Saturday, February 26, 2005

Weekend Market - Part Dooh

Book & Collectibies: 1
Miscellaneous & Décor: 2
Plants & Gardening Tools: 3, 4
Clothing & Accessories: 5, 6, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23
Home Utensils & Décor: 7, 22, 24, 25
Handicraft & Miscellaneous: 8
Pets & Accessories: 9, 11, 13, 15
Furniture: 17, 19
Antiques: 26

The weekend market. Love it. Except that it was hot as hell today. There were only two things that I wanted to get. A gift for my mother's birthday (if you're reading this, I have yet to get to the post office.) and a opium pipe that I saw on my last trip.

It took a while to find the stand, but finally found the pipe. I packed it badly in my suitcase and broke it a bit. Time to get out the superglue. Oh, absolutely hated it. Well, she won't have to see it. Lst day in Bangkok. I'm a little sad to be going back.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Massage time

Sunday February 20th, 2005 Bangkok, Thailand

A week to go. I'm already slightly depressed. I spent the rest of the night playing cards until the wee hours of the morning. Learned a couple new Thai card games, one was three card poker essentially. I cleaned up. I think that Oh was a little surprised that I beat her so handily in our last three hands and a little pissed. Gambling is illegal at Bushwood, but the Thai people love to play cards.

Once again another early morning that ended with the two of us talking till the sunrise. Mental note, get a room on the West side of the hotel next time.

Oh and I got a little lunch late in the afternoon and hit the bar to play some pool. I'm not terrible at pool, but when I play against Oh, I get my ass kicked on a consistent basis. Sometimes it becomes a bit embarrassing.

I was a little sore from traveling, so we went to go get a massage. Thai massage is what I would describe as a painful experience that leaves you relaxed. We decided on two hours for the both of us which I think was about 1,000 Baht with tip (about $27 USD). I strained my elbow picking up my suitcase and it was still real stiff, so the girl that was working on me took it as a personal challenge to straighten out my arm. Big mistake. I was on the verge of tears a couple times as she worked me over. I tried to keep my cool, but finally relented and said that it was "ok" and she could move on.

I'm not sure if that the pain is the way the massage is supposed to go or that because I'm a bigger guy, they decide to really work on my muscles a lot harder. Either way, it was painful followed by being pretty relaxed.

6 Days to go before I go back. Why do I have to?

Saturday, February 19, 2005

So an elephant walks up while I'm eating...

Saturday February 19th, 2005 Bangkok, Thailand

Ok, this trip wasn't about doing a lot of touristy things. This was to find out a couple things for myself about Thailand. Can I live here? How would I adjust to the culture shock? Can I find a job? Where exactly is this thing going to go with Oh?

Well, today we got going later in the afternoon and decided to go to the movies. We met up with Kan at the bar and went to Ekamai (down Sukhumvit road) to see what movies were playing. Nothing really good here, so it was off in a taxi to MBK and their theater. I didn't see anything that interested me, but Oh saw that "Finding Neverland" was playing and wanted to see it. Who am I to argue? Not a bad movie (honestly, I fell asleep a couple times, still not completely adjusted to the time change I gues).

After, we went to get something to eat. Most of the Thai places that we went to eat at were outdoor with one or two exceptions. This place, (I know where it is, but can't remember the name), was outside and I was of course, the only Farang in distance. I guess the first trip I was a bit more self conscious about being the only Westerner around, but now I just accept it as no big deal. I only wish that I could understand a little more of the conversation.

Now to the elephant. As we were eating, I see a man sitting on an elephant crossing the street toward us. Now, I'm not scared of the elephant. I'm scared of being trampled by it though. One of the handlers tries to sell us a bunch of sugarcane for around 20 Baht for the elephant to eat. We all declined and just hoped that they would go on their way which eventually they did. About 10 minutes later here comes another elephant. Same sales pitch, I decline. We're all finishing up dinner and about to get the check and I see about three more elephants with their handlers crossing the street. Ok, time to go.

I guess the funny thing about it all was when we were walking out. The handler asks if we want to feed this elephant. Oh and I both decline and the handler turns the elephant's backside toward us. I recall saying "This is not the side that I need to see after eating." Luckily, we got by unscathed.

Coming up...time for a massage.

Friday, February 18, 2005

S%*t, S#%t, S*&t!!!!

Friday February 18th, 2005

Fucking jetlag. Crap, crap, crap!!!

