In a Bangkok Minute

The words “easy” and “reliable” have no place in a conversation regarding Thai transportation.  Bangkok in particular is quite the Bermuda Triangle of well laid transport plans. I have never made it out of Bangkok on the day or via the mode of transport originally intended.  However, last week I was on an especially tight schedule for my BKK visit and there was no margin for error.  My options were, beat Bangkok or beat it out of Thailand.

The bright colors give you a false sense of optimism.  Like the teacup ride.."Ohhh I want the blue one".. ..And then you puke.
The bright colors give you a false sense of optimism. Like the teacup ride..”Ohhh I want the blue one”.. ..And then you puke.

Continue reading “In a Bangkok Minute”

Where You Go?………but seriously

I’ve written before about the ever persistent, original hustlers of Phuket, the cab drivers. What I haven’t told you is that when they yell, “Where you go?” they actually need to know.

Anyone who’s visited me in Thailand can attest that the second you get in a cab, it’s as if the driver is as new to the country as you are. If your desired destination isn’t a duty free outlet or Chinese run gold jewelry store, then its a complete mystery to them and you’re unlikely to get there anytime soon, and certainly not without stopping at the duty free first.

You may be thinking, wait..isn’t it their job to drive around the island to well known tourist locations all day, every day?…..yes, yes it is. I’ve tried to find loopholes around what I thought was a language barrier by brining the address and directions in Thai, maps, putting them on the phone for turn by turn directions in Thai. Doesn’t help.

Naps not Maps!!!!
Naps not Maps!!!!

They fain understanding of your destination to get you into the cab “Ahhh yes, ok, ok I know” yet five minutes later we’re pulled over on the side of the road meeting the guy’s cousin to discuss where this mysterious “airport” might be hiding.

It doesn’t matter how many well know landmarks you throw at them or how many times they must have visited this destination before. Their mental capacity for directions is like an etch-e-sketch board. As soon as they reach a destination, they shake it off and start from scratch. There is a beach in Phuket? Must be new.

Even knowing where you’re going isn’t a sure thing as I discovered on what I thought would be a straightforward cab ride home from the Phuket airport one evening. Despite heavy insistence from the driver that he was familiar with and in fact lives in Phuket Town, 5 minutes into the drive he started to change his tune. He suggests several hotels near the airport I might like to go to instead.

Even my "kids who can't read good"  have a 100% chance of choosing which arrow says airport
Even my “kids who can’t read good” have a 100% chance of choosing which arrow says airport

To illustrate the level of directional impairment we’re dealing with I’d like you to consider the following factors:

1. There is one road out of the airport. One. Go left and you’ll be leaving the island, go right and its straight on til midnight to the center of Phuket Town. If he’s purely guessing he’s still got a 50/50 shot of accidentally getting to my house.

2. I’ve given him a copy of my utility bill, in Thai that has my full address, district, subdivision etc.

3. I’ve given him verbal directions in (albeit broken) Thai that he claims to have understood prior to me getting in the cab.

4. None of this is necessary because…oh yeah, I KNOW HOW TO GET THERE.

This solid base of information does nothing to the alleviate the drivers growing concern over reaching the destination and he continues to try and negotiate a change in plans. Flustered by my refusal to just give up and stay in a hotel, he gets on the phone and calls several relatives until one answers, then passes me the phone.

“Hello, miss? What hotel you want to go?”

Not go to hotel, go to house in Phuket Town.

“Ahhhh, ok ok, I tell him.”

The driver is still displeased with this answer and starts yelling into the phone “Mai dai, Mai chai” (cannot, not correct) and hangs up. I have no idea where we stand at this point, but a few minutes later he pulls off the highway; not a good sign of understanding the directions.

We arrive in the driveway of a house that’s not mine. The driver turns off the car, says nothing to me and gets on the phone. This is one of those times when you start to think……so this is it. This is my last day on earth. It’s raining of course, no other backdrop would be suitable for an ill fated, 2am foreign excursion.

I start to think, “Is Unsolved Mysteries still on? In the dramatic reenactment of my disappearance, will they give my character bangs? I don’t remember what any of my yearbook photos look like. Maybe the greatest unsolved mystery is why high school yearbook photos are the go to solution for tracking down missing persons in their 30s.”

