Twenty Four!

I’ve been listening to the Yeasayer song 2080 on repeat. The chorus hits home:

It’s a new year, I’m glad to be here
It’s a fresh spring, so let’s sing
In 2080 I’ll surely be dead
So don’t look ahead, never look ahead

It fits how I’m feeling at the end of 2014, not that I’m against looking ahead. I wildly alter my five year plan daily.

What resonates is the idea of simmering in the present, appreciating what’s happening now. I’m trying to savor the fact that it’s nearly 2015, that I’m 24 years old, and that I’m fortunate to be chasing my dreams (however awkwardly).

Yesterday, an AirAsia plane went missing en route to Singapore hours before I boarded a flight of my own. I keep getting reminded that EVERY MOMENT is a gift. It could have been my budget aircraft that went down. I could have easily died in the Petchaburi pool accident. I could get hit by a Toyota Camry in Fresno the next time I visit home. I’m lucky to be lazily typing this. With 2014 coming to a close, I wrote this blog post to reflect on that luck.

The year was a blur filled with epic experiences and way too many Negronis. I worked with incredible people, saw beautiful things. So much happened before Bangkok that most of the year feels like a lifetime ago. Here’s a snapshot recount:

January  – European blitz with Ariel through Dublin, London, and Paris; Made a lot of people mad at Le Comptoir Du Relais Saint-GermainMarchMy grandpa turned 90; Officially left my side gig at Café des Amis. MayOne year anniversary in San Francisco; Family visits the city. July – Staged a bit at Alta CA.

(San Francisco Apartment) 

August – Temporarily moved to Oakland; Outside Lands. September – Left Wagstaff; Last trips to Fresno and LA to see my family; Said goodbye to San Francisco with Leah, AJ, Clayton and Jacob; Got on a plane to Bangkok with Haley and Amber. Started at HotelQuickly. October – Weird solo adventures to Manila and Hua HinNovemberNearly killed myself in that pool; Family and friends came to my rescue; Started freelance writing. December – Turned 24.

Beyond the snapshot, I reminisced about the year gone by as I stood in line at a Thai bank the other day.

I thought back on my time at Wagstaff, where I cut my teeth in the professional world and made so many mistakes. It was where I learned more than I could have imagined from Kiaran, Keelin, and the rest of the team. Where I picked up the phone and dialed my cross-country, invaluable mentor, Jeff. Where I lunched with Nicole, Meg, and Katherine. Where I fell in love with A16, TBD, and Farallon.

It was more than a job, it was a life, and a good one.

I wouldn’t have been at Wagstaff, or standing in line at a Bangkok bank, if it wasn’t for the boundless support from my family. My parents have consistently swooped in and saved the day with their love, resources, and manpower this year (and of course all the ones before that). My brother and sister in law took me into their Oakland home so I could save money before my move. My sister and her fiancé continue to keep me grounded, and feed me encouraging advice regularly. My extended family sends love through mail and social media. Whether bound to me by blood or law or whatever, these people helped build the foundation of my life. I’d be an idiot not to remind them how grateful I am for that help.

While I’m barrelling down this tunnel of thankfulness, I obviously can’t leave out my friends and coworkers at HotelQuickly. I arrived in Bangkok with the comfort of a job, complete with welcoming colleagues who turned out to be literal life savers.

Through the insanity of the year, friends new and old played vital roles in sustaining my happiness and sanity. To all of you, thank you.

This post can hardly scratch the surface of the joy, pain, and weirdness of 2014. If anything, I hope it can convey how happy I am to be watching another sunset hit the towering Bangkok skyscrapers.

I’ll leave you with some visuals of the year:

 (Ariel does Paris) 

(Dinner at Saison) 

10151241_827352617279250_971254774_n(Papa turns 90)

IMG_6245

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Two Good Things

In an effort to appreciate as much as possible post-accident, I thought I’d share a few good things I came across this weekend. The first, Red Bean Mochi Green Tea Ice Cream from Marlin Café in Ari. The second, Vesper’s upcoming Christmas cocktail, the Yuletide Sour complete with North Pole Fog.

 

Bangkok, you are delicious. 

