Numbers

Some numbers may be just the thing to get my company-controlled brain really working again after two full weeks of respite.
– Rating of the wedding on scale of 1 to 10: 9.7
– Rating of the trip on scale of 1 to 10: 9.5
– Total number of digital photos taken by myself and my brother: Approx. 2500 (8 GB worth)
– Total number of film photos taken just at wedding: 17 rolls
– Total number of edited hours of wedding video taken by T: 3 hours
– Total number of edited hours of wedding video taken by hired videographer: Unknown
– Total number of dancers at our wedding ceremonies: 50? 100? (I have to watch the video)
– Total number of elephants at wedding: 2
– Total number of white suits I wore for the wedding: 2 (morning Thai-style suit/evening tux; both went well with white pimp boots I brought from Japan)
– Total number of monkeys that jumped on my back at the monkey temple: 1
– Total number of boss monkeys that bared their teeth at me and chased me into the ocean: 1
– Total number of beautiful ladyboys involved with our wedding (attending or working with vendors), not including dancers: At least 5
– Total number of times I knocked on my pal’s door (knowing he had a girl in the room), heard the soundtrack to Raiders of the Lost Ark playing at full volume, and was subsequently scarred for life with visions of him standing over the bed with a bullwhip in a Mola Ram pose: 1
– Kilograms of mangosteen consumed by my father over the course of a five days: 3.5
– Average number of fishballs in a standard bowl of noodles in Thailand: 4
– Total number of 600ml bottles of water I consumed over two weeks: A hundred?
– Total number of guards our driver bribed in order to enter beach compound where the King of Siam’s doctor lives in Hua Hin: 1
– Total number of bags of fruit used to bribe said guard: 1
– Total number of average taxi drivers we had in Bangkok: 10
– Total number of good taxi drivers we had in Bangkok: 7
– Total number of bad taxi drivers we had in Bangkok: 3
– Total number of taxi drivers on speed who kept feeling my arm and telling me “I like man” in Bangkok: 1
– Total number of times I had to raise my voice at the Fortune hotel’s front desk to get stuff done: 1
– Total number of suits made in Bangkok: 1
– Total number of times said suit saved my ass when a job interview unexpectedly appeared at the end of the trip: 1
– Total number of girls who remember T’s name on Hua Hin’s bar strip: 20? 30?
– Total number of flowers bought off from cute/pitiful child hawkers during one long night of drinking: Two fistfulls
– Total number of Scandinavians currently vacationing in Hua Hin, Thailand: Approximately half the population of Stockholm
– Total number of times I felt embarrased to look Japanese because of rude/loud/retarded Japanese in the room: 5+
– Total number of times I have smiled at a cop on a street in Bangkok and he smiled back: 4
– Total number of times I have smiled at a cop on a street in Osaka and he smiled back: 0
– Total number of times I have smiled at a cop on a street in Los Angeles and he smiled back: Are you crazy?
– Total number of times (ever) I have seen people peeing on the street in Bangkok: 3
– Total number of times (ever) I have seen people peeing on the street in Los Angeles: 15
– Total number of times (ever) I have seen people peeing on the street in Osaka: The entire working adult male population, plus a few bums and even a prarie woman or two thrown in for variety.
-Total number of times my ass was saved by family/friends during wedding/entire trip: Countless. Seriously. Thank you all.

Last Minute

It’s funny how the day before you leave for an extended break, problems have an uncanny way of popping up all at once.
I am in evasion mode…. Just call me stealth ninja, baby.
I will be picking up a cell as soon as I hit Bangkok and will post the number here and over at the airset site. Nam already has one so we’ll send out that info at the same time.
Four hours before the end of work. Time to wrap things up.

Allergies?

Related to my previous post, I’d like to know if anyone has food allergies or food preferences (disclaimer: I am basically the living antithesis of vegan. My philosophy is, “God gave me canine teeth for a reason, and damned if I’ll let them go to waste.” I have nothing against vegans besides the armpit hair-brandishing female type, but it will be very hard for vegans to travel with me on this trip, because among other things, several suckling pigs and a Peking duck or two have my name on them.).
Dave is lactose intolerant, which sucks but is fairly easy to work around, I think.
Chris, a guy I’ve not yet had the pleasure of meeting, is apparently allergic to peanuts. This is a much more serious issue. When I told Nam about this she thought it was the funniest thing in the world – “how can someone be allergic to peanuts?,” and therein lies the problem as I see it. Because peanut allergies among Thais are virtually non-existent, there is no awareness. Hence, even asking for peanut-free food may not ensure safety.
Chris is apparently bringing some Epi-pens, which is about all that can be done treatment-wise (without going to the hospital). We will help him as best we can with the avoidance part. I found some allergy cards translated into Thai, but I’m having Nam check them right now because they look kinda ghetto. Will post the link later if they check out, or make some of our own.

