A day in my life

Hi everyone! I owe many, many of you e-mails, especially after the recent spate of Christmas packages, letters, gifts, and e-mails. Don't worry, this mass mailing is not intended as a substitute; you will still be getting a warm personal missive, er, real soon now. But let me thank you for all of your support, from e-mails and video chats on Skype to rush shipments of Cheetos to new music I'm not likely to find here to the pfeffernussen which are the sine qua non of Christmas to cherry brownies (yum!). It's nice to know I've not been forgotten, and even nicer to know how your lives are going, loves won and lost, the births of children, the progression of your careers. Thanks for keeping me, no matter how distant, even a small part of that.

I'm sure from time to time you read of Thailand in the news, and wonder how things are here. Let me tell you, it's not all controversial stewardess soap operas and amazing frogs. Most of my days involve very few over-zealous security guards and almost no panda porn at all. And had this protest made it to these parts, it would have been a high point of the day.

So I thought I'd take some pics and show you what my days are like. These pics are from several months ago; I would have updated them, but the camera that Aana so generously gave me got broken by the security people in Phnom Penh.


Here's where I wake up each day. (That is, I used to wake up here, but now I live in a different apartment in the same complex. I'm gonna write this all in the present tense, to make things a little more confusing.) Somehow I managed not to get in the frame the string of Tibetan prayer flags that hang over me as I sleep.

Bedroom window

Looking out my bedroom window, I see a lot of green; it hardly looks like I'm in a city at all.


Going downstairs and out on the balcony, I'm given a rapturous welcome by the cat who's staying with us for a couple of days, and has gotten an early start on her rigorous day.

Living room

This is the living room, which looks pretty good here. What this picture doesn't show is that the couch was made by someone who seems to have read a book on the theory of couches, but has never actually sat on one. I'm guessing he also made the chair in the apartment which no one has ever voluntarily used as a chair; it's currently employed as a printer stand, for which it's much better suited.

My table

Looking the other way in the living room, you see my work table.

I can hear you all thinking, "There's nothing Thai about any of this! This could be an apartment in Seattle, if not for the sunshine!" I assure you, I have taken on some local habits. For instance, in Seattle I might have started the day with a nice glass of orange juice; here, I start with a nice glass of

100% Blood Glass of blood

blood orange juice. (Silly foreigners! People here don't drink blood for breakfast. It's much more of an evening drink; in my experience a very late evening drink after many, many other drinks.)

Disco ball

Before we leave the apartment, let me just mention the disco ball. When I lived in Seattle, Aana and I threw an epic series of parties, one of which simply screamed for a disco ball. But when we went to buy one, it turned out to cost far more than our budget would allow. So Aana made one from a plastic ball, foil, mirror squares, and a lot of glue. This ball, casually hanging in my apartment, would have been perfect. But I digress.


The first order of business on leaving home was to take the cat to visit her human Claire, who lives downstairs. As always, they were overjoyed to see one another.

Granny mafia

In the carport where my car would be parked if I had a car, a group of neighborhood Thais gather and keep up a conversation through most days. The Thais are all about relationships, and this group makes sure that the area remains harmonious. We foreigners call them the "Granny Mafia".

The view from the soi

Stepping out into the soi ("little street", and although the name fits in this case, other sois have been expanded to 6-lane divided roadways, yet remain sois), here's what the apartments look like. That's the Thai flag on the left.

K PLace

About 50 meters up the soi is this place, which we believe to be a gay bathhouse or some such. GLBT culture is much more mainstream here than in the US, and so this place sometimes gets rented out for company parties.


Going out to the main street, Pahonyothin, you can see the sometimes terrifying mix of traffic on Bangkok streets. Buses, pushcarts, motorbikes, and maniacal taxis all share the same space, with surprisingly few accidents. Today, because I want noodles for breakfast, I'm choosing a maniacal taxi.


I took this picture mostly to talk about the meter (just under the radio), which the current minister in charge of things like telephones and internet claims to have invented. He said in a recent interview that he doesn't know how to use e-mail, and only uses the Internet to check golf scores, which goes a long way towards explaining why this place has such crap net connections.


The taxi drops me off by this fruit stand; most of these fruits I couldn't have named before coming to this part of the world. To the left of the oranges are mangosteens, then custard apples, longan (they're really something else, but they look sorta like longan and I can't remember their name), asian pears, apples, and guava; in the back, from right to left are dragon fruit, rambutan, a kind of fig, lychee, and a quince-like fruit. Apparently I still can't name many of these.


This is one of my fave breakfast places, and a pretty typical street stall.


And here's what I have for breakfast—pork noodles with soup. The cook makes it bland, and then you get to season it to taste with pickled peppers (used mostly for the vinegar taste), and in the caddy in back, red pepper flakes, sugar (yes, really), fish sauce, and pepper sauce. Yum!

Building shell

The cafe is right next to a boat landing; this is the view across the Chao Phraya river. You see these shells of buildings all over Bangkok; a property developer I know told me that they're left over from the 1997 currency crisis. They can't be sold as is because they were built with the floors too close together for current tastes, so any buyer would have to pay to tear the structure down, and the owners of these places cannot bring themselves to believe that the half-finished building actually makes their property worth less. And so they remain.


I catch the ferry down to Central.

Ferry inside

You can tell it's Monday, as everyone's wearing their yellow shirts in honor of the king.

Wat Arun

Along the way we pass Wat Arun.


At Central I transfer to the Skytrain, which used to be one of the more peaceful havens in Bangkok. But just as nature abhors a vacuum, Thais abhor a silence, and so now the trains have TV screens in them, playing ads.


I then arrived at my in-town office, aka Starbucks. This particular one has much to recommend it—comfy chairs, WiFi, electrical outlets (these can be rare here), a nice view over the park, and mediocre coffee, which is much better than the usual "coffee" in these parts.


While at Starbucks, I ran into Steven (the property developer I mentioned earlier), and Marian, an Australian friend I know from Cambodia.

Look Maew

Marian wanted to buy some DVDs, so we went to this place, which is the best in town. Their prices are higher than other places (about $4/disc), but they have by far the best selection, they use premium discs, they give you nice plastic boxes for the discs, and they deliver. All pirated, of course.


After all that, Marian, bless her, treated me to some of the most expensive ice cream in town.

Skytrain at rush hour

The Skytrain can get pretty crowded at rush hour.

Ari shopping center

This shopping center is at Ari, the Skytrain station nearest my home, and every time I go here I marvel that the landscape architect is still employed. He really did, in a place that experiences severe rainstorms for much of the year, try to force people to walk across grass/mud to get into the shopping center. They've now set some timbers into the ground, but it's still difficult-to-impossible for the less-agile to get across.


In the evenings the sidewalks are lined with food vendors.

Roti vendor

This guy makes roti (think crepes); my faves are filled with egg and banana.

Fruit vendor

Most nights I buy a slice of pineapple or watermelon from this man.

Cat, again

And then home, to another rapturous welcome.

Beach at night

And when I tire of the city, this is only about two hours away. These pics are from Koh Samet, where Jen Cooper and I recently went when she was here. You could go places like this, too! All you need to do is come visit.


On a final note, can I just say how disappointed I was that no one sent me this strip?