Thailand… Bangkok (Day 2) Monks, Temples, Scams, Oh My! (Part 2)

4 02 2010

I’ll give you some of the good stuff first. Welcome to Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace. Absolutely Beautiful!

Wat Phra Kaew

Temple Tour

Almighty Chedi

The Greeter

Like what you see above? Want more pics? You’ll get a few more below but the best way to get a lot more awesome pics like these is to get on a plane and see Thailand for yourself! The most expensive thing will be your ticket, after that the sky is the limit.

Gilt!

Getting back to the adventures of Chica Negro and “The Ugly American,” zipping along in the tuk-tuk, I’m feeling good.  I don’t mind going to the scam gem spot for its time literally to pay the piper.  It’s almost 11 am, right when the place where you can borrow appropriate gear is “opening.”  I figure ten minutes more, after the gem spot and we’d be back at the Royal Palace.  Once we reach the gem spot, everything’s sparkling and pretty but the designs are mediocre.  I tell the “The Ugly American,” “Stay right behind me and do what I do.”   I quickly  peruse the place with ease.  “Gem experts” in black suits all attentively swoon towards me and “The Ugly American” hoping to catch interest.  I politely decline and start for the door, I open it and don’t feel “The Ugly American’s” presence on my back, he is at a display case pointing at something.  My heart sinks.

“I want to buy you those sapphire earrings” he says. ” The Thai guy at Wat Saket said sapphires are auspicious this year. ” “Yeah,” I thought, “the guy at Wat Saket also lives in Queens, NYC and may be in on the scam, you fool.”  Then I said to myself, “Be nice, he’s trying to do something really nice.”  My gut kept tugging at me to just grab him and leave but I relented.  I’m not a big jewelry person, I barely wear earrings but Hell, if you want to but me sapphires, by all means.  I try them on, they’re pretty.  I like them but I love the matching ring the salesgirl slips on my ring finger while I’m not looking.  Somehow it looks much more dramatic on my finger than in my ears, but the main problem, it’s a fucking ring.  A no go.  Bad news due to me and “The Ugly American’s” prior history.  You see for me, it’s just a ring, for him there are strings, long, thick tentacles that would take a bulldozer to break.  I turn and say, “Forget about this, let go.”  He doesn’t leave.  He’s now negotiating prices and looking at the gems through a loop.  My initial glee turns to dread. ” I’m ready to go, please let’s go.”  After another 30-45 minutes of haggling, he lands the price he wants, I’m a little sick and he pulls out his Amex card.  Decline.  then the Visa. Decline.  Then the other Visa.  Decline, Decline, Motherfuckin Decline.  My eyes get big for I realize that “The Ugly American” did not call his card companies to let them know he’d be travelling abroad…like I suggested.  Up until this point, we’d been paying for everything with Baht.

Worship in the center

Golden Beauty

Temple Profile

The last time I was in this situation was with my high school sweetheart more than ten years ago and it was my first trip to London, actually it was my first trip outside the US ever.  He was “treating” me to London.  We land at Heathrow.  First thing he goes to get cash from the ATM machine, it declines, and declines, and declines.  I say, “Try another card” and he says, “that’s the only one I have.”  He had no other cash reserves on him, just one ATM card.  Needless to say, it was over from that point, actually way before that, but poor thing didn’t have any common sense and I was livid.  While definitely not the same situation, for in Thailand, we both had lots of cash reserve, I personally never travel broke, whether someone is treating or not.  Mama didn’t raise no fool.  Even in London, I took up the slack but like I said it was soooooooo O-V-E-R.

Mini Chedi Mount

“The Ugly American” is demanding that the salesclerks call the credit card companies.  “there are no balances, there shouldn’t be a problem!”  This, I know, is true.  The man does pay his bills and has an excellent credit score, but my annoyance still raged.  “Why aren’t we at the temples?  Why are we stuck in a jewelry store wasting time!  If you want to buy me something, buy me a ticket back here for all the time we are wasting!  Let’s go!  Another 45 minutes passes, as the clerks scramble to help “The Ugly American” with his credit card troubles so they can proceed with the sale.  I’m sick, he’s insane.  In the meanwhile they are bringing us the local beer to keep us calm.  I sip politely, I don’t drink beer.  Tastes like piss.  “The Ugly American” is slurping it down like Diet Coke.  1 beer …2 beers …3 beers… 4, I make my stand because now it’s been 2 hours and I quietly lose my patience, I shutdown the salesclerks and I grab him and say, “Obviously this is not meant to be, let’s go.  Either way, I’m leaving with or without you!”  Afraid of not finding his way back, “The Ugly American,” sheepishly and a little drunkenly walks with me towards the door.  Finally WE ARE FREE!!!

