WTF? (What THE?! Fridays): American Tuesday Edition

Oh…erm…hi…

You know how you have that one friend who you haven’t talked to in forever and then the longer it goes, the more awkward it gets, and the more you avoid them because you feel bad about ignoring them, and then eventually you forget, and then you have moments of major guilt that you manage to just push down deep inside you? And then you’re like, ‘Well, I can’t write that friend now because there’s too much to catch up on and where do I start?’

Well, I guess this blog is kind of like that friend.

Whatever. Hi!

I’ve been back in the United States for two weeks now, and I’m loving it. I can wear jeans! I can see stars! I don’t have to plan out in my head how I’m going to ask for something in the store!

I’m so enamored with being back here that I’m not even annoyed or horrified at all the utterly ridiculous crap that is on American TV. Well, I’m only kind of annoyed and mildly horrified. Fine, sometimes I’m really horrified, but still.

Like, for example, there is a reality show for virtually everything. There is a reality show about a truck stop in Missouri. There is a reality show called “Basketball Wives: L.A.”! My mother personally likes the reality show about Ice-T and his wife Coco because “she is so off-the-wall”. Pretty soon they’re going to have a reality show that’s just me, watching television. People will love it and I will be rich and famous.

I also heard this line on E! (that’s an entertainment channel): “Laughter is wonderful; laugh lines, not so much.” RIGHT?!  WATCH OUT FOR THE LAUGH LINES, LADIES! LAUGH WITH YOUR MOUTH CLOSED!

Anyway, I’m in Missouri now, and I had forgotten a lot of the stuff that’s normal here. So, a mini WTF? photo essay, from a huge hunting store, even though it’s not Friday.

"Dear Hunters, We are dying out. Please kill many of us and put us in a museum in a hunting store and then ask other hunters to help us survive."

BABY CROSSBOWS. COLOR-CODED. FOR BABIES.

It's your basic over/under shotgun and bolt action rifle. FOR BABIES.

Speechless.

It's a camouflage tankini, modeled by my beautiful cousin. With polar bears in the background.

Here's a one-piece camo swimsuit. In case you need to disappear into the river? Or something?

Okay, people, I’ve got to get back to watching Ice-T and Coco. Coco’s sister is having a baby and all hell is about to break loose!

 

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Good Reasons to Have Lady Parts in Thailand

There are a lot of really great things about being a lady in Thailand. Most of them involve pampering, beautifying, and free booze (Not together. Usually. Although…quick! Write up a business plan for a beauty salon where you can drink!).

To be honest, I usually take a page out of my imaginary best friend Tina Fey’s book, who says:

If you retain nothing else, always remember the most important Rule of Beauty: ‘Who cares?’

How brilliant is that?

Anyway, in Thailand, I can afford to care a little bit more than I do back home, because I can pay somebody to do the things that I can’t do on my own.

1. Shampoo and Blow Dry

For me, this is the best value for my money because it’s something I would never pay to have done back home. At my favorite hair salon in Silver Spring, Maryland, it costs about $40 just to have somebody shampoo and then blow dry your hair.

My main questions about that are: So, is that blow dryer made of solid gold? Or what?

For some reason, getting a shampoo and dry in Bangkok is so cheap it’s shocking. I have had a shampoo/dry for 60B ($2), but I generally pay 100B (about $3). I have paid 200B (about $7) when I was in a hurry and picked a random place, but that’s way too much for me on a regular basis.

Some things to keep in mind if you want a shampoo/dry for 100B:

  • You’re not going to get a fancy place for 100B. It’s going to be a neighborhood place filled with Thai women, which I think is great.
  • You’re not always going to get hot water for the shampoo for that price. Again, that doesn’t really bother me, as it’s usually one trillion degrees in this city.
  • They’re not going to sterilize the brushes and things like they do in many Western countries. Usually they just grab a brush, rip out the hair left by the previous person, and move on. I haven’t caught anything yet (that I’m aware of)!
  • They’ll shampoo your hair two or three times, use conditioner, and give you a head massage. And then you will die happy.
  • They will take as much time and care as if you go to a fancy place. Sometimes they will take more time and care.
  • A tip will be greatly appreciated and often confusing. (“I charged you 80B and you’re giving me 100B?”)

2. Hair Styling

Back home, I generally paid $50-$90 for a simple haircut, which is hilarious because it would look awesome for one day and then go back to the exact same cut I’ve had for years.

In Bangkok, I pay about 600-700 baht (around $20+) for a good cut at Anderson Salon. Pam is Thai, but she deals almost exclusively with Western clients, and she knows her stuff. She speaks great English and has very competitive prices. I recently got lowlights and a cut from her, and it cost 1500B, or about $50.

