Hallmark would be so proud

For a Buddhist country, this place sure does love its Christian holidays. Not that Valentine’s is a devoutly religious day _ though it was named after a Christian saint.

Valentine's Day flower stalls on Rama 4 Road

Valentine's Day flower stalls on Rama 4 Road

First it was Christmas, that was celebrated with a fervor that would put Martha Stewart to shame, and now Valentine’s Day. It’s a holiday that is cynically referred to in the U.S. as a Hallmark holiday; one in which millions of men are essentially guilted into purchasing a variety of love-themed items to show the object of their affection just how much they care. Women are also party to this obligation, though to a much lesser extent. And Bangkok, apparently, is no exception.

Flowers on Silom Road

Flowers on Silom Road

Women walked around hand-in-hand with boyfriends carrying large displays of flowers. Men stopped to admire the bouquets and cluelessly pick one out for their girl (or boy as it very well could have been). But it didn’t stop there; heart-shaped balloons, candies and various other (plastic/cheap) trinkets lined the streets.

V-Day goodies on Silom Road

V-Day goodies on Silom Road

For an American living so far from home, it is comforting to see signs of a yearly event I’m used to. But if I had my pick, I’d rather have President’s Day or something. Then at least I could buy stuff on sale and sleep in on a Monday.

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Sunshine, fruity drinks and monkey bites

If there is a heaven, I hope it is Ko Phi Phi. It has everything one could desire in the afterlife: white sandy beaches; clear turquoise waters; sunshine; decent food; a funny name (pronounced Ko Pee-Pee); and a healthy contingent of handsome young men (sorry boys, I wasn’t looking at the ladies).

This idyllic island in the Andaman Sea is one of Thailand’s most beautiful. As a result it is also quite a bit more expensive by Thai standards. But it’s stunning vistas are worth the price. A one-and-a-half hour ferry ride from the mainland with tanned and dread-locked backpackers drops you off in the middle of the main town on this road-less island. It bustles with dive shops and cheap Thai kitsch at every turn (from which we purchased several “Heeeeey, I’m on vacaaaaation” dresses), and the narrow walk swarms with tourists of all nationalities.

We called a private bungalow home for a few days, which had a view of the clear water and limestone cliffs that Krabi Province is so famous for. It was another amazing sight in a two-and-a-half week trip of amazing sights so far for my mom and sister Tory. I think their mouths were agape throughout our five days there, partly because of the views, but also due to the good food, fantastic weather and nap-inducing massages.

All of these islands offer many different tour packages to see its most famous sites. Though we were up for cliff diving and shark swimming, we opted out after Tory mysteriously began gushing blood out of her big toe (not surprising if you know Tory). We thought it wise to protect her from becoming shark chum _ even though it occurred to me that it would solve her attitude  in the morning. We opted instead for a bit of snorkeling, a tour of Maya Bay _ the setting for the Leonardo DiCaprio film “The Beach” _ and a stop on Monkey Beach.

Incidentally, monkeys aren’t all that friendly. Sure they’re cute and can drink from soda cans but those bastards bite. First you give them a little food, then you let the little guy get close to you, and just when you think he’s going to gently put a hand on your leg, he wraps his arm around it and *BAM.* That little fu$&er bites you.

Despite my wounds, I have nothing but good things to say about the island. The idyllic surroundings are a welcome respite from any city and it’s close proximity to Bangkok (a one hour flight to Krabi) make it a relatively easy trip. Now if it weren’t for the fact that my travel partners set the bar so high, I would be going back soon.

Music by Junior Byles.

(By the way, I am well aware that Jamaican reggae is not the preferred music of the Thai islands. Call me selfish, but I’m just not a big fan of Thai singing.)

Bad blogger, bad blogger

I have been a bad blogger. No, no. I appreciate your soothing assurances that it’s OK, that you understand. But I have posted far too infrequently than I ever intended. I blame the rot.

Six months is the mark that every new expat eyes with anticipation and excitement. It floats into your head late at night when you’re plotting an escape plan home. It beckons to you from the future when you’re trying to pantomime to an uncomprehending barista that you need a napkin, saying “if you just make it a little longer I promise everything will be OK.” The six-month mark is when all of the pieces fall together; you have your job down pat, an apartment, friends and a fairly comprehensive understanding of your new city and culture.

I have not only blissfully hit the sixth month mark, I am gaining on seven. I love Bangkok (most days) and spend my free time with friends at restaurants, bars, cheap little markets, movie theaters and karaoke joints. I had a two-and-a-half week visit from my mom and sister Tory at the end of January, and enjoyed myself and Thailand more than I have since coming here.

All of this pleasure seeking, however, means that I have not thought much of you. OK, that’s not entirely true. I have guilty feelings that I should write and tell you what I’ve been up to; that I should put together a video so you can experience first-hand this fascinating world. But I don’t. I have dinner with friends, I go to bed early, I watch American Idol. I have succumbed to the six-month rot _ when you become so comfortable you no longer need distracting pursuits to make you forget that you live in this strange and forbidding city.

But I cannot fall victim to the rot. I will not. I have pictures and videos collected over the past few months to share, more strange fruit to try and many more things to tell you about Bangkok and my life here. I will be a better blogger in future and will try to stave off any resurgence of the rot.

However, if for some reason I forsake you again _ which I pledge to try not to do _ you can guess now where I might be. But if it makes you feel better, I’ll be thinking of you while I’m listening to a bad Thai cover band with great friends and a vodka and tonic.