Warrior Pose

We jump into the tuk-tuk and the driver zips away.  I feel relived until the driver pulls up somewhere else other than the Royal Palace.  “Thai Silk” he says shyly, for he senses my irritation.  I know its not his fault.  I tell the “The Ugly American” to stay in the tuk-tuk, of course he follows me, afraid of me going in anywhere by myself.  I shake my head.  We walk in and there are bolts of fabric lining the walls, samples of silk suits and dresses on mannequins and clothing design books everywhere.  I peep the downward step that leads to multiple rooms that pull you further into the establishment.  I idle by the door while “The Ugly American” is bragging about his suits he got made in India and tries to one up the salesperson.  Just like in a car accident, I see “The Ugly American” start walking briskly into the entrance where the multiple rooms lie and not watching his step, falls violently to the ground…face first. WIPEOUT!   The huge thump!  The slow motion action of it all.  The $3000 Canon camera from around his neck goes flying through the air.  The $700 wide angle lens cracks on impact.  I just stand there.  Me saying, “Watchout, look down!” right before the crash landing had no effect and yes once he hit the ground, I just stood there.  Four Thai silk salesmen rushed to his aid.  I turned around and went to the bathroom.  Again I was done.

The Grounds

The Grounds II

The Grounds III

Riding towards the Royal Palace in the tuk-tuk was a scary time for “The Ugly American,” for he saw my face, he knew what I was capable of, he knew he blew it.  Apologizing over and over, he only fueled the fire that made me want to punch him in the neck.  I was livid, tired and emotionally spent.  What if he had been really hurt?  I shuddered at the thought of spending all of time in a hospital instead of exploring Thailand.  I was angry that he even put me in that position.  Sounding selfish, am I? Hell yes, we are all grown folks here.  I’m not a fucking babysitter.  I am silent til we get to Wat Phra Kaew.

We arrive.  I pay the tuk-tuk driver double our fare.  He smiles brightly and looks hopefully at the “The Ugly American” for he sees my disdain.  Once we go into the entrance, I turn to “The Ugly American” and suggest that we go our separate ways for the afternoon and he’s actually surprised that I would suggest such a thing but quickly relents.  As he walks away he complains about how hot the sun is, but of course it is, it’s 1:30 in the afternoon.  Peak time for sun, what I was trying to avoid for his sake.  Once he’s gone I dial up my best friend Andrew, to calm me down, who quick as a whip replies, “Wow, I’m surprised you haven’t shanked in his sleep yet!”  After giving me a pep talk, Andrew simply advises, “Look, haven’t you been in this shit before?  Keep it movin” and that exactly what I do!

The Chocolate Chedi





Thailand… Bangkok (Day 2) Monks, Temples, Scams, Oh My! (Part 1)

3 02 2010

Wat Saket

I wake up at 5 am Fri morning.  this is one of the last concepts of time and space I’ll have on this trip other than to catch planes, trains and buses.  I want to see the Buddhist monks collect their “alms” or “offerings” from the Thai people when they walk through the Bangkok streets with their stainless steel bowls that will contain the only meal that they will consume all day.  The morning street vendors are setting up and I find a building perch to sit and wait for the procession to start.

It’s 5:43 am.  I see my first monk, walking briskly towards me.  He was draped in layers of gold muslin-like fabric sloping at a diagonal across his body.  His steps were drunken-like and syncopated, as if he had too many rum and cokes at the expat bar, O’Reilly’s, down the street.  His face was cortorted and twisted as if possessed.  At first, he continued to walk pass me totally oblivious to my presence until he did a double take of sorts, looked back at me with a “WTF” expression as if to say, “What you doing here, Africa?  He held gaze for another half a second and kept it moving.  Wish I had that on video cause that was just real.

Tired of this Shit!

