Around the end of 2008, my sister, Candice, announced that she was getting married, and the wedding was going to be in Thailand. It
didn't take long to convince Amy to make the trip with me so then we had a plan. The wedding was going to be in March, from the
15th to the 17th, on Phuket, and we'll arrive in Bangkok on the 12th and leave on the 25th. A good chunk of vacation time, I guess.
I flew from Pittsburgh and Amy flew from JFK, we met in DC to catch our connection flight to Tokyo. The flight to Tokyo took something like 14 hours, 3 meals (ramen bowl included) and United made us pay for alcohol so I didn't end up drinking that much. From Tokyo, we caught a connection to Bangkok. In both the DC and Narita airports, we had a bar and a smoking room right next to our gate, so that was fortunate. I slept most of the way. When we arrived at the Bangkok airport, we were picked up by my sister's driver, Charlie. He was quite talkative and told us a bit about the local culture. A funny thing that he mentioned was how to say hello. Thai, apparently, has suffixes to indicate the gender of who you are. So "Hello" is "Sawatdii" and you add a "khrap" to the end of it when you're a guy, and a "kha" when you're a girl. He also told us a third suffix, "Hah" (I think), and that is if you are a "Lady boy". And there are many of them here. My sister's soon to be husband, Jarrett, mentioned that a friend of his once told him that God must love Thailand, because he wants to keep it small, so that's why there are so many gay people here (this place puts San Francisco to shame), thus less procreation.
BangkokLet me say this right now, because I'm probably going to mention it over and over again. Thailand is HOT. This is the tropical jungle hot. I happened to check the weather forecast for Jarrett's mother the other day and it said "feels like 98" for the entire week with a relative humidity of 60% (although it feels worse). Same forecast each day. At night, it's still hot, but if you don't move around too much, it's not so bad. Another thing is the mosquitos, they're everywhere, inside, outside, during the day, at night. Also, the Thai language is pretty funny sounding. Of course, I'm biased because I don't understand it at all. The other day I was watching Popeye on TV at the hotel and the audio was dubbed in Thai. It was complete gibberish, you'd never guess that they were speaking any language at all, just making funny noises. Hilarious shit.
We arrived at night around 11:15pm, Bangkok time; 20 minutes to smoke and find our ride, then another 20 or so minutes before we got to our hotel. The hotel we stayed at is called the Ibis. It had small but clean rooms with an OK view, and a bar that seemed to stay open real late. Across the street was the Malaysia Hotel, apparently a very popular place for homosexuals and lady-boys. It was getting kind of late and Amy was tired after the flight so we just walked around the hotel area and had several drinks at a place called Wong's, a small, cozy, bar owned and ran by a Chinese guy named Wong (big surprise). As an aside, I've noticed that everywhere I went and ordered whiskey, they gave me the most retardedly small pours. There were times I was tempted to ask for a quadruple, but I'm sure they wouldn't understand. The only exception has been Wong's. Their pours have been at least acceptable; however, like in most places, the selection of whiskey is worse than well stock.
The next day, after a cup of coffee, we met up with my sister for lunch at some western styled place. I had a plate of cured ham, which was pretty good, and I ordered a martini. Amy noticed that the guy wrote down "Manini", and later the guy asked me if I wanted red or white. I figured they got my order wrong so I just said white. They brought something that only resembled a martini by its glass. I had no idea what it was, but it was terrible, last martini I'll order in Thailand. Walking around, there's a myriad of smells to treat your nose, ranging from bbq pork, steamed something or other, to urine and dog shit. We walked around in some park and it was hot, as well as a trip through the red light district. We met my parents and Amy, Candice, and my mom went to get their nails done, my dad and me went back to their hotel for drinks. Got a funny picture during the taxi ride, a ricer Honda with steel rims and a BBS rim cover, yeah, not foolin' anybody with that piece of shit. My parents were staying at the Millenium Hilton, which is right on the river, courtesy of my Uncle who happens to be a Hilton Gold member. This place was swank, and there was tight security. The attendants at the gate checked the taxi, the trunk, and even underneath the car. We went up to the top floor which offered a panaramic view of the area (some pictures). For such a swank place, the only thing they had that was drinkable was Jim Beam. We were later met with my aunt who lives in New York City, and had a nice chat about the current economic and political situation, maybe. After everyone else showed up, we stopped back at our hotel to drop some stuff off and then went to visit the night market that was a few blocks away. It was hot. We stopped at an indoor place for dinner, a thai/italian/pizzeria. I had pad thai, but it wasn't that good. Got back to the hotel around 11:00 or so, Candice went home, and I waited around outside for my cousin Iris who was supposed to show up. I was told that she apparently didn't have any cash so I needed to pay the cab fare. Was good to see her since it must have been well over a decade since we last saw each other. Me and Amy drank at the hotel bar until late in the evening, we had a big day tomorrow.