(p.s. Pam gives the best shampoo/head massage I’ve ever had, literally. Worth it just for that!)

3. Massages

If you just go to a random place, Thai massages in Thailand will start at around 150 (~$5) to 200 baht (~$7) for an hour.  And while Thai massage isn’t exactly relaxing (think forced yoga meets WWF wrestling), you feel great after, even with the bruises. Yes, literally, bruises.

Body massages of any kind in the US cost anywhere from $70 to $100 an hour. I love telling that to my Thai friends who have never been to the US before. The look of shock on their faces is awesome. And it is shocking! That’s a LOT of money!

The best foot massage in town is a place on Sukumvhit soi 31 for 250B, but I think if I reveal the name, my friend Jonathan will kill me.

4. Knock-off beauty supplies at MBK

I’m going to be honest: I don’t really understand how to put on makeup correctly. There’s some part of my girl gene code missing, so I literally have to look at an instruction booklet to put on fancy eye makeup. But I still like to buy it and pretend that someday I’ll know how to use it.

Enter: MBK. MBK is a mall full of clothing, electronics, and crap, and is so labyrinthine that I always end up stumbling out of there after a few hours, completely disoriented, praising the sun blazing down on my head, thankful that I made it out alive.

I feel like David Bowie should be waiting for me somewhere with some Muppets.

Still, it’s all worth it because the 3rd floor of MBK has a series of stands that sell expensive brand-name makeup and beauty supplies for incredibly, incredibly cheap. I don’t know how they do it, and I probably don’t want to know. Factory rejects? “Fell” off the back of the truck? Just old products? Who knows!

Beauty Product Wonderland

5. Keratin Hair Treatment

I don’t really know what keratin is, but I assume it’s some kind of wizarding magic that is taught at the School of Magical Beauty, Hogwarts’s lesser-known sister campus. That’s how amazing it is. It takes frizzy hair and makes it more manageable and smooth, and it’s pretty labor-intensive, so in the DC-area it costs $400-500.  That’s two zeros there on the end. In Kansas City, it’s around $300.

I haven’t had it done in Bangkok yet, but I’ve seen that costs can start around 4,000B (around $130) and go up from there. That’s crazy cheap for wizardry, right?

You might also see it called a Brazilian blowout. Not crazy about that term, I gotta say.

6. Free Booze!

Most ladies nights back home are pretty lame. Maybe free admission or discounted drinks at some lame bar.

Well, Bangkok has some super fantastic ladies nights. It’s a good time to have lady parts!

Coyote Mexican Restaurant: Free margaritas from 6-8 on Wednesdays at the Soi Convent location, and Thursdays at the Suk Soi 33 location. Seriously, free. Their nachos are pretty decent, too.

Dusit Thani MyBar: Free ALL drinks from 7-9 on Thursdays. They’ve got all sorts of cocktails, wine, sparkling wine, beer, and smoothies. The atmosphere is kind of fancy, and there are large groups of women, so be sure to make a reservation. One time I was there, half the Thai ladies ended up passed out with their arms wrapped around a toilet and the other half were face down, drooling on the floor of the bar.  Then somebody yelled at the DJ, who screamed back, cranked up the music so loud it hurt our ears, then stormed off. It was awesome.

QBar: They often (always?) have ladies night on Wednesdays, which is free admission (usually 500B!) and two free drinks for women. And I gotta say, they don’t go cheap on the alcohol.

Witches’ Tavern: Free drinks from 5-9 on Wednesdays. I haven’t been there, but I hear it’s a pretty nice place, and that their food is good. Supposedly they have super yummy pizza. Also: free drinks for four hours!

Dear Men: I know you’re going to be like, “This is totally not fair!” But, seriously? Keep it to yourself.  Give us this one thing. Give us the free booze!

7. Clothes Shopping

I know that a lot of Western women don’t like shopping in Thailand, or Asia in general, because they feel that they’re too big. I would say I’m a pretty average-sized woman, and I don’t have any problems finding super incredibly cute clothes in Thailand for super incredibly cheap prices. I will admit, though, I haven’t bought pants (trousers, Brits!) here, and I don’t mind wearing snug clothing, so that could be why I don’t have much of a problem. If something is too short, I just put on some tights and go on my way.

If you go to the street stalls, you can find amazing deals. I shop almost exclusively from the street stalls, to be honest. And while Khao San may be a nightmare for some things, there are some really cute clothes to be had there.

My favorite dresses from Thailand. 200 baht (about $7) each. Lurve.

Also, I haven’t gone shoes shopping because I have abnormally large feet for a shortish woman (5’4″), so I can’t comment on that. Asian ladies have got some tiny feet, yo.

