Archive for October, 2006

Bangkok in Review

Stayed at the Asha Guest House and which was rather nice and incredibly affordable. Asha is run by two British expats who have decided to turn a house in Bangkok’s redlight district into a hostel that would be a boutique hotel in another city. Asha’s main charm is that it perserves the meet upness of a hostel with the cleanliness and design of a hotel. Includes a small pool, a beautiful room, decent access to the MRT and Skytrain, and is near the Chatuchak Market. The hotel’s food ain’t bad either.

Chatuchak is in itself an experience that’s quickly vearing towards the hyperreal. While 20 maybe 30 years ago Chatuchak would have been an authentic bazaar where food sellers from the country would meet the cosmopolitians of Bangkok, today it is increasingly becoming just another tourist trap. It’s composed of a monolith of temporary structures frenzied in their construction and improvised in such a way that shopping becomes an experience Canal City in Fukouka Japan might be trying to evoke the grand canyon, but Chatuchak is more on the level of booming refuge camp. It still contains groceries, religious items, and other things, but a lot of the stores have now veered towards antiques and touristy contrapations. Essentially, you can almost feel the wrath of Tesco bearing down on it as it shoppers discover the big c down the street can sell them produce at a decent price, but much like Canal City Chatuchak provides an experience worthy of visititation simply becuase of it’s size an granduer. There’s nothing quite like happening between two shanty towns of antiquated photographs of Asia to find an Asian book seller selling vintage Batman comics in Thai or Malay alongside yesterday’s programming manuals. Chatuchak also sits next to a bevy of parks well worth the look inside. One of which is awesome is awesome for skateboarding, but unfortunately they ban it (there’s a sports park next door for bikes they’ll let you skateboard on), but the park is notable for being probably bigger than any other park I can think of in Asia outside of China and also because it’s streams are chocked full of elongated snapping turtles and catfish providing a much needed relief from the constant Koi and Goldfish of the Sino cultures and also becuase it’s probably one of the few places in the world where you can see kids feeding chicken to turtles as schools of catfish pound into their backs.

Met up with a friend of mine on Monday and headed down the BTS Skytrain to the end of the line for a 400 baht boat tour (we were later told you can get a full day tour for 100 baht). Also visited the shopping malls of Siam which is rather impressive, picked up a pile of DVDs including most of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest stuff and the usual standard fare explotiation films. Upon arriving back in Taiwan I felt the same way I felt in Korea, that it was a much more conservative country and felt the usual trepidation as the bus driver loaded my bags into his carriage mysteriously shaking his head the entire time as if my mere presence was an offense to his carriage.

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October 12, 2006 at 3:18 pm Leave a comment

Eboard Vs StreetCarver

Skateboards are going in all directions these days, but here are two
recent entries in the skate corpus worth checking out. First is The
Wave which was launched with a rather cheesy informecial in the U.S.,
but is rather cheap (I bought a knock off of The Wave at a Taipei
surfshop for a meager 50 USD and it’s also got a better design than the
original). The Wave is quite simply a skateboard that’s been modified
to emulate the balance needed for surfing (or so goes the product pitch
I’m not much of a surfer yet). It’s main charm is that it turns any
street into an obstacle course of balance and speed. The Wave rests on
two wheels instead of four so you can easily steer just using the
balance of your body which can be exhilarating when going downhill and
convient for scooting through traffic. It’s only drawback is that
ollying and other common skateboard tricks are almost impossible (if
not impossible) becuase The Wave weighs so much more than a traditional
skateboard (although it has a series of suggestive bumps on the back
implying that little jumps might be possible with more practice), but
still if you’re looking to turn a local hill into a slalom it’s a fun
and enjoyable way to have a good time.

The BMW Streetcarver takes on an opposing look at skating. It’s made
of a series of interlocking gears and a large curved board that serves
to help steady your balance during turns. While The Wave is a cheap and
efficient way to achieve manuveriability on wheels, The StreetCarver
chooses to make itself more balancable, but does this by charging a
hefty price (retial price is around 600 USD in the U.S. more elsewhere)
it also has the problem that the faster you go the more of your body is
thrown against the speed of the turn (it nearly through me off once
just during a test drive). However the streetcarver has an elegance
(and a strangely BMW-esque heft) to it that makes it appealing not to
mention that it’s intended to be a practice board for snowboarders,
hence if you’re looking to practice during the off season or when there
is no snow around, the streetcarver might be the answer. A few reviews
I read on the internet also mentioned that the wheel size means the
board goes faster than a traditional skateboard and also might be
suitable for off road rolling, but the 39,000 baht price tag kept me
from buying hence I can only mildly recommend the street carver. While
it might look cool, The Wave is definitely the more affordable option.

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October 12, 2006 at 12:14 pm Leave a comment

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October 11, 2006 at 3:19 pm Leave a comment

Before I sleep, Bangkok quickly

This didn’t get published at the time, but showed up in my drafts today so publishing now.

Most people didn’t seem to get scammed the way I did, and when my friend Sheila arrived, suddenly I wasn’t being scammed anymore. Hence, groups help. Bangkok is centered in the middle of poverty (not as intense as Shanghai’s) and a growing cosmopolitianism (it’s chocked full of people from all over). On returning to Taipei it didn’t seem as glamorous or as friendly (although it is a good deal cleaner). Taipei is a giant concrete box and at times concrete can be used beautifully, but mostly it just screams of bordeom. As much as adobe defined the archiectural possibilities of native americans, concrete has defined what the world’s capable of building these days, but such rules do not define Bangkok, which is more akin to a city that’s been paved over and then sprung up again. Streets fester little holes where roots have begun to slink back, buildings spring large scale canopies of forest on them, abandoned buildings show all the signs of grafitti sans city ordinance. Bangkok is a vacation because it makes the acts of drinking, smoking, and travelling seem pleasurable regardless of what you do. It’s upscale areas are intensly elegant and it’s abudance of sins became a back drop for simply living after awhile. Have a few photos that will be up soon.

October 10, 2006 at 8:02 pm Leave a comment

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October 7, 2006 at 3:17 pm Leave a comment

Bangkok hour 10

No train from new airport (but new airport is nice especially the liquer store behind customs so you can sip while you wait on your luggage). Bangkok has the same problem as middle America, it’s poverty is it’s main charm. Walking down the strip tonight two cab drivers asked me if I wanted a beet. Sat around talking to them for about 20 minutes when one of them suggest I go to a girl bar or a boy bar down the street. Head off down the street and folks take me by the arm and ask if I want to a girl show. Their tactics are slightly less forceful than Shanghai’s prostitutes (and here slightly more legit), but pretty much anyone will be asked. Sex on a motorbike is apparently cool. Was hit by a scooter when I first got here, think I hurt them more than me. 
Tales of these regions (especially Cambodia) are well known (one teacher at my academy says a group of canadain dudes paid some prostitutes in cambodia to suck their cocks while they shot rocket launchers etc.) Bangkok in particular is in the midst of a clean up (trains and buses close early), but the city is still sleazy in an entertaining type of way. A man rummaging through garbage sold me a tortoise for 5 baht etc. What’s advertised as possible here is perhaps more mirage than actuality, but the city is permessive much more so than the other tigers that sorround it.

October 6, 2006 at 5:28 pm Leave a comment

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