A Travellerspoint blog

Mae Sot

this entry is labled Mynamar for the fact that few people actually spoke Thai in Mae Sot, but rather Burmese

sunny 32 °C

Its a mild and warm thursday night thats covered in mosquitos as usual but this time I'm dehydrated and everthing is consequently a little misty, but more so strange in my hotel.

We made our way to Chiang Mai from Mae Sot, a small Muslim town on the border or Burma that was intriguing but equally depressing. Mae Sot is littered with a variety different ethnicities which have become defineable throughout my travels, walking down the street you can see Burmese, Karen- hill tribe villagers, Burmese-Thai, and Indian/ Sri Lankan refugees that have made their way down to this strange little town. I have to say, in my quest for cultural understanding Mae Sot was a defining learning experience.
From the small town of Tak, you took an hour and 1/2 minibus from hell ride up a path of mountains into this ramshack village with endless aromas and atms. Strange to say the least, many of the people there acted as if they'd never seen a white person before, or maybe just a white woman before. After about five minutes I felt like an object. Everywhere Kirk and I walked someone would spot us and tap their friend on the shoulder to look at us, and after around 15 minutes I realized that in my sundress I was a number one smash hit amongst teenage muslim boys. Walking by myself was the loudest responce I recieved with several men who didn't know how to say anything else in english but "I love you" to convey their desire to either court or woo me, so it was strange to say the least to walk down the street and have men you didn't know tell you in loud voices that they "loved" you. Ha!

Though this was a muslim town I had the distinctly unfortunate experience of seeing pigs slaughtered which is believe you me, such a frightening sound that I never want to come close to it again. I don't eat pork, so I didn't feel particularly hypocritical feeling so repulsed during those moments. We had come from this Lao style eatery and were approaching a kareoke joint when I asked the boys next to me, "Do you hear that? Its sounds like someone is screaming". Within twenty feet the sound became louder and after a bit, I turned to the left of me and it was an open air slaughter house. Pigs being slaughtered sounds earily like a woman screaming, it gave me a nasty feeling as we walked into a kareoke place that was advertised as being open from 20-24. Now if you think of it, a business being open for only four hours a night and having literally no clientele isn't enough to pay the rent and can only be a front. I can think of no other reason three westerners walk into a kareoke joint and the staff is annoyed to have to use the kareoke machine. Hmmmm, from the cheap perfume and endless short skirted women walking up and down stairs this smelled like a prostitution ring. Facinating that I can be in a muslim town and its the only place I've seen pigs slaughtered and exagerated prostitution.

Our Miami decade long expat Brandon was a slippery guide through this bizzare town which I only believe is on the map because of lonely planet's conjuring ways. He clued me into the reason behind the many border immigration stops we had to make along the way to mae sot, which were because of many young Burmese girls who are sold into prostitution by their parents trying to escape into different parts of Thailand. After that fact he relayed me with I felt my stomach churn, but its an interesting feeling being around two men who have no doubt solicited prostitutes and having such a feeling of disgust without being able to convey it and have it be recieved.

I am now relieved to be in Chiang Mai. A boon of sanity in this Thai Sea.

Posted by rumpypumpy 08:42 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Observations more or less

I have found there are a lot of simple attributes to Thaiand that frame all of its definitive differences to western countries. I will start with simple ones.

Here you:
-pet cats instead of dogs- dogs are not nice and they bite easily, cats are very lovable
- are treated with respect for being a foreigner and expressing interest in a culture different than your own
-smile at everyone, and everyone smiles back at you
-accept loose literal translations for everything
-are seen as beautiful for having pale skin, women go to great lengths here to whiten their skin
-see endless pets everywhere and they don't have owners
-pay less than a dollar to travel on a train for two hours in 3rd class, back home to go two hours costs 48$
-eat five times a day instead of three
-take a nap whenever you feel like it, most likely after you eat
- see monks everywhere and they own cell phones
-take your shoes off before you go in most buildings
- get your chest stared at if you are a girl and have a chest at all
-shout over teenage boys in internet cafes because they scream back and forth to eachother
-see a lot more people who are missing limbs and whos toes grow sideways
-see a ton of drunk dutch kids in Bangkok who want to get more drunk and tell their friends about it

Here you don't
- eat everything on your plate if you are being taken out by a guest because it means you were provided for and could'nt finish because of their generosity
-say anything bad about the king or else you go to jail post haste
-just eat point to something and eat it because sometimes (in my case) its extremely salty- always ask for a sample
-get upset because people aren't mean here? Sorry that wasn't particularly good objective journalism on my part
-fight with who you travel with because there is no point
-see any mcdonalds or stabucks, strip mall infastructure etc

Posted by rumpypumpy 02:33 Comments (0)