60 Stitches

This is not one of those stories where a bad thing just happens to a good person. This is a story where my unbridled spontaneity got me into very predictable trouble. Heads up, this post is long and contains ugly scar photos.

 So here’s my mediocre cautionary tale:

The Accident

It was a Friday, and I was so excited to be traveling to Petchaburi with 40 of my friends and coworkers for our HotelQuickly work retreat. We arrived at our remote hotel in the evening and gathered around the pool for dinner. We had barely finished eating when I saw my friend Gin getting thrown in the pool with all of her clothes on.

“Poor Gin!” I thought  to myself. “I’ll jump in with her.” 

I took off my shoes and trotted down to the pool to join her in solidarity. Without a second thought, I dove into the pool.  In America most pools have deep ends. In Thailand, that fact is useless. My point is, this pool was shallow. Very shallow.

I immediately hit the bottom of the pool with my head.

Things went orange with pain for a second, and I was instantly embarrassed for the mistake. “I CAN’T BELIEVE I HIT THE BOTTOM! I HOPE NO ONE SAW ME!” were the first thoughts that entered my mind. As I came up for air, I realized that my neck and back were in extreme, tense agony. I kept my back to the group as I waded around waiting for the pain to go away.

I heard someone behind me ask, “Is that blood?” I was hoping no one had noticed my diving fail, and was really hoping that I wasn’t causing a scene with blood in the pool. I walked over to the edge of the pool and people rushed over to me. Everyone seemed panicked and I wanted everyone to know I was fine. “I’ll just walk it off, I’m totally fine!” They helped get me out of the pool and sat me down away from the group.

Thank God for shock, because I had no idea that my head was cracked wide-open, gushing blood.

My company’s Co-Founder and COO Christian (a former Captain in the Swiss military) and the QA Manager Kat (a first responder) sprung into action immediately. They joined forces to hold my split head together and stop the bleeding. Kat tried to keep me awake by getting my adrenaline going, yelling out things like “NAT, LOOK AT ME!” and “I can see her brain!” On the other side of the spectrum, Christian tried to tone down the situation and downplay the injury. The two balanced each other out perfectly, and I am deeply indebted to them both for their help coming to my rescue.

With the blood loss, I was beginning to drift off. My memory starts to dilute at this point and I can’t remember what  exactly happened when the ambulance arrived. What I do know is that Christian, Tomas (the company’s Co-Founder and CEO), and Noi Na (the company’s Executive Assistant) climbed into the ambulance with me, and we left for the nearest hospital.

In the ambulance, everyone continued keeping me awake. We talked about Christian’s idyllic childhood in Switzerland and In-N-Out burgers to casually pass the time. Despite everyone else’s calm demeanor, I was having outbursts of sobbing.  I was so embarrassed and horrified by what was happening. Was I fired? Was this going to cost a fortune? Would I ever walk again? Had I ruined the company weekend? 

The ambulance came to a stop and I was rolled into the Petchaburi public hospital. I stared at a gecko crawling on the ceiling while the adults took care of business. I don’t know what I would have done if Noi Na (a native Thai speaker), Christian, and Tomas weren’t there to help. They didn’t wait passively for things to happen; they actively made sure I was properly cared for. While I wallowed in despair, they handled everything.

My memory isn’t great recalling what happened at this point, but we were ultimately told that the hospital could not handle my wound (NEWS FLASH FOR ME, THIS WOUND IS REALLY BAD). We had to go to a private hospital some 40 km away where there was a better/more clean operating room. I kept moving my toes and hands to make sure I wasn’t paralyzed yet.

Back in the ambulance, the shock was wearing off and I cringed in pain with every bump in the road. Far from chill, I was a hot mess crying in pain and embarrassment. We finally arrived at the second hospital. I had some x-rays, a CT scan, and it was finally time for the suturing.

Problem: I had to pee, badly. The nurses brought me a bed pan and encouraged me to relieve myself as they stood around waiting. My First World-conditioned body failed me, and I couldn’t do it. I was too shy to go, even though my bladder felt as though it was going to burst. A team of six or so prepared for the procedure. I asked if I could try going to the bathroom again, and again wasted everyone’s time. I gave up and they went back to, you know, saving my life.

