04.02.2004 - 7:04 p.m.
trying to stop myself
from reading every single damn one of the books I brought in
the first few hours of my flight from Seattle. Reminding myself
it's unlikely I can find more reading material on our trip, I
pull up the screen attached to my seat and flip through the movies.
It is only due to a sorrowfully poor selection that I watch the
last half of School of Rock. Later, bored senseless, I watch
the first half. Yawn.
marveling at the automatic beer pouring thingie in the
United business class lounge in the Narita airport. You put a
glass under a thin metal spout, push a button, and whiiirrrr
- the glass is tilted at a precise angle, and beer runs down
the side of the glass until a perfect head is created millimeters
from the rim. When it's done, I take a tentative sip and can't
help grinning foolishly.
"Best part of the lounge,"
says a conspiratorial voice next to me. A man is mixing himself
a gin and tonic and has the same foolish I-can't-believe-this-is-free
look. I nod sagely.
on the seemingly endless
Narita to Bangkok flight, and I'm checking out the available
movies. Haunted Mansion? Jeez. Sighing, I watch School of Rock
again. Double yawn.
moving hesitantly through
the customs area of the Bangkok airport, a little confused by
all the hustle and bustle. Finally, I spot JB waving at me, and
I rush up swelling-music-style and hug him excitedly. "How
was your flight?" he asks, smiling. "School of Rock
sucked, but the free booze was cool," I say. "How about
those beer dispensers," he says, and I give him the
old Eddie Izzard raised eyebrows. "WAY cool," I say,
flashing a profoundly corny thumbs up.
Flying halfway around the world?
Myeh. Flying halfway around the world with FREE BEER? Priceless.
squeaking in shock and
dismay as my hairdryer, up until this exact moment in time a
benign and helpful appliance, begins making a very loud ratcheting
noise, shoots an alarming spray of sparks out the back end, and
releases a cloud of vile-smelling black smoke. Thinking fast,
I immediately drop it in the tub. Safety first! Luckily, the
tub is empty and I yank the plug from the socket, leaving the
dryer to puff angrily for a bit before dying once and for all.
I observe a moment of silence
during the burial-by-wastebasket of my loyal hairdryer, and curse
my neverending stupidity (like, the volts are, um, different
overseas, I guess). Little do I know that due to the sheer lameness
of hotel dryers (really, who can dry their hair with the strength
of a halfhearted warm exhale?) and Thailand's intense heat and
humidity, I have doomed myself to a week of dorky pigtails.
clinging nervously to
my seat as our hotel car careens through the streets of Phuket.
We fly along bumpily, passing slow-moving trucks by edging into
the oncoming lane, missing cars by what I am positive are inches.
Being in the left lane confuses the hell out of me, and intersections
are baffling to the extreme. "Buckle your damn seatbelt,"
hisses JB, as we narrowly scoot by a large rickety metal bus.
When we arrive at our hotel, the Impiana Cabana, I thank the driver so profusely
I wonder if I'm suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.
floating in the Andaman
Sea. The water is unbelievable, so warm and luscious and clear.
Waves are gently rolling in, and I rise and fall with them, hands
outstretched and head thrown back. I am weightless, I feel transformed.
My lips taste of salt and my skin is tingling all over as I float,
bobbing slowly, thinking of nothing.
sitting at a bar called
The Shipwreck on the infamous Bang-la road in Patong. It's blaring
American music (Pearl Jam, The Eagles, Bruce Springstein) and
we're shouting over the din as we watch the activity at the "ladyboy"
bar Moulin Rose across the street.
"That one is definitely
a guy. Look at the face."
"I don't think you can
always go by the face
but I agree with you. The hips are
"What about that one,
in the red dress?"
"For sure a guy. Wow,
she's really stumbling around. Damn, she's loaded. Or he. Whatever."
"The one in the white
"Now, see, I think that's
"No way, dude."
"But she's got tits! Big
"Hmmm. Oop, yeah, I think
you're right. Jeez. You can't be sure of anything around here."
"You can be sure of one
thing: your wife's a girl."
"And everyone else is
up for question."
"You got it, buster."
Later in the night after a
vendor walks by us carrying several plates of snacks:
"JESUS. Did you see that?"
"Were those bugs?"
it looked like?"
"Yep. Okay, what about
"Totally a guy.
having my leg slowly
rubbed by Lalla. Lalla is what you might call a tenacious saleswoman.
She emerged from one of the many massage stalls along the beach
and followed us to our chairs on the first day. "Massage?
Thai massage? You try today?" We assured her we would think
about it. "Maybe later," we said. Lalla did not give
up. Several times over the next two days she waved at us, smiling
and nodding. "Massage today?"
Finally, she must have decided
to A) Always B) Be C) Closing, because at 4 PM on our last day
she appears next to my chair. "Massage
she says, her friendly teak-colored face wrinkled into a smile.
She starts slowly massaging my shin. "Nice massage, relaxing."