PhuketThe next day we were supposed to catch a flight to Phuket island, where the wedding was going to happen. My entire family took the same flight and we got a van to get us to the airport. The flight took about an hour and then another hour and a half for the car ride to the Haadson Resort. The Haadson is really nice and we had a villa all to ourselves, which included a porch and an outside bath. The bed has a moveable table and we shared a lunch in bed. I was told of the story behind Haadson, who was owned by a couple. They spent millions of dollars and 2 years building the resort, which was right on the beach. It was opened a mere 2 weeks in 2004 before the disaster struck and the tsunami destroyed everything. Like most people in the area, they all went to the beach to see what was going on, before realizing that the ocean swell wasn't stopping. The owner (can't remember his name, but he's a real nice guy and has good English) grabbed onto one of the pillars as the ocean swelled inland, and he watched his resort get completely destroyed and his wife swept away. He then swam over 500 yards inland to a highway, and 2 days later found his wife at a hospital. Most of the resorts got rebuilt, but there are still a few along the beaches that only have a sign and concrete foundation remaining. Kind of sad.
The internet at the resort is expensive, 500 thai baht for 5 hours. I get wireless reception all the way to my room though, that's because I'm awesome. It rained on the ride to the resort so most of the power had gone out. The people got us to our rooms and served us some kind of fruit drink, maybe it had some alcohol in it, who knows. Since the rain cooled down the temperature (to maybe 80 something degrees instead of 90), I decided to put my suit on and met the rest of the wedding party for dinner. Of course, I was the only one wearing a suit but that didn't matter, because I'm too awesome. My sister Candice folded her first pockets square that night, good job! After dinner, the younger crowd, including Candice and Jarrett and some of their friends from Shanghai, closed the bar down. I got pretty sauced and broke a glass, don't remember how I got back to my room but the suit and shirt was hung up and my tie and pocket square was folded up. I had a late lunch the next day and Amy got a massage. We're to meet up around 6 for cocktails followed by dinner. Also, for some reason, there are a lot of cats here.
Dinner was a buffet style thing and it was mostly Thai food. Afterwards, we had cocktails until the late evening (movie). The highlight of the night was the fact that the Haadson's owner's brother came to help out with the sound system they had. The guy's name is Danai, and it was supposed to be a secret but it leaked out that he's apparently a Thai movie star. So I looked him up on the internet using my pager and he's been in 4 movies. His English is really good and we talked a bit, he's really into World of Warcraft, real nice guy. The drinks for that evening consisted of Mai Thai's and Pina Colada's, and also some lemongrass drink. I haven't tried the lemongrass drink but had quite a bit of the others. Eventually, the bar closed up and some of the wedding guests brought some bottles of alcohol that they had brought with them. Oh, another highlight of the night was that I shaved. I probably hadn't shaved for 4 months or so, so the difference was pretty drastic and people noticed it right away.
I had a nice breakfast the next day then went out into the ocean. The water was beautiful, but I'm a dumbass for not putting on sunscreen, so my face ended up getting kind of red. Other than that, a big wave knocked me over and my glasses got washed off my face. Pretty scary seeing as I can't see anything without them and losing them would pretty much end my trip right then and there. Fortunately, my hair made the save of the century by entangling them so after I got my bearings, I just had to untangle my glasses out of my hair. After a shower, everyone met up for more drinks, then the wedding ceremony.