Further along in my trip, I realize that the Thai people are used to white people showing up in their country exploring and enjoying everything Thailand has to offer.  They don’t exactly know how to react to people of color, though.  You get this gist from the quizzical look on their faces when they encounter you.  You certainly get a feeling that the women are pressured to be white due to the vicious advertisement of skin lightening creams everywhere.  Damn, is there anyplace on this planet, where black folks are loved???   Most Thais are my complexion, caramel brown, so they are “colored people” themselves.  I found in some cases, Michael being a white American and I, being an African-American, we were treated slightly different.  I found while all Thais excused “The Ugly American’s” retarded behavior, I wasn’t given as much leeway, nor did I want it.  Oh and by the way, that whole smiling all the time shit that the guidebooks tell ya is overdoing it if you’re of color.  Be polite.  Be patient.  Smile when it’s warranted otherwise you look like a fool.  For me the constant smiling was an open invite to be scammed.  Thais are very friendly but they are also human.  There are good Thais and bad Thais just like everywhere else.  I tried that constant smiling shit for one day and the only time I really got consistent smiles back was when mofo’s were taking my money.  With Michael, they were constantly grinning him up, but they saw him as a giant dollar sign with two legs, I’d be grinning if he came my way too if I were Thai.   But as with most things, the rules are different.  I get that.  There you go.  The end.

Green Curry!

I get my monk sighting fill for the morning and start to saunter along the morning food stalls.  I pick up my green curries filled bamboo shoots, green peppers, chicken all suspended in a spicy coconut milk broth with a side of sticky rice, some crispy shrimp patties and last but not least the best street made cappuccino that would make Starbucks shudder in shame.  I double up the order for “The Ugly American” is still asleep at the hostel.  All this for a mere $2.50 American.  I eat and “The Ugly American” slowly wakes to a hot and steamy breakfast.  We agree to knock out some major temples today and I alert him that he must be properly dressed (Shoulders and legs covered).  He nods in acknowledgement and continues to slurp his breakfast.

While I’m not a big museum, church or cathedral phile, I found myself completely drawn to many of the temples sprawled throughout Bangkok.  I don’t know if it’s all the glitter and gold, or maybe it’s all the flowers and incense, but these “Wats” or “temples” were just calling me at every turn.

I set out to visit “Wat Phra Kaew” home of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace (where kings lived until Rama V moved the royal residences to Dusit Palace Park.)  I know the rules before I go, shoulders and legs must be covered for women.  I stress a little because I’m wearing a sleeveless dress and realized while on the way to the temple my best travel chocolate merino wool Longchamp $300 sweater (bought at $30) is not in my bag.  I’m also too distracted to notice that Michael has put on shorts despite my early morning dress code warning.  It’s only 83 degrees and it’s not humid at all.  I sigh but I remember from the guidebook that inappropriately dressed guests can borrow proper clothing on site, while I know it’s a little gross, I’m secretly relived at the thought that there will be no hiccups with our palace visit.  Or so I think.

Once we get there, it’s a tourist explosion.  It’s 9 am and people are swarming everywhere.  I heard a myriad of languages being spoken around me, Dutch, French, Mandarin, English and of course Thai.  Since it is open grounds outside, I wanted to get there before high noon and two, when the sun is at its highest peak.  As soon as we walk up, we are approached by an “unofficial” employee of the Grand Palace who instructs us that we are not properly dressed and that the clothes center to borrow garment doesn’t open until 11am.  I shrug my shoulders and start to walk across the street to buy something to cover up with.  I already smell the scam and start to walk away but Michael, like a fly to shit, stays right there with the guy and gets talked into a 30Baht= $0.89 tuk-tuk ride around to two other tourist spots and of course to a gem and jewelry wholesaler who only having an additional 20% sale on precious pieces involving sapphires, rubies and anything else to your liking.  I actually go willingly for the two sites that the “unofficia”l guy wants to send us to is on my list and I know how to play the tourist game.  I’ll see my sights first then I’ll look at your gems, listen to your pitch and politely walk straight out spending only 5-10 minutes there.  Pay my 30 Baht with a great tip and keep it moving, but you know it didn’t go that way with the Ugly American, right.  That would be just waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too simple.

