Homeward Bound

Even before I left for the airport, I knew my flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles was delayed by an hour and a half. I checked Northwest’s website, looking for the minimum connect times. With my flight from Los Angeles leaving at 10:15, and my Tokyo flight scheduled to arrive at 9:25, was I going to clear customs, immigration and security in time to make my flight.

When I checked in at the counter, I asked the friendly agent what she thought. She checked some things in the system, looking for options that would get me to Newark without too much difficulty. In the end, the only option that worked was Continental’s nonstop. A few phone calls, some printouts, additional phone calls, and some stamps, and I was on my way to the other terminal to check in for a new flight that would bring me home 4 hours earlier than scheduled.

Thank you, Makiko.


Tokyo Night

Auld Lang Syne was following me.

I stopped in to the HMV in Shibuya across from the restaurant where Kien and I had a late dinner. The meal was not without incident, but the staff was friendly and apologized repeatedly. As we split up after dinner, I decided to do my CD shopping so that I wasn’t rushing around in the morning.

I wandered about, checking out the various listening posts for the latest Japanese pop, rock and punk music. In the background, music hummed as I mixed among the many teens and twentysomethings crowding the store floor at 10:30 pm on a Saturday night.

I had nearly finished picking out the CDs I was to buy when the background music finally broke through: It was Auld Lang Syne. Floored by the decision to play a repetitive, monotonous song that celebrates the New Year at the end of February, I figured it was time for me to head back to the hotel. I paid for my purchases and ducked out, not wanting to deal with the blank stares at the counter by trying to ask the reason an HMV, with plenty of decent and good music, was playing that lousy song.

After a crowded train ride back to Shinjuku, I walked down the street that led to my hotel, the shuttle bus having long since stopped. The air was cool but not cold, the night peaceful on the relatively quiet street.

And then I heard it again. Auld Lang Syne, emanating from the entrance to a shopping plaza on my right. I picked up my pace when suddenly a sharp pain seared through my left knee. Limping onward, I feld to the hotel as quickly as possible.

Soon, I was covered in a dreamless sleep, with no Auld Lang Syne to be found.


Back in Bangkok

Lek (I think that’s what her name tag said) suggested I try the mango and sticky rice dessert. No doubt I looked confused for a second as I pondered the susggestion.

“It’s a traditional Thai dessert,” she continued. “Not too heavy, you should be able to finish it.”

What the hell, I thought. “Ok.”

A few minutes later she was back with a plate. Slices of mangos arranged in two rows on one side, a clump of white rice on the other. The sticky rice lived up to its name, with a slimy, sticky texture. The mangos were sweet, wonderful specimens that were no doubt picked fresh just recently, like all the other fruit I’d had in Thailand.

I was finishing up a late dinner my last night in Bangkok. I’d just come from Siam Paragon, the off-the-hook shopping monstrosity. An aquarium in the basement, exhibition space, a bowling alley, and movie theatre on the top floor, and several floors of shopping in between, there’s probably nothing you could want that couldn’t be found there.

I had just finished picking up a few last minute items after spending the afternoon wandering around Wat Pho and the Grand Palace. The Emerald Buddha at the Grand Palace was a sight to behold, perched atop a large shrine that rose nearly to the ceiling, lights pointed all around. The spectators that entered were awed instantly, staring intently and prostrating themselves before the image of the Buddha to show their respect. I stood for a time, watching and admiring.

The night before I first adventured to Siam Paragon, where the Bangkok film festival was holding multiple movie screens each day. I took in a late showing of Revolver, a Guy Ritchie film. In uniquely Thai fashion, the audience was greeted with the Thai national Anthem in place of dancing soda and popcorn. The audience rose for the playing. For one of the nicest theatres I’d ever been in, with a large soda, I spent about 200 Baht (about $5).

After three hours sleep Friday night, I woke up to catch my flight to Japan.


More on Telecom

Susan Crawford makes a point on unbundling similiar to mine.


Back Up

Now that I’m back home, I was able to get the site back up.


Shout Out

Flyertalkers show up in the most unexpected places. To that point, let me give a shout out to GPS123 (I think that was his handle), whom I met while riding the elevator down to the lobby as I was leaving the Sheraton in Chiang Mai this morning.


More Items from the Day

Today was a full day of fun. It began with a morning tour out to one of the elephant camps on the edge of Chiang Mai, where tourists (including me) congregate to see elephants bathe, play, and generally obey whatever commands their mahout gives them. It was actually a phenomenal show. That everything was done nonverbally throughout made the whole experience kind of trippy.

The afternoon I “rented” a private car with a driver to take me around the area to the four most important “wats”. I’m always taken away by the serenity of buddhist temples combined with the phenomenal carving and architecture. What made the experience especially nice here is that there were so many monks and monks in training around. Some of the dedication to these kinds of traditions are waning in other parts of Asia. When the one monk stopped reading his book to check out one of the ladies walking around, though, I had to stiffle a giggle.

English has become very important here, with children beginning to learn the language as early as kindergarten through second grade. In fact, while I was checking out one of the temples, a gaggle of elementary school girls accosted me to ask me a series of questions in English about where I was from, what I was doing in Chiang Mai, and the like. I give the teacher credit, that is a great assignment to give a class to do.

Dinner was at this chill place called “The House”, with some really good food and phenomenal atmosphere. And the tuk-tuk ride around the streets of Chiang Mai at night is an experience worth having even if you have nowhere in particular to go. Those have to be one of the greatest forms of transportation ever. So what if you feel like you’re going to die as you careen around the streets. It’s still a blast!

That my bags arrived today only piled on to the good news, so now I can finally have some clothes to wear and a chance to really freshen up (i.e. shave). And the surprise of having a birthday cake sitting in my hotel room when I got back from dinner was just the icing on the cake, so to speak.

With the day having turned out so well, it’s almost a shame to have to head back to Bangkok tomorrow.


Items of Interest

Having bumbled around for a few days now, there are really a few things that have struck me about Thailand that I wasn’t expecting.

  • Smoking is not that common here relative to some cities I’ve been. It may be that it is common, it’s just not seen as much. But when I think about how Bangkok banned smoking indoors in some places back in 2002, it amazes me considering back in NJ the smoking ban won’t take effect until April.
  • The roads in Chiang Mai feel like they’re in better shape than the roads back in NJ. It must be easier when you don’t have a winter, but really, NJ, you’ve GOT to fix the transportation fund.
  • Women work, and work quite a bit here it seems. I wasn’t sure what the breakdown would be, but from what I’ve read and heard women are generally well educated and active outside the home.
  • Thai women riding motorcycles (a very common sight here) is really freakin’ hot. 🙂

What’s That Place Called

Cook College has been debating what to change its name to as a result of the reorganization of undergraduate education at Rutgers. My favorite paragraph of the story was as follows:

“I’m not going to speak of which way to go, one way or the other, but the student perspective is that we don’t want our name to be changed at all,” said Cook College Council member Chris Bylone, a senior. “Just like Harvard and Yale have one name and are known for something, Cook is known for something right now. We are known across the country as Cook, so why change something that is good?”

Trust me when I tell you that on the name recognition scale, Cook College is not in the same league as Harvard or Yale.


Just So You Know

I just want to be clear. I’ve actually been eating Thai food here in Thailand. I can be a pretty picky eater, but the food’s been pretty good and relatively close to what I’d get at the Thai restaurants around Somerville. Which is shocking, really, because whoever would expect to find authentic Asian cuisine in a dinky place like Somerville?