Category Archives: Thailand

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.

60 Comments

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.

55 Comments

Filed under Awesome, Food, Living Abroad, Thailand

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

Oh hey, this is the one where I tell you how awesome I am!

So, Sabrina from Country Skipper (she’s a German living in Texas—poor thing!) tagged me for this round of 7 Links, started by Tripbase. I feel like it’s kind of like that Facebook thing “25 TMI Things About Me” that everybody did a year or two ago (I did it, too!). Anyway, the idea is to pick 7 of your most something posts.

But here’s the problem: Asking me to pick one of something is like asking…it’s like asking…what’s a good simile here? It’s like asking me to do something difficult that I’m almost incapable of doing. I don’t have a single favorite book; I have 5 favorite books. I don’t have one best friend; I have a lot.

The only thing I’m sure of is that my favorite food is pizza (my inner self must be a 20 year-old fraternity brother, right?!), but I can’t even pick one kind of pizza that’s my favorite.

See what I’m saying?

Anyway, I’ll give it a shot, but it’s highly doubtful that I’m going to get it down to 7.

1. My Most Beautiful Post

 Challenge: Seeing ALL the Temples of Bagan

Who am I, Johnny Vagabond? Oh, no. I’m Megan and I have a point-and-shoot camera and don’t edit any photos. Still, I loved the photos of the temples of Bagan and I had fun making the collage with Picassa, the Google photo software.

Some temples of Bagan.

  2. My Most Popular Post

Most hits:  WTF?! Part 15 : Bad Self-Esteem Edition  What does that say about people?

Most comments: Challenge: Megan vs. Mosquitos   People hate them some mosquitos, huh?

And a miscellaneous popular one: Challenge: Megan vs. Cockroaches I remember giggling like crazy when I wrote this. Yeah, I crack myself up, what can I say?

I am sorry (not really), but this is HILARIOUS.

3. My Most Controversial Post

I try not to write controversial things here, as much as I want to sometimes, because I don’t want to get mean comments. They would make me cry.

That is the truth.

So, I’m going with WTF?! Part 15: Bad Self-Esteem Edition (which also happens to be my most popular, hit-wise) because I acknowledge the fact that being a woman sucks sometimes. It’s like, what’s up, Society? Do I really need to whiten my armpits? Do I really need to wear a sheep placenta face mask to be beautiful?

I shun your beautifying products! Clearly I have natural grace and beauty!*

Side note: I recently bought deodorant that is not only anti-perspirant, it is also for whitening, firming, and is anti-wrinkle. AND it happens to be a really great deodorant. I don’t know if my armpits are less wrinkled, but I’m less smelly, so that’s a win for everyone.

*Photo by Brock!

4. My Most Helpful Post

Challenge: Using an Asian Bathroom

Well, it’s clear that my tutorial on how to use an Asian toilet is my most useful.

You’re welcome!

Here’s a little tease:

Good form, anonymous volunteer! You gotta dip it low, people. Channel your inner Beyonce.

5. A Post Whose Success Surprised Me

Dani and Megan vs. The Worst Pickpocket in the World

I thought it was kind of a funny story, but it’s my 5th most popular post, hit-wise.

Turns out Dani and Megan kick ass in all sorts of ways!

Yeah, we do.

6. A Post I Feel Didn’t Get the Attention It Deserved

Uh…just one? Well, crap.

Challenge: Being Judgmental of All People Equally

I think this post is freaking hilarious, and touches on a very important topic: Why do people only judge Americans?

I basically propose that, as the title says, we judge all people equally. There are jerks everywhere, not just in America! Believe me, I’ve traveled enough to know!

Anyway, I wrote this before I got into the Twitter community and all that jazz, so not a whole lot of people read it, beyond my family and friends (and, really, they’re the most important, I suppose…).

Sing with me: And I'm *proud* to be an American, where at least I know I can have Jello cake that looks like the American flag...

I’m also extremely partial to the Capital City Smackdown: BKK vs. DC  Part 1 and Part 2.

7. The Post I’m Most Proud Of

Megan vs. Herself: History’s Most Boring Smackdown Ever

This is the recap of my recent meditation retreat. It was really hard to put that experience into words, considering it was a silent retreat, but–*ahem, coughcough*–I thought the finished product was pretty awesomely hilarious and honest.

Still, I have to be honest: I spend a lot of time on almost everything I write for this blog, and I’m really, really proud of 95% of my writing. I’m not saying I’m the best writer ever, but my mom says so, and I believe almost everything she says about me (like that I am her most beautiful eldest daughter!).

And you should believe her, too.