30 Baht Tuk-Tuk

So we jump into the tuk-tuk and zip away.  Our driver was very pleasant and was sincere in his apologies for being in casual gear as he drove.  I didn’t think nothing of it.  He started to tell us of how he overslept this morning and just threw on the first thing he saw, a very fashionable t-shirt and jeans.  He was great!  So friendly, so sweet, so sincere, really!  It was fun, like being on a flat bed motorcycle.  We dodge any traffic being so compact and nimble.  After a very entertaining 15 minutes we arrive at Wat Saket and Golden Mount, by far one of my most favorite places in Bangkok.

On the way to Golden Mount

Golden Mount is a magicial place.  The views of Bangkok are magnificient and the winding staircase to what it seems like is heaven, delivers the consistant presence of Buddhist monks in their cayenne pepper colored robes quietly going about their business.  It’s so peaceful here.  I wanted to do an offering for Haiti.  So when I kneeled and started to pray, I wasn’t prepared for the overwheling feeling I got.  It was as if I was in a trance.  I have always had a problem mediatating for it is quite diffucult for me to quiet the mind but here my mind my clear and my prayer was felt.  I don’t know whether it was the incense, the flowers, or the other souls around me, but Golden Mount is such a sacred place in my heart for I was able to speak directly with Buddha that day.  There was a connection.  Whew, I know this is deep but this is what happened.  I was dizzy when I finally stood up but I was happy about being alive.  I was happy to be in this place.  I was happy it is not as popular a “tourist” destination as many of the other sites and temples.   Though only open during the day, I would have loved to be here at night when only candles were lit and the monks say their evening prayer.  Needless to say, I will go back to kneel before Buddha again soon.  By the time we left Golden Mount and continued onto Wat Saket, which was next door, I felt at ease.  Our friendly driver was patiently waiting for us.  I thought quietly that maybe participating in this scene was actually the best idea “The Ugly American” came up with.  I relaxed for a moment as the beauty continued.  If only the feeling lasted.  See you you in “Thailand… Bangkok (Day 2) Monks, Temples, Scams, Oh My! (Part 2).

Here’s a small pictorial of our visit:

Welcome to Golden Mount!

Monk in Motion!

Heavenly Path

Friendly Monk!

The Actual Mount

Warm Welcome

Golden Deities

Worship

Praying for Haiti

Behold Buddha!





Thailand… Bangkok (Day 1) Silom is Bangkok’s version of Downtown Brooklyn and me likey!

2 02 2010

I could go through the ardous details of the two legged 24 hour NYC to Bangkok, Thailand flight with the freezing yet exhilirating overnight layover in Beijing, China, but we can chew on that later.  I know what you want.  You want “B” and her halo.  You wanna hear how she put a ring on it, or should I say, how she got me to commit so soon.  Let’s jump right into explain her seductive arts, shall we?

Welcome to Thailand!

We finally arrived in Bangkok and we have lost a day and a half from our original arrival time having arrived at about 8pm.  Driving into Bangkok proper, she is for the lack of a better term, unimpressive, for the city is not lit up like a Christmas tree like Vegas or NYC.  A few choice buildings displays video and neon lights but for the most part dim and unexpressive.  That’s why I needed to get to the hostel, drop these bags off and walk the streets.

A hostel, CLT?  Yes, a hostel.  For those of you who either don’t know what this is, please look it up for quick reference.  I would explain now however to much to cover and for the snobs opposed to this concept, I’ll have you know that I have enjoyed many a hostel!  Many hostels, including the one I owned in Brooklyn, give the same, if not better,  clean accommodation, complimentary amenities and wonderful services than most five-star joints.  Plus you can’t beat the price!  But don’t get it twisted either, I’m good for a five-star or specialty hotel that gets it!  I guess you can say, I’m a woman who appreciates both extremes.  Plus, since the layover in Beijing made us miss a day, my booking of two days at $50 and get a third day free, was not done in vain.  This was for a deluxe room with a queen sized bed and private bathroom.  I looked at it as $33 a day, which is a lot for Thailand, but note when you’re travelling alone,  dorm rates are as low as $10 USD.  I felt validated for the layover actually exposed us to the realities of China for a minute, we were fed well and put up by Air China in a decent hotel.  Win/win all around.