The nurses gave me local anaesthesia and waited for my head to go numb. I didn’t like the idea of being awake for the process, but OH WELL, WHO AM I TO MAKE REQUESTS? The team covered my eyes with cloth and strapped my arms and legs to the operating table which was extremely unsettling. I must have been loopy during part two when they lowered a metal cage/shield over my head and torso. Only my scalp and legs peeked out of the mechanism, but I wasn’t aware of what was happening thanks to the drugs and confusion.

After an hour of disgusting flesh-pulling noises, a panic started to boil inside of me.

I became very aware that my limbs were strapped to a table and my eyes were covered and I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t move holy fuck get me out of here what is happening I can’t breathe.

“I NEED AIR, I NEED AIR!” I cried out from under the shield. “I WANT TO MOVE MY LEGS!” 

Despite the language barrier, the doctor stopped suturing and the nurses scrambled to unstrap my legs and one arm. They put ice packs on my legs and removed the cloth from my eyes. The machine monitoring my pulse beeped wildly.

Like any good nightmare, they couldn’t fix the major cause of my terror. No matter how panicked I was, they 100% could not lift the cage/shield more than a few inches. The whole point of the contraption was to keep the area sanitized. I pawed at the green padding that covered the cage, and strained to look through the opening. The staff waited for me to get myself together before getting back to the stitching.

To distract myself from the hell, I tried to recall all of the Michelin star restaurants in the Bay Area. It worked for a while, but soon the claustrophobia flared up again. This time was more intense than before, and I wept as I begged for the cage to be lifted. They explained that they could not meet my request, and I sobbed in panic and misery. I was really losing it.

The nurses did their best to help me. They sang, held my hand, and told me that I only had 15 more minutes to go. There was nothing I could do but weep quietly and try to keep things in perspective. Nothing bad was going to happen to me because I was in a small space.

Skull tissue cleaned and 20 centimeters of 6o stitches later, the procedure was finished. I cried tears of joy as the cage was lifted.

Still desperately needing to pee, I was rolled out of the operating room into a lobby. I was surprised to find more of my friends had come to support me after the accident. True to form, I began to cry.

The Aftershock

At about 2 am, I was taken to the ER where I would be monitored for at least 24 hours. The doctor needed to watch for signs of serious brain injuries. TOO MUCH INFORMATION ALERT: I was on my period and forbidden to use the restroom alone. What is a hospital staff to do? Swaddle me in an adult diaper of course! Just some icing on the cake.

After the pampering, I could finally go to sleep across from my new Thai roommates. Across the room, a middle aged guy who made no noise and one of the oldest men I’ve ever seen laid peacefully. Unfortunately, the peace would not last long. The old man would vomit loudly throughout the night and into the morning.

At 6 am, I was woken up for a congee-like breakfast that tasted great, but I couldn’t eat it. I was too nauseous to down the shrimpy porridge.

I drifted in and out of sleep as doctors and nurses briefed me on my condition. A neurologist looked at my CT scan and x-rays and determined there wasn’t any major damage to worry about. HALLELUJAH! The doctors wanted more time to decide whether or not I needed t0 stay a second night for observation.

Christian, Noi Na, Chris, Gin and Abhi came back to the hospital that afternoon, and we soon got the good news that I would be released. The doctors were confident that my brain was ok, and I could return to the resort where I had ruined a perfectly good evening the night before.

The sun set over beautiful Petchaburi as we drove back to the resort. The hotel gave me good will gift basket – jars of bird’s nest and essence of chicken for my health. Instead of partaking in the fun company retreat activities, I tucked into bed and slept.

For the best recovery, I was told to return to a hospital daily to get my wound cleaned. On Sunday morning, my friends and I hopped into a hotel truck and went to the Petchaburi public hospital as ordered. The bumpy ride was bad, but not as bad as spending hours getting your head stitched back together.

At the hospital, the other patients were in pretty bad shape. One woman had a motorcycle accident and a hot part of the bike had burned her leg to the BONE. Another woman had been BITTEN BY A SCORPION. I felt lucky to be in little pain (in addition to feeling lucky for being alive, not paralyzed, mentally unscathed, and so on).