________________________________________________________

Now I’m supposed to nominate some people to do this. I think it’s supposed to be 5, but I didn’t actually read the rules, so fingers crossed!

1. Brock from BrockEats. Blog more, Brock! We love your blogging!

2. Melanie from Leap Feet First. And not just because she is letting me live with her. Mainly because she has a lovely blog and she was my second blog friend!

3. Lani from Tell Thai Heart. Because she’s awesome and a good friend and I wish we lived in the same city.

4. Snap from Cooee. Because we’ve never met in real life, but I love her accounts of living in Chiang Mai, and I know we would be good buds.

5. Greg from Greg to Differ and also Bangkok Podcast. Because he is possibly the nicest guy I’ve ever met, is hilarious, and knows more about Bangkok than anybody.

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Filed under Living Abroad, Thailand

Megan vs. Herself: History’s Most Boring Smackdown Ever

**So, I tried to make this short, but…you may have to take some time to read it!

I’m sure you’ve all been dying to know more about my meditation retreat, so I have answered some of your (imagined) questions. Calm down, people, here you go.

Q. Um, what was this?

A. Dipabhavan Meditation Center offers silent meditation retreats from the 20th to the 27th of every month. It’s all free, but you can make a donation at the end if you want.

Q. Oh, right. So, the real question here is: Have you lost your mind?

A. Not that I am aware of, although at times during the week it did, in fact, feel like I was slowly going crazy. I wanted a shorter retreat, but they’re hard to find in Thailand, for some reason. Most are 10 days, and I thought I was signing up for a 10-day retreat until a few weeks ago when I woke up in the middle of the night and realized—wait, the 20th to the 27th is not 10 days. Funny how time works.

Q.  But silence? For one week? Why? As your mother said, “That’s weird.”

A. I thought so, too, at first. I thought it was going to be horrible. I was terrified—not speaking for a week seemed like a superhuman feat, and a really stupid superhuman, at that. (When I told my friend Jonathan I was doing this, he said, “I could never do that. I’m like a shark—I talk or I die.” Ha!) But before 7:30 on the first morning, I knew why we weren’t talking. All I had to say was boring, thoughtless drivel or gossip: “It’s hot. Did you see how much she fidgets? She’s not following the rules like I am. Ugh, why is she so perky in the morning? I’m tired. This is hard. My legs hurt. Has it been 30 minutes yet? I hate you all. I’m hungry.”

Not speaking allowed me to focus on what was actually important enough to say, and allowed me to turn inside and focus on my meditation more. It also meant that groups weren’t formed and nobody felt excluded or judged (even if we were actually judging everybody, silently and harshly, in our heads—or at least I was).

Turned out that not speaking was my favorite part of the whole retreat. Seriously. I loved it, and it really wasn’t at all difficult not to speak, despite what I’d thought. I said a few things to the staff when I needed something, and that was fine, but now I think we should all keep our mouths shut more often. *cue self-righteous look*

I loved this kitty because she whined as much as I wanted to.

Q. What about waking up at 4:30? That’s, like, really early. That’s, like, before the sun comes up.

A. Yeah, I was also really, really worried about this. I love to sleep. It is one of my favorite hobbies, along with eating and sitting around doing nothing. In the end, it was my other favorite aspect of the retreat. Go figure, right? The two things I was most scared of turned out to be my favorite parts. I’m not saying I was happy to get up at 4:30 or that I’m going to do it on a regular basis (OR AT ALL, EVER), but I really loved being awake that early in the morning. Plus, when you’re sleeping on a board, waking up at 4:30 isn’t that hard.

Q. WTF do you mean, sleeping on a board?

A.  I slept on a board. Here is a picture:

It was a board. I am, for once, not exaggerating, although Thai beds are almost as hard as boards, anyway (no joke, what is UP with Thai beds?!). We had a “straw” (plastic) mat and a blanket, which I folded in fourths, then put my other blanket and even my towel down to try to get more comfortable. For a pillow, I stuffed some clothes in a cloth bag and that approximated most Thai pillows I’ve used, anyway. (Thailand, let me introduce you to these things called pillow-top mattresses and non-lumpy pillows. They’ll change your life.)

By the end of the week, I almost didn’t mind it. And I figured out why we were sleeping on boards: One of the chants talked about not sleeping or sitting on luxurious things. No worries there.

IT WAS A BOARD!