Sala Daeng Station, Silom

John, one of my China layover buddies asked me, “Why did you book downtown?”  The honest answer is that I looked at the map of Bangkok and tried to pick a center point to which I’d have access to everything.  When we got there I understood what he meant, it wasn’t in the middle of all the temples, but surprisingly I was happy about my choice.  Downtown Silom is Bangkok’s version of Downtown Brooklyn and me likey!  Highly commercial, lots of banks and business centers, Mickey D’s, Starbucks, lots of traffic, but more importantly a major hub for both the MRT subway and the Skytrain at “Sala Daeng/Silom”  Chaos, confusion, busy, crowded, just real.  I felt comfortable instantly.

Sidekick Reference- I had a sidekick on this trip and he’s name is Michael or as I will lovingly refer to him, “the Ugly American.”  Always unaware of his surroundings, bad at both street directions and following any type of direction, loud, nutso when insecure about an unknown location or  situation, needs Xanax for any plane ride, I could go on and on, Mike is the worse traveller I know.  Mike was struggling as he always does with change.  Any change.  We are total complete opposites when it comes to travel.  So why do I take him along?  Because with the various shaneagans that he exposes himself to, or should I say us to, I have had some of the most gratifying and horrifying experiences during my travels with him.  His daily goings on would make excellent reality television.   But he has survived a lot of unruly circumstances, so I figure, God and luck are on his side and in travel you need as much of both as you can get.

Bangkok or Brooklyn?

Checked in to HQ hostel and ran into the streets.  Free at last!  We started to walk feverishly to get a hold of the sounds and the smells.  I also tried to take in all the reference points I could, all the easily identifiable markers that would guide me from the train station back to the hostel.  I can’t follow the building and house numbers for they are not in order.  Bangkok addresses are written like this: 5/3-4 Soi Silom 3, (this is the address of our hostel).  I could go into explaining what all this means, but to be honest, it has been explained to me a couple of times and I still haven’t gotten it.  All I know the moment someone explains that the building numbers are given according to when the building was erected as opposed to any type of numerical order, my eyes start to glaze over in defeat.  This is like Brooklyn for, point blank, the streets need to be memorized.  This will take time.  I accept this fact and we continue to forge ahead.

Thai Food Stall

Our mission was to have our first meal on the streets immediately.  I read enough guidebooks and had done enough research to know that it was not only safe to eat from the street, it was highly recommended as opposed to finding a restaurant and being secluded from what was going on.  No, we walked until we saw a street food stall full of Thais, slurping down brothy mixtures of chicken, noodles, bamboo shoots and herbs.  All Thais doctor up their food with extra condiments such as spicy, chili sauce, fish sauce, even more dry chili peppers, and sugar that are offered on every table or takeaway pouch.  I squeal with delight at the sight of spicy, hot food.  I am a decendant of Bahamian people who chew on hot peppers, seeds and all with no fuss.  For me, I like everything Africa hot.  For “the Ugly American,” the fear of heartburn and heat loomed like a rain cloud ready to storm but surprisingly, he was just as excited as I was.  We plopped down on plastic chairs street side and started to engage in the local fare.

A classic tuk-tuk!

Street side eating  is a matter of trust and hope.  You are literally, in many cases, sitting in oncoming traffic, holding on to a skewer or spoon, nearly sideswiped by buses, taxis, motorcycles and tuk-tuks, which are the cutest motorized version of a rickshaw.  They are fast, convenient and sometimes the quickest way to get from point to point within a neighborhood.  But even these little buggers will give you some elbow room from your table when they see you enjoying a bowl of liquid pleasure.  Thais are polite and gracious.  They understand what it is a enjoy your food.  This is a culture that eats 6-8 times a day and hardly no one is obese.  The key?  Three pork satays while walking, then 2 hours later a bowl of Pad Thai there, then you walk to your spot, and so on, and so on.

While sitting and eating happily , my eyes devour the rows upon rows of massage parlors in Silom.  Most in my opinion supply both legitimate services and the famous “happy ending” scenario.  While the front of all the places show row after row of people getting their feet rubbed, there are hidden rooms and sections that can accomodate any pleasure requested.  Most open 8am til 2 am.  Most are clean enough, you really don’t see filth like you do in NYC, so you are encourged to engage.  No appointment needed.  Your average no fuss Thai massage cost 250Baht= $7.50 USD for an hour foot rub, thai massage, head massage, you name it.  Keep in mind this is at the no frills place along the street.  Thailand houses a plethora of spa options for every type of person.  Thailand is the birthplace of the spa concept, so I plan to engage in every tier of the healing arts.  There’s even a 5 story mall dedicated to spa and beauty services and products!  I’m in heaven.