Ok, I was supposed to go to the bar and meet people at 2:30PM and later at 5:00PM. I woke up at 7:00 PM. Great. Just pissed this day away. Time to get ready and get out.

I finally met up with Oh around 10:00 PM. Its great to see her. I honestly can't stop smiling now. We've been talking on e-mail and the occasional phone call since I was back in the states, but this makes 22 hours in the air worth it. We decided to head out to Ko San road for the evening and go to Gulliver's Travelers Tavern.

I'm not a big fan of Gulliver's; the music is great, but the crowd can be crap. Last time I went there was the first night I went out with Oh a year ago and witnessed the best of Western behavior in a fight. Thankfully, nothing like this happened this time around. With the 1:00 AM bar time, you have to be a little resourceful if you want to drink late. You can go to a restaurant or private club and get served, I never had much problem getting something to drink late if I wanted, but this trip, I really didn't drink too much at all after this night.

Oh and I got back to the hotel around 3:00 AM or so and wound up talking until the sun came up. I'm in trouble. Big trouble.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Going back - Thailand Trip #3

Well, here it is, ten weeks have passed and I haven't been able to get Thailand off the brain. I've made my standard pre-flight breakfast at Salt & Pepper and am now ready to go. I'm nervous and excited.

Here are a few of my impressions of the flight over.

Airport - I guess I'm still on the "no fly list" what a joke. It took a bit to get my tickets and a quick call by the woman behind the counter cleared everything up, but I'll say it again: I feel no safer by this facade of airport "security" than I did prior to 2001. Anytime that we become dependent on a government agency for protection, a letdown is certain to occur. Just my opinion, but prove me wrong.

Frequent Flier programs - I fly United. I think they're a good airline and try to fly them exclusively when I can (yes, this is a shameless plug). I recently have been upgraded to their "Premier" status having flown now over 80,000 miles. The plus is that I was able to board the plane is the first group and get settled. The other perk is that there now is an "Economy Plus" section on the plane. More on this in a second.

Economy Plus - Ok, the deal with the economy plus section is they try not to put someone in the middle seat. Here's a description of the section from the United website:

United's new Economy Plus® section. Economy Plus is a premium seating area in our Economy cabins - consisting of the first 6-11 rows (depending upon the fleet type) - that offers up to 5 inches more legroom per seat. This means more space and greater comfort for business travelers who are flying in coach - especially when it's not possible to upgrade to First Class. Economy Plus provides more room so you can get your work done inflight. Up to 5 inches more legroom in

Economy Plus
United was the first airline to announce it was reconfiguring its fleet to add more inches of legroom in the air - and the only airline to focus this benefit on our most-frequent fliers. The idea for the Economy Plus section came straight from our customers. Our business travelers told us they wanted more room in the Economy cabin. It was their number-one request. So we listened - and began removing seats from our planes and reconfiguring our aircraft.

21,000 Economy Plus seats
We have more than 21,000 Economy Plus seats in the sky - each with up to 5 inches more legroom. That's more legroom in Economy than any other US airline.

Economy Plus seating
Economy Plus is available on most North America and many international flights. Advance seating assignment in Economy Plus is available on a first-come, first-served basis to the following customers:
Mileage Plus members who have Mileage Plus Premier status or above.
Star Alliance Gold and Silver members.
Customers traveling on fares booked in Y, B or M class.

Having experienced this first hand, I'll book in this section as often as I can.

The Flight - Maybe I'm just used to it now, but the flight wasn't that bad. The movies were terrible and the food (God, the food), was even worse than before. Mental note, bring your own food next time.

Transfer to the hotel - Once again, no problems. I think after a couple trips to BKK, you don't have that wide eyed, "What do I do now?" look. I once again decided to not take the taxi queue and go with a private car. Its a bit expensive, but I really wanted to check in and get something to eat.

I spent the rest of the night, and a good majority of the morning drinking a few beers and trying to adjust to the time change. I finally ended my night (if that's what you call it) around 9:00 AM having a couple beers with a few Brits I met on the street and a Thai guy that was educated abroad. Great conversation, but sleep finally took over. Coming up, Day 2.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

What a day...

Tuesday, February 15th, 2005 3:47 PM Chicago, IL

21 hours 13 minutes...

I'm so ready to go. Yesterday seems like a week ago already. I just want to be sitting in the uncomfortable cabin of that plane trying to fitfully sleep. This time tomorrow, I'll be somewhere over the Western U.S. asking myself, "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"

I think I might take a small nap tonight when I get home from seeing friends, but after that, up all night. Yahoo Holdem, here I come.

