Even Fauxbos Have Families, Part 1

I generally try to act like a citizen of the world. Of course I want to be happy, and I want my friends from home to be happy, but not if it comes at the cost of the happiness of others, even if I’ll never see or meet them. Even if I couldn’t talk to them if I did. I can’t think of any reason why one individual’s well being out to be more significant than any other’s. In my better moments, perhaps under the influence of too much Alan Watts, I conceive of myself (and everyone else) as an outcropping of the universe, much like a wave is an outcropping of the ocean. We appear, we do some things that might feel momentous, and then we go, and then something that is very much like what we were is back again, and it’s all made of the same stuff, mixing together and falling apart over and over until who knows when.

On the other, less-mystical hand, I was birthed and raised by a certain set of specific people called Mom and Dad. And they came to Thailand to see me! And to try out Fauxbo life, and to give me an excuse to take a break from it for a bit. After months and months of deliberation and emails, we finally settled on a schedule: two weeks, half to be spent in the madness of Bangkok and its environs, half to be spent up North where things are a bit more chill.

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After an on-time but very late arrival and long taxi ride back form the aiport, we spent most of Day 1 lounging, minus the trip to Khun Churn, the crazy/awesome veg buffet I’ve mentioned before. Less than 12 hours into their trip and Mom and Dad had both experienced their first food swoons! Unfortunately, no documentary evidence exists, as we were too busy eating, catching up, and fighting general grogginess to bother with pictures. By Day 2, though, everyone had recovered enough to participate in a vegetarian cooking class in Bankok’s backpacker district. Jetlag, shmetlag – there’s food to be made.

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The eight or so kilometers between our hotel in Bangkok’s somewhat classy banking district and our cooking school in the fairly grimy backpacker distract doesn’t sound like much, but in a city as cramped as Bangkok, even such small distances can be formidable. Our hotel concierge told us it would take two hours in a taxi; we had only given ourselves about an hour and a quarter. The taxi drivers outside tried to run their game on us: “Khaosan road? Today Friday, big traffic jam, no use meter. 500 baht. (US $17).” Instead, I tried to impress my parents with my street smarts – we took the skytrain four stops for a dollar a piece, then hopped into a taxi at the station closest to the backpacker district and rode the rest of the way (about one mile, twenty minutes) for two dollars. Twelve dollars saved! If that were my money, it’d be another day on the road. Or two in India.

Anyway, after the ordeal, we arrived at our school and were led upstares to a well-prepared kitchen: broccoli cut, garlic minced, noodles soaked. And a crew of Thai tennagers waiting to wash our pots and dishes as soon ad we had used them. All we had to do was to put everything in in the right order and to keep it form burning.

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It sounds so simple, but somehow the result was the above: something that looked and tasted just like real Thai food! That perfect blend of rich, sweet, sour, and spice – not to toot our own horns, but it was pretty hard to believe that we had made such little food with so little effort. Even making our own curry paste was a snap.

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The morning’s menu covered all the dishes Thailand is famous for: green curry, Massaman curry, Pad Thai noodles, papaya salad, spring rolls, and mango with coconut sticky rice.

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A bit of Thai nail dancing to help the digestion.

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After which, a return to our ultra-classy budget hotel, the Atlanta. It touts itself as “Bangkok’s last bastion of wholesome tourism,” but apparently wholesomenes doesn’t extend to caring for the environment – they make you buy bottled water. Jerks.

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No, really, they’re kind of jerks. And yet, there was something pleasant about staying somewhere so snooty.

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During our post-class food comas, a plan hatched in my head. Mom and Dad and I would head to the airport to surprise/intercept Mingyu, my original Partner in Grime, and his friend Minseong, and the new addition to our cycle gang. We got to the airport a little late and spent the following two hours waiting for the guys, unsure if they had made it through customs before we arrived or if they had been detained in the back because of their bikes and lack of ongoing plane tickets. Eventually we gave up and went to have a little snack before returning home. As luck would have it, between sitting down and ordering food, the two of them came sauntering by. Two reunions in forty-eight hours!