I had read somewhere that March was a good time to visit Phuket because it was before the rainy season. Well, it's rained every afternoon that I've been here, so either this is some fluke or the non-rainy season just means it rained a little. The upside to the rain means that it isn't crazy hot, but the downside is that the dinners and, unfortunately, the wedding plans had to be reworked. Originally, the wedding was supposed to be on the beach, then followed by releasing lanterns into the sky (for good luck). But due to the rain, we had to have the wedding under one of the shelters that the resort had. A few people had the idea of bringing in sand from the beach so that they could still be wed while standing on the sand. The ceremony itself was short and nice, my sister was pretty toasted but nobody could tell. More drinks and dinner followed, but I had a really late lunch so I couldn't eat that much. The lemongrass coconut soup was amazing. After dinner, we all went out onto the beach for the lanterns. This was way cooler than I expected. It was completely dark by then, and we grouped up in pairs to hold the lanterns. The lanterns themselves were made of rice paper, sort of like a balloon, with some wire at the bottom to hold a burning element of some kind (maybe it was wood). You hold open the paper so that it gets filled up with hot air once you've lit the whatever was held in place by the wire. After a minute or so, the lantern flies into the air, and after it passes the height of the nearby trees, the wind takes it over the ocean. There ended up being dozens of lanterns that got lit and they slowly made their way farther then the eye could see them. Really cool shit. Later in the evening, Danai told me that during new years, people did that but there would be hundreds of lanterns. The evening ended with more drinking, all the wedding guests were awesome people and I had gotten to talk to a lot of them. Jarrett's parents are awesome. Someone brought a bottle of Balvenie double wood to the table so I could stop drinking the crappy vodka tonics that were served. That guy was a saint. We stayed up until 3am or so, a couple of people went skinny dipping in the ocean, I don't remember how I got back to my room, Amy tripped over some speaker wire and took a spill.
I slept in hardcore the next day, then did a bit of work and watched Tenchi Muyo. It was a slow day and there were no activities planned. Amy took a swim in the ocean and a bunch of people dropped acid, it was pretty funny. Me and my family went to dinner at a "Chinese" restuarant, but the place was just Thai food. The seating was outdoor with an overhead roof. There was a lot of those flying beetles out and I saw a gecko the size of my hand. My cousin Francis was scared wittless by those beetles. We had some cocktails to finish the night and Iris and Danai (the Thai movie star) were hitting it off. We called it an early night because we had to deal with check-out and catch our bus to the airport the next morning. It was also the 2nd day in a row without internet service. Fucking faggots. Oh, and a couple of people went skinny dipping in the ocean and someone took a crap in the sea.
Some random pictures from Phuket:
Bangkok, againWe had an early start and caught the van that the resort provided us to take us to the airport. A bunch of people had flights around 2-3pm so we all got the 11:30am van. I got a little hungry so I bought a pork ramen bowl at a snack stand and devoured it while waiting for the boarding call. The flight was pretty uneventful. After getting back to Bangkok, we grabbed a taxi to our next hotel, the All Seasons on Sathorn. This place was a bit more expensive than the Ibis, and it was not as nice (it's an older hotel), but the location is a bit more central as the Sathorn road is one of the major roads in Bangkok. When my cousin Iris and her parents arrived, we walked a few blocks to a Lebanese place for dinner. It was kind of funny because we were looking for the place amidst the busy streets of Bangkok, knowing that we were dangerously close to the red light district, and Iris' parents wandered off into the red light district looking for this place. We had to quickly round them up. The rest of the night was slow. I got some work done while Amy hit the sack. Sometime after 11pm, I went downstairs to grab a smoke and checked the hotel bar to see if it was still open. I had 2 minutes left before it closed up, so I got a double Jameson's and pounded it. The girl asked if I wanted another; of course I did. Pounded that one too, and the next, and the next. Before I knew it, she had cleaned up the entire bar area except for a bucket of ice and a bottle of Jameson. An hour later, after having a few more, I figured I should let her finish up and leave. She was so cool, here's a bad picture of her, had to use my pager to take it.