Let’s eat!

The upcoming trip to Thailand will mark my longest stay there thus far; it will also mark my longest stay in Bangkok. I have a simple policy regarding food in Thailand: Street vendors and food stalls are king. For the most part, they specialize in a dish or two, and they usually do it well. At these places, I’ve had 25 Baht (70 cents) chicken-on-rice plates better than any restaurant equivalent in the states or Japan, ditto for 50 cent bowls of egg noodles and 40 cent plates of fresh stir fried veggies. Thailand is a chowhound’s dream, simply because of the quality and widespread abundance of street food. One added bonus to this experience is keeping a mental list of the best street vendors/locations for specific kinds of food. The closest possible comparison to the states I can think of is taco trucks in LA – people remember where to go for, say, the best carnitas tacos, and share that information by word of mouth. A certain taco truck will gain a rep and maybe a following over a period of weeks or months, and then suddenly disappear. And chowhounds driving by for a quick midnight carnitas injection will wonder if it’s just a day off, or if the owner got sent back to Mexico. And there will be much mourning; somewhere a cholo pours a can of warm Tecate on the curb. So it is also with food stands in Thailand.
However, I have been to some excellent restaurants in Thailand as well. There’s that outdoor place by the Chao Praya river in Bangkok that Nam’s sister takes us to each time we visit – we’ve already planned to hit that place up this time, as well. There was that awesome seafood restaurant Nam’s aunts took us to when we announced our engagement – T had a messy foodgasm when he ate 3 huge Giant River Prawns there. And there’s the rundown little Vietnamese cafe in Nam’s hometown where they make the best springrolls I’ve ever had (although the pack of rabid dogs that attacked me outside were kind of a bummer). You may notice a pattern here: Basically every kick-ass place restaurant I’ve been to in Thailand was introduced to me (usually by Nam’s family). Which I suppose is natural, seeing as how she’s my wife and all, but it brings me to the next point.
I OFFICIALLY DECLARE THIS UPCOMING TRIP (second only to our wedding, that is): CHOWHOUND’S DELIGHT AKA Finding the Best Eats in Thailand, Part I
I even have a plan.
I am researching other’s studies into this area before the trip. See here and here for an example of the kind of articles I dig, as well as the boards up at Chowhound and Fodor’s. Of course we will do extensive exploring by following our noses/instincts, as well.
So who’s with me on this?

Mexican Food in Bangkok

My research into this subject consists only of an hour-long web search. That is all I needed to determine that the first person to establish a Mexican restaurant in Bangkok with excellent food will probably become rich. I hope somebody steps up to this role soon, so I don’t have to do it myself (in general, I hate living in big cities).
There are a few reviews of Mexican food in Bangkok, to be sure, but I really don’t trust the reviewers. Why? Well, for instance, anybody who even sets foot into a Mexican restaurant named “Charley Brown’s” is not qualified to judge, in my book. Similarly, a “fairly decent Mexican buffet on Tuesday nights” does not a Mexican restaurant make. But the clincher was the following quote from an older review:
“…helpful and attentive staff, an outstanding stock of fine liquor (when did you last see quality tequila like Jose Cuervo in Thailand?), and really great food…”
Um. With Cuervo as a baseline for quality tequila, I don’t think we can trust this guy’s judgment of the finer points of carne asada either.
So. The general consensus of people who seemed to know good Mexican food is that Senor Pico is the best Thailand has to offer. It didn’t get really stellar review from anybody not from Wisconsin or Boston, though, if you know what I mean.
I have thus placed myself in the ironic situation of having to try a Mexican restaurant in a SE Asian country, where a single margarita is sure to cost more than twenty bowls of delicious noodles being sold from a food cart right outside the front door. But I feel it’s worth it – if it’s as bad as I fear, I know what to do for work when I move later this year.
I’ll import a fully-stocked taco truck from east LA and bless Thailand with the best damn carnitas they’ve (n)ever seen.
Ole, bitches!

