It's still hard to believe we're in Thailand. We've been here since late on Monday, March 12. We had a two-hour flight to Chicago, a four hour layover, then a 12-hour flight to Tokyo, three-hour layover, then a 6-hour flight to Bangkok.
Stepping out of the airport into the midnight air felt immediately familiar. Sticky and hot, it felt just like Louisiana hurricane season.
My childhood friend Ted and his girlfriend Rachel picked us up at the airport and whisked us up to their place about an hour north of Bangkok. They live on campus of AIT--the Asian Institute of Technology--where Ted is a professor.
Our first day was sacrificed to the jetlag gods. After sleeping until 2pm, we got up, showered, hung out a little and headed out for a bite to eat. Ted and his friend Jitra ordered for me, repeatedly assuring the waitstaff that I truly wanted vegan food. Later that night, Jitra taught me how to order (and ask for vegan food). Her lessons have come in handy many times since. In case you're curious, it looks like this, phonetically:
a hahn jay khrap, my sai naam pla, my sai naam man hoi.
pure vegetarian food, please--no fish sauce, no oyster sauce
Dinner was super yummy! I had my first of many bowls of tom yum (a spicy mushroom soup), along with lots of stir-fried veggies.
After dinner we walked through a HUGE open-air market. Ted said it's one of the biggest in southeast Asia. It was amazing all the things they had. I took pictures, but unfortunately, it's not so easy to upload them from this Internet usage place, where the computers are old and running Windows 98.
I ate some durian, which is a strange fruit. The flesh of it is kind of stinky and very fatty. The outside is covered with intimidating spikes. Ted said that the natural seed dispersers for durians are tigers, who apparently love to eat them. I also ate some sugar-coated tamarinds and a few samples of raw herbs here and there. So excellent to be where fresh things are so easy to get.
The next day Ana and I headed to Bangkok. Our plan was to see some tourist sights, but instead we ended up walking for most of the day--way more than any of the locals we talked to said they ever would. But walking is the absolute best way to see and learn a city. We saw and smelled so much. Street vendors selling snacks and meals from rolling carts. Tuk-tuks, cabs and scooters galore. We even saw the bloody aftermath of an auto/bus/scooter accident.
In the end it was a good day. We got a feel for Bangkok and I liked it. Sure, it's a dirty, smoggy, hustly, bustly place, but it's so alive. Every little alley was like its own world. One alley we walked down (mistakenly trying for a shortcut) turned out to house many open-air shops where they were making enormous buddhas. The alleys and waterways are among my favorite parts of Bangkok and I could spend days more exploring them.
One of the great things about this trip has been reconnecting with Ted and getting to know his girlfriend, Rachel. They are really super people and we have a lot in common. Ted recently borrowed a guitar, and I've been showing him some things. He plays the harmonica, so we've been jamming when we can and it's a blast. Their little apartment is very cozy and we love staying with them.
On Thursday, we went to Ayuthaya with Ted, but more on that next time I post. Ana and I have been out in the sun and rain today and we're ready to turn in to get an early start tomorrow.
We miss our friends in New Orleans and so many other places. We are taking LOTS of pictures and will be happy to share them with whomever would like to see them when we get home. Thailand is super amazing and we feel super lucky to be here.
Much love to everyone! See you soon! Update you sooner...