My days are filled with more than just dumplings, noodles, tiger prawns, grilled pork sausage, and kao niew ma muang (ripe mango with sticky rice and coconut creme).
I meet with Thip every other day for a couple of hours to go over the most recent drafts of her dissertation. I go to the university gym every day and work out for about an hour and half. Its not the Golds Gym in Venice Beach, the gym I go to at home — fewer tattoos and piercings and no signs of steroid pumped bodies here — but it’s better than any hotel gym I’ve ever used. I don’t work out as hard or as long, but even with the air conditioning, I am drenched when I’m finished.
I also have other work to do — e.g., answering emails, writing this blog, Skypeing with my business partner at Muddy Shoe Adventures, publishing my latest article on the Huffington Post (Driving the Wild Atlantic Way on the West Coast of Ireland), even writing a treatment for a TV series I am pitching to a production company (I’ll tell you more if and when something happens with it).
For fun I watch CNN (if that sounds desperate, it is), read (right now it’s Ratlines by Stuart Neville, an Irish mystery writer), and watch movies on iTunes (thank you Steve Jobs!!). I talk via Skype with my wife, Katherine, every other day. She still hasn’t figured out how to turn the video on so I can’t see her, but at least her voice and words help me feel a little bit less lonely, if only for a few minutes.
But eating is still the highlight of my day. Yesterday, Thip and Dr. Sawat, my last student, who graduated more than two years ago, took me to Chinatown for a Thai version of Chinese seafood. This was by far the best culinary (and cultural) experience of the trip.
We ate at Rut and Lek (sounds like an Asian TV crime show) on the corner where a narrow street joins the busy main drag of Chinatown. We sat outside (I am not even sure there was an inside) on small red plastic stools and ate curry crab, grilled tiger prawns, teeny clams, a green vegetable with garlic (I think it was water spinach), a flaky steamed white fish and Tom Yam Goong, the popular Thai fish soup. While we ate crowds of people picked their way around us on the sidewalk and traffic roared by on the street.
It may not sound restful, but I loved the energy and the show. It sure beats the noise of techno music and voices bouncing off tables and walls in most of the trendy restaurants in Los Angeles. We topped it off with durian and sticky rice from a cart across the street.
On the way to the restaurant, I had the chance to ask Thip about the political situation in Thailand. As an urban professional in Bangkok, I was not surprised to hear that her sympathies lie with the “yellow shirts,” the opposition party that is pressuring the current Prime Minister to step down. Except for seeing the yellow shirt encampment in Lumpini Park from the SkyTrain a few days ago, I haven’t noticed any signs of the tension and conflict that has roiled the country since November. Several people were killed in November by gun shots at a large demonstration at the sports complex where the night market I often visit is held, so I am relieved that the city has been relatively calm (if you can ever refer to Bangkok as “calm”).
Tomorrow is the beginning of Songkran, the Thai New Year. For several days the university will be shut down as will, I suspect, most of the restaurants and foot massage places in the neighborhood. So I have decided to abandon my rather Spartan digs at the university and splurge on a four night stay at the Chatrium Hotel, a relatively new luxury hotel on the river. An inexpensive senior package made this indulgence almost affordable ($569 for river view, breakfast, wifi, other goodies, etc.), so I am heading down there tomorrow morning for an early check in.
For the next several days I plan on hanging out by the pool, watching something other on TV than CNN, and ordering room service. I will also meet with Thip a couple of times, as well as continue to work on my other projects, including this blog.
Oh yes, I also plan on eating well (what a surprise). I hear that they have an excellent buffet dinner and an all-you-can-eat dim sum lunch. Can’t wait….