8. Pedicures

If you go to pretty much any hairdresser or massage place here, you can get your toes painted for 100 to 200 baht, but it’s really just paint. For about 450 baht (~$13), you can get a spa pedicure at a nice place. That’s about half the price of a pedicure back home. 600B will get you some extras like a massage or leg scrub.

When I go to get a pedicure, I usually look for a place that has the pedicure chairs; you know, the ones with the basins to put your feet in at the end. When you’re looking, anything under 450B is a really good deal, but 450-500 is average for a decent place. Anything less than that and it’s probable you’re just getting your toes painted. Check for the chairs, and you’re good to go.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Conclusion: I love you, Thailand. (I can’t think of anything witty right now!)

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Filed under Living Abroad, Thailand

Challenge: Getting on a Plane and…

I haven’t lived with my parents for more than a summer since I was 17, but for the past week or two, I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, completely disoriented, thinking that I’m in my childhood bedroom.  It takes me a few minutes to realize that I’m in Bangkok and that those lights outside the window are buildings, not stars, and then it takes me a few more minutes to settle back into uneasy sleep.

My bedroom at my parents’ house is tiny. It’s literally the width of two twin beds, with enough space at the end for a dresser and a bookshelf. The wallpaper, which I picked out when I was 10, is little-girl pink, has little flowers all over it, and is pretty hideous, let’s be honest. The sun comes blaring in full-blast in the mornings, warming the room up and making it impossible to sleep late. My mom bought a day bed for me when the room was transformed from her sewing room to my bedroom, and now I always bang my head or smash my face on the railing when I turn over in my sleep.  It’s a cozy room, to be sure, but not exactly comfortable.

And now I’m crying. Because when I dream about being back in that bedroom, it means I’m so homesick that it’s crept into my sub consciousness, that it’s invaded my brain so deeply that the only way it can come out is at night, when I can’t block it out.

Denial, people. It’s not just a river in Egypt.

Why I’m really crying, though, is because I know it’s time for me to leave Bangkok, to leave Thailand.

Not for a visit.

For what I’m calling “an indefinite trial period back home” because that makes it easier to deal with.

Denial!

It’s been a long time since I cried about leaving a place. I lived in Japan for a year and a half and when I left, I was like—“See ya, suckers!” When I left Maryland again after having been there for five years (eight years total, including my previous time there), I felt relieved.  And this may sound heartless, but it’s been years since I cried about leaving my family. I’ve come and gone enough that it’s gotten less difficult to handle, relatively (ahahaha! Relatively! Ahem).

So why am I leaving Thailand, if it upsets me so much?

Ugh, that’s not an easy question. All I can say is that it feels like it’s time to leave. I didn’t come here with the intention of staying long-term. “Neither did I!” protest my friends who have been here for years and years. “You can stay forever, too!”

Yeah, I could, but when I see myself six months or a year in the future, it’s hard to see myself here. It’s hard to see myself not here, too, though. Gah.

The thing is, this has been one of the best years of my life, by far. Maybe even the best. I’ve had some incredible ups and downs (and I learned to use clichés for good, not evil!). I spent some time wallowing in the mud and being depressed and miserable and hating life, and I spent some time being happier than I can ever remember being. That’s okay; that’s how life goes. I mean, you take the good…you take the bad…and then if you take them both, there you have the facts of life.

I hope that if they remade this today, they would allow Jo to have a girlfriend.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of the most amazing people I’ve ever known, grown closer to two of the best men I already knew, and had a year of mostly being a lady of leisure who lunches.

I originally came here because I needed a break. Or something. Basically, I wanted to live abroad again, and Brock and Josh were coming to Bangkok, so I joined in on the fun. I had no particular interest in Thailand, really. I would have moved to, I don’t know, Somalia, if that’s where my best buds were going, but I am thankful that they have more sense than that.

Thailand, and Bangkok in particular, is one of those places that gets to you, in both the positive and negative way.  I love being here. What’s not to love?

1.2.

3. “This woman (Note from Megan: That’s ME!)  certainly has every right to exist, even exist in Thailand, where she is predictably ignored by all males, farang and Thai (and it drives her NUTS!)…And bitches like this (she’s not even hot by any stretch of the imagination, so I can only imagine the gross creatures who would actually hit on her…but still…) wonder why normal guys flee their Western countries for Thailand, so they can actually meet women and DO something with them…??” –Excerpt of a comment from a loving anonymous commenter on a loving anonymous Thai forum (Dear Sir: You are right–I do personally wonder WHY you couldn’t get laid back in your home country! Clearly you have a sparkling personality!)

4.