I had an interesting experience with the pharmacy today. I was told that they couldn't fill my Malarone script because it wasn't called in by the nurse. I was a little testy by hearing this and not wanting the hassle, so I told the pharmacist to forget it and that I'd get something in Thailand (hopefully not malaria).

Kidding, I'll just pick up a doxycycline order at the pharmacy in Bangkok if I go to a malarious area. I'm pretty sure that Kanchanaburi will be fine. No worries.

Friday I'll have a post for day two. Thursday night arrival gives me time to get a meal and a few beers and that's it.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Time to fire it up

Monday February 14th, 2005 11:13AM (Happy VD)

Alright 2 days to go. Today has already been hell. Just sat through a 1 1/2 hour meeting this morning. I once again contemplated jumping out the window (my office is on the 30th floor). I've got no focus today.

I worked all afternoon yesterday for our new business venture and have secured a meeting with a vendor, so the vacation will be a lot of relaxing, a little bit of work. I'll report on that during the trip. It will be an interesting perspective and a valuable lesson on doing business in Thailand. I'm actually looking forward to it.

Took care of the V.D. (Valentine's Day, not venereal disease get your head out of the gutter), thing a couple days ago. It is celebrated in Thailand, but I'm not going to fall into the running into a card store for some useless piece of crap that will be forgotten years from now. I'm not so sure why we fall into it here. I'm not advocating doing nothing (although its not a bad idea), but just not sending my money to the greeting card companies.

I did a lot of laundry, but still didn't pack. Unless putting the clothes on top of the suitcase counts. I still need to pick up my prescriptions for Malarone (malaria prophylactic) and Ativan (sleepy time on the airplane), but will take care of it tonight before going home to pack and hang out.

I'm trying a new technique to help me sleep on the plane. My flight leaves at 1:00 PM Wednesday afternoon. I plan on staying up all day Tuesday and not go to bed until I get on the plane at 1:00 and then lights out. My flights are from Chicago to Tokyo's Narita airport which is a 12 1/2 hour journey to hell. This is why I want to go sleep deprived so that I can sleep the entire way. I've only ever been able to sleep fitfully on that flight. The next leg is the one I dread. Last time out, I was jammed in next to two similar sized Western guys for 6 hours. I still feel bad for the guy riding in the middle.

I'm not too sure what my schedule is going to be this week. I think I'll log my flight again, but I hope there aren't many entries except fell asleep, woke up, landed. We'll see how that works out.

What have I learned that I'll apply this time out?

1. Buy bottled water before going to the airport. No more $7 for two bottles of water this time around.

2. I'm going to start using a lot more Thai. This might be potential for a lot of comedy as my mastery of the tones is pathetic at best.

3. I will not have any fear of anything food wise. I'm going all out this time and looking forward to it. Although, I may still not be eating too many bugs.

4. Photos, photos, photos. Capturing life in Thailand for all to see. The good, the bad, and the ridiculous.

5. Patience and understanding. Not getting electrocuted by culture shock.

I'll admit that I'm a little nervous this time out. Not sure why and I'm sure everything will be fine and if not, I'll figure it out.

Time to tuck tail and hit Hallmark.

Coming up...sleep deprivation and airport fun.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Monk Bowl Village

A few days late. Happy Chinese New Year!

Here are photos of the Monk Bowl Village. This is an area in Bangkok, no more than an alley wide that produces alms bowls for Buddhist monks. This area used to be much larger with several families producing bowls, but has since been reduced to only a few families (apparently, there are only 3 families doing this now). I went here in February on my first day in Bangkok after the snake farm.

This was my first real experience with taking taxis in Bangkok. I hopped in one, attempted to pronounce where I wanted to go and after a blank look, showed the driver the name in Thai. We drove for about 15 minutes through traffic clogged, pollution filled streets. Here's where I started to get a bit of a feel for how lively and active Bangkok is just during the day. The driver eventually stopped on the street, pointed toward a side street and told me to walk that direction. I paid him and off I went.

Now looking back on it, this is probably where the foreign tourist could have been robbed and thrown in the klong (canal). It never occurred to me that I could be in trouble at any time. This lack of fear probably needs to be adjusted sometime in the future. I started off up this side street and after 70yds, I finally saw a sign that indicated the Monk Bowl Village and an arrow pointing in the direction I was walking.

