Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bangkok Post: Day 16

We finished seeing the remaining malls in this side of the city, namely the Central World, Zen and Isetan. This was to be our last visit to the malls before we packed our bags. Some last minute shopping was still pending, so we set out to cover these malls. Everywhere the atmosphere was the same; that of the Chinese New Year. And 'End of Season' sale was a commonplace signboard. Again, it was a trek through a maze of escalators, corridors and shops displaying fashion that we can't ever get to see in Mumbai! You feel like buying everything that is on display... hardly you will come across any piece of garment that you wont like at first glance. And its hard not to reach for your walet!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bangkok Post: Day 15

Gold was on the 'to-buy' list for Bangkok and today was the day to go and buy it. The gold market in Bangkok is centred around 'Yeorat' (locals pronounce it as Yeolat). The name Yeorat must have been derived from our very own 'Zevraat' (Zevraat means jewelry). Doesn't it sound similar. Similarity to Indian names and derivations from them is a common phenomenon in Thai cultural and social life, as I experienced wherever I travelled.

Yeorat was a busy market today primarily because the Chinese New Year is just about to commence (February 7). The place was all covered in red wherever I saw. Red chinese lanterns, clothes, auspicious accessories, wind chimes, bamboo shoots and red festoons. If you ever heard the phrase 'painting the town red', this sight was befitting those words! Even the jewelry shops we went into had lots of pendants featuring snakes, frogs, pigs, etc.. depictions of the Chinese zodiac. The dragon was smiling all over the place, in happy spirits to welcome the new year!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bangkok Post: Day 14

Nothing to blog about today, a day spent at home with just a little outing at the local supermarket "MAKRO" in the evening. But I did come across one interesting thing I had never seen before with my eyes. Hearing about it was a different thing but seeing it actually was a new sight for my eyes... (tasting it would be too far-fetched since it would still need some resolve from my taste-buds). In the frozen foods section of the supermarket, all kinds of meat was available. But the signboard that caught my eye was the one indicating 'Frozen Crocodile'! Sharing the signboard with all of you to enjoy. Anyone care for a bite??? (and by the way did I mention frog meat and tortoise meat?)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bangkok Post: Day 13

After spending the last few days going out and touring the city, it was a much needed rest day for us. I woke up at 1 o'clock in the afternoon after a good tight sleep & spent the afternoon lazing around.

In the evening, we were visited by two Thai ladies, Yooi and Nok, who were mama's colleagues and Pom, mama's secretary. Soon after they made themselves comfortable at home, soda bottles fizzed out and these ladies sat back and started enjoying whiskey. Oh! I forgot to mention; Thai ladies and for that matter men too, start drinking as early as 13-14 years of age. Hardly you will come across any Thai girl who is a non-drinker. Its as common as a green leaf! But even if they drink, they drink responsibly and wont ever get drunk and behave as drunkards. Same applies to Thai men; you hardly come across any drunkard on the streets.

These ladies were surprised after they came to know that I was 22 and I don't drink. Obviously, according to Thai lifestyle, I didn't fit in the drinking scheme of things. After a couple of glasses were drained, we decided to go to a nearby Karaoke Seafood Restaurant. I was about to experience a dinner with Thai people for the first time. And what an experience it was!

The Thai Dinner Experience

Soon after we selected a place at the restaurant, an open air one along the bank of the Chaophraya river, the ladies continued with their whiskey party handing over the bottle they had opened to the waitress. Here I would like to tell something interesting fact about Thai restaurants and joints. They allow you to bring your food if any, other than ordering food there. We had experienced this a couple of times. Also its a common practice here to ask waiters to pack the leftover food after a meal, so that food is not wasted and they could finish it at a later time.

The ladies then placed the order for all of us. One of them was a good singer and she sang many times later that evening, since it was a karaoke restaurant. I took many videos of her singing Thai songs. Soon food was at the table. The menu for the evening consisted of pla kaphong thot (fried kaphong fish in sauce), hoy naang rom sod (raw fresh oysters on ice bed with condiments), kung phat hed (stir fried shrimps with button mushrooms), pla meuk yang (grilled squid with dip), khao paat poo (fried rice with crab meat), tom yam kung (tom yam soup with shrimp), nom mai farang (blanched asparagus in sweet sauce), tofu song kreung (bean curd in Thai spices), salad phonlamai (fruit salad with salad sauce). That was the pool of delicacies we had on the dining table.