The Deck failure

FOOD

Kirk and I meandered to a restaurant called "The Deck" last night which was located a few iron work stairs up near the water by Arun Wat, a gorgeous million meter high temple which made for a spectacularly sparkly evening. We sat upon the noveau teak deck dining for free on eighty dollar a bottle French bordeaux called Meureux and australian grassfed serloin. How could this possibly ever come about on shoestring budget meandering?It was a chance meeting the night before our flight to Bangkok at a pub on the small isle of Bainbridge island Puget Sound, Washington. Kirk's family friend Steve bumped into us and hearing of our 24 hour departure to Bangkok he eagerly said, "I'd love to buy you dinner in Bangkok". Luckily this was not a pick up line towards my man friend but rather a networking multi-tasking gift that gave us permission to dine in style 5,000 miles away via steve for free! Steve arranged through a friend to shoot us reservations at this posh upscale, literally off the beaten path feast of finery. Let me tell you, I have never tasted a more spotless and tounge numblingly graceful four course meal.

To begin, Kirk ordered us both a french onion soup that was a light prime to our palletes. Each bowl contained a tiny piece of artisan bread that had been fried and melted with cheese, the first cheese I've had since my touchdown here. Next our wine, which was my choice was from France circa early two thousand and was a Mereux Cabernet Sauvingnon. Kirk remarked, "it has a sharp nose" but that was Kirk for, this is the best wine I've ever had oh my god oh my god silky satin. Thats how I translated it into Sammi but nonetheless, Bravo on the wine. Most beautiful color and it left me beaming all night.

For my entre I got a braised Lamb shank that was marinated in various herbs such as a nice spiced wine, and a definite helping of saffron and tarragon, ryhmes eh? To my mouth it tasted like a naked full moon celebration to honor the concept of tenderness. It was paired with a aspargus/mushroom creamed risotto that went blissfully with my wine.

For dessert? A chocolate ganache with homemade vanilla bean icecream dragonfruit garnish and strawberry puree sauce that lined my plate. Oh help me lord. Kirk was so smitten with my ganashe he ignored his five stories high strawberry millefois to munch on mine, I could have killed him.

From this nearly lethal delecatbleness we meanered onto the terrace to sip cocky cocktails with some of Bangkok's richest, and we were met with a 5,000 baht bill. "Hmmm? What?" was our responce. Apparently something from Steve's goodwill had been lost in translation to our ethereal Thai dinner host "Roj". Though an overabundance of fanagling via our phone to Steves phone to Roj's phone, we settled the $150 dollar bill from thousands of miles away without paying a cent. Thank you Steve and the mysterious Roj I will never meet!

All in all, being able to sample and savor the alternate non-backpacker culture across the otherside of Bangkok was an important experience but first and foremost a gift. It was where those who dined decided to dine and it was host to asian cuisine as well as western cuisine. It was also a favorite of successful asians in the city and I was happy to be amongst natives who had carved this out as a favorite amongst other haunts. This atmopshere was elegant and haughty, it was a beautiful evening and although it almost cost me six days of living here, I'm glad that risk was on the table. But nevertheless, juxtaposed with the poverty I knew was only two flights of stairs down around the corner made this savory meal rather bitersweet. From this experience in a country that contains the hardest working and most underpaid people I've ever met has caused me to scale down my material desires and spending in large part. Without this experience of socio-economic disparity between the westernly groomed thais dining near the water and the thais around the corner making 75 cent pad thai on the street, It would've taken longer to sink in.

Posted by rumpypumpy 02:06 Archived in Thailand Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

Meat on a stick is 30 cents here.

The 18 hour nonconsecutive spaceship has landed here in Bangkok and needless to say my brain has made a whole new pathway to accommodate the madness that is Bangkok. Scientists have said that people who do ecstasy and meth develop new pathways in their brain that make the experience of doing drugs addictive, that more or less sums up how I feel about Thailand- addictive. From the beautiful sheen of Thai skin, to the cheap food, to the ever present and never ending never sleeping chaos- I love Thailand.

Kirk and I flew to Seoul, South Korea from Seattle which was a twelve hour flight, but thanks to allergy medication I slept half of it. From Seoul we ran through the terminal with a lovely Korean stewardess to make our next flight to Bangkok which was a six hours consumed by watching the ever terrible "Nights in Rodanthe". So in total, my twelve hour flight was riddled with bizarre incidents and some good luck.