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Day 3 involved a package tour to Ayuttayah, one of Thailand’s ancient capitals. We spent the morning in a bus listening to a guide’s corny jokes, then most of the morning following him around a palace and listening to his factoids about which building had been built when and had housed which dignitary and all sorts of other stuff I had a feeling nobody cared about. It was hard to believe that just a few weeks earlier, I had made the same trek, even over some of the same roads. My ride, though, included a lot of alone times, plus stops at a vegetarian buffet, a random temple, a school, a night market, and then being offered hospitality by my first real monk. Even this brief return to “normal” travel made it clear that I was meant to cycle.

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Can’t say the place wasn’t pretty, though.

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Next up: the Ayuttayah ruins. Crumbling bricks, tilted supas, saggy walls, headless Buddhas – all reminders that time conquers all.

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One of the most iconic images – a Buddha head cradled just a few feet off the ground by the roots of a Bodhi tree. Apparently the head had fallen off of the body and lay on the ground until the roots began to grow up beneath it. How it wound up suspended just-so, facing out at the perfect angle…nobody knows.

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Followed by a nice, relaxing boat ride home along the Chao Praya river.

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Next up: a trip to Kanchanaburi to visit the Bridge on the River Kwai – one of several built by thousands of starved and diseased Malaysian, Indian, Dutch, British, American, and other Allied prisoners of war captured by the Japanese during WW2. Now people flock here to buy souveniers, eat ice cream, and take goofy photos of them sticking their head out over the tracks while the train comes limping through.

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I don’t know whether to consider it progress because there’s no war happening (here) or regress since the place has been so thoroughly sanitized.

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Then again, for those in search of solemnity, there was a war history museum that explained why it was that the Japanese wanted to build a road from Bangkok to Burma and what the conditions were like for the POWs in the camps. As all these grave indicate, the details aren’t pretty. What war ever is?

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Two scenes from the above cemetery:

1) A few people walk slowly up and down the rows of graves, sometimes stopping to kneel down and hold their forehads to the ground for a minute at a time.

2) A dude fixes his hair, fiddles with his collar, position himself perfectly (with his back to the plaque), puts on a pout, and takes a selfie.

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Still, there’s no sense complaning all the time. Especially not when the world is full of adorable people, like this taxi driver who took us to dinner in the sidecar attached to his moped. Just as the first rain drops started to fall, he reached up into his machinery, did a bit of fiddling, and turned on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” I bet all the tourists get a kick out of it.

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That view of the river Kwai from that night’s restaurant’s- a place called “Apple and Noi’s,” which a friend told me had the best Massaman curry that she’d found during her two years in Thailand.

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It wasn’t bad, but it certainly didn’t live up to my expectations. Actually, the three of us agreed that the curries we had made ourselves in the class a few days before had been much more impressive.

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The Massaman’s cake was also taken by these fried slices of banana flower. They’re chewy and juicy like mushrooms, they taste just like chicken, and they were dunked in a spice-laden batter and then friend. Not to mention that it’s made out of part of a plant that lots of people just discard. Could this be the perfect food?

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Not to mentoin that it goes perfectly with with coconut ice cream?

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The next morning we rode back to Bangkok in a minibus, walked hurriedly though the backpacker district, stopped briefly for one more awesome meal, and then grabbed a taxi up to the airport to catch our plane for Chiang Mai, where another week of eating and wandering awaited us.

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4 Responses to Even Fauxbos Have Families, Part 1

  1. Sue says:

    Thanks for sharing your Mom’s adventures! We missed her but knew she and your dad were in great hands. Someday your blogs will make a marvelous book. Hint, Hint.

    • Michael Roy says:

      Hey Sue! Glad to know you’re reading and that you liked the post…but, now matter how flattering it is, please don’t mention books! Even writing a short post causes me hours and hours of agony! I can’t imagine what it would take to put it all together into something coherent.

  2. 이방인 says:

    새글 올릴때 되었어.
    나는 오늘도 열심히 CV와 Cover letter쓰면서 현실에 침잠해감.

    얼른 돈벌어서 자전거 살게. ㅋㅋㅋ