Yearly Archives: 2018

Thailand

Esha, Veronica, Colin and I left NYC late on Saturday, December 15 and landed in Bangkok 24 hours later. 

» Lots of Photos

Day 1

  • Walked around to eat, I remember being kind of nervous and pointing at some stuff. I made a couple wrong selections on this first attempt.
  • Went to TEP Bar that night — a great bar in an alleyway. They play traditional Thai music. It wasn’t exactly comfortable, or fun, but a cool experience. 

Day 2

  • Took a boat tour up the river to some temples. The highlight was stopping at another boat with an older lady selling coconuts. I am pretty sure she was related to the driver somehow. She asked, “beer for the driver?” Yes, of course. 
  • Spent the rest of the day touring various temples and the Grand Palace. Everything is like a big craft project where they have hot-glued some decoration to every available surface.
  • Went to a bar (some tables, a cooler, and a pretty rustic cooking setup in the alley) along the riverfront. The proprietor was whistling Christmas music, and picking at his bare feet in between serving us beers. I enjoyed it.

Day 3

  • Flew to Chang Mai in the morning. I was expecting it to be a chilled out hippie paradise, instead it was more like a smaller Bangkok. 
  • Walked around, went to one restaurant and realized it was the wrong one (there’s two Anchons), then went to the real one. Lots of good veggie curries on a 2nd floor. I love a 2nd floor restuarant.
  • Then ate some more some other place. We had lots of recs on account of Laura living there for a while. 
  • Got a massage that night. I didn’t find it all that good. Mine was like 20 min, whereas Esha’s was over an hour. I walked around alone for a while and realized I looked like a creepy white guy, and was getting solicited by sex-workers. So I found one place to sit and wait instead. 
  • Assume we saw lots of temples every day from here on out. 

Day 4

  • Futzed about in town: mango sticky rice, mediocre $3 beard trim, Esha got threaded, went to a market to eat from Cowboy Hat lady’s cart, had a big multi-fish dinner in the back of another restaurant.

Day 5

  • A guy drove us 3 hours up the mountains to Pai. Everyone was nervous about getting car sick, but it was fine. 
  • Rented scooters. Everyone was nervous about dying on the scooters, so we left them at the huts and an old guy drove us around instead. Prob for the best because we would have been scooting for hours along dusty roads.
  • Went to a waterfall where a lot of teens were hanging out, then to town, went to a canyon at sunset, more markets in town again, went to 7-11, had beers at the huts while sorta sitting in this natural hot tub thing behind Veronika’s hut.

Day 6

  • The huts were on this nice plot of land with great views, and a farm next door — meant to be very peaceful. In the morning there was a 5k scheduled for like 7am. so we were woken to the national anthem and megaphone screaming. It was both annoying and comical. 
  • Went to the hot spring that day, one of the best experiences of the entire trip. Quiet, foggy, magical hot water flowing over our bodies.
  • That afternoon, the old guy drove us back down the mountain to Chang Mai airport and we flew south to Krabi.

Day 6

  • We went to Railay beach, which was nice.
  • Walked around to really chill bar on the bayside. My favorite thing to do on vacay is spend a whole afternoon at a bar. I suppose it’s also my fave thing when not on vacay.

Day 7 (xmas eve)

  • We took a ferry over to an island called Ao Nang. It was nice, we sat on the medium-crowded beach all afternoon. I found some beers in the little village. 
  • Asked for a rec for dinner and this lady said someone would pick us up at our hotel at 7:00. We got in the back of this truck and he drove us for like 20 min to a restaurant on a little canal. It was breezy, large, and not many people there. An elderly couple on a stage singing Beetles covers. Turns out this place is where Thais on vacation go. We ordered tons of food and beers and it was all great, and like $60 for all 4 of us.
  • The truck had been waiting for us the whole time, and took us back to the hotel. I was confused and fascinated by this. He didn’t want any money. I later learned that he works for the restaurant.

Day 8 (xmas)

  • Couldn’t really tell it was Christmas when at the beach in Thailand. I felt bad about it for maybe 2 minutes when looking at this sad little tree setup in the hotel. 
  • This day we had booked some tour to James Bond island. The bus never picked us up, so the lady drove us in her car to catch up with the bus. This was the only time we got to talk to a local. She explained how her parents live in a village of and work on the rubber plantation, and she looks forward to going to the village for New Year’s. I got the sense that is like the only big event of the year, and only time people do anything. I asked what was so fun about it, and she said eating. 
  • The tour was OK, but also annoying because it was like 30 other tourists. The gals thought the tour guide was hot.
  • Went back to the same restaurant again (I was eager to ride in the truck again) and sat at the same table, and ordered a little more food than the night before. 

Day 9

  • This day we sprung for our own boat. Overall, it was the best day. This teenager was driving us around to all the little islands where we’d get out and swim a bit, then move on. We were pretty much all alone swimming in beautiful locales.
  • Hong Island beach was really amazing, since it costs a few bucks to get in, a lot less people were there. Eventually we were like, “enough islands!” and headed back.
  • That night, even though we weren’t sick of Thai food, I thought we should venture out. Went to a place called Burger Bung for burgers, and it was terrible. 