Another fact, here seafood and fish is different, as I discovered this evening. Seafood for them consists of squids, lobsters, crabs, prawns, oysters, octopus, etc. Basically the marine food which is not a fish is considered as 'seafood' here and in most parts of south-east Asia. The rest of the evening was spent dining, drinking and singing. It was a good experience for me. In Thai culture, dinner is not just a meal. Dining out for Thai people is no less than an 'event'. Its not just food and people at dining table... it has accompaniments of songs, dance, long talks with it! Our dinner lasted for more than 4 hours (yes...FOUR hours)!!!! Thats quite a time-consuming ordeal compared to Indian standards. But I thoroughly enjoyed every part of the dinner. Here, restaurants don't give a serving spoon with every dish you order, unless you ask for it. Thats because, Thai people use the same spoons, forks and chopsticks with which they eat for serving food from the main dish to their plates. Unlike Indian dinner where we normally don't get up from the table until we finish our course, Thai dining ettiquettes don't include any such customary behaviour. Everyone enjoys dinner in their own way and they don't treat it as something that has to be just finished off and leave. Even the waiters don't disturb you every now and then and even if you just spend time at table, no one looks at you with expecting eyes that have the 'when-will-they-leave' look. I really liked the whole approach of 'enjoying' the dinner in literal sense here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bangkok Post: Day 12

I had waited for this sunday for the whole week; the sunday when we had planned a trip to Pattaya, the tourist destination famous for its beaches and night life. Starting the drive from Bangkok at around 7:45 am, we reached Pattaya in about 1.5 hours.

Nong Nooch Tropical Garden & Resort

This was our first destination in Pattaya. Its a huge garden located in the midst of hills on all four sides with acres and acres of plants, flowers, trees, gardens & a variety of vegetation. The greenery around coupled with colourful flowers, birds and buterflies makes it a truly mesmerising experience. The trees are maintained and grown intricately, with careful considerations of their shape, size and expanse. With a mellow breeze for our company, we took a 'skywalk', an elavated walk around the place... enjoying the view from the observation points, a vantage point for shutter-bugs like me!! We enjoyed places there like the Orchid Garden, Palm Garden, the Cactus Garden, etc.

Elephant certified!!

The place also had other attractions for tourists like elephant treks and a Thai Cultural show depicting dances and other cultural performances of Thailand. But the best of them was The Elephant Show!! The show with a variety of performances by the elephants, with all types of tricks up their! Here you can expect all kinds of performances by the elephants... riding tricycles, playing darts, football, basketball, bowling, dancing and even painting. The show also had performances where volunteers from the audience were called. In one such performance, I jumped in to be the part of the act. The act consisted of people lying in the path of an elephant at certain distances from each other. The elephant then walked over the people, teasing them while he crossed over them. While coming across one such lady lying in the path, the elephant raised his trunk and started thumping it on her chest quite a good number of times! The audience was laughing and clapping. Lying there at the last end with my head turned sideways, I was seeing this act of the elephant & was laughing while awaiting my turn. Laughing because it almost looked like an A-rated movie with hordes of people young and old watching it as a funny act!

Finally it was my turn. The elephant came to me, and raising its trunk, brought it down on my pelvic area and started tapping it (yeah yeah...not thumping it ;-)) After doing a little tapping till it was 'satisfied' with the apparent 'check' there, it raised its front right leg and teasingly brought it over me as if it was going to bring it on me, then circled the leg a few times in the air, with its trunk following the same motion and then crossed me. I dunno whether this was in appreciation or that the elephant was doing this action so that it would ward off evil eyes (in India we have a practice of warding off evil by doing a similar action, called 'nazar utaarna'). Mama, mami and mom were laughing out loud. Mama quipped in saying that I had been thoroughly checked and certified by the elephant and that she made sure to ward of evil eyes from me. I then wondered if the elephant was 'he' or 'she'! I told mama that I didn't notice that aspect, to which he replied that if it was a 'he', he would have tapped you and then put his foot on your pelvic area! Males hate competition, he added! ;-)

Mom shot this whole series of action I just described above, but I can't put the video here for 'obvious' reasons. I will share the video with my friends in person and then again laugh out on the elephant's 'seductive' prank!!! he he he...

The beach!!

After moving out from the Nong Nooch Garden, we came to Jomtien beach, a little away from the main Pattaya beach. The Pattaya beach is a crowded one with tourists flocking it, so mama made a decision to bring us to this beach. We had our lunch at a joint on the opposite side of the beach road & then came to the beach. We booked beach chairs for us and left our belongings with mom and mami. It was time for mama and me to hit the water. It was such a good feeling for me... being in the sea water after so many years. Even though Mumbai has a long stretch of coastline, I never feel like even putting my feet into those waters. Bombayites would know the reason why! We enjoyed an hour's dip in the blues and while we were about to come out, mama felt something under him. Reflexively, he put his hand out there and the next moment his palm surfaced with a starfish on it! We both were thrilled and decided to take it to the beach to show it to mom and mami. Mom took photos of us and the starfish (see picture above) & it was quite an experience for us. We again went back and left it where we found it and returned to take a shower & change for the rest of the evening.

