Tag Archives: thailand

Version 0.61 (The Heat, Daydreaming, and A Cave Tour)

05/02/19

Kinda thinking I don’t want to be on this island anymore. Two and a half days and I’m already done with the heat and the tropical sun. The sun, the sun.

THE SUN.

I don’t know what to say about it. From the confines of an air conditioned building it appears a thing of beauty and magnanimity, shining its light, illuminating the world, playing with the waves of the ocean, the leaves of the palm, pushing shadows slowly across the world as we spin around our axis, and the animals of the world moving in time to its rhythm. But we humans are stupid animals because we insist on being out and active even when the sun is at its zenith, and the temperatures are at their highest, stumbling and sweating through a hell of our own making. We’ve learned to combat this through fans and air-conditioning so that we may stick to the societal and cultural rhythm of our nine-to-five, or morning-straight-through-to-evening activities. Of course this is particularly true on vacation when one must wander out in all weathers and all temperatures because we must SEE things because otherwise whats the point of plotting out a time on one’s calendar and going on a vacation in a foreign land?

So, anyway, I am done with the heat, and the sweating through my clothing, and the being dirty, and the stinking, and being a stupid animal. All the same, while I’m here I should embrace being the stupid animal that I am and appreciate this opportunity. Besides, there’s no beating this opponent, and I certainly won’t be outsmarting him.

I’m day dreaming about traveling in the U.S. now, with Huyen, of showing her some of my favorite places during a summer. A cross country journey. D.C. and NYC of course, but also various places in Michigan: Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, but most importanly Leelanau County and its peninsula, including Traverse City, Sleeping Bear Dunes, wine tasting at various vineyards, the many and secret beaches along Lake Michigan, and the many other smaller lakes. And then a few days in Chicago, several days in Milwaukee, and then there is a big gap until Colorado, then California with a drive down the coast from Washington state.

It’s too easy to day dream about cooler climates than it is to focus on the goings on here. I have a little bit of work with Claudio later this afternoon, and still have to do some photography around the hostel for him. I’ve been vacillating between wanting to leave early, and staying for the full week here. But the best thing I think is to just let everything go to plan. It’s sort of like trading; I don’t like to meddle with a trade once I’ve determined a setup and entered into that trade, though often it is very tempting.

Went on a cave tour yesterday. I was the only one, strangely enough, and was quite surprised the man even bothered to take me out. After the tour and at intervals during it I had intermittent convesation with my guide about his life. Simple stuff. How long have you lived here? Do you enjoy guiding? How long have you guided? The differences between here and the other islands? His life is of such a simple purity. Watching him walk through the forest and up the hill to the cave I observed such an ease and comfort in him, and a surefootedness, the balance of a cat, the familiarity with a place, a path, from having trod it so many hundreds of times. Something I don’t ever see in the denizens of a city, most of whom are usually in a rush to get somewhere. Occasionally he would pause after a particularly steep climb, the sweat beaded up on his forehead. He would just stand statue-like but for the expansion and contraction of his chest and his head turning, listening, peering into the jungle. Maybe he would ask a question of me, or point something out, like a cicada carapace, or a honey bee hive through the branches and leaves high up in a tree, hanging there like a curtain. On our way down after leaving the cave he lit up a cigarette and began smoking as we walked down the hill back to the village, not in a hurried way, but in a manner that was aligned with all of his actions up to this point, like he was reclining lazily in a porch-chair smoking easily, watching the world unfurl itself as it continually does, minute after minute, day after day, year after year, but all those moments just one singular moment always going going going, rolling into and out of itself and my tour guide simultaneously part of it but also beyond it, simply observing it. The double helix of a strand of DNA—life on one side, death on the other, inseparable, together all the time and for all time.

Version 0.57 (Just Looking out the Window)

04/24/19

Sitting in the lobby of the hostel, at a long table set against the large windows that look out onto the little square where this hostel and another, several restaurants, and the karaoke bar next door are situated. It is a quiet morning, late, nearly noon. A woman sits on a bench beneath the awning of a Korean bbq spot playing with her phone. Occasionally someone passes through the square: a tortured soul stumbling along the shores of hell, submitting to some past life’s sins. Creatures forced to endure these temperatures for eternity. The heat out here is incredible, and the humidity nearly so as well, and yet all the Thais are seen in jeans or long pants. The woman across the way even has on a denim jacket.

I’m amazed.

Though, if one were to drag them to the north or central U.S. during a winter they would not be able to put on enough layers to keep warm.