Erm. Okay, okay, clearly the nostalgia has already set in. Obviously, there are plenty of things not to love, but I’m trying to be positive! It’s the new and improved Megan!

What it comes down to is, for now, I feel like I’m ready to be back in the United States for a bit. Maybe I’ll be back in Thailand in a few months. Maybe I’ll write everybody and say, sheepishly, “Oh, uh, hey guys, remember me? It’s Megan…yeah…I’m coming back…” And Melanie and Eric, who have been my gracious hosts for the past couple of months, will be like, “OH CRAP. Um, our second bedroom is full! Of…uh…cheese…or…and our Netflix is…broken…wow, look at the time! Gotta run!”

It could happen. Really. Not the part about Melanie and Eric (I wouldn’t believe they would allow Netflix to be broken, for one). The part about me coming back. What if I get home and hate it? Wah!

In any case, as I said, I’m calling this “an indefinite trial period back home” because if I tell myself I’m leaving Thailand FOREVER, I will have a serious freak out.  If I think how I have been living in the same city as Brock and Josh for 8 years (more or less), and how I will soon be very, very, very far away from them, I start to feel the need to curl up in the fetal position and whimper my way through the afternoon.  I got over leaving my family in Missouri a long time ago, but Brock and Josh have been my family-away-from-family for a long time. Now I’m going to have to leave them, and I don’t know how I’m going to do it. Well, by plane, clearly, although a cruise ship could have been a fun alternative, now that I think about it. What I’m really concerned about is how I’m going to leave them and maintain my sanity. (SHUT IT!)

But I’m leaving. I’m really doing it. Does that sound like I’m trying to convince myself? I think I still am.

When I told my buddy Dwight that I was leaving, he said, “Yeah…you’re going to have to start practicing talking about this like it’s not a death sentence.”

So: Oh my god! Ponies and unicorns! Hooray! I cannot wait to get back to the Land of the Free!

And I shall make a Jello cake, and it shall have Cool Whip on top, and it shall be delicious.

I reserve the right to return to Thailand at any point, though, and I also reserve the right to leave the US and go somewhere else, at any point. You have been warned.

Also, I’m preemptively apologizing to everybody back home, because there will be some point when, despite myself, I go to a Thai restaurant and say, “YOU WANT ME TO PAY HOW MUCH FOR THIS?!” And then I will mutter under my breath, “This isn’t even authentic. Bunch of crap.” And then it’s entirely possible I will try, like a total dbag, to speak to the waiter in Thai, and will then find out the waiter is Korean. And then you will all hate me for being pretentious and obnoxious. I’m sorry!  If it makes you feel any better, I will also be hating myself.

Details:

It’s kind of unclear what I’m going to do with this blog. Since I’m not going to be in Bangkok, it might be odd if I were to continue writing about, you know, being in Bangkok. I’ll be writing on this site for at least another month, though, as I still have incredibly important things to say and stories to tell. I might end up rolling everything over into another blog, but I’ll keep you posted. I’m sure you’ll lose sleep over it in the meantime.

In case you were wondering, my plane leaves here in the wee hours of the morning on August 17. There will be a see-you-later party (NOT a goodbye party) at some point, and if you ever wanted to meet me out for a drink and tell me how awesome/horrible I am, now’s your chance! Lunch? Coffee? Let me know!

When I leave here, I’m flying first to San Francisco to visit some cheese one of my best, most awesomest friends (you can’t have her–she’s mine!), then flying home to Missouri the day before my birthday! East Coasters, I’m planning on heading your way in early September.

My final plan is to settle in Denver, where my sister, brother-in-law, and a couple of my best friends from college are. I’ve been wanting to live out there for a long time, and I might as well give something new a try. Again.

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Filed under Living Abroad, Thailand, Trips

Real Thailand vs. Parallel Thailand

UPDATE: Okay, I put a password on this post for a bit, but now I’ve just decided to edit the post and take off the password. In case you even noticed and were wondering (I’m SURE you were), I got some nasty comments on one of those nasty anonymous trolling forums here in Thailand, and I ended up really stressed about it. Then I was like…um, this blog does not equal real life, so if it’s stressful, it’s not worth it. I don’t get paid for this! So I put a password on the post, but that stressed me out, too. I know, it’s exhausting to be me sometimes. So, screw it, I’m just editing and reposting! Although, frankly, I think I took about the most interesting and funny part of the whole post, but whatever. /End unnecessarily long explanation for something you didn’t care about anyway.