The Pattaya Nightlife

Mama then took us around the Pattaya beach road to show us the town's night life. Pattaya is world famous for sex tourism and the town thrives on it. Here you can find all types of 'entertainment' for yourself. He showed me the street-side pubs and beer joints, acquanting me with what goes around at such places. Girls deck up the chairs at such pubs which are covered in pink light, which would give anyone a spooky feeling. If you go into one such place and order a drink, and happen to talk with the girl next to you, it goes without saying that her drink is on you. And then I need not specify the 'services' you can have from her. Such 'pick-up' places are all over Pattaya's beach road. There are regular sex parties, foam parties and all kind of sexually explicit entertainment. Sex tourism is rampant and even for the blind to see. The food joints here also have names in accordance with the theme of Pattaya's night life. For instance I came across a restaurant named "Cabbages & Condoms"! I later came to know that its one of the best places for food in Pattaya...whew!!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Bangkok Post: Day 11

The weekend market of Chatuchak was on the cards for today. Since its only a weekend market, we had to spare either a Saturday or Sunday out of our 'visiting schedule'. Mami cautioned us that Chatuchak was infamous for pick-pocketting and so we had to be careful. We took the BTS Skytrain (BTS stands for Bangkok Transport System) to Mo Chit, the station where this market is located. Foreigners flock here during weekends to buy cheap goods and souveniers. Its a huge market selling everything from clothes, antiques, porcelain, flowers, food, ornaments, household accessories, decorative material, etc. Its a wholesale as well as a retail market with shops situated at the sides of narrow lanes, where only 2 people can pass simultaneously. Due to this the shops lack ventilation facilities, and covering the entire stretch of the market is a huge task.

But street food is rampant in this flea market. You can try all types of Thai street food here and also some varieties of street icecreams. People also perform on the streets, many play some or the other instrument, some show magic tricks... but they do not beg like beggars back in India. They are just engrossed playing their instruments, but not a voice asking for money at all. People give them money voluntarily, especially the foreigners. It was straining for us covering the market as much as we could.

In the evening, we came to Pantip Plaza from Chatuchak. Pantip Plaza is a huge computer market, with many computer companies selling their PCs, Laptops, accessories, hardware, software solutions and everything in the computer domain. The Plaza also has mobile sections where you could buy mobile accessories. But still, a major portion of the plaza is a heaven for computer geeks.

The front porch of Pantip Plaza had a surprise in store for me. In 1993 when I was in Bangkok, I had seen ice-cream sellers putting ice-creams in bread and selling them. That time I was not at all ready to taste such an odd combination, as I felt it to be. But this time, I wanted to taste this combination for the sake of curiosity of my taste-buds. Ever since the start of this trip, I was on the lookout for these ice-cream sellers (since not all ice-cream sellers offer such a combo). And I found one here, at Pantip Plaza. The ice-cream is sandwiched in the slit of a long bread, a little sweeter than the normal ones. In all, 8 small scoops were put inside it before garnishing it with roasted groundnuts & soaked and roasted moong dal. And it was done! I clicked a photo of this wierd ice-cream combination (see photo above), as we Indians would call it, and eagerly took a bite. The taste was not as wierd as I had expected it to be. It tastes a little like how ice-cream would go with a cream-less cake. For me, it was an okay taste, not too good, not too bad. But at the end of it I had the satisfaction of finally letting my taste-buds have a go at it!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bangkok Post: Day 10

Today was a day to catch up with some social visits in Bangkok. Before he shifted to the heart of the city, my mama used to live near Samutprakan which is a little on the outskirts of the city. When I first came to Bangkok in 1993, I was a first grader and stayed with mama for 2 months at his earlier residence. I have fond memories of that place; a nice, peaceful place decked with row-houses on either side of the street. It was called (and is still called) Fortune City. Many Indian families used to stay side by side here and there was a whole gang of children of my age group there. We kids had a blast that time and I remember that time very vividly.