A cat has just crawled out from beneath a car. It looks a lot like the cat, Chibi, at the other hostel, Kamin Bird House, which I actually miss a bit. A lovely Japanese name for a cat. I like it very much. It is common practice that if you own a cat here you have its tail docked. Unless these cats are bred this way. I’m not sure what the reasoning would be (for the former, not so much the latter), so I suspect perhaps it it a particular breed.

I have just finished breakfast: simple “food” consisting of toast, bananas, and instant coffee. No plans for the day. Real coffee somewhere eventually, and “work”, and take a wander through Chinatown perhaps. A fruit seller has just setup shop in in a parking spot in front of the bbq joint. Immediately the woman under the awning gets up and purchases a bag of papaya or watermelon, and an employee of the restaurant makes a purchase as well. And just that quickly the fruit seller moves on. I though I might get a bag of something. Well, the city is full of these guys. I’ll find one later.

The woman at the check-in desk is watching a Thai soap opera. In it a woman is speaking while a melancholy guitar is plucked in the background. When I see people watching these things sometimes I wonder if they’re reliving a time in their past. An incident, maybe. Or a relationship. What is the draw to these shows that are so heavy with contrived drama? My mother used to watch this sort of programming when I was a child. All My Children, As the World Turns… I believe there were a few others, all with the same general premise, all quite dark, and dripping with an over-the-top drama and phoniness that one wonders how they could be taken seriously. Yet they all had their followings, and were all quite popular for a while.

Version 0.56 (What Does it Mean to Have “Seen” a Place?)

04/22/19

Fresh crisis today? I don’t know.

That’s not exactly how I wanted to start this journal—so dramatically—though it was bound to be on something about feeling a bit lost, a bit without purpose (how many times have I written about purpose now?).

What the fuck am I doing in Bangkok? Honest to God I truly don’t want to be here. Maybe I really need to embrace some of the more touristic things, and head into the older part of the city and the areas near the river? Maybe I’ll be more inspired and motivated to photograph there? The heat makes any time spent outside miserable, though. It doesn’t help that in some sense I feel that what I am doing is a waste of time, that my photography is not appreciated, will never be appreciated, is unimportant, doesn’t matter (though why should it?). I have been feeling like an absolute trash photographer lately. The lowest of the low. I am a coward, too scared to face someone on the street and take his/her picture (not that that is a new feeling, but the intensity of it is). I feel like the dumb, white tourist offending the “exotic” locals by photographing them; every glance in my direction is discouragement. Maybe I just need a change of scenery in the city. Maybe I just need a change of head-space, a change of head, a change of brains. a change of self perception. Having moved hostel locations should help with that. The biggest problem here, though, is purpose, as I wrote in my third sentence. I have no purpose. The purpose of the whole trip is travel, and I’m not doing much of that. I take some sort of vehicular transport from spot to spot, mosey around the place, then move on. Can I really say that I’ve visited Thailand when I haven’t left the city of Bangkok? What does it mean to “see” a place, anyway? How much of a city or country does one have to explore to qualify as a person who may say he has seen it?

I’m writing all this in a smallish hall within which numerous food vendors are set up by the Thong Lo BTS stop. I’m at a bright, canary yellow table, sitting on a metal stool. All around me is a rush of people swooshing to and fro: vendors running out food and drinks, and visitors looking for an empty or near-empty table, or searching for a food stall that looks appealing. It’s all metal and plastic stools here, as it seemingly is at all street food stalls throughout Asia; and colorfully painted square metal tables; and white tile floor, definitely not right now very white. The aroma of food cooked or cooking or raw suffuses the space, and all those smells and aromas mingle together into one homogeneous scent of food unless someone walks by with a plate of something, which has a tendency to waft up right beneath one’s nose as it is brought past. Right now I smell cucumber or papaya, and some sort of meat sizzling on a grill, and I hear distinctly something crackling in a wok, mingling with the voices of those behind the counter. Mostly the space is a rumble of conversation pierced periodically by a passing scooter, the gait of a woman walking in heels, the bright high voice of a child, the tinking of silverware, the stacking of plastic plates and bowls, the low almost imperceptible rumble of a bus (or is that the sky train?) Fans and iced drinks are the only means of keeping cool in here, though occasionally there is a draft from outside that blows pleasantly into the complex. A couple sits at a table and laughs out loud together. He has just arrived, and brought her something, but their relationship I don’t think is what that statement might immediately cause one to think, and she walks out from behind a stall to chit-chat at a table and look through what he has brought. I like this place. It is for all peoples: westerner, easterner, and Thai alike. It’s not for the rich, it’s not for the poor. It’s for anyone who comes hungry, no matter what his or her place on the rungs of the social ladder.