Taxis at Bangkok Airport

My mom asked me how to catch a cab at Bangkok International Airport and I am reprinting my advice here.
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The best way to catch a taxi from BKK airport is to go up to the Departures level (second floor) and catch one that’s dropping off somebody or is driving by.
The second best way is to go to the taxi stand out on the curb on the Arrivals level (first floor) and get a slip of paper that ensures you will get a metered taxi (although I haven’t seen an unmetered taxi for years). It will automatically cost 50 baht more to do this, and even though that’s not very much money, the taxis on the Arrival level are notoriously old and dirty (this makes a huge impact when the A/C is cranked and the windows are rolled up the whole time).
The absolute worst thing to do is to agree on a fare inside the airport. Some cabbies will try to help you with your bags to try and get you in their cabs, especially if you look like a noob, but refuse them. They charge up to ten times the normal fare, which is still under twenty bucks, but still….
There is a map of the airport here: Bangkok International Airport

Details: Boat charter

Just got an e-mail back from Barry, who I’ve been talking to about the boat charter:

Our normal trip leaves our pontoon at 9 a.m. and returns around 5 – 5.30
p.m. – however, as you will be chartering the boat for your group only, we
can be flexible on this at either end.
We normally catch snapper, seabass, catfish, sweetlip. The fish are not all
that big because we won’t be that far off the coast and the water is still
fairly shallow. The boat was out last Sunday and they caught over 80 fish
with the biggest (a snapper) just over 12 inches long.
There’s plenty of discovering to do – we take out semirigid with us to ferry
passengers to beaches. There’s one small island, for example, that is
inhabited only by (timid) monkeys, and passengers enjoy feeding them
bananas.
The area of Kao Sam Roi Yod is a protected marine national park, so it’t
pristine in Thai terms.
There’t no great snorkelling around here, though around Monkey Island is ok
if the sea is very calm.
We have a very well stocked bar on the boat, including all the popular
beers, spirits and some cocktails. Our prices are the same as normal bar
prices in Hua Hin, i.e. not the normal over-inflated prices you normally
find on boats, etc.
We can provide whatever catering you want, e.g. a mixed Thai buffet, a
top-range buffet of western food or just about anything else. If you could
give an idea of what you want, I’ll price and send you the details and you
can then decide.
Our marina for boarding the boat is in Pak Nam Pran, just over 20 km south
of Hua Hin.
It only takes 20 minutes from Hua Hin and is a pleasant drive, the last half
through hilly pineapple plantations.
We have a pick-up taxi that can transport 10 and can organise an additional
similar vehicle.
The return trip for both vehicles together would be B 1200, i.e. B 60 per
head for 20 people.
There is accommodation near us but tends to be more expensive than in Hua
Hin and there is no nightlife in Pak Nam Pran.
If you want us to check out accommodation for you in Hua Hin, again just
give me the details, how many double/single rooms, price range etc. and
we’ll ask around for you.

So now let’s examine some of what he has written. First off, I believe he said the magic word: MONKEYS! And MONKEY ISLAND! No explanation necessary, the addition of monkeys is just a lovely bonus… I may have just found the first volunteers for my future simian army (recruiting line: “Travel to exotic places, meet wonderful people, and FLING POO AT THEM!”).

This is a sweetlip
. According to other sites, they are prime for eating.
“semirigid” = Zodiac w/outboard
I’m going to ask for the catering. What kind of spread do we want? Maybe they can prepare some of the fish we catch on board to supplement whatever we order. Decisions, decisions.
Regarding the 60 Baht per person (assuming 20 pax) we were quoted for the taxi ride, 2 taxis, 40 km/40 mins. both ways: That’s a DOLLAR AND FIFTY CENTS. How you like them apples? I love Thailand.
For some reason, Hua Hin is reminding me of Lanai, although I might not have ever even been there. Must be the pineapple plantations.
Need I mention that I’m REALLY REALLY EXCITED about this?
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You know what? I might not be able to tip these guys well enough!

How many things can we rent?