Now most of the families have shifted, some have returned to India. One of the families still lives there and we visited them today. Driving through those much aquainted lanes to arrive at their house was itself a nostalgic feeling for me. I could, even after 15 years visualize how we used to play in those lanes, go cycling on the main street with a small river flowing down on one side, the bridges linking the streets at the 'still familiar' locations and the electricity wires overhead still continuing their typical buzzing noise!! Not much has changed there since I had last waved the place a goodbye!

We revived those memories & had a sumptuous north-Indian lunch with them. After lunch, mom & I had planned to go to the "Ancient City", a place almost a few kilometres away from their house. The Ancient city is a huge sprawling area where traditional Thai culture, lifestyle, houses, places of worship and works from the mythological traditions is depicted. We traversed much of the campus on bicycles & I freaked out on photos. Capturing the traditional Thai architecture, their temples (temples are called wats in Thai), art forms like wall-paintings, sculptures through my lens was a marvelous experience. Since Thai mythology has much of the borrowings from Indian mythology, Ramayana, Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu and many gods and goddesses were sculpted or made into statues. Even the names of gods & goddesses bear a great deal of resemblance to their original Hindu names. For example, Saraswati is called Surasawadi in Thai mythology. Many such resemblances can be found. This place is a must visit for all those interested in Thai culture & its manifestations.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bangkok Post: Day 9

Another of those 'check-out-the-malls' day, this time to MBK, one of the favourites with foreigners. The place had hordes of foreigners flocking to buy goods, mostly garments & accessories. In Bangkok, there is a system of walkways, which connects the skytrain stations to the malls at those stations. So coming out of the station, you could directly walk into the bustling malls! Now thats called 'Applied Thought' for convenience!

We entered MBK through one such walkway & soon we found ourselves amidst a sea of shoppers. We entered a shop selling purses & it reminded me of good old India! And not for a good reason mind you... there were Indian shoppers around & they were shopping more with their mouths than their eyes & hands. All other shoppers were quietly shopping with toned down voices if at all they had to speak or ask, but not Indians! Indian shoppers are a class apart! They make their presence felt with their loud-mouthed shopping. I mean I was feeling so ashamed observing the salesgirls' faces while they were attending to Indians. I think we seriously need to rectify this bad habit of ours.

Walking around that floor of the mall, we spent around 3 hours on that single floor... shopping. And checking out the trends & varieties of clothes, shoes & accessories. Here there is scope for bargaining, but if the price we quote is unacceptable to the sellers, they don't call the customer back unlike that in India. In Bangkok, you would find salesgirls (salesgirls because in most of the shops you will find salesgirls... and yes the trans-sexuals) doing only 2 things apart from attending to customers with a wide smile & a sugar-sweet HELLO; that is eating & doing make-up. Yes! we have literally seen these petite girls putting their lotions & cosmetics quietly at a corner of their shops. They maintain themselves very well & will always keep themselves spic & span.

It was also after 8 days I saw Thai people wearing colourful clothes. Ever since we had arrived here, the nation was in mourning since the Queen Mother had just passed away in 1st week of January. So Thai men & women were wearing blacks or whites during the mourning period. Everywhere you could see a crowd of blacks & whites, especially while using public transport. But I really did appreciate their love for the Royal family. Imagine almost over 95% of population wearing mourning colours for so many days. Even the manequines at malls adorned various new arrivals in black & white. I can never imagine Indians putting on a specific dress code, rather a colour even for a day if a national mourning is declared. Even if they were to, they would put them on unwillingly for sure. But here, people willfully put their mourning clothes for almost 2 weeks. That really makes me appreciate them.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bangkok Post: Day 8

Day 7 was not a day to blog about. So I let my fingers rest for a day...he he. Yesterday was a day filled with a visit to one of the grandeous malls in Bangkok; the Siam Paragon.

If you are contented with the huge malls springing up everywhere in metros like Mumbai, you have too small an appetite. Thats because the malls in Bangkok are far more sprawling, spacious & offering almost all the lifestyle options for your needs. If you think thats comparable to what our urban malls offer, eat your words NOW! Indian malls may be far too nascent when it comes to boasting. My eyes popped out when I saw the Siam Paragon showcasing dream cars like Lambhorgini, Ferrari, BMW, Lotus, etc. Now if the best Indian mall could speak, it would have screamed, "Show off!!" (he he he)

And if thats not enough, how about an entire floor (and a floor means acres of space) filled with elite brands like Versace, Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan, Playboy and hordes of others. In another of the malls I had been to, the entire floor was filled with nothing but only women's lingerie! From push-ups to thongs, you could find all types & brands of lingerie there. It was lingerie everywhere... every type, every colour, every shape... the ones that would give even Mallika Sherawat an inferiority complex!!