10 years out of date, misleading hair color and weight....someone save this, it's just the kind of depiction they'll be looking for.
10 years out of date, misleading hair color and weight….someone save this, it’s just the kind of depiction they’ll be looking for.

Side-note, the driver and I have not been alone on this journey. There has been a heavily pregnant woman and a foul smelling dog occupying the passenger seat the entire time. Neither has moved or been acknowledged. Soon a shirtless man with an Angry Birds umbrella come up and knocks on my window.

“ES-coooose me, my driver not know, how to go Phuket Town.”

Ok, but I know how to go to Phuket Town.

“OH! (Thai surprise) you know how to go?!” (As if this information hasn’t been readily available all along)

He turns his attention back to the driver and more yelling ensues. I tune them out and stare blankly at the lady and dog who are also numb to the situation. I bet they were like me once…..just trying to get home. They rode around so long that they became resigned to the idea of home and took up residence in the front seat of this gold 90s Buick. What a life.

The argument ends with slammed doors and me being kicked out of the cab. So there I am standing in the rain and the only thing I know about my current location is that it’s nowhere near my house. The man doesn’t offer me his umbrella but says, “ok, I think I call a-na-tha drivah fah you.”

I made it home eventually thanks to a nice man named Joe who was sympathetic to the struggle I’d just endured and assured me I would never have to call a taxi in Phuket again only, “call Joe, tell Joe where you go, and Joe GO!” Thus we agreed upon a new rule for Thai taxi travel, “Joe no go, I no go”, and I haven’t.



Kate dug up an extensive list of Thai superstitions (minus the 10 to 15 I’ve added to it for my own convenience).  Number 8 is my favorite, Baldies are sneaky and flirty.  That’s you Bruce! I didn’t know you had been to Thailand…….very sneaky indeed. 

If it Weren’t for Bad Luck……..

Expressing verbal disgust for Monday mornings is a widely accepted societal norm and the only thing one should be expected to do when the dreaded day arrives. If you are some freak of nature who takes no issue with Monday, I suggest you start or those around you will quickly take issue with you. No one wants to meet Mary sunshine on a caffeine deficient Monday morning. Well……meet Mary Sunshine’s 35 Thai cousins, otherwise known as my homeroom class.

That's Stefy....and sadly she is not hamming it up for the camera....her mouth is always open and it always has questions falling out of it, Monday or otherwise
That’s Stefy….and sadly she is not hamming it up for the camera….her mouth is always open and it always has questions falling out of it, Monday or otherwise

The kids are not jaded enough to realize the cruelty that is Monday morning, so instead of easing me into the week with a dismissive teenage indifference towards authority, they spend Saturday and Sunday storing up all questions and curiosities and just unload on me. No coffee, no indoor voices, no mercy.

Those of you who read my Christmas letter know that the kiddos don’t pull any punches with these Q and A sessions. The gloves are always off and although I never back down from a Q and A session, on Monday mornings I am fighting with a hand tied behind my back.

I haven’t even been at morning assembly long enough to fake interest in the latest additions to the kings permanent shrine when the questions start.

Case of the Mondays, yes this shirt is missing a button, yes I threw it away after they asked me why it was ugly
Case of the Mondays, yes this shirt is missing a button, yes I threw it away after they asked me why it was ugly

Q: Teacha, why not pretty today?
A: Because Mondays aren’t pretty.
Q: But Why wear ugly clothes like this?
A: Because its laundry day.
Q: What laundry day?
A: It means the clothes I normally wear are dirty, not clean, stinky. (Hold nose and pretend Asmee aka Captain underpants smells bad and uproarious laughter ensues)
Q: Teeeeeeeeeacha Why you not wash?!!!
A: Wash! (Open palm slap to the forehead) Silly Teacha, why didn’t I think of that!
Q: Why ya face red?
A: Because I got sunburned this weekend at the waterpark when you made me ride the Bommerang 18 TIMES! (A story in itself)
Q: Why ride so many?
A: Because they told you you needed big Farang to weigh down the tube remember?
(Confused bickering in Thai commences, the only words I can make out are, “Farang”, “Yai” (fat), “115” (the weight requirement for the ride), more pointing, arguing, and fat motions in my directions then a group consensus is reached and presented to me for confirmation:
Q: OK, student not fat enough, only teacha fat enough so go Boomerang many many time?
A: Yes
Q: Why not have sunscreen?
A: Teacha did have sunscreen but her nefarious minions (point at them accusingly) used it all because they thought it would make them white like teacha….instead students get tan and teacha get red.