Q. What was the hardest part?

A.  Not speaking was fine, waking up at 4:30 was fine…so that’s it, right? The rest was easy!

Yeah…not really. For me, being physically uncomfortable was the most straining. I never felt clean, I was sweaty and smelly all the time (no a/c, of course, and not even fans in the dorms), I was hungry all the time, and I didn’t even have a mirror to see what I looked like (which I’m sure was terrible). This was not me.

To bathe: Take a bowl of cold water, dump over head and body. Curse violently (and silently). Feel bad about that. Vow to do better. Soap up. Say hi to the toad living in the drain. Ponder whether or not toads care about naked women. Decide probably not. Repeat.

At the same time, I realize all of that probably taught me the most valuable lesson I learned there. I don’t like to be physically uncomfortable. I do not go camping because I prize indoor plumbing and decent bedding above most other things in life. But…but…I began to appreciate the fact that I could do things that make me uncomfortable and actually be happy about it. I could be a different me and still feel like me.

I might even try camping at some point.

Also: No Internet about drove me to the point of insanity. I didn’t miss my cell phone at all, but no Google? SOMETIMES I HAVE QUESTIONS THAT NEED TO BE GOOGLED. SOMETIMES I NEED TO KNOW THOMAS EDISON’S BIRTHDAY, LIKE, NOW. I also missed my laptop beyond the point of reason, which made me feel kind of pathetic.

I love you forever, MacBook.

Q. Ok, but you went to do meditation. How was the meditation?

A. I was lucky that I found a meditation posture that worked for me on Day 2, so my knees didn’t hurt at all and back pain was kept to a minimum, but otherwise, it was rough! We were practicing concentration meditation, which is where you are supposed to focus on your in-breath and out-breath and let all other thoughts go. Try doing that for several hours a day. Try doing it for 10 minutes, even. You’ll find that your mind doesn’t want to let all other thoughts go, that it clings to those other thoughts like you will never have another one in your life, like you’re falling off a cliff and must hold tight to that thought about your childhood best friend who you haven’t thought about in 10 years or you will literally die.

It’s good times.

Here is a physical representation of my thoughts during meditation time:

You can see that I devoted approximately 2% of my time to meditation and breathing and that I devoted approximately 35% of my time to what I’m just generally calling Lustful Thoughts. I also ruminated obsessively about two people for very different reasons, until I was so bored with them that I didn’t want to think about them ever again.

That took almost five full days.

Right. Five full days of thinking the same things over and over and over. And over. Oh–and over.

And over.

By the evening of Day 5, I had burned out on most things I’d been thinking about, so I could focus on actually meditating. The evening of Day 5 and most of Day 6 were great days, meditation-wise. Hooray!

Q. What was it like in your brain?

A. Like this:

Me: Dooodooo…clearing my mind…breathe in…breathe out…breathe in…

Mind: Hey, remember that time you were really mean to your sister when you were 7? You’re a terrible person.

Me: Um. What.

Mind: Ooooohhh, never mind…I want to have an elaborate fantasy involving that one person.

Me: Oh, okay!

Mind: Wait, remember that time you were really awful to your ex-boyfriend? You’re such a bitch. And you’re really gross and smelly right now. No wonder you’re single.

Me: Wow. Where did that come from? That’s not very ni—

Mind: Do you think it’s been 30 minutes?

Me: Yes. Over 30 minutes. It’s been, like, an hour. They must have forgotten to ring the bell.

Mind: It’s totally been over 30 minutes. Why haven’t they rung the bell? You should peek at the clock.

Me: Bad idea. But it’s definitely been more than 30 minutes. I bet they’ll ring the bell right now…

Mind: No bell. It’s been about an hour and a half now. Peek!

Me: Fine. 15 MINUTES? ARE YOU SERIOUS? Crap. BREATHE IN, DAMN IT. BREATHE OUT.

Mind: Now I’m going to sing the chorus of that one song on repeat. Just the chorus, because that’s all I can remember. It’s my favorite!

Me: I hate you.

Conclusion: You do not want to be in my brain.

Sorry, Sis!

Q. Did you have any big revelations or epiphanies?

A. My biggest, most disturbing revelation came on Day 4. From my notes, word for word:

WTF WHY DO I SWALLOW SO LOUDLY? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

Epiphany, indeed.

I am pleased to announce that I believe my swallowing has returned to normal volume, but at one point I was convinced that my deglutition (I looked that up!) was going to be abnormal for the rest of my life, and I would never get a date, ever again (or I could just stay in Asia forever—oh, snap!), and nobody would ever want to have dinner or drinks with me because I was a MONSTER. Every time I swallowed, it would actually disturb my meditation and I would be all annoyed, like, ‘WTF, BODY?!’ And then I’d feel bad because I was sure the people around me hated me and my ridiculously loud swallowing.