Real Thailand for me is the Thailand I live in; the neighborhoods, restaurants, shops, and people I know well. Your personal experience is your own Real Thailand. If you have a problem with my Real Thailand, write about it on your own blog, k? Parallel Thailand is what happens when I’m outside my comfort zone here, and it mostly involves weird Westerners and tourist areas, let’s be honest. This is not intended to be a debate about what is “authentically Thai”. If you want to get yourself a McDonald’s hamburger while you’re in Thailand, go for it. I’ll probably be next door getting a Dairy Queen chocolate dipped cone (those things are good and only cost about 40 cents!) and then stopping off at the 7-Eleven for, you know, whatever.

Food in Real Thailand

Get in my face, food!

Hell yeah, Thai food! You’re the best! Food in Real Thailand is cheap, fresh, and delicious. Pad thai is a single dollar, people. If it’s not cheap, it’s still fantastic. I love food in Real Thailand.

Also, food in Real Thailand can include Western food and, unfortunately, pizza with gross stuff on it. That’s just part of living the dream, people.

Food in Parallel Thailand

Worst. Food. Ever.

Some examples:

  • I spent 80 baht (almost $3) on some pad thai on the beach, which isn’t too bad for beach prices, right? Except that it was the worst pad thai ever. No normal Thai person would have ever served that to anybody, which makes sense because I was in Parallel Thailand!
  • I’ve never been, but I’m pretty sure that the Hard Rock Café in Bangkok is Parallel Thailand.
  • World’s worst green curry, two nights in a row from two different restaurants, on the island? Parallel Thailand!
  • Spending 250 baht (almost $9) on terrible-looking pad see eu (my favorite noodle dish) at a resort on Phuket is completely Parallel Thailand. Spending 250 baht for pad see eu at the world’s most expensive but also most delicious street stall in Bangkok  is not Parallel Thailand.  See where I’m going here?

People in Real Thailand

I don’t really buy into that whole “Thai people are the nicest in the world!” thing. There are some nice people and some big fat jerks, just like any other country (although maybe “big” and “fat” are exaggerations—it is Asia!). Land of Smiles? Sometimes people smile, just like in any other country. Sometimes they scowl. Okay, fine. I don’t mind that the people I deal with are, you know, people, with moods and personalities beyond what the tourist board tells us to expect. So, for me, people in Real Thailand aren’t about the smiles, necessarily. But they are about not harassing me to buy things and not ripping me off.

Sometimes people in Real Thailand want to soak you with freezing cold water.

People in Parallel Thailand

Sometimes people come to Thailand and then complain about how awful Thai people are, how Thai people ripped them off, or were rude, or harassed them, or some other horrifying story. When I ask where they had been, of course they say they’ve been to some tourist Mecca like Khao San or Phuket.

Of course, by now you know why they had a terrible experience.

Because they were in Parallel Thailand!

Tourist areas bring out the worst in everybody. If you go to some super touristy area in any country, you’re going to get jerk local people trying to rip you off. Of course, you’re also going to get tourists walking around Khao San without shoes or shirts (WHY? WHY? WHY?!) or sunbathing topless (I mean, come on!). Also, you’re going to get ripped off, period. That’s the nature of being in a tourist area. Expect it, deal with it, and keep your moaning to yourself.

Cab Drivers in Real Thailand

Jerks.

Cab Drivers in Parallel Thailand

Jerks.

Well, actually…

That’s not entirely true. I’ve had cab drivers in Real Thailand and in Parallel Thailand refuse to take me somewhere for no good reason. No matter where I am, there are times when they won’t turn on the meter. But there are also times when I’ve had awesome conversations about food and I’ve learned new words and I’ve been happier at the end of the ride than I was to start with.

Still, I was recently talking to a Canadian tourist in my neighborhood, and he was proud of himself for bargaining a taxi down from 1,200 baht (about $40) to 700 baht (about $22) to get from the airport to his hotel. It should have been about 300 baht on the meter. I wanted to punch the cabbie in the face for him.

Lesson learned: Cab drivers are a parallel universe unto themselves.

Bah!

Transportation Costs in Real Thailand

Cheap! When the cabbies put on the meters in Bangkok, they’re of ridiculously cheap. If I spend 100 baht (about $3) on a cab ride in the city, I’m kind of shocked. It means either that I’ve gone really far or that traffic was horrendous.

Motorcycles, as I’ve reported before, are quick and convenient, although they will often cost you more than a taxi. If I’m in a hurry and it’s not raining, I’ll usually pay the extra baht to be able to go around all the cars! HaHA–take THAT, traffic!

Transportation Costs in Parallel Thailand

See above story about the cab ride from the airport. That’s got Parallel Thailand written all over it.

