Archive for November, 2011

the dreaded visa run

Posted: November 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

Like all foreigners in Thailand I’m treated with  suspicion. No matter what your status,  a farang ( read as nasty bad foreigner)  must either leave the country every 60 days to renew a tourist visa me…or go to the police station every 90 days if you’ve chosen to retire here and explain why you should be allowed to stay. Of course it all comes to us through the lens of  history that is Thailand’s rocky relationship with the outside world included into a a healthy dose of tribalism and flag waving, alongside the frantic world of internal politics.

And so we have ended up with  ….ta ta ta taaaaaaaaaa….the visa run…something every ‘old Asia hand’ will tell you is a nuisance and a pleasure rolled into one. Living in Thailand is something like living in a swirling vortex, like having your head in a blender. Leaving the country for a few days is like the feeling you get when you bob to the surface after a deep dive to refill your lungs with a gulp of fresh air…..invigorating….cathartic.

One of the reasons I choose to position myself here is the geography that Thailand commands in  SE Asia. We can access the rest of the region from this central perch easily and inexpensively. Today I will go to Penang Malaysia for a few days. I haven’t been there for a number of years. I have many fond memories of Penang and hopefully they’ll be resurrected. We haven’t had a good Murtabak for awhile and as you know I’m a devout foodie so I look forward to the change in fare by being in Malaysia temporarily.

BTW…if you have any good info about anywhere in SE Asia for living and lifestyle I’d be happy to hear your stories. Hey…make that…if you have any good travel stories period……I’d be happy to hear them. I travel extensively and am always looking for a new cool place to flop and write.

resevoirs of light

Posted: November 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

Bangkok becomes a different city by night. We’re forced to congregate around the tiny pools of light shed by the street vendors and the miserable cafe’s that set up under the cover of darkness. People get crammed together along busy streets and the amount of personal space one enjoys during daylight hours shrinks by half.  I found myself counting the number of lice on a fellow passengers head and didn’t find it strange. I also noticed that people generally smell worse than I had thought. All because the weak reach of the fluorescent bulbs make us distill the nature around us into potent little snippets of reality.

We took a seat a table for two that was occupied by five, pretending we were civil enough not to eavesdrop. Noodle soup is  a great leveler when space is so limited. During the day I would have watched the busy office girls and boys go by, all neatly dressed in company attire, attesting to their willing grasp on the flawed modernity of this great city. At night however, the uniforms are of a different design, crafted for another business that requires just as much education. A I enjoyed my fried noodles and pork a steady stream of well made up and dressed girls, boys and the third sex in Thailand, the boy-girl flowed past us. In a city that truly never sleeps there must be someone working to keep the lights on.

The night watch poured steadily out of the tiny sois towards the main streets where public transportation would whisk them into the tawdry areas of the city where lights were dimmed for obvious reasons. I thought how brave a person had to be to work in those professions. I’m not convinced that anyone given a choice would choose to do that.

a solento saturday night

Posted: November 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

Vive la differance. I received an email from a friend in Columbia overnight. He’s an actor some would recognize as the number three guy supporting the star in many major movies. He spends every winter traveling outside Canada, this year he picked a mountainous region of Columbia famous for it’s coffee. I spent a lot of time in Columbia as a kid and concur, it’s a nice place. for sure.

He tells me that there was an incident outside his guest house in the early hours before dawn, apparently a drunk coming home from the cantina began firing off his pistol outside my friends bedroom window. He thought I’d appreciate the story/situation because my namesake and spiritual mentor, 19th century J Wes Hardin, was supposed to have fired his gun through a bunk house wall, killing an occupant who snored too loudly. OK I get the cosmic kismet, very funny Stephen.

My only complaint in BKK is the soi dogs going off at sunrise. They seem to get crazy brain signals from outer space when the sun breaks out that serves to drive them into a frenzied cacophony of continuous yelping. I’m blessed that there are no roosters or peacocks allowed to be kept in my neighborhood. That would be too much. I suppose it’s a heck of a lot better than gunfire. With that in mind I’m reminded that there is less deadly violence in Bangkok, a city of 12 million, than there is in Vancouver, a strip mall sized berg of just a few hundred thousand. Thank the Buddha for his influence. I’ll go back to watching my wife water her orchids.

heavenly breeze, ninety degrees

Posted: November 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

Does it get any better than this? What a great place to work! Truth be told, the world  can be deceiving . I get this great breeze coming off the Gulf of Thailand through my apartment, a corner unit up in a highrise surrounded by open fields on the periphery of Bangkok. It’s only a short elevator ride down to the ground where the temperature is more like a well stoked furnace. Most days I carry an umbrella to cover me from the suns burning rays as I scurry from my shaded path to an air con hidey-hole and back again.