Damned if it doesn't feel good.
So for 240 baht (about $6.25) I find myself stretched out for
an hour on a brightly colored mat under a canopy of large cloth
umbrellas, Lalla's fingers working deeply into my muscles. Lying
like this, hearing the surf rolling in, listening to the musical
Thai chatter of the other women doing massages and manicures,
feeling warm breezes playing across my skin, I feel exotic, heady
putting my menu down
and looking with dismay at JB. "The hell?" I say.
Despite the huge seafood display
out front, the only seafaring item on the menu is fish and chips.
Other choices include hamburgers, fries, fettuccine, and caesar
JB drops his menu. "Come
on," he says, and we walk back to the display. A hostess
comes over, and JB starts pointing at things. "Prawn,"
he says. "Cockles. Mussels. Lobster." She piles food
in a basket. "Shrimp," he says. "Vegetables."
"You want grill?" she asks, and he nods.
A short time later our table
is groaning with the weight of our meal. Everything is cooked
perfectly and tastes fresh and spicy and garlicky and delicious.
Rice arrives, and cold beers, and small containers of sauces
to dip things into. Nothing we are eating is on the menu, and
people nearby look on with jealousy as they bite into their club
"You're so cool,"
I tell JB, and I mean it.
perched on an underwater
stool in front of our hotel's poolside bar. It's the first time
I've ever seen a 'swim up' bar, and I find it a fine concept
indeed. I'm swirling my legs in the balmy water and tipping my
face up to the sun, feeling like all is right in the world, when
JB says in a wondering tone, "Jeez, I bet there's a major
collection of pee in the water right around here."
I take a huge gulp of my fruity
served-in-a-coconut drink and cough wildly.
goggling at the full
spectrum of human bodies on display - running into the surf,
lying on beach chairs, walking along the shore - it's as though
we have traveled to Body Acceptance Island. Naked breasts are
everywhere, some youthful and perky, some heading south at a
rapid rate. The sausage-casing European look is de rigueur
for most of the male tourists on Phuket; they trudge along
with their dainty bits crammed into unflattering bikini pants,
their bellies more often than not billowing hugely over their
As for the women
literally, the only person on the island with a one-piece bathing
suit. I console myself by remembering what I read in a guidebook
before leaving: supposedly toplessness is disrespectful to Thais,
who do not follow this carefree custom. Still, I regret not bringing
a bikini, because here there are no reasons to feel self conscious.
Yes, there are the requisite number of whippet-thin model types,
low cut swim briefs clinging to their James King poolboy hips;
more covetous to me are the bodies with curves, the girls with
lush hips and sweetly indented waistlines who look good no matter
what their pose (no unsightly pooch when sitting, damn them).
But others spill from their suits in great furls and rolls, Akira-like,
their flesh unfettered and escaping in every direction; dimpled,
wrinkled, and often tanned to the point of absurdity.
After a while, everyone looks
beautiful in their own way. After a while, I think I could let
loose of worrying so fiercely over what my exposed belly looks
If, you know, I had brought
something other than a one-piece.
shrieking in JB's ear.
"SLOW DOWN!" I screech. "PLEASE!"
I'm clinging to JB while we
fly across the water in a jetski. It's my first time riding one,
and I'm oscillating between screaming in terror and laughing
Another jetski rider approaches,
and JB and the rider exchange glances. To my horror, they each
give each other slow nods. "BABYYY!" I bleat. "PLEASE
DON'T RACE -"
Too late. Since it's JB's lot
in life to embrace both danger and competition, he's doing the
jetski-equivalent of flooring it, and my butt loses contact with
the seat completely.
I picture myself flying off
the back and, of course, being instantly devoured by a shark.
JB finally slows from his Mach
10 speed. "Babe," he says, irritated. "You're
yelling in my ear."
more than a little dizzy
as I take in the view at Vertigo, on our last night in Thailand. I
savor the scenery while managing to insert an entire Phuket lobster
into my gullet, possibly by unhinging my jaw.
weeping softly and steadily
into my blanket at the end of Big Fish on our return flight.
I can't tell if it really is sad, or if I'm just glad it's not
School of Rock.
home again, home again,
jiggety jog. We left Bangkok at 7:30 AM Friday, and arrived in
Seattle 8:30 AM Friday. This is as mystifying to me as the voltage
I have some tan lines, a bunch
of itchy mosquito bites, and a slew of grand memories. I'm too
tired to think of the right words to say "it was a wonderful
trip". But maybe those are the right words, after all.
It was a wonderful trip.
I'll be posting photos soon,
so fire up those high speed connections, dammit.
last ::: next
comments so far.
I have moved. - 1.03.2005
Obviously, a work in progress. - 12.27.2004
Happy holidays! - 12.24.2004
Listen, I am not a complete dick, it's not like I want Joe to die alone surrounded by cats or something. - 12.23.2004
Plus I am convinced my butt is extra big when it's upside down. - 12.22.2004