Parallel Thailand can more readily be seen, however, on islands like Phuket or Samui, where the taxis are basically a mafia scam to get every penny of your money. A ride that would cost maybe 150B in Bangkok cost me 500B on Samui because the cab driver refused to turn on the meter and refused to bargain, even a little bit. I had no choice, so I paid the 500B with a semi-smile.

But in my head, I was crossing my arms and huffing. 500B? I’d love to take a 500B taxi ride in Bangkok and see where it got me. Yeesh.

Motorcycle in Parallel Thailand are virtually non-existent, and ridiculously expensive.

You could always ride this sweet scooter!

Bars in Real Thailand

There’s no real hard and fast rule about what makes a bar in Real Thailand, but it usually involves a mix of people, Thais and Westerners.

Bars in Parallel Thailand

When I was in Mae Sot—decidedly not a tourist town—a few weeks ago, Sarah and I went to a bar frequented by the expat workers and volunteers in town. It’s run by Burmese people, so most of the food and staff were Burmese. As I was looking around, the realization slowly dawned on me that 99.9% of the patrons were white Westerners. There were no Thai people at all. Nobody had a Thai girlfriend. Not a single person. At one point, a couple of Thai woman walked in, talked to somebody, and walked out. It was so much Parallel Thailand that it made me feel uneasy, like I had accidentally shouted, “Beam me up, Scotty!” and been transported to a completely wrong destination.

Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but it was weird. It was definitely Parallel Thailand.

Similarly, every time I go to Khao San Road, I just spend time gawking at all the white people! They’re everywhere!

You're so weird, Mae Sot, but you have delicious food, so I'l forgive you.

Final Score:

Real Thailand: 1  Parallel Thailand: 1

I’m not saying I like Parallel Thailand all the time, but it’s a thing. And like I said, this is not a debate over which one is right or wrong…although clearly, Real Thailand is better.

JUST SAYING.

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Filed under Awesome, Food, Living Abroad, Thailand

Challenge: Solo Travel

For many people, the first few weeks of college are a time of joy, newfound independence, and partying.

My first few weeks of college were a time of depression, sobbing, and misery.

Same with my first few weeks of studying abroad in France.

I would call my mom, crying so hard I couldn’t breathe because I didn’t like being away from home and I didn’t know how to live on my own, and she would tell me I could come home if I wanted to, that I didn’t have to stick it out if it was going to be too painful. She gave me a graceful way out and assured me I always had a place to go back to, but also let me know she and my dad would support me in whatever I decided to do.

Yeah, and thanks to them, I haven’t lived in my hometown for longer than a summer since I was 17. Nice work, Mom and Dad, you got the exact opposite of what you really wanted!

My mom now loves to say, “I wish that I hadn’t raised such independent daughters, so you would stick around and be near me all the time.” She also loves to say that I better start making some money so that when she gets really old I can support her in the style to which she hopes to become accustomed. Clearly she is barking up the wrong tree there, amiright?

That was only a little bit of a digression from my real point, which is about:

Solo Travel!

I used to love traveling by myself. It’s not hard, contrary to popular belief, to travel by yourself. It’s really very easy to eat by yourself, see movies by yourself, and all that jazz, by yourself. It’s not like giving birth or something. You just get on a plane, alone, and see some stuff without other people you know. Bring a book and your iPod. Maybe you’ll meet other people, maybe you won’t. Case closed. It’s not rocket science.

I used to actually prefer solo travel, as a matter of fact. I mean, what is not to love about it?

Solo travel allows you to:

  • Choose what you want to eat without compromise. You want pizza for dinner? You got it! You want ice cream and Kit-Kats for breakfast? No judgments! (Well, maybe your own shame after, but whatever!)
  • Stay wherever you want. If you want to blow your budget on a place that you can’t really afford, but really want to stay at anyway because you’ve spent the past week bathing out of a bucket and sleeping on a board, then you can blow your budget and only have yourself to answer to. And, yeah, you might regret the decision more than a little when you realize you can only afford to eat at 7-Eleven because all the food at the beach is really expensive, but that’s life. And you’re the one who made the decision.
  • Stay as long as you want somewhere. Let’s say, for example, your poor timing and cheapskatedness gets you to a beach on, say, Koh Phangnan in the south of Thailand. And let’s say, for to continue the example, that beach is where the infamous Full Moon Party happens, which is where tripped-out backpackers put neon paint all over themselves and drink themselves silly (although luckily, the FMP is not going on when you find yourself there). And then, let’s say, that despite the fact that this beach town is really crap, expensive, and not at all Thai, and is the complete opposite of what you really want, you stay. Because you’re lazy, and the beach is actually really beautiful and nobody is out until about 3 p.m. because they’re all 20-year-old backpackers sleeping off their hangovers. So if that were all to happen, you could hypothetically end up in that terrible beach town for several days without anybody to make you feel bad about it or to urge you to stop being so lazy. Because who wants you to stop being lazy? Terrorists, that’s who. Terrorists and Communists. And Republicans.
  • Do whatever you want, in general. Sleep until noon! Wake up at dawn! Sit your ass on the beach! Go shopping! Eat crackers in bed! Cats and dogs, living together! The world is your oyster! (Who came up with that expression, anyway? I love eating oysters, but why would I want the world to be one? Unclear. And kind of gross, to be honest.)