They were giggling uncontrollably at this point so I thought that one ended the Q and A. Wishful thinking. When have they ever stopped at single digits? they took a split second break and were ready to move onto my hair which was in a bun therefore not conducive to stroking….big problem for them.

Q: Why hair not long?
A: Because its hot
Q: Can you change?
A: No
Q: Can I change make nice for you?
A: No
Q: Can you cut off?

Wow, that’s extreme. I know they’re a little let down that they haven’t got to pull my hair for 3 days but to suggest that I just get out the scissors and end it all, they are really on their A game today. I had to pull out the big guns… trump card…bad luck.

Bad Luck is my favorite way to end 20 (thousand) questions. When their rapid fire interrogation tactis start to outrun my BS-ing abilities I can almost always bring the Thai Inquisition to a halt by throwing my hands up and saying, “bad luck”. It’s followed by an awe of understanding and reverent silence.

The reason being is that Thais are extremely superstitious. The logic behind their superstitions however are about as noticeably absent as their athletic abilities. I try to make note of what they consider to be bad so I don’t do something horrible like write my name in red pen or make a mid week salon visit.

I get really excited when a Thai person says something is bad luck because that means I get to ask them why.  Come back as a snake?!!! Oh no.  If I stand will I come back as a horse?
I get really excited when a Thai person says something is bad luck because that means I get to ask them why. Come back as a snake?!!! Oh no. If I stand will I come back as a horse?

A: Nope, not cutting my hair.
Q: Why?
A: BAD LUCK!!! (Hold hair tightly to my head as if its threatening to fall out at the mere suggestion of a trim)

Game over. Bad luck was a lady this morning. If I avoid red pens, babies, and barbers I may just live to see Tuesday.

One Year Round-up

I’m not tech savy enough to figure out how to post a pdf of my Christmas Card… if I missed you send me your email, and we’ll call it a Groudhogs Day card instead



Special Din-ah

If Thai’s believe in reincarnation, than its my belief that they were Stephens girls in a past life because they really know how to extend a celebration. After being ambushed by two end of semester dinner parties already this week, the head of the Foreign Language Department came up to me and said, “Kah-Teee…..tonight, de-paht-men di-nah, our gues.” “Ok, what time.” “Ahhh maybe tree ow-wah? Maybe you go now and can wear nice dress, come back tree ow-wah.” Normally when a Thai person kidnaps you for dinner you get between one and five minutes warning, so advanced notice told me “dis special di-nah.”

I corned the Farang teacher who had been there the longest and asked him for the low down. He said you are basically there so Thai teachers can be seen taking pictures with you in front of the Director. Ok, well Poon did take 9 pictures of me eating Tom Yum at dinner last night…so maybe she was just warming me up for the main event.

As with any dinner party in Thailand, the food was amazing...hello sushi bar
As with any dinner party in Thailand, the food was amazing…hello sushi bar

When we got there they were in full party mode and greeted us with a wrapped present; an exchange that was photographed extensively. They said we had to wait until the end of the night to open it which was a relief because I had a sneaky suspicion it might contain an unflattering plastic hair accessory that I would be forced to wear for the duration of the evening…..and possibly the year.

Please be a hawaiian shirt..please be a hawaiian shit
Please be a hawaiian shirt..please be a hawaiian shit

Excessive photography ensued as promised, but beyond that I struggled to comprehend what was going on around me. There were some elements familiar to an event you attend out of pure obligation:

– An egotistical DJ who takes his “beats” way too seriously even though everyone knows he’s just playing iTunes.