After we eat, I elect to engage in a 2 hour oil massage which cost me a paltry 450 Baht= $13.50 USD.  My therapist is an older, experienced woman, who was pretty good at her craft.  My only complaint was that the place was FREZZING!  When you’re butt naked on the table and it feels like 12 degrees in your room, it’s difficult to really enjoy the service.  I let her know about my discomfort but since we are cornered off by a door but the ceiling is exposed to the rest of the space, there wasn’t much she could do.  “Tourists like cold” she says shaking her head as if saying what I was thinking, “What pussies!!!”  It’s January, in Bangkok, it was only 82 degrees outside.  Just like I said about the food, “I love it HOT!”  “The Ugly American” is off in his corner getting his feet rubbed.  I say to him, “Hey, do your thang, you know, that happy ending thing guys talk about all the time.” he looked at me horrified as if to say, ” I’m not going to do that” and I say ” Dude have your fun… hey, do you want me to pick her out for you?”  At that point, he was through with me.  It this point, you must be thinking, CLT, what is that about?  My answer to you is that I have a liberal attitude about physical acts when done safely, period.  For me, relationships are all about where the loyalties lie.  It is the intimacies of a relationship, a commitment of minds that I’m more into but we can get into that another time.   Me and the “Ugly American” are friends so it should’nt have been a big deal anyway.   My concerns for “The Ugly American” were more practical than emotional.  Just be smart.  Cover it up or even better, pull a Bill Clinton.  Observe body cavities, oral and otherwise, check for anything funny.  I giggle cause when confronted he’s sheepish and embarrassed but I’m no fool, cause if I WASN’T there…

Satay on a stick!

After our lovely treatments, we sunder back to the hostel, bumping into satay stalls along the way, sticking as many hunks of tender dark meat into our mouths (forgive the pun), savoring that thin, sweet top layer of skin first, as we can.  We go into the local 7/11, which by the way is EVERYWHERE in Bangkok, to buy some spirits only to be told that we are past the curfew for alcohol.  It was like 1am and we were still drunk off the massages and had the “itis” from all the satays.  I forgot that Thailand has some limits (though quite reasonable) and is still a religious place.  We accept this fact, load up and some needed liters of water and stagger home into a satay induced coma.  Tomorrow- Monks, temples, scams, oh my!





Thailand… Are you ready to go with me? Ok, GO!

1 02 2010

Seaview Everyday

It is 4:26 a.m in NYC.  I’m in a hazy, groggy state.  I’ve been back in the US for a couple days and I am severely jetlagged.  Underneath all that, there is a yearning, a gnawing in my gut.  I want to blame the present state of sleepyness and craving for Thai cuisine to which I have become accustomed, but it’s something more than that.

I want to go back to Thailand.

I’ve been dreaming of it from the moment I left.  Wrong, I was plotting my return before I left.  Not only because I miss the consistant 90 degrees of the sultry sun or the plenty of hot, spicy curries that tickled my belly every morning,  I want to go back to that place because it has more of an understanding of me, than I do of myself.  They get this “quality of life” thing I always talk about and have mastered it.  Thailand has seduced me to the point where I can not concentrate much on anything else, so as I recall the path I have just taken, please take my words like they are coming from a young teenage girl who is in love head over heels for the first time in her life.

Phuket Horizon

The scene you encountered above is in Rawai, Phuket.  Beautiful, yes?  During the second half of my trip this is what I woke up to … every morning.  An extraordinary sea view, nature and stillness (Stillness interrupted by the unintentional clanging of cups filled with green tea, thanks Michael, but you still get the point ).  Birds chirping, palm trees swaying, and warm breezes are all what many people crave when they visit “exotic” locales such as this.  But I am different and I am considered insane by many Thais when I say that I prefer the city.  While I loved walking around half-naked on a private beach in Phuket everyday, it is the city of Bangkok that is stuck in my craw.  I would sit on the beach wondering what was going on at my favorite night market or craving the smell of incense and lilies from Golden Mount.  I missed walking past the ladyboys in the mist of night, we both sizing each other up with ultimate approval and understanding.  I missed my 5 am morning jont through Silom, watching the vendors set up their one of many satay stalls getting ready for the breakfast rush.

HRH Welcomes you!