And its not just the goods on sale that make up an unforgettable shopping experience. Its got a lot to do with the ambience, the decor, the lightings on the floor which are an essential ingredient of a mall. And Bangkok's mall have it all.

One more thing about the goods is that you get value for money in these malls. The typical frustration of an Indian shopper is not getting satisfactory item for the cost he has to pay. The quality of item is not in accordance with its price tag. Here, the item is worth the bucks you shell out for it. That is the most important thing for a shopper.

The gist of it is that Bangkok truly stands tall to its name of 'Shopper's Paradise'. Its a fantabulous shopping experience like no other. A word of advice: check out the floorplan of the mall before you start. You will get confused in the maze of escalators & corridors!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Pursuit of Happyness - Must Watch!!

After a long time, I have seen a sensible & thought-provoking movie. Although it has been almost an year after it released, I was still yearning to watch it. Based on a true life story, this movie is about the struggle of Chris Gardner to find a good job to support his family; his wife & his son Christopher whom he loves very much. And eventually the story of the pursuit of a little part of his life he calls 'happiness'.

It wouldn't be effective if I had to tell the story here, coz words would take away the sensitivity & intricate treatment given to each part of the movie. Will Smith reaffirms why he is a great actor, given the kind of role he has played. The movie aptly portrays a myriad of human emotions & situations; situations which sometimes we have experienced. Situations which make us think about the extent of human resolve. Situations in which we can 'try' to imagine what it would be to support yourself & your child with only 21 dollars in your wallet!

Though Will Smith is at the centre-stage in the whole movie, his son Christopher played by Jaden Smith equally makes his mark in the movie with his befitting piece of acting.

The bottomline of the movie is that happiness doesn't come to you in life just like that. Happiness is always preceded by a long pursuit that brings out the best in man. And those trials & tribulations alone can bring out the true essence of happiness!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bangkok Post: Day 6

It was a rest day today, the day was spent lazing around. I got up late & spent the morning on internet, catching up with some friends back home.

Since there is nothing to blog about today, coz there was no going out, let me just write about the traffic discipline in Thailand. Venture out on the busiest road here & don't be surprised if no one honks inspite of a snail-pace traffic. They honk only if it is absolutely necessary. So noise pollution on roads is substantially reduced, except for the vehicular noise. Secondly, lane discipline is strictly followed & hardly any car cuts the lane. They will wait for the vehicle at the front to move rather than cut the lane & move ahead. Thirdly, no one parks their vehicles on the sides of a main road. So congestion of lanes is reduced.

When it comes to pedestrians, they will always use the footpath to walk & when it comes to crossing the roads, they will cross at the crossing or use overhead bridge wherever possible. That saves motorists the trouble to watch out for jay-walkers. I wish we Indians could learn something from this!

(The photo above is that of a Tuk-Tuk, Thailand's auto-rickshaw. Tuk-Tuks don't have meters. Only the cabbies have meters.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bangkok Post: Day 5

Thailand's famous floating market was on the agenda today alongwith the wax museum. Since the market starts winding up after 10 am, it was advised by mama to leave home by 7 am so as to reach the floating market by 8:30 - 9 am. Our driver was on time & had brought us local food for a morning snack. It consisted of pieces of chicken, pork, pork liver, chicken liver barbequed & arranged on a long toothpick along with a pile of sticky rice in cylindrical shape (imagine how we eat frankie). After having this new street food taste, we drove off.

The Floating Market

Reaching the floating market, we booked a boat. Tourists are taken around the market in small wooden boats in narrow water lanes, fillled with vendors selling fruits, street food, souveniers, hats, drinks, wooden crafts, etc. The vendors are of 2 types: those who sell moving about in their boats & others who have shops on stilts on both sides of the lanes. Normally, food-items are sold on boats & others in shops. Buyers (ie. tourists) have to go about in boats to buy their items. It was a market I had never seen before anywhere. But, the water lanes reminded me of Kerala's backwaters where I had enjoyed in a 'vallam' (the wooden boat with oars is called vallam in Kerala). We started off & soon there were boats everywhere around us. Here, most of the vegetable sellers are women, unlike our 'bhaiyyas'. We bought a few fruits there after mama did a 'taklong' (taklong=deal, in this case bargain) with the seller. I shot the entire video of the water lanes & the market. It would now always remain in my 'memory'.