Day 10 

  • A van drove us 3 hours up to a Khao Sok, a national park with a giant man-made reservoir. I suspect it’s one of those stories where they razed a bunch of villages to make it. We got on a little boat and headed to Plern Prai Raft House. A floating cabin thing where we stayed for a night. This quiet tour guide guy took us along a hike and showed us a spider. Then we went into a cave and we could touch whatever we wanted and shine flashlights on bats — which seemed wrong. All in all very serene setting.
  • They serve you delicious fried fish, curry, and rice on the floating restaurant. I wondered what the employee’s lives must be like living on a series of floating buildings. They seemed to be getting nice and drunk come early evening.
  • We did more swimming and rowing around the next morning, and flew back to Bangkok.

Day 11

  • Went to the Jim Thompson House Museum. He was a CIA guy that traded silks as a cover and disappeared mysteriously. They say a tiger ate him. Cool house. 
  • Then to some malls to buy silks, it was fun when we found some cool stuff. Esha bought a few yards. We ate our final Thai meals, packed up and left the next day. The mall is where we saw the most locals.
  • We discovered that, in Thailand, all their food is generally fresh and flavorful. But we do have some Thai in NYC that is on par. Now we know.

Great trip in a beautiful land, realizing we did a lot of shuffling about which isn’t my preferred vacay, but it made sense here because we will likely never return.  

Europe

15 day trip —

 Berlin & Frankfurt

West side — really emphasized the stupidity of a border wall.

I was fully expecting to roll my eyes at Berlin. Everyone’s always “Berlin is so libertine and cool and vibey” and all these other red-flag things that usually turn out to be overstated. In spite of that Berlin ended up being our favored city — what we saw was very international and diverse (and vibey and libertine).

You could sense the juxtaposition of history vs. welcomed evolution. Seemed generally affordable for an urban area, and I could envision good quality of life there. (As in, you might not have to work so hard.)

Impressions: Moms pushing babies around, street markets, cold weather cycling, waiting for the walk sign on empty streets, tea-making-classical-music-loving airbnb host, watching neighbors eat dinner in slapstick fashion through courtyard window, spacious apartments, honor-system / on-time trains, smoking in bars (yuck), intense lovers of art.


Flying the drone on a very foggy day. Thankfully only minor damage

Bulletted Impressions:

  • Turkish food was great. Went to two fancy, contemporary German places — good, but not worth it
  • Beers were nice
  • Loads of parks and outdoor areas. Told it really goes off in the summer
  • German Historical Museum was excellent. A linear, focused presentation of the country’s history. I needed another hour there, but they were closing up
  • Spent a couple days in Frankfurt (while Esha attended a tradeshow). The Städel was a worthwhile art museum (they had a good app, and the only contemporary art I saw on the continent). Otherwise, Frankfurt was not an interesting destination. Terrible food

» More Germany photos

Paris

Remainder of our time was in Paris. This was Esha’s focus and thankfully she had prepared the itinerary. City-wide there was a high level of craftsmanship and general olde time artisan-y relics. I got to wondering if the average carpenter there had to be so much more skilled? Even the museums were very stylish and moody (sometimes too dark). After a while, you’d kind of get tired of seeing the same stone building and old churches everywhere you go.

The food was generally on a higher baseline — although I was surprised that many of the rec’d bistros had laminated menus, unchanged for years. A few newish places tried a bit harder. Next time we won’t be so dedicated to French staples … as in Germany, the best eats were Turkish sandwiches from the markets. Rarely saw chicken or crafty cocktails on the menus. My favorite place was a little bar preserved from the 60s with a handsome after work crowd, and the accompanying bistro across the street. I went back a couple times.

Pond at the Hameau de la Rein — fake rustic village at Versailles

Spent a Sunday at Versailles. Booked their King’s apartments tour, which was really nice and took us into some off-limit rooms. I’m totally sold on tours when available. After walking at least 10mi that day, Esha convinced us to get over to the far corner of the property to see the The Hameau de la Rein, which ended up being my favorite part of the day. Pleased to see a lot of families hanging out and riding bikes in the gardens.

Versaille garden at dusk

Impressions: everyone smokes, sits outside year around, healthier looking elderly population, waiter seems to be a normal career track, same stores as NYC, aggressive traffic, beat the crowds by seeing all the tourist stuff in the off-season, got a haircut and it was the only time US politics came up … thankfully it didn’t seem to consume them as much it does us, they recognize that trump is an idiot and don’t understand it at all either

  • Louvre was better / less annoying than anticipated
  • Hunting Museum was a true surprise
  • Would be a nice place to experience daily life — I’d be interested in spending time with a project to work on like all them old writers
  • Limited beers on offer, and the wine wasn’t as cheap as I’d hoped
  • Overall, everything was a bit too pricey
  • Walked 7–10 mi every day
  • Plenty of bread

» More Paris photos

The entire trip I was further reminded about how little I know of world history. Seemed a bit scary that nearly everyone spoke English, and you really only heard American music. We’d take an uber to a plane, get off, order another uber. Used our phone for directions, recommendations, translation when necessary, and to get the news we were hoping to get away from for a little bit.