Just some stuff I’ve noticed…..

I’m not sure this counts as a blog, but I really wanted to document some stuff that I’ve noticed here in Bangkok and since I’m saving the rest of my journal pages for the Camino, I thought I’d just put them down here! So, here goes:

1.) When you walk into a major department store you will find there are usually more employees than customers. They seem to congregate and talk amongst themselves even when you are seeking help. Or, they are in the middle of the linen section texting.

2.) When you walk up to or within 10 feet of a street stall, you will be immediately “greeted” by the salesperson who will proceed to actually watch where your eyes are looking and try to sell you that object.

3.) People who walk around in the middle of the mall reading their Facebook or emails on mobile phones should be shot. Yes, I know that’s harsh, but it’s just so frustrating to try and get around them when they seem to consistently weave where you want to walk, without even looking!!

4.) I do not really like being called “Ma Dam”….it’s rating right up there with Hey Lady in my book of irritations!

5.) Tuk-tuk drivers are fun to tease. They want to rip you off so bad it’s hysterical. I kinda walk near them which makes them sit up from their reclining position (I should say it more correctly – they are completely laid out across the tuk-tuk), and say, “hey lady, tuk-tuk?” To which I reply, “no thank you”. That’s when the fun starts! They always ask, “Where you going?”.  I love that question! I tell them with a big smile, “far, far away”. Of course, they want me!! That’s when I rub my tummy and say, “No tuk-tuk, too fat, gotta walk”!! And they just laugh and laugh!! Priceless…I’m not sure who has more fun with that one!!

6.) Do not, under any circumstances, try to outdrink a Thai (girl or guy). You are asking for pain. Step in front of a bus first, it will be much easier and less embarassing. At least you won’t be throwing up in front of everybody!

7.) Asian women don’t seem to like us farangs (foreigners)! I’m not sure why – none of us can fit in their clothes, so it’s not like we’re out buying clothes away from them!  The street stalls are full of clothes that only fit them! And surely, none of the guys are looking at us – we’d squish them!

8.) Some of the Asian guys are pretty darn cute. The women might be pretty, but I’m not really sure because I’m afraid to look at them! Seriously.

9.) There can’t possibly be another place in the world (except maybe Hong Kong or Toyko) that has as many places selling cell phones, pc’s, and cell phone holders as Bangkok. I can’t figure out who they’re selling this stuff to! In MBK (the biggest tourist mall here), there is a whole floor dedicated to nothing but cell phones and cell phone covers. Now, let me make sure you’re getting the drift here. This mall is huge and the ENTIRE floor is all cell phones and covers!

10.) Lean processing does not exist here. Today, I walked around the mall looking at the employees in different places. In KFC, there were 8 people behind the counter which had 4 registers. There were 6 people cooking. Two young guys were in the seating area doing nothing but standing there waiting to clean off tables and mop if necessary. There were 12 customers including me. Do the math. Oh, and there was one girl who only sells desserts. On the way home though, I did stop at 7-11 and there was one person on each of the two registers they had and possible an employee in the back. There were 17 people in the 7-11.

11.) Yesterday I saw something very strange. It was the Google Maps Street View car. I had to Google that to find out what it does. It actually has a series of cameras mounted and does live updates of traffic in certain places. It produces a 3-D view of the buildings, etc. if you do the Google Earth thing! Only in Bangkok…

Goodle Maps Street View car!!

Learning Who I Am!

Once in a while, I come to a standstill. It’s during those times that I find my head is the clearest. Thinking comes easy. And so, it’s during this standstill in Bangkok that I find myself evaluating my journey and what I’ve learned about me. In saying that, please keep in mind this has nothing to do with the people I’ve met or the things I’ve seen! This is truly my evaluation of me!

I’m not a tourist! This came as a huge revelation to me! There is nobody I know that reads and actually studies Lonely Planet books like me. I can tell you every great spot I should have seen while here. And yet, today when I sat here at the hostel and looked back through the pictures I’ve taken, the best shots were ones of ordinary life. I guess that’s why in these last few days, I’m not concerned with whether or not I see the Grand Palace and every temple in town. Watching the street vendors, seeing mothers walking with their children, watching teen-age girls giggle and flirt with the boys, seeing people enjoying themselves in the park – those are things that remind me that we are all one human race!

I can travel alone, but it’s likely I will chose not to in the future – at least not for this long of a venture! There are times when I wanted to share the joy of what I was seeing and experiencing. There were also days when I felt on the verge of being overwhelmed and eaten alive by this area of the world. The unrelenting heat, the total difference in culture, and the physical pains that I endured alone may have made me stronger, but it would have been nice to have someone to talk to during those times.

I’m quite content with hostels! Yes, guesthouses can be a little more quaint, but for me the hostels offer more of what I look for in travel. I found I could always make friends in a bigger group of people. Clean dorm rooms and good showers are important to me! Orderly processes of check-in and check-out seem to work better for me!

I’m a big city kinda girl! Bangkok was NEVER, EVER on my bucket list. But it was a necessary evil that I had to endure to come to SE Asia. I made sure I didn’t fly into here but Singapore instead. Dread consumed me for at least one whole day in Koh Tao knowing Bangkok was my next stop. So yes, this was something I learned about me that I think maybe I knew, but now, it’s confirmed. Big cities, even Bangkok, don’t scare me – they entice me! You can be sure, New York City is now on my bucket list!