We returned to Bangkok as a company, and I stayed the night with Chris and his girlfriend Etty in case I needed to get to a hospital in an emergency. Not to repeat myself, but I am so completely grateful to the people in my life who were here to help me. In the morning, I was even treated to a homemade breakfast by Chris before we headed to Bangkok’s St. Louis hospital for more x-rays and stitch cleaning.

On Monday night, I had another source of help come to my rescue. My family was so worried about me that my mom bought a plane ticket and traveled more than 13,000 kilometers to help me recover. Although my injury was horrible, it reminded me of how much love and support I take for granted.

The Aftermath

Dirty hair recovery shot!
Dirty hair recovery shot!

Hospital visits, countless naps, foot massages, pill swallowing, head wrapping – the week after the accident was leisurely , complete with constant spoiling from my mom. My recovery was moving along quickly, and I would be back to work in no time.

Despite the luxurious care, the time was still rough emotionally. I held back tears at dinner explaining my fears of mental damage to my mother. I was left feeling so weird and confused. I had to fight to stay positive.

I’m so lucky it wasn’t worse” I constantly thought, and by constantly thought, I mean constantly think – present tense. I’m  still afraid that I’ll never be as mentally sharp as before. I’m worried people will think, “Natalie was never the same after the accident.” Did I ruin my chances of achieving my life goals? Will my hair grow back normally? Should I change completely? Should I abandon this authentic self that keeps getting me in trouble? Should I start running marathons and work for a nonprofit?

This New York Times article couldn’t have popped up on my Twitter feed at a better time. The author had suffered a trauma much worse than mine, but I could still relate to her recovery experience. She offered an explanation to make sense of why I felt like I did.

I instantly felt better after reading her conclusion “I’m not a better person. I’m the same person. Which is actually kind of a miracle.” I feel less pressure to reinvent myself. I can appreciate that this stupid, stupid accident left me pretty unscathed, and it’s time to be thankful for the life I still have. I am overwhelmed with the support from my family and friends.

As far as cautionary tales go, this one is mild. I am miraculously walking away from this trauma with just a scar, and I will go on to sweatily explore Bangkok another day.

I went to a Bangkok cat cafe

Chubby cat mingling and fur in my mouth. Overpriced drinks and oil paintings. It seemed as though Caturday had just about everything you could ask for from an animal-filled cafe.

With National Cat Day just around the corner, my friend Chris and I decided to go do some research for work at one of Bangkok’s finest cat cafes. What happened at Caturday was a mix between magical, gross, weird, and beautiful.

Chris lead me through a rambling maze of restaurants and alleyways until we got to the cat lover’s paradise. I would have never found Caturday on my own,  and what a disappointment that would have been. My life would have never been the same.

We took off our shoes, washed our hands and went inside the feline oasis. Insane cat paintings hung on the walls. Some Halloween decorations completed the kitschy decor.

Chris informed me that the place was usually packed, and guests have to get on a waiting list to enjoy the wonderland. I guess luck was on our side that night, and we were given a seat on the floor immediately.

Someone has a case of the Caturdays
Someone has a case of the Caturdays

At first, the cat interaction was a little slow to roll. We looked around at the lounging cats and wondered what we could do to win their attention. After ordering some food, the cats slowly made their way toward us, although they didn’t really want to be touched.

We started watching the professionals work, and by professionals I mean the other guests who clearly knew a thing or two about wooing cats. One lady was a particularly giddy genius. She brought some large plastic shopping bags with her, and the cats went nuts. They frolicked in the bags and she scooped them up for hugs (totally against the “do not pick up the cats” rule, but clearly she was a regular and way beyond the laws of Caturday).

I had been amazed by the bag lady’s expertise, but she turned out to be a TOTAL AMATEUR compared to the next regular to stop into the cafe. I will forever remember this woman as The Cat Whisperer because she was truly amazing. Not only did she know every cat’s name, but she was a pro when it came to playing with them.

She knew exactly how to feed the cats (see photo below for the moment she let ME feed them, and I laughed like a maniac) and was generous enough to persuade them to pose for our photos. I don’t know what she does for a living, but clearly this was her true calling.