Don Wai Talat

For afternoon lunch, we came to Don Wai Talat, another 'sight & smell' market (talat=market). But here, there were no non-vegetarian items on sale. Different types of fruits, flowers & vegetables adorned the stalls & there was quite a crowd in the market. Vendors were calling out to sell their eatables. But surprisingly, there was no shouting out aloud & no chaos. The women didn't shout & not one of them had a harsh voice. The entire decorum of the market was full of discipline. Even the buyers didn't push the person in front & patiently waited for that person to move in the crowd. I need not elaborate how the scenario is in India!

Another quality of Thai people apart from discipline & cultured behaviour, that you can't help notice is their hard-working attitude. An example of this was when I asked a florist for a photo of the flowers in her tray. She was having her food & she nodded in affirmative. I was about to click when she kept aside her food & arranged the flower bunches in the tray so that I could have a good photo. I hadn't expected this at all & thanked her for that. She smiled & resumed with her chopsticks. Taking the photo I thought, "could I have expected this in my own country?". The quality of hard-work is inherent in every Thai citizen. They never shirk work & they believe in 'work is worship' in true sense of the term.

Human Imagery Museum

In the afternoon, we headed to the 'Human Imagery Museum' where wax structures of real-life people are exhibited (like Madamme Tussad's museum). The exhibits included people from all walks of Thai culture & life; the monks, king, poets, musicians, children, fairy tale characters, villagers, farmers, etc. It also housed world's eminent personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln. The statues are intricately made with detailed attention to even the most negligible attribute. The museum is simply marvelous & is one of 'must-sees' in Thailand.

We returned home by late afternoon & made a dash for the swimming pool in the evening. The pool situated on the 6th floor of mama's building, offers a good view of the Chaophraya river. The pool has sections where some could laze out in bubbling water, others could swim or just enjoy a view of the river! It made my evening & it was after many years that I swam. It felt refreshingly good & was all ready for a pizza waiting for me back home.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Bangkok Post: Day 4

Shop till you drop

If I ever lived the phrase "shop till you drop", it was today. The venue was Bangkok's famous shopping centre - Baiyoke. This is the highest building in Bangkok & houses a huge shopping arcade. Tourists visiting Bangkok swarm this place only to return with dozens of shopping bags with them. And we religiously stuck to this 'tradition' today. 7 hours of shopping was all it required to experience the 'shopaholic syndrome' peculiar to tourists here. We bought many clothes & apparels at prices very much less than what would it would have cost us in India. We came across all kinds of fashion while wandering in the arcade... from local Thai to fancy western t-shirts & denims; Baiyoke had it all!

By the time we came out of the arcade back into our car, everyone was ready to drop off to sleep after a hard day of shopping. Now thats what they mean by 'shop till you drop'. Enough written! I may drop off to sleep anytime on this soothing bed! Yaaaaawwwnnn...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Bangkok Post: Day 3

Day 3 was spent at a local flea market, where we had to go by a ferry. The market was called 'Sampeng market', & it reminded me of Mumbai markets. A narrow lane with shops abound on both its sides. And hawkers clogging it at occassional distances, with most of them selling local street food. We checked out many shops & also bought some gift items & takeaways. While asking the prices, holding the article or sometimes pointing to it, mom used to ask in Marathi, "Hyaachi kimmat kaay?" (what is the price for this?). And the shopkeepers used to quote their prices. Then mom & me used to laugh saying the Thai vendors understand Marathi... he he he!

One thing that struck me was that inspite of the crowding in the lane, neither anyone was pushing the other person, nor was anyone shouting irately. Discipline & utmost respect for the other person are inherent in Thai culture, and it shows!

We returned from the flea market in the evening with our shopping bags. By that time mama had returned from office & he took us to a nearby joint so that we could enjoy some street food. He told me that the best way to taste Thai food was to opt for street food. You find many varieties in street food & thats how you get introduced to a plethora of cuisine. Mama ordered hoithot (shells in omlet), sea-food yakisoba (japanese preparation of sea-food in noodles), phad thai (noodles with sprouts & prawns) & auy suan (oysters in egg base). We tasted each if these turn by turn & liked all of them. It was very 'aroy' (aroy=delicious). We returned home & topped the delicacy treat with a bowlful of 'rum & raisin' ice-cream!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bangkok Post: Day 2

Day 2 in Bangkok was a day to venture out as tourists are meant to. But this day was not just another day... it was my birthday! 1st time ever, I was not celebrating my birthday in India. Last time I remember I had cut a mango cream cake in the Bangalore-Mumbai Udyaan express when we were returning from an Industrial visit. I had a good time with my friends then. Ok now coming back to Day 2:

Hitting the gym

In the morning, I was wished a happy birthday by mama & mami. Mom, as per her traditional practice for so many years, wished me at 08:09 hrs IST; my birth time. After a breakfast of Tuna sandwich, I blogged about my Day 1 experiences. Having finished with that, I decided to hit the gym which mama had shown me the earlier day. Since it was a working day, there was no one at the gym at 11 in the morning. I turned on the music on my Palmtop & started with my workout. I pumped iron for about an hour & returned home with inflated veins. Thats a pleasing sight to my eyes! Yeah...