The mind does weird things, what can I say?

Q. Did you break any rules?

A. Yeah, I read every time we had a break, and rarely anything about Buddhism or meditation. I wasn’t the only one…Not that that matters, but it was my choice to take the silence pretty seriously and have some give on reading.

Q. What day was the hardest? Easiest?

A. Easiest was Day 1, by far. It was so easy that I had a false sense of security. Day 2 was awful. In the afternoon, I was actually in tears while walking around the garden. At one point I thought, “Maybe I’ll get stung by a bee! I have terrible reactions and I bet I couldn’t meditate after that. Or maybe a scorpion will sting me! They’d have to send me home!” Then I laughed at myself for being ridiculous and felt a smidgen better.

Also, somebody got stung by a scorpion and she got shot up with morphine at the hospital and was back the next morning, so my plan wouldn’t have worked, anyway. Curses!

Q. Are you different now?

A. No, I’m not different. I’m not enlightened. I have lots of opinions and always will. I still prefer creamy peanut butter to chunky, and I will tell you that if you ask (and, clearly, even if you don’t ask). I have strong beliefs about cheese (stinky), pizza (chewy crust, good cheese), sparkling wine (dry dry dry), public transportation etiquette (let people get OFF THE TRAIN FIRST before you try to get on!), and pretty much everything else (just ask!).

However, I do think I’ve been able to roll with the punches more since I started meditating a few months back, and I’ve felt more flexible and willing to take things as they come. I’ve been able to go through stressful situations and come out calm, and I’m not even panicked about what I’m going to be doing in the future. All of that is pretty unlike me.

Still, for the most part, over here it’s all Megan, all the time. 

Thankfully.

I don’t want to be somebody else. I like me. I’m good company.

Even with the incessant droning in my head.

AHAHAHAHA! My friend Greg said this reminded him of me. I would be offended if it weren't so spot on!

Final Score: 

Megan: 1  Herself: 1

Can’t really get away from yourself, no matter how much you want to…

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Filed under Awesome, Special Challenge, Thailand, Trips

Challenge: Dipabhavan Meditation Retreat

Oh, hi. It’s Megan. You may remember me from a blawg I like to call “Bangkok Reality Smackdown” because…that…is its name. (If you get the reference in that last bit, you win Megan’s Gold Star.)

I have recently returned from Opposite World, where I did the following things:

  1. Woke up at 4:30 a.m. every day for a week.
  2. Did not eat between noon and 7:30 a.m. the next morning.
  3. Remained silent for 6 days.
  4. Bathed out of a bucket.
  5. Slept on a board.

Opposite World has another name, as well: Dipabhavan Meditation Center. It’s located on a mountain, in the jungle, on Samui Island, in the south of Thailand (and it was Colonel Mustard in the study!), and I voluntarily went there so I could spend a week living like a hippie, boring myself to death and sweating a lot. I mean, I originally went there intending to learn more about meditation, which I did, but really I ended up mainly boring myself and sweating a lot.

I was not here until *later*.

The schedule of the day went like this:

4:30 – Wake up to the bells in the pitch black, blearily brush teeth and sometimes wash face, then stumble up the path of about 150 stairs to meditation hall.

5:00 – Listen to morning reading, usually about Buddhism or meditation practice.

5:15-5:45 – Seated meditation. This turned out to be my favorite time to meditate—and that was a huge shock to me. The world is so still at this time of day (if you’re not in Bangkok, in which case this is the time of day when all the bar girls are going home). It’s cool and quiet, and the candles flickering in the meditation hall lent this mysterious, magical quality to the morning.  Yes, sometimes I fell asleep during this time, too, but that’s normal! Shut up!

5:45-6:45 – Yoga. Gentle, gentle yoga. The leader of the group, a layperson German-speaker, has this hilarious monotone voice and at the end of every yoga practice, when we were doing the relaxation part, he would say, “ REEEE-LAAAAAAAX. REEEEEEEEE-LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAX.” And, yes, I fell asleep every single morning during the relaxation. You would, too!

7:00-7:30 – Seated meditation. Yes, I often fell asleep during this, too. Don’t judge me!

7:30-9:30 – Breakfast, chores, break. I would usually take about 30 minutes for my breakfast, do my chores (cleaning shower area), and then read until it was time to walk up the stairs to the meditation hall again.

Oh yeah, there were 9 showers and 4 sinks. Cleaned ALL of it!