Chris and I ate very mediocre “Cheesy Fries” and took 40,000 iPhone photos of the cat-filled alternative universe. Sometimes we would be very disturbed by how much cat hair was covering us, and sometimes we would be grinning like idiots at how cute the cats were.

Just hanging out
Just hanging out

While everyone (including us) was taking photos left and right, some people were really getting into the photography. Cute cat snapshots were turning into full-blown photo shoots. Selfies in Thailand are no joke.

Munchkin cats everywhere

When the soggy fries were gone and I got cat hair in my mouth, it was time to leave. Do I need to go back to a cat cafe? No.  I’m not really a cat person. While they are cute animals, I don’t need to hang out on the floor taking pictures of them forever. Caturday seemed to be a wonderful escape for people. At the cat cafe, they could get away from the rest of the world and be around adorable animals. It was special to see people experiencing such pure joy, even if it left me very, very itchy.

Wats and a Water Taxi

I write this holding back tears, the tears of an idiot. I’ve been in Thailand a month now, I can handle Thai spice [eats Thai chili and immediately regrets it. Eyes water. Mouth burns.] 20 minutes later, my mouth is still on fire are I am dangerously low on water. Kill me.

Anyway, despite the physical suffering, the weekend was a great one filled with sightseeing, galavanting, and not losing a single thing. I woke up Saturday on a mission to see some sights. I hadn’t had my fill of temple visits, so I decided on heading to Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn.

Pro tip: Wat means temple.

Wat a cool entrance!
Wat a cool entrance!

After renting a long skirt (for modesty), I entered the hallowed grounds of the riverside Wat. I was immediately overcome with awe. I’ve been to religious sites before, but I’ve never had such a physical reaction to a place. I felt calm and was filled with respect for the beautiful grounds. I’m not a sappy person, but it was really special. I stalked a monk and took his photo, because that’s what a tourist does at a Wat.

I wonder wat he would think if he caught me being a creep
I wonder Wat he would think if he caught me being a creep

I spent about a 45 minutes touring the incredible place. To get to the best vantage point, you have to climb up narrow stairs that are essentially a ladder. Very nerve-wracking, but totally worth the experience. I couldn’t help think about all of the teeth I would knock out if my foot slipped. Positive thinking! 

Watever you do, don’t look down

One thing that really stood out beyond the splendor of the holy temples was the presence of the guys pictured below. I’m sure they are really wonderful to some people, but I was sort of like, why are these giant-headed baby monks here? They’re a little off putting and way less majestic than the rest of the area. I mean, those heads!

I don't even know Wat I'm looking at
I don’t even know Wat I’m looking at

I took a tuk tuk to the nearest BTS station and spent the rest of the night enjoying the nightlife of Bangkok. Beervana’s anniversary party, dive bars, and street noodle soup were the perfect end to another great day in Thailand.

[Insert stupid Wat pun here]
[Insert stupid Wat pun here]
That's a cat on a pool table!
That’s a cat on a pool table!

I woke up late on Sunday with a mean hangover, but still wanted to get my Wat on. My mental capacity was a little less sharp due to said hangover, but I managed to wait in only two wrong lines before figuring out how to take the Chao Praya river taxi.

Bangkok barge
Bangkok barge

I got off at the taxi port across from Wat Arun near the Grand Palace. Having been to the Grand Palace in 2013, I didn’t need to go back before seeing the other sights of Bangkok. Instead, I wandered in the direction of glimmering temple roofs until the sun went down.

On point roof game
On point roof game

Without a destination, I wasted a lot of time wandering through less eye-catching areas, but still enjoyed seeing Thais go about their sleepy Sunday.

Just a basket full of cabbage

Ended the day with some Szechwan food while it poured rain. I can’t remember the names of all of the Wats I saw, or even the names of the neighborhoods I walked through, but still a win in my book. I’m getting better at my Thai numbers, and getting used to Thai people laughing at me when I practice.

My weeks are spent keeping up with the hustle of working at a startup, and weekends exploring this massive city. Breathaking, confusing, sweat-inducing – I am falling deeper in love with Bangkok with each passing day.

