Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Southeast Asia on my Mind

It's been three months since Southeast Asia. My mom had made an array of childhood favorites ranging from 'sung ka ya' (coconut milk custard) to 'nung bah dook' (steamed herb stuffed fish). I couldn't resist but close my eyes during dinner and just pretend that I'm back in Laos again...among the coconut trees, bamboo huts. I miss it, I miss it so badly...then I started completely reminiscing about it against this backdrop of freezing isolation called Minnesota winter. I suppose I shouldn't be so harsh, it's an icebox of America, but it's also what I call home and where the best of Midwest 'nice' comes from.

So now of course...I'm backtracking my memories, my steps across the intensity of Thailand life and the laid back motherland, Laos. I know, I know, I waited too long to even try to recapture everything I tasted, saw, touched, smell, and heard. As the saying goes, it's now or never to claim it all. I guess I was too speechless, too overwhelmed, too out of my element to even begin to understand where I was at and what the hell I was doing at the time. Now it's all coming back to me...piece by piece.

Mom made this tantalizing droolfest called Thai-style papaya salad..sweet and sour type that is pretty much the staple past-time snack of Thai and Lao. Ahhh, Thailand...the ultimate land of senses overload. The dizzying aura of massive architectural space, the peering eyes behind steaming street stalls, the endless evergreen growth spanning the exotic North. Bangkok in one word is colorful. It is an epicenter of consumerist pleasures with high-end boutiques, sleepless nightlife, and any kind of movie character you can think of. Sure, I like the finer things in life sometimes, but not the attitude that comes with it. Then there's nature and culture galore, my favorite spot in Thailand, Chiang Mai. Developed in modern terms, yet still nostalgic to the lingering people and plants of the past which represented what once was a part of the Kingdom of Lan Xang. Thai...Lao...we were one in the same. As I was walking through a small village with textile shops lined up along a steep hillside, I glanced across the cotton suited dolls, the intricate hand-made silver jewelry, the desperate smiling faces...I saw the fabrics of my past and in that very moment, I said to myself, "one day, I will live in Chiang Mai...", I remember clearly that those were my exact words. It was a sudden difference inside of me. I felt I wasn't under a typical foreigner spell anymore... I became connected...familiar in a sense that I had and must had been here from another life or another point in time. Maybe as a child, maybe as my former reincarted self. It felt like the best feeling in the world to belong, but I was in a worrisome state, because I didn't even step into Laos yet to begin to understand the feeling of (maybe) belonging somewhere.

Day 1: Midnight Smog and Snack - Bangkok, Thailand - September 14th, 2010

Serious, serious jetlag. Am I really here? Suvarnabhumi Airport is a massive space island?? do I take these treadmill stairs. Then I see Ann! My lovely bubbly Thai friend from back in Sawatdee waitressing days. So happy to see her sweet face picking me up. We step outside and I'm instantly covered in a thick layer of muggy air. I start to immediately choke and cough because I must not know how to breath the normal way in smoggy Thailand. Ann reminds me it's the rainy season and then berates me for coming at a bad month to travel because nothing will look naturally beautiful. We set off through the empty hour before the streets start looking like they're closing in and late night food stalls are up and running. We make it into a tiny outskirt town called Pakkret(Nonthaburi district), Ann's home. I look in the darkness, but there's not much to see but random lights popping up to indicate that people aren't asleep. I meet the family, who welcome me with carmelized pork and egg soup and sour mangoes. Sleep seemed more important at the time, but I shoved the food down first.

>>>Check out the link for my Thailand photo album on Facebook: Taking in Thailand

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