This is a story I wrote for the Toronto Star in 2006, reprinted here as a supplemental to an episode of The Bangkok Podcast on tourist scams.“Why are you being so stupid?” shouted ‘The Godfather’ through uneven brown teeth as he jabbed a gaudily-jeweled finger toward me. I sat across the rickety table from him, as a bead of sweat marched its way down my temple, sticky from the tropical heat. How did I wind up here?
As a blogger in Bangkok, sometimes you get invited to events that run the gamut from huge to intimate, celebratory to somber, memorable and forgettable. I rarely go to these, usually due to a combination of being lazy and busy (I'm complicated), but a few weeks ago I was invited to an event by a company that was both familiar - hearkening back to my childhood - and vague, in that it wasn't a company you'd expect to be throwing shindigs: Ricola.
When you come to Thailand on a vacation, you hope that your trip will be smooth sailing. No problems, no hiccups, no wrinkles...just your itinerary the way you planned it. That's usually what happens - but not always. A few weeks ago a visiting group of friends had what you'd call a problem...and a hiccup, and a wrinkle - all on the same night! Thankfully, with the help of modern technology - and especially a few friendly Thai policemen - we were able to rescue them from what could have been a very long and very bad night.
In May of 2010, my friend Tony Joh and I stuffed ourselves into a hot, tiny little room in the back of a friend's office, set up a few beat-up old microphones, and hit record on a laptop. It was the beginning of the Bangkok Podcast, and we had no idea if it would be successful or not, or if we'd even enjoy it or not. Luckily, it panned out, and over the next few years we did a weekly show that allowed us to meet monks, journalists, celebrities, politicians, and scholars, among others.It was great fun, but when Tony moved to Tokyo and I got busy with a new job and married life, we pulled the plug. However, as of November 2016, the Bangkok Podcast is BACK, BABY!
I love living in Thailand, but nothing energizes the spirit more than a return visit home. I don't feel the need to go back too often - money and time are limited, and with all the video chats and Facebooking and instant messaging available at my fingertips, friends and family back home are never too far away. Not counting a quick solo trip this past Christmas, it's been 8 years since I spent any time of consequence in the Great White North. But that just means that when I do get home, it's even more special, which was definitely the case from October 6-24, when I, my wife, and our son packed our bags and visited the old country.
It's that time of year again - the vegetarian festival is upon us. This is the time of year when observant Thais eat only vegetarian food for ten days as a sort of penance for all the suffering that meat-eating causes for the rest of the year. It's a good idea, if you're of that mindset, but I usually spend those ten days actively seeking out shops, stalls, and restaurants that don't have that annoying yellow flag that says jae (เจ), which means vegetarian.
As a Canadian, I grew up getting used to throwing away money. Okay, not real money - pennies. In Canada GST is added to everything, so if a price tag says $2, the actual price will be like $2.28 (in Thailand, if the price tag says 143 baht, it's 143 baht). But the pennies that accumulate in the transaction were the bane of many Canadians' existence, piling up, filling pockets and jars, and generally being nearly useless (until they discontinued them in 2013). But that was nothing compared to the Thai equivalent - the dreaded satang coin.
A few days ago I realized I had a low-level eye infection. Nothing serious, but I clearly needed to get my eyes checked out, so I headed to the hospital. In Canada, you only go to the hospital when you have a serious problem because there are little clinics of all types all over the place, but in Thailand, you just generally go to the hospital for any ol' thing.
The Search for Captain Bush’s Grave started when my friend Andrew sent me an email asking if I knew anything about the old abandoned house that sat, forgotten and forlorn, across from the Sheraton Hotel. The house itself is gorgeous but decaying; it sits as if slumped in a beanbag chair, shutters falling off, paint peeling, bricks missing, weeds growing through every crevice. And the street that it sits on? Charoen Krung soi 30 – aka, Soi Captain Bush. […]
After living over 35% of my life in Thailand, I’m always reminded on my all-too-infrequent trips back to Canada how much I took for granted growing up. When I was a kid, I hated the town I lived in – “Ugh, I can’t wait to get out of this place!” we all used to say, like we were singing the chorus of a Springsteen song. But looking back with
grace and age, it’s clear to me how idyllic my childhood really was – miles of green grass, flat sidewalks, bike lanes, and baseball diamonds. The bank tellers knew me […]