An Update with Photos That Don’t Match

-For my first month, I’ve been saying “not expensive” when I meant “expensive.” This exchange happened countless times, confusing merchants around town. Example from my Samsung shopping experience: “How much is this cell phone? Oh that’s not expensive, may I see a cheaper one?”

-I got a wonderful rash on my face! Red raised dots sprinkled my cheekbones like diseased freckles, and they itch! My guess is that the rash came from swimming in my apartment pool, which I did two times that week compared to never before. Hooray!

Orange milk anyone?
Orange dinosaur milk anyone?

-New on the HotelQuickly front – we are moving into a new office, so I can kiss these 37th floor views of Bangkok goodbye. Plus side: our new office is very cool. It’s reminiscent of startup offices in ol’ San Francisco.

Work with a view
Caffeine, a startup must

-My local motorcycle taxi drivers have given me the nickname, “Chong Nonsi” after the location they drop me off at everyday. Night or day, when I walk by they say hello and add “Chong Nonsi” although I can’t tell if it’s a term of endearment or if they’re mocking me. Let’s say ignorance is bliss, and I’ll just think it’s a sweet new tradition.

-Pointless observation: International men don’t have any hesitation to order sweet/fruity drinks here. There are different opinions on asserting masculinity, and ordering a whiskey straight up is not one of those ways. I’m trying to stop thinking its funny to see a table full of men ordering sugary cocktails, because who doesn’t want to sip on a delicious coconut-laced drink?? They’re delicious and have no relation to one’s gender.

Fish ball soup / So spicy, so good
Fish ball soup / So spicy, so good

-My new iPhone from the US arrived locked. This meant that a Thai SIM card did not work in it. The guys at True (basically the Thai AT&T) cut my SIM card into a micro SIM card in order for it to fit in the iPhone, so they taped it back up to go into my terrible Samsung. Thanks to the hack job, even my terrible Samsung didn’t work anymore. By the time I figured that out, the stores had closed. Another wonderful hassle to deal with.

Friday night from the BTS
Friday night from the BTS

-My computer has forgotten I’m American. It wants to change “favorite” to “favourite” and “organize” to “organise,” and so on. I continuously Google the spelling of simple words and feel like an idiot these days.

Ok this picture matched the update
Ok this picture matches the update

-I haven’t picked up that much Thai, but Thais are extremely generous in complimenting my Thai skills. They do this to any farang that can speak a sentence or two, so I can’t feel too special. Even though it’s undeserved praise, it does feel nice. I’ll take what I can get!

-Bangkok is ageing me physically and rapidly. Even with all of the sunscreen I slop on every morning (60 SPF y’all), I am getting more and more freckles – aka skin damage. I feel like wrinkles are deepening, and I’m not very stoked about it. In a sea of ageless Asian beauties, it is starting to really bother me. I may be donning a beekeeper’s mask soon.

#CatsOfBangkok

-One month in and I still haven’t gotten Internet for my apartment. With all of the other hassles, I have been too lazy to figure out how to set it up. This avoidance of stress only creates more stress, as I have to hunt for an Internet cafe every time I need to surf the web.

-I’ve grown accustom to seeing cockroaches and rats everywhere. Both critters are huge here, and definitely still gross, but when you see them all the time, you just sort of just accept them.

Bangkok, an iPhone Photo Recap

Surprise chicken bones. Shimmering Buddhist shrines. Tuk tuks out of transit. I am doing my best to absorb everything around me and get to know Bangkok. In no particular order, here are some mediocre iPhone photos taken of sights seen, foods eaten, and tattoos inked.

License to chill
License to chill
Korean skittles
Taste the rainbow
Good karma
Good karma
I'm going to be honest - I  truly have zero idea what this is
I’m going to be honest – I truly have zero idea what this is
Durian on lock
Durian on lock
You know, for the homeless
You know, for the homeless
Was not kidding about the bones
Was not kidding about the bones
#NotBangkok
#NotBangkok

Bangkok, you’re doing it wrong

4 ways you’re doing Bangkok wrong:

  1. You lost your debit card in the first three days of your move
  2. You lost your iPhone in the first month
  3. You’re renting an expensive apartment with a year lease
  4. You’ve only had Pad Thai 3 times

What the f is wrong with me? How could I possibly lose my cell phone? HOW HAVE I MADE IT THIS FAR IN LIFE?