Today’s outside activity has been limited so far to going out and picking up a few packets of extraordinary Thai food ( Ahaan Thai) from the open court vendors who set up behind the office towers next door. I order Sai take away in neat little Styrofoam containers lined with plastic sheet. I liked the look of the crispy pork and sweet sausage with sauce on rice for 30 baht. Next I had a vegetable dish with mixed chicken and egg deep fried , Kai Tiao mixed with chili/spices..also 30 baht. Two ice coffee…Ga Fey Yen…20 baht each. $3,66 for a meal I would have paid over $20 for in Canada. I’m thinking about an afternoon snack !

How can you disagree with a man whose words set the world on fire? Traveling was once so arduous an undertaking that few people attempted it in their lifetimes. In my lifetime I have seen an entire industry develop out of was once nearly impossible. When the guide book industry was developed in the 1970’s by Australians Tony and Maureen Wheeler by their creation of  the ‘how to’ Lonely Planet publications the world suddenly became accessible to the masses.

Is the world a better place because of mass tourism? You’ll have to decide for yourself.

bangkok itinerary

Posted: November 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s going to be another stinker today. My plan is to do a little as possible. When it’s hot like this you have to choose your battles. I’ve been here a while and know what I want, I’m organized. We rarely travel around the city except on weekends when we want to do something recreational, like going to JJ market, that’s always fun. We can take an air bus to the frigid BTSand ride in comfort  instead of it taking several hours through traffic by bus like in the old days. The usual itinerary runs something like this… and a chapter written around sunrise when the creative juices are fresh, zebra work on the balcony to keep a nice balance on the skin tone, breaky, go to the pool for some serious rays and a swim, depending on just how hot it is we may step out for some sidewalk snacks. We discovered a new treat, deep fried chicken feet..delicious and only about two and a half baht each.


Street drinks are also a must, to get that core freeze going, bubble tea with crushed ice is excellent at fifty cents a pop. Pat and I have become habituated to the McDonald’s soft ice cream cones at 9 baht (thirty cents), we have a Mickey D’s next door. We don’t feel forced to go out, the way you do when you’re staying in a hotel type lodging, we always stay in an apartment, with all the amenities. We choose one place and stay there for six months at a minimum. I find that life gets to encumbered with details if we have to switch places all the time. We like to stock the fridge, enjoy our satellite movies, ADSL, getting to know the neighbors…it’s a different kind of traveling, a relative experience as opposed to a transition..we feel at home wherever we go. Weeks, even months can go by without noticing how time flies, it’s…pleasant.

We found that not cooking for ourselves is not only financially practical but it also keeps the bugs down. The ubiquitos asian cockroach has an extraordinary sense of smell and even the leftover molecules laying around after a fry up can bring them scouting, bottom line, no cooking, no bugs, works for me. I hate my own cooking anyway. I’m not going to pretend I can cook to any degree, so I don’t. We’ll finish off the itinerary by waiting for the sun to go down, maybe watch a sunset movie, and then go out, like sensible people , when the heat dies down and have some truly delicious food at a sidewalk stall somewhere close by, the choices are fantastic in this town. Hey, dinner for two for less than five dollars…can you beat that?

never curse the wind

Posted: November 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

Never curse the wind or waste a fine woman . This phrase popped into my head as I lit up the laptop to begin another evening of writing the new novel. It’s still tonight, devoid of even the slightest hint of a breeze, humid and quiet except for the trilling of crickets that provides an underpinning to every tropical night I’ve ever known. I’ll never complain about the heat or the humidity, not coming from where I do. I have enough cold miserable winters behind me to freeze the words right out of your mouth.

Why do you travel? Anyone who reads my books will ascertain why I prefer to drift. But everyone has their own drivers, mine just happens to be soul driven. I’m learning to be more comfortable speaking the Thai vocabulary we need to get along here. The Thai love it when you speak a little, they respond with genuine bemusement. I say this because Bangkok is a great place to learn new tricks. There are probably more than a few one act ponies who’d  like to graft a new skill onto their repertoire. Traveling is cathartic, a g-spot to bring the mind and spirit to orgasm. It’s not you who gets to where you’re going , it’s who you want to be that steps off the plane, it may be a stranger who leaves.