The next day we took a taxi down to the pier and bought boat passes that'll take us up and down the river. The points of interest of the day was to be the "reclining buddha" and the King's palace, then lunch somewhere in China town. The river was pretty dirty but the breeze made it feel less hot than usual. As usual for all the tourist spots, there were an army of people that told us the Wat Pho temple and the palace was closed for holiday, and that they could get us a tuktuk ride to some other tourist spots. Not going to fall for it. Especially since there was a sign not too far away that said it was open. The Wat Pho temple was pretty cool, we saw some monks, the golden buddha there was pretty big. But it was hot, so after walking around a bit, we decided to try to palace. When we finally found the entrance to the palace, Iris' dad apparently didn't fit the dress code, so her parents stayed behind while we went in to take a look. Ended up we couldn't take photos and it costs 350 baht to get in. Oh well, let's just get lunch. We walked back to the pier and caught a boat that took us to the pier near China town. This place was just like any China town anywhere. We found a place that was nice (and air conditioned) whose specialty was shark fin soup. I ordered shark fin soup in brown broth, it was pretty interesting. After getting back to the hotel, we met up with my sister and a couple of other people and went out to eat/drink. The first stop was some honky-tonk-thai-style eatery that had live entertainment. The entertainment was pretty strangely bad (youtube), but the food was hotpot style and was pretty good. There's no open container laws here so I just grabbed the unfinished bottle of whiskey that we ordered and walked out of the place when we were done. Next stop was another bar, there was some food but mostly Johnnie Walker Red Label. After a some time there, me, Iris, and Amy grabbed a cab back to the hotel. There's only so much bad whiskey I can drink in a night.
I spent the next day mostly catching up on work, ordered room service for lunch, and met up with everyone around 2pm. Amy and Iris went to some jewelry store then went to some famous guy's house (Thompson?). We met up with my sister later and eventually went to watch Muay Thai kick boxing at the Lumphini Stadium. For the most part, I was confused about what was going on. It's obvious they were kicking the shit out of each other, but after 5 rounds, the winner would get announced and we'd have no clue why they won. Some of us bet some money, but we'd never know if we won or lost. Alex, one of Jarrett's friends, made out with a last minute bet on a (what appears to be) 13 year old kid named "Rambo" and won 2000 baht. I mean, come on, you gotta bet on someone named Rambo. All the girls left the Lumphini Arena early to go shopping at the night market again, since it was right next door to the arena. We ended up meeting back at this place called the "Roadhouse" bar and grill, which served hamburgers. We got out of our taxi a few blocks before the place to walk through the old red light district. Lots of 70 year old white haired men with 13 year old girls (or maybe they're boys) hanging onto them. Also, lots of clubs that featured lots of scantily clad women dancing around. They have no qualms about letting everyone know what kind of place they were, one club in particular was called "Super Pussy". Another place offered a long list of sex shows, without about 20 or so pussy-doing-something type shows. Some of the more interesting ones were "Pussy painting a picture" and "Pussy writing a letter". By the time we finally got to the Roadhouse, it was nice to be back in air conditioning but the place had a live band (that played in front of something like 2 people), so it was pretty loud. The girls hadn't got there yet but we went ahead and started ordering food and drinks. For absolutely no reason that I can think of, I ordered an Orange Fanta, and a double Jameson's. Don't do this, they go horrible together. They had this unique quality of tasting OK by themselves, but making the other taste absolutely puke worthy. My cheeseburger was pretty good. Among the other people with us, they ordered pulled pork sandwiches and beef brisket sandwiches. There was a bar upstairs that you could smoke at that also included shuffle board, darts, pool, etc. Overall, a nice place. Grabbed a taxi back to the hotel after that. We have to get up kind of early to check out and later catch a flight to Chiang Mai.
Chiang MaiDidn't do much today. Amy declined going out to some marketplace with the others and Iris and her parents had an early flight. In the afternoon, we left for my sister's apartment but was caught in a sudden torrential downpour. We stayed there the rest of the afternoon, I did some work (finally getting some internet that didn't block ports and didn't close my connections every few minutes), Amy went and got beer and I had a few glasses of Highland Park 16. We babysat the dog, Chauncey, while everyone else went out to lunch. Amy's camera had a full memory card so there wasn't going to be any new pictures until this got remedied. Later, we took a cab to the airport, I ate a noodle bowl with pork at the airport, and we were on our way to Chiang Mai.