On Friday, my friends and I went to Khao San Road, one of the most touristy nightlife destinations in Bangkok. It wasn’t until we were back at home that I realized it. Phone = gone. I thought back to the timeline of the evening. We started the night at Khao San posted up at a bar where we drank buckets of soda that were allegedly alcoholic. At the bar, I definitely had my phone, but couldn’t remember using it after we left to dance in the street. Whether someone stole it out of my purse or I left it at the bar, it didn’t matter. It was 4 am and it was gone. We ate street food noodle soup and I tried not to be too upset about the fail.

More like, "VERY BIG IDIOT."
More like, “VERY BIG IDIOT.”

My friend Chris (pictured above) helped me try to get it back, even though it was super late and I’m sure he wanted to go to bed. We talked to the person who had taken my phone, trying to persuade him to return it for a reward. Instead, he kept asking us to give him the phone’s password (tempting, but no). He said that he already had a phone, and didn’t want to steal mine. Great, but not convincing, considering he took it two hours south of Bangkok. Shortly after talking to him, he disconnected the phone number he had called us on.

So it was gone, the phone was gone. The next morning, Chris, Etty (his girlfriend) and I went to the Fortune Town IT Mall at Rama 9 to look for a new iPhone. It was going to cost me a lot and no one took American Express. After realizing this was going to be a herculean task, we parted ways and I continued my hunt.

Fast forward 5 hours, and I was the owner of a terrible new $100 Samsung. The graphics were pixilated and the downloads were slow; I missed my iPhone so much that I could have gotten a tattoo of it’s serial number on my foot. Fortunately, my dad went to the AT&T store in Fresno, California and was able to get a replacement iPhone 5s for $99! Until it comes in the mail, I’ll be able to survive in my Android hell (first world problem alert).

I wanted to move to Bangkok for the challenge, but not the challenge of dealing with my own avoidable mistakes. One month under my belt in Thailand, and I had already gone through a slew of bad moves. At the end of the day, it could have been worse. No one got hurt – unless you count the hangover of the next day – and it’s just a phone (but who am I kidding, it’s 2014 and I’m addicted to technology).

Just another learning experience here in Bangkok.

Cliché Bangkok

It’s been about two and a half weeks since I moved to Bangkok, so I still have a free pass to do cliché, touristy things. And touristy things I have done! Haley and Amber (the friends I flew over here with) ended their jaunt through Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand with a visit to Bangkok. First item on the agenda: take them to a rooftop bar.

We headed to just the place after eating at a tourist-focused restaurant near Cheap Charlie’s. At Above 11, a bar on the 3oth-something floor of the Fraser Suites, we met up with my coworker and his group.  The view was fantastic, and we had a great time hearing about their travels and swapping culture shock moments. Also great: the wild maze (literally, a hedge maze) leading to the bathroom.

After work the following day, Haley and I intended to find a night market in Chinatown for street food. Instead, we ended up stopping at the night flower market on accident, a very sweet-smelling accident. We walked around and ate some fried street snacks before stopping at a food stall as it started to rain. Although we wanted the most touristy dish on the planet (Pad Thai, of course), we settled for for mixed vegetables and rice (and giant beers).

After the meal, we took a tuk tuk to meet up with a new friend Jeff, a British expat fluent in Thai. He suggested Khao San Road, aka “the center of the backpacker universe” and I was excited to go and see the infamous area. You couldn’t take a photo without three plastered tourists attempting to photobomb your moment. Instead of a bucket of cocktails, Haley and I had fresh coconut ice cream served brilliantly in a coconut.

We fought through the hoards of drunk tourists and pushy vendors until we found Jeff. A few minutes of weaving our way through the neighborhood, we settled into a bar away from the chaos of the main road. We learned a lot from Jeff, who is expertly versed in the Thai language and culture. The night was great, even after being swarmed by the laughing gas salesmen of Khao San Road. Another item checked off of a standard Bangkok bucket list.