Sky train & shopping centre

At about 3 pm, we left home for some sight seeing & shopping. For crossing over to the opposite side of the Chaophraya river, we had to board a ferry. Soon, we were at the other side & bought tickets (self-service through ticket vending machine) to a station called 'National Stadium'. Alighting at the platform, we straight made our way into the 'Tokyu' shopping centre which is connected directly to the platform. Now thats what I call convenience! This multi-storeyed shopping centre had a lot to offer on the shelves & we didn't have much time to explore each corner. We mostly did window-shopping there, while checking out some local stuff.


Mom got particularly interested in some dress which she wanted to try out. The salesgirl, a petite Thai cutie was helping her with the size & other things, in her sweet-spoken crude english. For a guy like me, coming across a variety of Indian girls all these years, almost all the Thai girls look the same: petite, fair, chinky eyes, slim & yeah... very beautiful! I jokingly told myself that if I ever were to marry a Thai gal, very soon I would be charged with infidelity! (he he he...) Because they all look very much the same! Now coming back to this cute salesgirl... she took mom to show her the trial room. Mami & me accompanied & when we were waiting outside for mom to change, mami told me, "you know what mihir, this salesgirl is a trans-sexual"(I later learnt that they are called 'kathay' in Thailand). I gulped in disbelief! I mean she... er... he... was actually a male! And quite a beautiful male I must admit! God!!... Thai boys would be facing a tough time! Mami also added that there have been some cases where guys found out after marriage that their 'wives' were... well... guys! Now whoever said "Ignorance is bliss" was 100% not a Thai lad!!

Celebration time!

In the evening when we returned, mama's secretary had come home to see me & mom. She was eager to meet the guests from India. She had brought a cake with her since she came to know from mama that it was my birthday today. I cut the cake, with everyone singing "happy birthday to you". Pom (mama's secretary) also joined in the jingle with her elementary english. (imagine english given a thai accent). Pom then gifted me a set of lovely red chopsticks with a golden design on it. I thanked her & said, "Khun Pom, ani suaay". (Pom, this is beautiful). I was very delighted by this gesture of my new Thai friend to arrange for a cake & gift me chopsticks. Pom then asked for a photograph with me. Now my mama was pulling my leg, saying that I was lucky... a Thai girl arranging a cake for me & wanting a photograph with me. He quipped teasingly, "I wasn't so lucky at 22... celebrating birthday with a foreigner gal". Pom then had Indian dinner with us. While leaving she said she enjoyed meeting me & mom. We also thoroughly enjoyed having her for the evening. It was indeed a memorable birthday for me and also for my mama & mami... their nephew celebrating his birthday in their house!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bangkok Post: Day 1

Incidently, 'Bangkok Post' is to Bangkok as 'Times of India' is to Mumbai. I thought of posting daily experiences of my Bangkok trip under this blog name. This is the 1st of the blog series to come. Reclining on a sofa after a good start to my trip, now is the time to write about the day's findings & visits.

We said Sawaddikhap (sawaddikhap=hello) to Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport at 04:55 hours Bangkok time (03:25 hours IST) on 9th Jan & I was spellbound seeing the expanse & the ambience of this magnificient airport. The long corridors/walks of the airport were facilitated through conveyor belts with paintings adorning the walls. The rendezvous with the airport ended shortly after we completed the formalities & were warmly received by my Mami. We then drove off to my Mama's residence which took us about 30 minutes from the airport. Cruising on the highway at 120 kmph in Mama's black Toyota Camry was a welcome change for a Mumbai lad used to the banal slow moving traffic scenarios.

Soon mom & I arrived at Mama's place...& what a place! The 25th floor apartment overlooking the Chaophraya river offered a magnificient view of the city, the riverside & the speeding highways! And not to mention, the building has its own gym & swimming pool apart from other places of interest. This is going to be my home for the rest of my stay here.

Till evening, the day was spent in freshening up, lunch & sleep. In the evening, all of us (me, mom, mama, mami) went to a local market to buy some vegetables & eatables. This is one experience we Bombayites never have. The place can be told about or photographed; but you can't make somebody experience the smell! You have to be there to smell that. Its basically a medley of sorts; fish, fruits, vegetables, meat... all being sold next to each other. So you can 'try' imagining the 'aroma'!