Being about an hour or so North of Bangkok by plane, the weather was a bit less hot and humid, at least in the evening. We were picked up at the airport by our hotel, Rimping Village, in a limo-van, real swank. The hotel itself was small, maybe 20 rooms, had a saltwater pool, and was pretty nice, except the bar closes at 10pm. The hotel gave us a walking map of Chiang Mai, which is a fairly small city, that included points of interest. The internet here is good, there are 2 AP's, but I was able to stay connected to one everywhere on the premises. I set myself up and then went to the bar for a few quick ones then got caught up with the new Hajime no Ippo episodes.
The next day we got up and took a tuktuk (these are the only way to get around here) to the old city to walk around a bit. There used to be a wall around the old city but it seems that's mostly gone, but the moat around it is still there. Chiang Mai may be north of Thailand, but it's still hot; it's more bearable because it's not as humid and you're not surrounded by 5 million people. The tuktuk dropped us off at the temple (don't remember the name) and we walked around there for a bit, then walked around the old city (video), eventually stopping for some fruit drinks to cool off. Amy wanted to take a dip in the salt water pool at the Rimping so we got a tuktuk (video, youtube back and I got some work done since we had awesome internet. We went to the "local" night market (video) around 7pm which was back at the old city. Supposedly, this was for the locals and was only on Sundays, as opposed to the regular night market which was outside of the old city and was more geared toward tourists. As far as I can tell, this one was for tourists, too. We walked the length of the old city, which was entirely stands and people sitting on blankets selling their wares. There was a stand that sold stickers and I caught a Enma Ai and L sticker amongst the pack. After leaving the old city, we caught another tuktuk back to the hotel (video, youtube) to prepare for dinner. We were going to go to the La Brasserie, a restuarant on the river that features Took, the owner, who I was told was the Jimi Hendrix of Thailand. We had to look up the address on the internet (many of the results were youtube videos that people uploaded of the place), ends up that the place is only a few blocks away. Walking down the street the hotel is on, we realize that roads in Thailand could be pretty small, this one eventually ended up being no wider than 6 feet, barely enough to fit a tuktuk through. The place had good atmosphere, we had a table outside right next to the water, there were a couple of people on the outside stage playing acoustic guitars. The view wasn't that great since there really wasn't much on the river, but there were a bunch of people that lit those floating lanterns they had on Phuket. Kind of makes me wonder where they all end up, since during New Years, there are apparently thousands of them lit at the same time. I had a couple of drinks and ordered 3 appetizers: pineapple wrapped in bacon, fermented pork sausage, and terriyaki chicken. The food was pretty good, the sausage had thai spices in it but when it got cold it started to harden, the bacon was probably the best because it had this sweet/spicy sauce that you dipped them in. Then Took started playing inside. It was pretty loud inside (video, youtube) but I went in for a few songs (video, youtube), we eventually moved inside after settling the bill (total including drinks? like $30) and stayed for some more drinks. Amy got some kind of vegetarian pizza for her meal that she didn't finish so we took that to go and walked back to the hotel around 1 something in the morning. Took plays almost every night at this place, starting around 10:30 or 11pm-ish I think.
We checked out the next afternoon and hired a tuktuk driver to take us around the Chiang Mai factories. We had a plane to catch back to Bangkok so we only had a few hours to look around. The driver drove us out to where the factories were then drove us to the ones we wanted to check out, walking any part of this was out of the question because they were all on a large-ish road with no sidewalk and they were too far apart from each other. We first went to the Siam Celedon, they made ceramics and glassware, including some very nice looking hand painted stuff. Then we went to the Silk factory, where they took us through a short tour of their factory. We got to see the silk worms, the cocoons and moths, the spinning of the silk, and some of the looms. I bought a silver silk tie with some elephants on them that would match my silver pocket square. We then went to the jewelry factory. They also gave us a short tour of their factory before showing us to the large showroom. There were some very nice looking jewelry in what looked like thousands organized in display cases in a room the size of a warehouse. Amy bought some nice looking yellow sapphire earrings. The process took a while as there was a bit of bargaining involved then dealing with the V.A.T. We were running out of time so we went to the last ceramics place which featured mostly hand painted ceramics. It wasn't as impressive as the first place, and none of the last 3 places we stopped at allowed us to take pictures. After getting back to the hotel, we arranged the limo-van to take us to the airport to catch our flight, but not before having a few more drinks. I've been indulging in screwdrivers recently, as it's a good afternoon drink (since it's so hot outside), and all the places make it with freshly squeezed oranges. The oranges here aren't like what I'm used to in the states (Florida oranges, usually been frosted while rippening on the tree to make it sweet), these are more like tangerines, but still good nontheless. The other two reasons I've been getting screwdrivers is because 1) it's easy to make so I don't end up getting something undrinkable, and 2) the whiskey selection sucks. But overall, Chiang Mai was a nice place. The Rimping Village was a great place to stay and most everything is close enough to walk if you're hardcore enough. And if I lived there, I could be a regular at the La Brasserie.