I missed the constant display and huge photographic billboards of the king gently raising he hand as if to say, “Welcome.”  In Phuket, I was “trapped” at a luxury five-star resort… I know,  tough life right?  It was tucked away from the daily goings on of Thai life I was fortunate enough to witness  in Bangkok.  Sure, I needed a break from sightseeing but I also need to roam the city streets and people watch and old tourist guys with big pooch bellies in speedos are not what I’m looking for.  Bangkok is one of the first places ever in my travels that I still can’t really tell you how to get from point A to point B by walking and following signs because I didn’t follow the signs (both in English and in Thai), I followed my heart.

Like her handsome and ultimately most powerful cousin, New York, I am smitten with Bangkok.  Most people are afraid of her and actually ache for her less stressful immediate family members, Chiang Mai (popular with the locals) or Phuket (popular with the tourists).  But I absolutely dig Bangkok, for like New York, she is the charismatic leader, the provider, the center of the Thai world.  While “The real City of Angels” seems like she is sleeping after midnight, there is always something simmering somewhere inside her.   Unlike New York, she is softer in approach but just as strong in spirit.  She has a noble “raison d’être” accepted by all the people who both live and visit this amazing city.  While Bangkok and Thailand overall seems to cater to men and their wills, it’s is run by the sensibilities of women.  Don’t understand?  I will explain more throughly as we progress further together.

Bangkok Bells

It’s not that I don’t dig Chiang Mai, Phuket, Koh Samet and other fabulous places in Thailand, for I do.  I also need more time to explore them.  You need at least a month in Thailand alone to feel somewhat full and satisfied.  Chiang Mai is especially beloved by most Thais for it is peaceful, slower, and cheaper.  Chiang Mai is the country to Bangkok’s city.  Oh, and before I get ahead of myself, let me add that Thailand is the “first” country I have visited in Southeast Asia.  I still have to visit Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Maldives, Singapore, Indonesia, and on and on and on, so I leave myself poetic justice to change my opinion however I don’t think I’m gonna. When you know, you know.  FYI-I will be going back to Southeast Asia for the spring for a two month minimum to check out some of those countries I just quoted.

In her book, “Commited,” Elizabeth Gilbert quotes her husband’s Phillipe little saying that has big meaning for me, “Me da um camtinho,” which means in Brazilian, “Give me a little corner.”  That has been my mantra for quite sometime.  New York is my ultimate corner however I’m a universal square, meaning that I have a four corner requirement.  Buenos Aires is another soft place for me to land.  He is my secret South American lover.  Most would think from the way to speak of Rio de Janiero, he would be the first runner-up in this category but alas Brazil and my birthplace Miami are almost cousins, too similar, too incestial in many cases but don’t get it twisted, I love Rio more.   Unlike NYC, who is my boyfriend, Buenos Aires, who is my lover, Bangkok can be my best girlfriend.  A relief, a resolve, a refuge.  Quite safe and honorable, sometimes smiling through gritted teeth at my hereditary hot-headness but understanding and inviting me to learn what it is to be Thai.  Cool, calm, collected.

So hopefully, you are relaxed by this scene and you can come on this journey with me.   While my giddiness is still prevalent, I still can let you know what the real deal is here for it is not perfect.  It’s pretty close though.

But for the most part, I think I’ve found my third corner.  Let’s go back to Thailand, shall we?





Thailand Bound… I’m out

12 01 2010

Thailand Bound!





Jetsetter… M-I-A from Charlotte to Miami Beach to Bangkok???

7 01 2010

Stardate 01.07.10

Time: 4:21 a.m.

Location and Temperature: Miami Beach, FL and it’s fucking 30 something degrees!  YEAH FUCKING 30 SOMETHING DEGREES!!! Miami has done it again but this time I forgive you.