– A funny but slightly creepy old guy who compliments your dress about a thousand times. (Miss you Bruce!)

– BAD…..and I mean bad..karaoke, and door prizes.

But overall, I kept looking around me and laughing thinking, how did I end up here?

A few Asian power ballads into karaoke, a squabble broke out between the MC and the DJ. I normally find a power struggle among people who take their roles way to seriously extremely amusing, but I got my karma real quick this time. The over zealous MC took control and was all the sudden speaking English…(kind of).

“Ahhhh mew-sack teacha….new mew-sack teach (looks down at notecards) Kat-rin. Ok sing. Now ok.”

I was only paying attention to this dude in hopes that he would throw the mic at the DJ and storm off and now he was forcefully escorting me onto the stage. He wanted me to “sing famous Thai song” but we compromised with Elton John.

I wasn’t even two bars into “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues” when the aforementioned slightly creepy old guy came up and started throwing money on the stage. After about 30 seconds, it became clear that he was gong to park it front and center for the rest of the song. It’s a short song but it long outlasts my tolerance for awkward staring, so I pulled him up on stage and made him participate.

While I'm away...Cryyyyyyyyy in the night if it helps
While I’m away…Cryyyyyyyyy in the night if it helps
But more than ever, I simply love you-oooo
But more than ever, I simply love you-oooo
More than I itself
More than I love…li-i-i-fe itself

The Thai teachers went nuts. Nikons a’ blazin they rushed the stage as if Buddah was up there handing out Hello Kitty dolls. I think it’s safe to say that a few of them had to buy new SIM cards the next day. So 3 and a half minutes later I had a new work boyfriend, a rose, and 200 baht….which is like $7 so…yeah, I’m pretty much a professional now. I bet the DJ was jealous:-)

Wet and Wild

So I have the entire month of April off to celebrate Thai New Year. We asked the locals in Phuket what we farangs should do with ourselves during the festivities and the unanimous vote was for Kohsan Road in Bangkok. We’ve made our way here and tonight will launch a 6 day city wide water gun fight to ring in the new year. If you want the who what when where why history google it yourself because all I needed to here was six day party and water fight….sold.

Kate and Erica walking down Kohsan Road.....where the magic happens.
Kate and Erica walking down Kohsan Road…..where the magic happens.
Pre party parade
Pre party parade

In the preliminary set up for this water fight I’m seeing some definite groups and alliances forming and it’s time to pick a side. Its a big commitment, kind of like the first day of school….who are you going to sit with at lunch? Everyone knows you can’t just go hopping tables in the lunch room without creating a societal uproar. That’s how this water fight is going to go, I can already tell. I’ve gotta choose my friends and enemies wisely cause I’m stuck with them for the next six days.

From what I can tell, I have a few options:
The Locals – Pro: They have access to free water supply and hiding places. Con: They are a tough nut to crack. Definitely the popular table.
The Children – Pro: You can use them as a shield and people will hesitate for a second before they launch an attack on you. Con: Kids have no loyalty, they’ll turn on you in a second. Kids are the mean girls.
The Farangs – Pro: We share the same aggressive war strategies. Con: I can actually understand what they are saying and they are really annoying to listen to. Farangs are the jocks for sure…but not talented ones….I’m talkin like someone who did one year of JV wrestling but still wears his letterman jacket religiously.
The Korean Hippies – Pro: Strength in numbers, there are a ton of them. Con: They are naturally un-athletic and take frequent smoke breaks. Hippies are…yeah still the hippie table except now their tattoos are real and they can actually grow facial hair (well, some of them).


Korean Hippies vs. Locals outside our's goin down.
Korean Hippies vs. Locals outside our hostel…’s goin down.
Me and one of the hippies.  Aim for their cigarettes and you'll make some enemies real quick.
Me and one of the hippies. Aim for their cigarettes and you’ll make some enemies real quick.

I don’t know what side I’ll end up on in all of this, but I’m goin out guns a blazin in my ‘Merica bikini. Happy New Year Thailand, it’s playground rules from here on out!

Ohhhhh man. This is gonna get nasty.
Ohhhhh man. This is gonna get nasty.
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