makes it across the ocean. But since I have moved to Asia, I have started a new tradition that makes me just as happy. It involves the day after Thanksgiving which in the United States is one of my least favorite days of the year. It is not because I am working off my turkey coma or I am depressed because I find myself without my family again. It is because I believe that this day brings out the worst of Americans as they push and shove to get crazy deals on crap that they really don’t need. It is fodder for the television news broadcasts and every year it gets just a little worse. Hopefully, with Covid ravaging the land, people will take it a little easier this year, but the current state of things has proven that many people would not let this tradition pass them by no matter what danger may loom in a crowded room.

The way I have avoided the pain of this day is to take in the meal that I usually miss because I have been stuck at work during Thanksgiving day. I have had the fortune to have the next day off, and the Asian countries though they ramp up the shopping experience during Black Friday, it is no where near the insanity that can be found in the United States. The restaurants are still open and this is a great day to hop from one to the next as I indulge in a little bite at each one. It allows me to get out there and see a bit of the holiday spirit as it takes over the community while not fighting with people over a bunch of stuff that doesn’t really matter in the long run. This is the tradition I would like to see take off for this holiday. We need to step back from this idea that stuff will make Christmas perfect and look back at the holiday we have just enjoyed. It is about family, and all holidays should take Thanksgiving’s tradition to heart. This is what my new tradition would be about because you do not go out to spend money on people, but you meet up with them at various restaurants to enjoy their company.

I hope you all found yourself in a wonderful spot on this holiday and that you are taking the precautions to be safe during the next month. Be thankful for those people you have in your life no matter where they may be.

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.