Five Things

There are certain things I knew I’d love about living in Thailand.

Before I moved here about seven months ago, I knew I would definitely love Thai tea, the beaches, cheap street food, etc., but there are a few wildcards that I couldn’t have predicted.

Along the same lines, there were things that I knew I’d miss about living in San Francisco. I’d obviously miss my loved ones, burritos, and a San Francisco paycheck. Beyond that though, sometimes I get hit with a homesick feeling for the most specific and unexpected things.

Just to vent, below are five examples of each.

Match Kick

Five things I’m surprised to love about life in Thailand

1.Watching muay Thai

2. Using my tiny little broom to sweep my apartment (for reference)

3. Eating street food whole fish

4. Taking classes at the gym taught exclusively in Thai (I’ve never been more motivated to work hard in a class than when an instructor is yelling at me in Thai)

5. Primarily eating with spoons

Five things I didn’t expect to miss about living in SF

1. Riding my bike to work and the pleasure of walking around comfortably (aka not being hot as F any time I move)

2.Getting paid every two weeks

3.Wearing jeans, coats, and scarves

4. Taking the Muni train to Ocean Beach

5. The ability to use a credit card nearly everywhere

Wait, was this real life?
A memory on a San Francisco stoop. Wait, was this even real life?

Humiliation!

CLICHÉ ALERT: Part of the motivation to move abroad was to have an experience that could make me a better person (key word could, because who knows). I thought I’d be faced with challenges, work through them, be forced to operate outside of my comfort zone, and then one day BOOM, you’re changed for the better. So I knew that it would be hard coming into this, but I didn’t know exactly how that difficulty would take shape. Turns out, a good chunk of my experience living abroad is spent feeling humliated. Sometimes it feels like a constant onslaught of humliation, just one cringe worthy dose of awkard terribleness after another.

Thonglor

I’ll give you an example – Living in Thailand seems to be just about the worst thing possible for my skin. I am putting my skin through hell in this tropical sun. The UV rays are one thing, but the real issue is the heat. I’m constantly pouring sweat from all of my pores — really, all of them. I mean it’s almost impressive — and I feel like I’m back in high school with all of the breaking out going on. Every day, I put on makeup to cover up the breakouts, then I sweat off said makeup, put on more makeup (to continue pore clogging!), sweat that makeup off, put more on, and repeat this depressing cycle until I get home.

Even the breakouts aside, the sweating is enough to embarass the F out of me. I get to events for work where elegant Thai ladies in slacks and blazers are functioning gracefully and I am straight up soaking, my wet hair clinging to my face. It’s a delight. They look at me sympathetically as beads of sweat roll down my forehead and I try to escape small talk to run to the bathroom and dry off.

Boatin

Ok so the good thing about feeling constantly humliated is that it really breaks down your ego. If I lost sleep over all of the cringeworthy moments, I would really not be sleeping ever. I’ve gotten to the point where I just have to tell myself, “well, this is happening so you better just roll with it” (or I guess it’s more of a “wow, just kill me. How is this real life?”). I have to accept the awful reality and keep on keeping on.

Ultimately, I survive! I’ve learned that even when I do something and feel completely terrible (like almost die at a company retreat HAHAHA), I make it through the situation and the consequences are usually not as bad as I predict they’ll be. Counterintuitively, my self esteem is getting better the worse that things get. I’m learning how to deal with my body, my personality, my strenghts/weaknesses and it’s all very uncomfortable and very real. The byproduct of this learning is making me a better journalist. I’m less embarassed during interviews I conduct because I’ve let go of hangups I can’t control. I used to think that I wasn’t qualified or worthy of talking to people as a writer and that obviously threw me off before the interview even started. Now that I no longer feel capable of impressing people based on social graces or appearance, I can just focus on being better at a job I love to do.

Hopefully, this is all part of the “becoming a better person” scheme.

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

Drinking it all in

Milk tea, Singha, milk tea, milk tea, iced latte, Chang, Singha, mojito, Chang. Two months in Bangkok and my drinking history was embarrassing (and way too full of dairy). The city is crawling with well-reputed cocktail bars, and I could sadly count the number of Negronis I’d sipped on one hand.

When some freelance writing opportunities came around, I decided to focus my stories on Bangkok’s food and beverage culture. I spent all day dreaming of street food and amaro, why not write about them? First stop on my ever-growing list of places to try was U.N.C.L.E., a convenient two streets from work.

The façade reminded me immediately of LA or San Francisco (until a lizard scrambled behind the neon sign). U.N.C.L.E. is a speakeasy tucked above Lady Brett, a tavern in the Sapparot Group portfolio. My friend Mike and I crept up the stairs to the bar uneasily, because it definitely feels like you’re going the wrong way. We successfully found the right room and grabbed spots at the four seat bar. The Swedish bars owners were personally slanging drinks, and we delighted in the carefully crafted libations.

A few drinks and a shot of Fernet later, we left in a happy daze. This place was leaps and bounds better than the watered-down cocktails served at many Bangkok watering holes. I would definitely be back.

My buddy Abhi and I started Sunday right with brunch at Brooklyn Baker. We had egg-y comfort food at the restaurant, which is nestled in a relaxing spa down a street I could never find again on my own.

After brunch, we cut through Bangkok’s treasured Lumpink Park and I suddenly stopped in my tracks. I had seen my street food white whale – ไอติมขนมปัง, or the Thai ice cream sandwich. People told me about this wicked treat, but I had never come across it on my own.

Holy mother of God this thing is good. What is not to love about a white bread bun, sticky rice, fresh coconut ice cream, drizzled in condensed milk? WHAT IS NOT TO LOVE. Type 2 Diabetes? Worth it.

Post ice cream sando, Abhi and I lazily walked through the park in the blinding heat. I was literally dripping sweat when we emerged on the other side of the beautiful park. We parted ways and I went to Vesper Cocktail Bar & Restaurant. This place gets me – barrel aged Negronis, uni, antique maps. I am putty in its imaginary hands.

My mission was to photograph some of the cocktails, although I was distracted by the torrential downpour of sweat I was drowning in. Being 9 million degrees outside, I was unable to cool down when I got to the swanky bar. I continued to sweat excessively throughout the shoot, soaking through the paper towels I swooped from the bathroom. Clearly my body was meant for places like France or Antarctica, not tropical Bangkok.


In addition to the many other wonders (like the magical, dry ice finished War of the Roses), Vesper has a fun selection of cocktails to share that are served from a teapot. The sweaty struggle aside, I was semi-confident I got the photos I needed of the bar’s precisely executed drinks. I thanked bar manager Colin for his time and went back into the heat. Instead of being cash conscious and heading home, I went around the corner to the highly-revered Eat Me Restaurant.

In an attempt to be frugal, I ordered but a snack at one of Asia’s 50 best restaurants, guzzling the complimentary mint-laced water to rehydrate. I had the delightful Zucchini Carpaccio along with most of the free bread.

After spending a day and a half spending money like it was on fire, it was time to figuratively cool it on the semi-fine dining front (for at least a meal). Dinner was spent in my go-to coffee shop, Glur, where the green curry is delicious and the staff extremely welcoming.

Up next on my gluttonous agenda: nahm, Sugar Ray (not the band), Bar:School, and very predictable obesity.

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.