9:30-10:30 – Dhamma talk. This is when we would hear more about Buddhist ideas about suffering or the elimination of suffering, basically. Suffering is a big deal in Buddhism. You both want to suffer, but want to avoid suffering. I don’t really get it yet. My friend Jess sent me this quote, which I think is a good representation of the confusion:

To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love. But then, one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness. – from Woody Allen’s “Love and Death”

10:30-11 – Walking meditation. Walk anywhere on the grounds or in the hall, slowly and mindfully. You could also do a swinging-arms meditation, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like—you stand up, swing your arms, and meditate.

11-11:30 – Seated meditation. Right before lunch…getting hungry…actually, I’ve already been starving for about two hours at this point.

11:30-2 – Lunch/break. Because I ate mindfully, I would take 30-45 minutes for lunch, then head back to the dorm, sweat, and read.

My home for a week.

2-3 – Seated meditation and talk by Ajarn Poh, the abbot of Suan Mokh, which is one of the most famous monasteries in Thailand. They have 10-day retreats there, which are apparently great. Ajarn Poh had a lot of great things to say, but he also has a very heavy Thai accent and I know that a good number of the non-native speakers had no idea what he was saying. The only reason I had a clue is because I’ve been here long enough to realize that with a heavy Thai accent, “people” is “peepun”, for example. And, I’m not going to lie here, peepun, I fell asleep during every single talk, and every afternoon, this is when I would start to lose it. This is the hottest time of day, and I was bloody miserable.

3-3:30 – Walking meditation. More miserable. Seriously hating everything and everybody.

3:30-4 – Seated meditation. ARE YOU KIDDING? Almost every afternoon, I hated this so much I was practically in tears. The sun is beating down on the roof, the breeze has disappeared—every afternoon this happened!—and I can’t even feel the fans. Awful. Not, like, being waterboarded-awful, but awful in its own way.

4-4:30 – Walking meditation. At this point, it feels like the afternoon is never going to end, like I’m going to be meditating for the rest of my life in a hellish cycle of sweat, hunger, tears, boredom, self-hatred, anxiety, depression, and more sweat. And more self-hatred. Mostly self-hatred, if I’m being honest.

4:30-5 – Chanting. It’s starting to cool down, and the chanting is my favorite part of the day. It’s like Buddhist karaoke! We chanted in Pali, Buddha’s original language, and English, my original language. I loved it.  It woke me up and made me glad to be alive again. If you want to hear what chanting sounds like, go here. We did not sound quite so professional.

5-5:30—Loving Kindness meditation. This is one of the hippiest things about meditating, I think, but also one of the nicest: You send out positive vibes to people you know and don’t know. Yes, I sent them out to you, whoever you are, since I sent them out to the entire universe. No, I am not joking. You’re welcome!

The meditation hall. GET ME OUT OF HERE, STAT.

5:30-7:30—Tea time and break. I usually scarfed (mindfully!) a couple of Thai mini bananas and a cup of hot chocolate, then bathed and read.

7:30-8—Seated meditation. Pitch black in the meditation hall, cool and quiet with candlelight flickering like in the morning. Lovely.

8-8:30 – Group walking meditation in the garden. We just walked around the garden veeeerrrryyy sloooooooowly as a group. Standing out beneath the stars, looking up at that vast sky while surrounded by silence was surreal. Until somebody got stung by a scorpion, that is.

8:30-9 – Seated meditation. Usually my “best” meditation of the day, as I was cool and refreshed from the walking meditation, and had bored myself to tears with the rest of my inner drivel, so I could concentrate on my breath, as I was supposed to. Yes, 30 minutes of decent meditation was the absolute best I could hope for (and out of 30 minutes, let’s be honest, I probably actually only “really” meditated for, what, 10 minutes? IT’S NOT EASY, PEOPLE).

9-9:30 Get ready for bed and read.

9:30-4:30 Sleep. Or try to sleep. Or sleep a little, then wake up when I have to turn over because my bones grind into the board I’m sleeping on. Or don’t sleep at all, as there was somebody snoring in the bed across from mine. I literally did not know that women could snore that loudly; it was like somebody dragging a table across a tile floor ALL. NIGHT. LONG. As a matter of fact, I was shocked that she didn’t wake herself up. I tried to wake her up—I shook her bed and stuff, but to no effect. Eventually I moved to the other side of the dorm and slept great. Ish. Besides the bones-grinding-into-board thing, of course.

I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto.

**Ok, this is Part 1 because I am very verbose (funny, isn’t it, considering I’m writing about a silent retreat). Part 2 will be on Monday, with answers to your questions (like, “What THE?!”).

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Filed under Awesome, Special Challenge, Thailand