Bangkok, once moreAnother uneventful flight on Air Asia's A320 and we're back in Bangkok. We already had rooms ready for us at the All Seasons so we went straight there to check in and drop off our stuff (and get some drinks) before calling up my sister and arranging some dinner. Candice and Jarrett met up with us at our hotel and we took a taxi to one of the streets that were loaded with middle eastern places. There were a lot of Arabic signs around and women in berkas. We stopped by some outdoor place whose name I can't pronounce that had some kind of reflective metal or something covering the entire interior so it made the place look really bright. The food was great and there were hookas, but it was crazy hot. I accidentally ordered hot tea instead of ice tea. After stuffing ourselves, we went to look for a bar that was indoors and had air conditioning, oh, and we saw an elephant on the street. We finally found this one place, but it was crowded and the music was too loud, then we came upon a gem of a Japanese Izakaya. Seating was on the floor, of course, and they had a pretty good selection of shouchu, so I bought a bottle of it. Not too long after we started drinking and chatting, a bunch of salarymen came in, and later, they started smoking. So we asked if it was ok to smoke, but the lady said no. When we were going to go outside, she said it was ok and brought us some ashtrays, but indicated to us that we needed to hide them under the table. After eating so much, it was hard to get the drinking in gear, plus Jarrett had a class in the morning so I grabbed the rest of the bottle and went back to the hotel, where I finished the rest.
For lunch the next day, we met my sister and Jarrett at this place called India Hut, the logo looked just like Pizza Hut. However, the place was pretty nice and the food was good. Amy wanted to get a massage before the imminent long plane ride back to the states, so I watched some anime and took a nap while that was happening. We were supposed to meet my sister at her place at some point before we went out to dinner, but drinking got in the way. We wanted to check out the Vertigo Bar on the roof of the Banyan Tree Hotel. This place was pretty swank with a great view of the Bangkok skyline. The Banyan Tree Hotel is either the tallest or second tallest building in Bangkok, can't remember which. I started out with a few screwdrivers, which were very good, and as the evening started to set in I moved on to single malt scotches (specifically Laphroaig). The bill was to be expected from a nice place on the roof of a 5 star hotel that caters to foriegn diplomats, about $80 US, which was more than 2 or 3 nights at our hotel. Candice and Jarrett met up with us at our hotel later, had a few more drinks there, then took a cab to the restuarant. We went to a Thai restuarant run by some French people, with French decor and people playing . The food was suprisingly good and they brought out rice shaped like a bear. Considering we had to leave our hotel at 3am in order to catch our 6am flight back to the states, we decided to head back to my sister's place and just hang out there. I indulged in their collection of scotches while we enjoyed the last night in Bangkok with the company of my sister and my new brother-in-law. Things got kind of fuzzy from that point, I think Amy fell asleep, and then we caught a cab back to the hotel where I passed out for an hour or two. We got to the airport ok and the check-in went smoothly, although they were very adamant about searching everything. Likewise, when we got to Narita airport in Tokyo, they searched everything again. The flight itself seemed a lot quicker than the flight to Bangkok, and I didn't even sleep the entire time.
Overall, Thailand is a pretty fun place. The people are very friendly, it's cheap, it's easy to get around, and most people speak English. The downside is that it's hot and hard to find good scotch. Amy really enjoyed herself and I thought Bangkok, although a bit dirty, was a pretty fine place to spend a week. Both Chiang Mai and Phuket was really nice, the former being a small town version of Bangkok and the later was just beautiful. I'd highly recommend the trip as long as you don't mind the heat and there aren't people protesting and killing each other.
Click HERE to see all the pictures.
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