We came home & had Tom Kloang (tom=soup) which is a Thai soup, Yam (yam=salad) & Laab paduk (Laab=mince & paduk=type of fish) with rice for supper. Tom Kloang had pieces of octopus in it and tasting octopus for the 1st time, I enjoyed it! The night-view of the Chaophraya river is all the more beautiful, with colourfully illluminated boats ferrying up & down the river. I end my day watching the bedecked boats & bridge and enjoying a dollop of tender coconut icecream!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dating a million beauties!

I am writing this while on board the flight to Bangkok. Currently experiencing turbulence & having a lovely cuppa of coffee served by the teenie-weenie eyed airhostess of Thai Airways, i look out of the window. Since this is a night flight & its 1:15 am, the cabin lights have dimmed & everyone is ready to doze off. But for me, sleep is the most uninteresting thing to do in a flight.

I try star-gazing at 35000 feet... its something that i feel is much more worth than sleeping on a night flight. Through the tiny window on my right, I peep to have a hearty look at the galactic beauties! Beauties which shy away from me & hide behind their curtains of cloud when i try to seek them from the city sky, filled with smoke & dust particles. But today, no one can stop me having a sumptuous rendezvous with them! I have never felt more closer to them than I am feeling now. And while everyone is having a good sleep, there's no one to disturb me on this 'date'. Not even the mobile phone!! Enough of words I feel, now let my eyes do the talking!

(Reminds me of the song "We are going to the moon and back" by Savage Garden!!)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Boyfriends v/s I-pods

I happened to hear a conversation between my friend & her friend (both girls), one fine evening & from their conversation, I couldn't help drawing similarities between the 2 'omnipresent commodities': Boyfriends & I-pods. So I let my mind run free in its own humorous sway & lo! It churned out certain similarities & differences between these 2 'must haves'...

1) Boy 1: Dude!! Look at this cool-drool... the latest I-pod... Its 80 GB & loaded to rock your ears out!
Boy 2: Thats nothing man! Look at this 120 GB bombshell!!

Now a parallel version of this conversation between two girlies would be:

Girl 1: Babe! My guy is a macho. He weighs 80 Kgs & can make guys 'run for' their gals.
Girl 2: Sigh!! My boyfriend is 120 Kgs & I hope he doesn't 'run down' any poor girl.

Moral: Kgs & GBs don't mix... Bigger is not always better!

2) Boy 1: Shit man! Its only 3 months & my new I-pod is pissing me off. I think I better grab the latest one on the shelves.
Boy 2: Hmmm... I was luckier. I bought another one only after I enjoyed an entire year of a music blast with mine.

And girls have their fair share:

Girl 1: Buddy, its only 3 months with my new boyfriend & he is already pissing me off.
Girl 2: So soon? I enjoyed a whole year with my boyfriend before I called it quits.

Moral: STATUATORY WARNING: Sooner or later, boyfriends & I-pods may piss you off. It all depends how much patience you have (or can try to have!)

3) Boy 1: (After an year of full-volume music on his I-pod) You know what? I think my I-pod is deafening me out. I can't hear anything which is on a lower volume.
Boy 2: Sorry..come again. Didn't hear you!

And then girls are not to be left behind:

Girl 1: (After having a boyfriend for an year) My boyfriend just doesn't talk sweetly with me. He is always croaking out loud like a frog. I pretend to be deaf while listening to him.
Girl 2: Yeah!... Its the same old story. Sigh!!

Moral: I-pods make you deaf, boyfriends make you wish you were deaf!

So guys, go ahead... enjoy your ear-throbbing I-pods
& girls, enjoy your boyfriends with all their inherent, quintessential qualities!

Girl 3: (shocked!!) Qualities??? Mihir, you said Q-U-A-L-I-T-I-E-S???? (faints!!)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

New Year Cops (version 2008.1)

Whats so special about this picture? Yes, from a photographer's point of view, nothing makes it special. But, hold on... for all the people of Mumbai out there, isn't this picture pleasantly surprising? Still didn't get it? Look at the traffic cops (we 'fondly' call them as 'paandus')!! Ever seen paandus without an ounce of paunch on their tummies? Maybe these are new recruits, thats why! (no, I am not hinting ;-)). And a little bird told me about what these two were talking about ... the New Year Resolution!!

They have resolved to flaunt paunches by the year end! Now thats something of an 'achievable' resolution. I sincerely pray that their kids get 'home-grown' punching bags as their next year's New year gift! (that will be version 2008.12... lol).