I am blessed!! I never realized how rich my life is. At 54, I’m fairly healthy, I have many, many friends, two wonderful sons, family, and I am on the other side of the world. During these past few months, I have heard from so many people who are following my journey! Many friends and new followers are taking this voyage with me and so while there are days when I feel very alone, I know I can always log on to the Internet and find friends who are with me in spirit! For that, I am so thankful – I recognize now how my words touch others and how their words touch me!

Biggest revelation: I am strong! Much, much stronger than I ever imagined! Regardless of the physical pains I’ve endured here, I’ve maintained a positive attitude for the most part! I’ve figured out how to get from here to there and back again on my own. When the need for help arose, I asked for and accepted it graciously. When I was scared, I searched inside for strength and found it! And when I was lonely, I let myself feel loneliness and recognize it could be as short-lived as I wanted it to be! There have been people in my life who said I lack self-confidence. Maybe I projected that because I felt the need to be what was expected of me at the time. Travelling alone, I found the space to be just me and found that they were wrong about me.  I AM STRONG!!

For those of you following my journey, I want to thank you once again for your comments and encouragement. Many, many times when I needed support, you were there! I hope you will follow along as I head out of SE Asia and on to Europe where I will walk the Camino de Santiago! Thank you again everyone!!

Sometimes the best way to figure out who you are is to get to that place where you don’t have to be anything else.”  Source Unknown

Sensing the end….

Wow! Last night lying in bed, I realized I’m down to two weeks left in Southeast Asia. I actually started to cry! I’ve had an incredible time and certainly, it’s not over yet. Luckily, my foot is feeling better and I’m ready to take on Bangkok with a vengence!

While I’m killing some time waiting for my night train to Bangkok from Chiang Mai, I thought I’d take a few minutes to reflect on my journey so far. I’ve learned a lot – like for instance, that I love pineapple shakes! Why can’t I make these at home – you can bet, I’m gonna try! There’s a million things I could list that I’ve learned about myself and you can bet in the future, I will blog about that! But for now, I really want to focus on what I’ve seen and felt here in SE Asia.

Mostly, it’s been a roller coaster ride for the senses! Let me explain!

The smells here are amazing and yet, not always pleasant! One minute it’s the smell of all the beautiful flowers and greenery that grows here. Then it’s the myriad of foods they cook here – curries and noodles and chicken and pork. The smell of cinammon is often found here. And then, there’s the smell of the street – garbage rotting and the always present smell of sewer water. And let’s not forget the dreaded durian fruit. You simply cannot describe the smell. The best I can say is that it’s a combination of sweaty socks, armpits, and possibly a hit of pineapple thrown in. It’s horrible! And yet, these people love this fruit…I can not bring myself to get it into my mouth! Sorry!

One of my favorite photos!

From the hot, sandy beaches to the crumbled, torn-up sidewalks, experiencing SE Asia is a challenge to even the healthiest feet! The concrete in Bangkok goes on forever. But in Malaysia, it’s a miracle to walk down any sidewalk without falling in a hole or tripping on an uneven sidewalk. Penang is simply the worst – I could never look up when walking in Penang – I always had to look at the sidewalk! The holes and loose bricks and uneven walkways were a constant threat! And the feel of icy cold water everywhere during Songkran in Chiang Mai – wow! The winner though, hands down, is the feeling of motion here. The ferries, trains, buses and minivans are not for the faint of heart! Dramamine is my friend!!

The sounds of SE Asia are amazing. The sleek Skytrain of Bangkok is barely audible. But outside the Skytrain, the sounds of touts is never-ending. Someone is always selling something and farangs (foreigners) are always the target! In Koh Samui, the sale is about MA-SSAGE?????? That’s how the girls say it…with a long delay in both syllables and as if asking a question. In Kuala Lumpur, the horns and constant traffic are only matched in volume by the Call to Prayer broadcast over the speakers strategically placed all around town. The greatest sound…the quiet Kob Kun Kaa (thank you) spoken by a Thai with the little bow of the head and the prayer-like position of their hands!

Padthai, banana pancakes, fried bananas, mango sticky rice, and of course, my favorite…pineapple shakes! The taste buds are always on overload in SE Asia. There are many things I didn’t try because I don’t like spicy food. But the things I have tried that I like, I just can’t seem to get enough of them! Pineapple shakes are my absolute favorite – I think it’s because they are so light and yet, so sweet! Last night, I tried fried bananas and they are awesome. The chicken and pork satay is always good when walking around….nothing like eating meat off a stick! Even western food is interesting…..nothing tastes quite the same! In Penang, I tried the Nonya style of food – way to spicy for me…but certainly an adventure!

By far, the eyes have the most to absorb here although the nose is certainly the runner-up! I could never be here without a camera because describing the beauty amid all the chaos that is SE Asia would be impossible!  The magnificent skyline of Singapore seen from the Singapore Flyer, the beauty of the southern Thailand lagoons and limestone formations and white beaches with crystal clear water, the serene and surprising National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, the silent parade of monks walking through hectic and never-stopping traffic of Bangkok – none of these things can be described without photos!  And certainly, the people of Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, working, smiling, living life just like we do in America.

All of these things will soon be a distant memory for me. I’m so glad I have the photos to help remind me of the smell and feel and sounds and tastes of SE Asia now that it’s getting near the end. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too through what I’ve written about, but hey, I still have two weeks in Bangkok!!! Get ready for more!!

Cheri 🙂