On my very first trip to Thailand, I rented a Jeep, a speedboat, a dirtbike, and a SPAS-12, so it only follows that we must try and do one better this time around.
Well, with a real live elephant who apparently likes to dance to drums reserved and ready to carry my fat ass into holy matrimony, it is time to turn my attention to another area: The big blue. And no, this is not to say I am investing in a ChinkPad.
I am thinking of chartering a 70-foot boat for a day-long fishing/diving cruise: Check it out!
The naked mermaid graphic on that page shows some real class, I tell you. It looks like for the amount of people that will be coming along, the breakdown will be about 3,000 to 4,000 yen per person ($30 – $40). Sound cool?
UPDATE: I’ve been asked to provide more details. I have sent an e-mail to the company requesting a private charter of the Peacock on 2/21 for a full day of fishing/diving for 15 to 20 people. Have not yet received a reply, but will update here and on the AirSet site when I do.

Human Nature

One thing that has become apparent with this overseas wedding is simply an old truth – it’s just best to ignore the big mouths. Nam and I have been planning to get married for years; we just never got around to it. Over those long years, I remember each and every person who urged us to have the wedding in Thailand so they could take a vacation there. They promised to attend, of course, like it was no big thing. “For you guys, OF COURSE I’ll be there, you’re family/good friends/important to me…”
Well, invitations were sent long ago and the requested RSVP date was the first of December. Guess the only people who haven’t responded at all? That’s right, the big mouths! The shit talkers, AKA Those Who Cannot Back Up That of Which They Speak. I call all of you out now. Because it’s not the fact that you cannot attend which bothers me – believe me, I know the expense/bother involved with taking time off work, etc., just to attend our Matrimonial Gloryfest Afar. Rather, it is the fact that NONE OF YOU so far has the stones to tell me you can’t go – FYI, an RSVP request can be answered in the negative without losing face, in fact it’s the RIGHT and POLITE thing to do. It’s the fact that you are IGNORING the invitation that rubs me the wrong way…. DO THE RIGHT THING, MOOKIE. Better yet, in the words of the immortal Ice Cube, FUCK ALL Y’ALL.
And now that I got that off my chest, I can write all you shit talkers off and proceed without regret.
God, I love this blogging shit.

Wedding Schedule – Airset

In order to better facilitate planning for the wedding, we are using a free site called AirSet that provides calendars, etc., as well as flexible security settings. I need to send an invitation via e-mail and you need to register at the site in order for you to get into our group. I sent out a bunch of invites today, but if I forgot you, please drop me a line (cosmicbuddha at gmail dot com).

As My Elephant Softly Weeps

Note: Sorry if I’m boring the hell out of you with wedding stuff, but I only intend to get married once, and I want to document the entire process. Plus, it’ll be all over in a couple months.
Yesterday, spurred by my incessant urging, Nam called the pachyderm rental company. The closest one is apparently located in Surin province, an hour or so from Nam’s house in Mahasarakham. A while ago, I wrote that it only costs thirty bucks or so to rent an elephant for a day, so I had intended to rent several of the peanut-sniffing louts – Small, Medium, and Large, at least. Indeed this would have been possible as recently as a few years ago. Now, it is going to cost around ten times that much! What happened, you ask. Progress happened, my friends!
I am extremely happy to report that the sudden rise in price can be attributed to a single factor, one for which I am more than willing to pay. The elephant gets a ride to our house on a truck, instead of having to walk the entire distance on the side of the highway! This is something that I hadn’t even thought about before. I had just assumed that there were rent-a-elephant franchises a lot closer to Nam’s house. Apparently there is legislation forbidding the passage of walking elephants on the highways, or perhaps the people who own the beasts really care about them – either way, I’m happy! Plus, there’s an added bonus! The people who own the elephant said they would wash the elephant all nice and clean (this is not to be taken for granted in any SE Asian country), and pimp it out with a riding harness and ph-ph-ph-ph-phat threads! Awesome!
But the best is yet to come. Nam told the owners that we wanted to use the elly in our wedding parade, and asked if it would get spooked by all the people surrounding it, plus the drums, etc., that mark a traditional Cosmic Buddha gathering. Guess what? The elephant likes music. It dances when it hears drums. In other words, to start out our wedding day, I will be RIDING ON A PIMPED-OUT, DANCING ELEPHANT. Fuck a Cadillac, yo. Pachyderm is the new pimp. This is going to be the greatest day of my life.