Yup, all pretty awesome things.

As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve started to enjoy traveling by myself less and less.

Solo travel sucks because:

  • Being at the beach alone is annoying. I recently spent a week at the beach and every time I wanted to frolic (frolic!) in the water, I had to leave my bag that contained my Kindle, iPod, phone, and cash. I would walk into the water, often backwards, then stare intently at my bag and everybody on the sand, ready to run out and tackle whoever tried to take my stuff. It wasn’t that much fun. And, yeah, I could have not brought so much stuff, but I was by myself on the beach for hours at a time. You can only gawk at Brazilian women changing into bikinis right in front of everybody and stare at the waves for so long, you know? Maybe you don’t know, but it’s true.
  • Going out in the evenings alone can be dangerous. Seriously. Most women know that they’re not supposed to leave drinks unattended in a bar because somebody can slip you a roofie and then you will wake up in a horror movie, raped and murdered, and that would really make your mom and dad and sister and friends mad at you. So. As a woman, you often have to be super paranoid about that kind of stuff. I never drink a lot when I’m traveling by myself, and I rarely stay out late. That’s something that’s changed as I’ve gotten older, though.
  • Figuring out how to take pictures of yourself gets old. Scenario 1:  Hold your arm out really far from your face and try to take a picture of yourself. Realize that you cut your head off. Try again. Be shocked at how awful you look when you get a camera that close to your face. Give up. Scenario 2:  Spend 5 minutes figuring out where your camera won’t fall over if you set it up without a tripod. Figure out the timer. Take a picture of yourself with the timer. That picture is stupid. Adjust the camera so you’re actually in the picture. Set the timer. Take a picture. That picture is stupid. Give up on having a picture of yourself. Scenario 3: Ask somebody to take a picture of you. Do that once a day because who wants to ask strangers to take pictures of you all the time? (Terrorists!) Scenario 4: Give up on getting pictures of yourself and take only pictures of scenery.

See that person waaaaay out there? That's me. Self photography: BOO

  • It gets lonely. I’m sorry, but it does, especially as I’ve gotten older. I don’t like to stay in hostels anymore because I now prefer not to share a bathroom or sleep in a dorm. When I was younger and staying in hostels, I could always find somebody to hang out with. It was fantastic! But now I like mid-range hotels, and mid-range hotels offer fewer opportunities to meet people, I’ve found. Luckily, I can keep myself occupied and I think I’m pretty good company, but I’m still by myself the whoooooole time. Anybody gets boring after a lot of time, ya’ know?

The truth is, I’ll probably always travel by myself sometimes. I learned a long time ago that there was no point in waiting around for somebody to have vacation at the same time as me, or for somebody to want to go to the same place as me. Am I going to skip ever seeing Guatemala because nobody else wants to go? That’s just crazy talk.

Final Score:

Solo Travel: 0   Megan: 1

I’ve been doing it for so long now it’s really not much of a challenge at all.

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Filed under Living Abroad, Trips

WTF?! (What THE?! Fridays): Burmese Edition

Hooray, Burma also has WTF?!-worthy moments!

Please keep in mind that WTF?!-worthy moments for me are also just things that make me scratch my head or kind of go–huh! Not passing judgment (I mean, sometimes I am, but not always!).

Erm...Is it the human hair that's working OR are humans working the hair? I NEED ANSWERS, MYANMAR.

Yikes. I know this probably isn't uncommon, but we were all still kind of weirded out by it.

I'm including this in WTF?! just because I don't have anywhere else to put it, but I loved this aspect of Burma. Cell phones aren't common, and I don't know how many people have home phones, so people set up phones on the street and charge for calls. Like phone booths, only not. It was brilliant.

Now whenever I complain about Thai sidewalks, I think of these and feel better.

All photo credits to Melanie.

Happy Friday and Buddhist holiday to those of you in Thailand!

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It’s Hard to Eat ALL the Chips…

You know what I’ve discovered? There are a lot of damn chip flavors in the world. A lot.

And that means there are a lot of chips in today’s smackdown, so let’s get right down to it.

