Archive | Asia

A Heartbreaking Email from Bangkok

Bangkok and the Skytrain in more peaceful times. (Photo by R. Paul Herman)
Just two months ago, I was in Bangkok, zipping around on the Skytrain – often passing through the Siam area or headed for the Siam Paragon mall (“The Pride of Bangkok,” its website proclaims) to shop, see a movie or graze at the street food court. The area is modern Thailand at its most vibrant, packed with hip young people, loads of restaurants and shopping, shopping, shopping. Or I should say, WAS.
Bangkok skyline (photo by Andrew Woods, GM of the the Chaophyapark Hotel, courtesy eTN)
It’s almost impossible for me to imagine, but the entire area is being destroyed in the political struggle that has been going on since before I left in March. The protest started out peacefully, and on several occasions it looked like a resolution had been reached – but things have turned chaotic and ugly. My friend, Dao, who lives in Bangkok sent me this heartbreaking email today. So far, news about Bangkok’s strife has been a mere footnote in the media. Here’s how the situation is affecting one of my favorite Thai people:
I am ok and stay in the curfew night now while Central World building is collapsing as well as burning Siam Square and Siam Paragon; also the Stock Exchange of Thailand. It is the most bitter moment in my life. It is different than when you have a broken heart from a break up or losing love ones. This is losing of the country and integrity. The country is in pause. I pray to see all this mess stop and I hope I can be a part to help my country recover back to where we used to be.
I know Bangkok will come back from this, because of people like Dao – citizens who believe in their country and seek peace. Dao once gave me a beautiful book called The Happiness of Kati, which is about a young girl who perseveres through great loss. She said it explained a lot about the essence of being Thai. That gives me faith, too, that Bangkok will soon be vibrant once again. Want to know when a new post is up? Subscribe to my RSS feed and follow me on Twitter!
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A Floating Feast in Thailand

Amphawa, Thailand; photo by Lex Reyes

Thailand’s original road system was a complex series of canals, flowing into rivers like Bangkok’s Chao Praya and the nearby Mae Klong. You can experience life on the water by traveling just over an hour outside of Bangkok to sample all sorts of tasty treats served up canal-side from the floating “kitchens” of traditional Thai boats.

Amphawa, Thailand; photo by R. Paul Herman

Skip the early morning floating markets that have become a tourist cliché and head for the small town of Amphawa, where Thais themselves go to buy seafood and sample the local cuisine.

Amphawa, Thailand; photo by Lex Reyes

The Friday-Saturday-Sunday markets here run from noon to 8:30 pm, with nearly 200 boats gathered along a canal lined with old houses.

Amphawa, Thailand; photo by R. Paul Herman

I lunched on noodle soup, after watching it cooked to order quayside, complete with sliced pork, fishball, tofu and toppings of spring onions and cilantro – all for about 50 cents.

Amphawa, Thailand; photo by R. Paul Herman

For dessert, smashed bananas on skewers, grilled and caramelized with coconut syrup.

Amphawa, Thailand; photo by R. Paul Herman

The banana man handed them up to us from the canal in a basket at the end of a long pole.

Amphawa, Thailand; photo by R. Paul Herman

The Amphawa floating market has only been around for a couple of years. It’s the brainchild of a visionary mayor who’d watched his town’s population dwindle due to economic hardship. He inspired the remaining 5,000 residents to muster their resources and create the market, selling their crops (the area’s know for its fruit trees) and regional food specialties. Some vendors have even created new products, like ice creams flavored with flowers.

Amphawa, Thailand; photo by Lex Reyes

Stay over at a guest house or at one of the nearby resorts (my friends and I overnighted at Baan Amphawa). Wake up early, and you can see Buddhist monks making morning rounds to collect their daily food alms – by boat, of course. It’s best to travel to Amphawa by car, but you can also take the Bangkok – Ratchaburi – Damnoen Saduak bus from the “New” Southern Bus Terminal, Sai-Tai-Mai (allow additional time). This is my first blog post from an extended trip to Thailand and Malaysia. Want to know when a new post is up? Subscribe to my RSS feed and follow me on Twitter!

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