Cultural Exchange

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Jan 082010
 

Mae Sa Valley (January 8, 2010)

The temperature was perfect. In 2008, I was freezing our first night here, but perhaps due to the rain, the overnight weather was quite mild, and inside number 39, the clock-thermometer did not dip below 70 degrees.

For breakfast, we returned to our long dinner table, which now had a view of the pleasant grounds. Thin rice vermicelli were stir-fried with Chinese broccoli and a little chicken. The flavor improved considerably with the administration of some chilli-infused vinegar and powdered dried chillies from the communal bowls. Fruit platters followed the noodles. This was fairly light by our standards, but we would be eating again shortly, so it was not wise to stuff ourselves.

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Jan 012010
 

En Route (January 1, 2010)

Coming into Taipei, my first thought was of dumplings. When I laid over here in 2006, there was a little place in the C gates serving jewel-like xiao long bao, Shanghai-style juicy pork dumplings. I would pay a high price — there is a 3% currency conversion charge on my credit cards — but it’s worth it. My second thought was what might await in the business class lounge. I upgraded my second segment by spending all of the miles from my 2006 trip. Would there be a shower? Wi-fi? Dumplings? Where to go first? Hmmm… Continue reading »

Last Moments of Freedom

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Dec 282007
 

Today I would be checking out and checking back in with the group. But first I thought I would head back to Aw Taw Kaw market. The coolest way to get to the market is to transfer from the BTS Skytrain system to the MRT subway system. The hotter way is to walk from the BTS Mo Chit station, and that’s how I found my way to the market. I was shocked to find the large empty end of the market full of vendors showcasing handicrafts and other merchandise. I later learned that this was a temporary exhibition; the market is not much larger than it was on my last visit in February 2006. It did not take me long to find my beloved freeze-dried jackfruit chips (so addictive, let’s call them crackfruit). The ones I find at this market are not oily like the ones I find in the U.S. I am very happy, and I celebrate with a roasted young coconut. The seller waves off my request for a spoon, so I sip the juice and stash the coconut meat for later consumption. I also purchased a kit with all the ingredients for a miang, which is a snack consisting of a leaf you form into a little cup and fill with strongly flavored little tastes such as dried shrimp, ginger, lime, shallot, hot chillies, toasted coconut, and a little sweet soy sauce. The Swiss Army Knife will come in handy.

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A Day of Adjustment

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Dec 272007
 

Bangkok

Having departed the U.S. on Christmas Day, I touched down at Thailand’s new airport, Suvarnabhumi, late in the evening of the 26th. Featuring dramatic soaring ceilings, and lots of glass and metal, its baggage, immigration and money exchange counters are unfortunately no more efficient than the old Don Muang airport. Soon I was taxi-borne, flying down congested streets at insane speeds, weaving through traffic until we reached the hotel sometime after 1:00 AM.

The staff had my room ready, but it reeked of cigarette smoke. This is a problem I had forgotten, and I hadn’t brought any air fresheners to mask the odor. I do have disposable respirators (in the event I encounter people with bird flu, for example), but they are uncomfortable to wear for extended periods. I’ll have to find a solution in the morning; I’m beat.

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