Standard Swings

Standard Grounds

Ahhhhhhhh my lovelies, I have slightly missed you.  The past two weeks I have overindulged in some of the same things you have if you’re into the various holidays: family, food, gifts, alcohol, sex and memories but 10x over.   I must warn you though, my latest report sounds like the Mary J Blige album that came out after she first got married and settled down a bit, where she sounded… HAPPY.  Most people, especially black folks, complained that MJB, didn’t sound like herself.  “Oh really?” I’d say.  “Can’t a bitch be happy for once?”  but I digress.  I have been M-I-A (missing in action) in Charlotte, North Carolina (being very nice) and in Miami Beach, FL (being very naughty) but today I return home, back to NYC, I go, only to turn back around to JFK in a couple of days for Thailand (Yeah baby, you can jump in my suitcase as long as you buy the first round of massages in Bangkok!  They are only $10-25 USD an hour)

Standard Sunbrella

Privacy Standard

For those of you who have read ye blog before, you maybe asking yourself, “CLT is in Miami AGAIN????  Doesn’t she detest that place?”  and the answer is “Yes” and “No.”  But even before we get into that speel, I’m going to throw out a big CLT shout out to my brother and my itty bitty committee (B&CJ, my niece and nephew) in Charlotte, NC.  Big thanks for hosting X-mas.  I never realized how beautiful North Cat-ca-lacka could be even in the middle of NASCAR territory, but of course it helps if you live in a beautiful house with a golf course as your back yard,

My brother's backyard, absolutely awesome!

with a beautiful wife (who’s krazy kool), with two adorable kids who are nothing but love,  nice multi-culti neighbors, and a Super TARGET within an arms reach.  Yeah, I’m on the mush, all soft and fuzzy from the kiddos, the SpongeBob Crew, for they put me in check.

Here’s the B&CJ Thought process: “Auntie doesn’t want any kids????  We’ll fix that.  Oh, you get tired after only an hour of running around the house with us, we’ll let you rest.  Your naptime is 4 pm too??? We’re down wit cha and we’ll lay ever so cutely right by, so when you wake up, we’ll look like angels.  We’ll play your wash the dishes game (and like it), we’ll master your fold the laundry game (and squeal with delight), we’ll fix you.  You’ll give us a cousin or two to play with one day soon.  Kids can travel the world without trouble, auntie.  We’ll pick up all the languages you struggle with in a pinch!  Hey where’s that Italian guy with the Brooklyn accent who blinks a lot, he’s fun! (They know Brooklyn, the SpongeBob crew travels hard.) Where are you going auntie America (their nickname for me), are you really leaving us??? When are you coming back? and so on and so forth….

I cried the next morning when I woke up in Miami Beach and they were not there.  They broke me down.  Love is cruel when withdrawal sets in.

My godchildren then stepped up to the plate, a little older, but just as wide-eyed and bushy tailed.  I simply marvel at how amazing kids are.  As we ran across the street from their house to the beach and jumped through the waves,  I stopped and thought, “Was I like that?  All dewy, sprite and full of special?  Ahhh youth!  After our saltwater fantastic moments, I did what I don’t do for just anybody:  I baked homemade macaroni and cheese for “J” and threw up a rack of ribs for my meateater “M.”  While everybody was out in the streets New Year’s I was wiping rib sauce off my chin and enjoying bubbly with “J,M&CJ” (Yes, I have two CJ’s in my cipher.)

The hammam at The Standard Miami Beach

After all that goodness, the moment I left my godchildren, I was in adult mode again.  Ready to lie on someone’s adult beach nude, ready to drink a tub of mojitos, ready to get some adult time in but oh, did I mention that it is 30 something FUCKING degrees in Miami Beach, so the two beach days with the kiddies were it for the good ole outdoors.  The consolation prize is that I stayed at the Standard in South Beach and the spa was the solution.  I was focused on one thing, resting my chilled booty on that giant slab of hot marble.  Me and the blinky Italian salted, slathered, soaked, scrubbed, rubbed, oiled and every other spa vocabulary term known to man, each other til we were unconscious… everyday.

One thing outside of the spa I did, was see my friend, Q from high school.  No drama, all reflection, no regrets.  I was brutally honest, she was endearing and understanding.  Q also pulled no punches.  I love her for that.  I also love it that she married her boyfriend from our high school… and she’s happy.  In my book that’s just awesome.

Standard Poolside I

Standard Poolside III

I know, I know, where’s the drama CLT??? This can’t be it.  Of course this isn’t it but it’s all repetitions of HAPPY, so instead of going on and on, I end this post with the fact that I have a sunrise to catch. Ta, ta until Thailand.

CLT at peace





The Next 6 Months (NYC)… Simply J-O-Y!

24 12 2009

JOY TO YOU, JOY TO ME, JOY TO THE WORLD!

Wishing you and yours, “JOY” this holiday season and beyond. Much love, CLT.