I did kind of think that this could be trouble, but came to a courtyard eventually where the arrow pointed to the left. Now I was a bit confused as to where to go next. Here's where the Thai people are so awesome. A Thai woman saw me looking around and approached me. She asked me if I was looking for the Monk Bowl Village, I shook my head yes and she pointed to a small alley off to the right. I thanked her and walked into the alley...

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The alms bowl is formed from 8 separate pieces of metal which represents the eight spokes of the wheel of Dharma. Here, the pieces are being formed together.

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In the past, the pieces would be welded together in a kiln. A little modern convenience is used to speed up the process.

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This is the guy that sold me two alms bowls. Here, he's showing a bowl that has been tacked together. The bowl now has to be shaped and fired with a lacquer.

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This woman is shaping the bottom of the bowl and rounding it out. After the shaping is complete, the bowl would be fired with a lacquer and then sold.

This was a great experience seeing how craftsmen use a combination of modern and old technique to manufacture a truly beautiful piece of art. I'll have to photo the completed bowls and post them here. Maybe this weekend.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Aaaah!!! Cobras!!!

Saturday February 5th, 2005 12:48PM Chicago, IL (Happy Superbowl Eve)

Hope those of you that got the Simpson's reference enjoyed it.

Here are a few photos of, well, cobras. Sorry, no posts in the past couple of days, I've been working on the 1060west blog and all the furor surrounding the Sammy Sosa trade. To see updates, check out

The Badger hoops team is about to dump one against the damn Goofers; thankfully, the Badger hockey team won 3-1 last night. NHL what?

On my Thailand trip of last February, one of the things on my list to see was cobras; as long as they weren't crossing my path. I had two opportunities to see them at two different snake farms. The first photos are from the snake farm that is run by the Red Cross. The last three photos are from a snake farm that was part of a canal tour I took. There was a stark difference between the two, especially in the was the snakes were handled. I'm no snake fan, but these animals are used to manufacture anti-venom which helps countless snakebite victims in Thailand which is definitely a good thing. Anyway, on to the photos:

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This is the entrance to the Queen Soawapha snake farm. Its run by the Red Cross and has shows twice a day. I went here on my second day and was really looking forward to seeing a cobra up close (well, not that close). The farm holds a slide show and an exhibition of milking the snakes for venom. Yeah I know, an educational activity on vacation? Go figures, it was pretty interesting.

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After the slide show, you're escorted out to a covered set of bleacher seats. I had the misfortune of getting a seat in the top of the bleachers; I wanted to get closer down to get photos, but still got a few good shots. If you look in the background, there is a structure that looks like a hut. This is where the cobras are housed. The whole area is roughly 40 yd x 40 yd with these little structures. One of the workers then went down there, grabbed a couple Siamese cobras, and brought them up. As you can see, they look real happy to be disturbed. Smile for the camera guys.

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Maybe its better that I'm not too close.

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After having the Siamese cobras out, they bring out a king cobra. Look at that damn thing. You're not going to really run into one of these unless you're in the deep forested areas of Thailand. That being said, I'm not going out to the forest anytime soon.

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A close up of the king cobra. These things can rise up about 1/3 of their body length. That's easily a 6 foot snake there. I'd seriously wet myself if I saw one of these in the wild.

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Anyone want to hold it???

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This photo was taken from the second snake farm. I had no intention on going here, but wound up getting roped into going. The day I went here I was at Sathorn pier and wanted to go on a canal (klong) and river tour. After agreeing on a price for an hour tour (I think it was around 500 baht), we were off on the river on the longtail boat. We entered one of the canals and after about 15 minutes, the boat pulls up to a pier where the driver told me "snake farm" and urged me to check it out. Well, it was a ploy for the longtail boat driver to make some commission by having me go there. The cost was much more that the other snake farm and the facilities left much to be desired.

I walked around the cages and eventually came up to this stage area where they have the show. Here you can see this guy taunting the cobras. Umm, is that a good idea?

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Here he picks up the cobra and it makes an attempt to bite the handler. No such luck of seeing someone bit by a cobra.

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Here he lets the snake go away. One thing that I did not enjoy was at the end of the show this guy grabs the cobra and swings it toward the crowd. Not cool at all. There was a woman sitting next to me (I was standing) who must have jumped 3 feet and ran. It was kind of funny after the fact, but if the guy lost control of that snake, I'd have been right behind her.

11 days to go...

Tomorrow, photos of the monk bowl village.