Haley does Bangkok
Haley does Bangkok

On Thursday, Haley met me after work for a Vietnamese dinner with my coworkers. I didn’t realize that the Vietnamese did flan, you learn something new every day! As tourists do, we walked to the Patpong night market after dinner. The red light district is not necessarily my favorite place to go, but we wanted to see a night market and the one at Patpong was nearby. It had the usual suspects: elephant-print clothing, ping pong show hawkers, and bizarre trinkets that you would truly never need (I’m looking at you, Coca-Cola clock).  We spied a tattoo parlor and I decided to go for it, having thought about the idea of getting another tattoo for a few days. Thai culture seems to have a soft spot for tattoos, and “When in Rome” seemed like an easy justification for a bad idea.

I walked up to Billy’s Studio (billystattoo@hotmail.com for any interested takers) and grilled the men about the cleanliness of their needles. Feeling convinced that the transaction would be clean (although still ridiculous), I went in and sat on the black leather bench and showed the men what I wanted. Feeling nostalgic for San Francisco, I went with the coordinates of the city I left just two weeks ago.

The tattoo artist turned on Pitbull to accompany the experience, but he motioned for us to pick the music from YouTube ourselves. DJ Haley took requests and played some favorites to ease the pain. The playlist included, but wasn’t limited to:

STRKFKRWhen I’m Alive

STRKFKRGirls Just Want to Have Fun (obviously)

SantigoldPirate In The Water 

Little DragonShuffle A Dream

When it was over, I looked down at my new, permanent addition to my body. It sort of looked like a prison-esque tattoo which was definitely not my intention. I probably should have thought a little more about what exact coordinates of San Francisco I would like to see forever, instead of an apartment building  for the homeless in the Tenderloin. When making forever decisions, maybe throw some thought into it – or not. I paid my 1,000 baht ($30) and left.

Haley and I walked around a bit more before finding some street mango and sticky rice being prepared with the utmost care by an old Thai woman. We waited patiently as she carved our favorite Thai dessert, then ate it on the side of the road. We watched people walk by, passing the lined up prostitutes waiting for customers. The sheer volume of sex workers in Bangkok is mind-blowing. We left feeling sad and full.

The mango master herself
Mango heaven

Haley packed up her belongings and e-checked into her flight for Bali. It was great to have her and Amber as houseguests, even if it was just for a short period of time. After her Indonesian getaway, Haley will be moving to Chiang Mai to do an epic internship, and I can’t wait to visit as often as possible.

I doubt this week will be the end of my cliché activities in Thailand, but it was nice to get some of the most touristy things out of the way early. Up next: ride an elephant while eating Pad Thai.

Life by Krung Thonburi

A quick list of random things I’ve learned or noticed:

  • Thais don’t kiss in public, they smell each other’s neck/cheek area to show affection
  • My office building bathroom dispenses men’s cologne as air freshener
  • Thai women are impeccably put together when it comes to appearance
  • A lot of chain restaurants claim to be really big in the US (and they’re not!)

This guy

It’s been a week and a half of living in this insane, inviting, confusing city. I have been annoying a coworker by constantly bringing up the fact that we’re living and working in BANGKOKIt has yet to stop blowing my mind. Work has been great, I really like my coworkers and they seem to like me. It has been an interesting transition to working at a startup, but a fun one.

Every day we go somewhere new for lunch, and not knowing anything about the area we work in, it’s always a new experience for me. Today, for example, we went to a Vietnamese place and I had sadly bland (due to the whole vegetarian broth thing) pho. I was still so stoked to be eating pho in Bangkokwhere I live and WORKNot sure when that unbridled enthusiasm will wear off.

Pretty pho-gettable
Pretty pho-gettable

I still haven’t set up Wi-Fi at my apartment, so I still feel a little disconnected despite being very connected. This connection is thanks to the 9 million free chatting apps I’ve downloaded. What’s App works with family back at home. Line is preferred by a lot of Thais. If you’re talking to someone in China, WeChat is the way to go. Download them and get wonderfully bizarre messages like:

Wat.
Wat.

It’s almost the weekend, and I don’t know what I’m going to do with it yet. I’m considering taking a train trip somewhere, on the condition that said train is cheap and has a nice view. Who knows? What I do know is that Bangkok is awesome and scary and great. I am so thrilled to be here!

I LIVE HERE