These Lay’s larb chips I tried on my own. Larb is a Thai salad of chopped meat, onions, mint, chilis, and other stuff. I don’t know what’s in it, but I know when it’s in my mouth that it’s delicious, and that’s the important thing.

Same thing with these chips. Holy schmoly, these were good! They were only a mini 5 baht bag (about, what, 10 cents?), and the only place I’ve ever seen them is in my buddy Greg’s old condo building in Chinatown, so if you see them elsewhere, buy them and eat them! Two thumbs up, for sure.

Megan + These Chips = Luv4Eva

The rest of the chips required a chip tasting session, so I invited the crew to help me out.

In order from worst to best, the chips were…

6. Greenday Okra Chips

Eeeeewwwwwwww!

This is about all these were good for.

So, if you take whole okra, freeze dry them and then fry them, you get “okra chips”. You also get “gross things that nobody wanted to eat”. They also got slimy as you ate them. I like okra in most any way: pickled, fried, curried…but apparently I don’t like okra chips. None of us did!

Rating: :(

5. Lay’s Rasa Salmon Teriyaki Chips

Meh.

Brock and Josh brought these back from Indonesia for me. That’s a long flight for a bag of chips that we all agreed were totally meh. They were just kind of thin and anemic, without a lot of flavor. We could tell they were going for the teriyaki, but it didn’t stand out strongly at all. Guy insisted they had a weird creamy texture, which I didn’t really detect.

Rasa Salmon Teriyaki chips: Really meh.

 4. Greenday Jackfruit Chips

Not bad.

They didn’t smell great, so we all recommend that you just eat them without smelling them. They were a little sweet, and Brock confirmed that they are freeze-dried, then fried. Josh said they tasted like “starburst-flavored styrofoam”. Overall, we thought they were pleasant, although I probably wouldn’t buy them again.

Corey is really anxious to eat these chips.

3. Tastee Kimchi Hot Plate

Can somebody tell me the real name of these in Thai?

We liked the texture, but the kimchi flavor was pretty weak. There was a hint of pickled cabbage flavor, but that’s it. I wouldn’t buy them again, though I did finish the bag with my dinner the next day.

Guy is not so sure about these.

Josh compares the kimchi (on his right) and the salmon terikyaki (obviously his left). Which would you choose (I'm not leading here, but the kimchi one is the right answer)?

2. Doritos Cheeseburger

Mmmmm....

Corey and her boyfriend Dave brought these over from Canada for me! Isn’t that nice?

They were my favorite, but everybody else agreed they were 2nd place, so I’m going with the group consensus (even though it’s MY blog).

Josh huffing the chips. They did smell THAT good.

I think it was Guy who said, “What are they doing to my mouth?!” Maybe Brock, I’m not sure. We all thought they were great, though. They smell like hamburger pickles and taste like fake mustard, ketchup, pickle, and grilled meat. You know, just like a bad McDonald’s hamburger.

The things they can do with chemicals these days, huh?

So, I realize “bad McDonald’s hamburger” does not sound like something you want to eat–unless you do–but I could not stop stuffing these in my face. SO GOOD.

1. Jack & Jill Vegetarian Chicharron

Nom nom nom nom...

My friend Ray and his wife Nok, who are perhaps the nicest and sweetest human beings to ever walk the planet, brought me these from the Philippines! And I’m not saying that they’re that nice just because they brought me chips from the Philippines; I’m saying it because it’s true. If you know them, you know that. There was also a bag of fake bacon chips they brought me, but they got stolen during the night they passed the bag over to me. Seriously, somebody took them!

Anyway, everybody loved these.

Josh loves these so much he has been transformed into a savage beast!

Comments on these:

“Chip crack!”

“One of the best chips I’ve ever eaten.”

They were a little spicy and had a strong, yet not overwhelming, flavor. I don’t know that they really tasted like chicharron, but they tasted like love.

What, is that weird?

Chips I Did Not Get to Taste: Doritos Onion Rings and Ketchup

Corey and Dave brought these for me, too, but I made the mistake of leaving them at Brock and Josh’s for a few weeks.

I was shocked to hear that they mysteriously disappeared. I’m sure we’re all blaming the dog. You know, the one that ate my homework.

Puffin always eats the chips!

I mean, if Brock and Josh had eaten them–and I’m not saying they did!–then I’m guessing they would look like this:

Brock showing his Catholic guilt and Josh showing his total indifference.

Ahem.

p.s. Credit goes to Brock for the people pictures (besides, you know, the one he was in).

p.p.s. I realize this is totally vain, but I just want to say that if you see something funny on my nose, it’s not a giant zit; it’s a nose piercing! Geez, I’m vain!

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Filed under Food, Thailand