The freak show that unfolded as Kirk and I slumbered softly was only five rows up from us, yet we were unaware of this story until day 2 when the Alaskan's unleashed the plot of the "armrest hogging granny vs. the ill tempered 30 something". The tale begins with the 70 year old Korean woman who suffers from diabetes and must elevate her feet to keep her blood running smoothly to all of her arteries, she for some reason must also hog the arm rest of the person sitting next to her which belonged to a successful but possibly hemroidal thirtysomething Korean man. The 30something decides to push granny out of the way so that he can have his arm rest back, however this does nothing to deter granny who continuously moves her feet over near his seat so she can keep her blood pumping in perfect comfort. After a few trials of deterring granny, 30 something yells at her in a very vocal tone so that the whole plane can hear- twice. After this trumpet of warning he looses his preparation-h and literally decks her in the face, smashing her glasses and putting this seventy year old granny into a seizure. He is swiftly detained by the silky swanlike airline stewardesses where he is hopefully executed or tried for assaulting a diabetic granny. Good Christ.

The good luck that fell upon us sat in the row in front of me and wore a Jack Daniels shirt with a pony tail. This was an Alaskan who's name is Chad, who casually dropped we should all share a cab together. After losing him in the Airport to Kirk's delayed luggage fiasco, we found him later at our hotel sipping Chang beer with a smile and that pony tail. Chad appears 26 and acts 26 but is actually 34. The closest summation to his appearance I can find is when you take a cheesy, "whats your real age?" test online- Chads is 26. Chad leads guided fishing tours in Alaska, lives 200 miles from a taco bell or the movies, and has one rule on his boat- no talking politics or religion. Chad loves Chang beer and terrible jokes, needless to say if you can't tell by reading- I adore Chad. If I was a 34 year old dude who lived in Alaska as a guided fishing tour leader I would be him but I can't so I'll settle to be his non biological niece. His counterpart was Ryan, an ex-hippie who loves calm skies and seas and enjoys silence along with his laughs. He the yin to Chad's Chang. Chad and Kirk's din was met with Ryan and I's serene quiet chatter. Yin and Chang left for Krabi down south the day before yesterday, and since then Kirk and I have been a buoy in a Bangkok sea, happy to go where waves take us but we don't stray far from our perch. We will meet up with them in Chiang Mai and meander with them to Laos for trekking.

A lovely myriad of smells and sounds is the most gorgeous part of Bangkok's landscape. When I wake in the morning I smell chicken roasting on a small grill rising up into my third story window, perfumes of fruit being cut by a machete, when I shower in my bathroom I hear the chants and ringing bells coming from the temples- a slow honeyed rhythm that makes any third rate hotel shower the best shower I've ever taken.There is nothing I can do to make it a bad shower even if my hot water decided to not work, its eighty degrees outside and hot air would drift through open slats into my bathroom to warm even the coolest water. Chanting is my favorite part of Thai morning rituals, free music from your window should be a criteria for the next place I move. These smells extend throughout the day from the many food carts lining the streets of Rambutri and Khaosan, where I can buy gourmet red curry full of figurative blood, sweat, tears and Thai expertise for one American dollar. All of this food is grown locally and its delicious. Pad thai is everywhere and a large heap costs less than a dollar. I haven't felt content to eat this much since, ever. "Fruit Shake" stands line the streets as well that are literally a man with a heap of produce to mix and match from and for a dollar you can pick two-three things and get them blended with no sugar, no additives, no dairy, just fruit and a little water. My mango/avocado hybrid is the tastiest delight I have ever purchased, I foresee overdose in the near future.

Love,
SW

Posted by rumpypumpy 05:55 Archived in Thailand Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

4 days, still cramming tiny objects

In four days I go thousands of miles away and in this space my emotions have been reduced to tiny objects. My belongings are reduced to tiny objects, all so incontrovertably small but all of such importance that they reduce my trip to meaning. I don't have a memory card for my very large beautiful camera. One large beautiful camera, one tiny square of silicon that catches all the pictures. Many people I want to see and express love to before I leave to a tiny rectange on a map, many shapes of people that become names on a tiny notepad reminding me to contact them. Tiny words for large emotions that rule such a short space of time; a week. A week of anxiety and excitement that spirals in a tiny internal organ called the stomach.

Emotions that become little squares on a rubix cube, they fit in when there is time for them and when there isn't, i turn the layers to fit right again. If you want to see lovely person x on y day, and z emotion conflicts with that and turns lovely day into insert strange panic attack reason here: _______ day, then rearrange variables and try again. There is no time for sluggish personality complex when your time is a vessel to deliver you to place with unseen images. And I am one more stumbling short limbed creature who will take tiny steps to get to a very large place.

On New Years Eve, I prepped myself for 2009 by being surrounded by nearly all foreigners in Chop Suey for Bollywood New Years party. Over 600 bronzed and beaming Indians poured in to celebrate the turning of the year though henna, bindi's, belly dancers, butt grabbing and more fun things starting with B I'm sure. Here are some pictures of the incident.

Posted by rumpypumpy 21:46 Archived in USA Tagged events Comments (0)

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