Belated Post: Last Day in Thailand

ImageLike most annoying 20-somethings who like to travel, I am very stubborn about doing things myself (I suppose we have this in common with toddlers in the terrible twos). I really try to avoid tour groups as I find them expensive, stifling and less “authentic.” But further reflection exposes the latter complaint to be a bit ridiculous. I am not, nor will I ever be, an actual Thai native and thus my pursuit of non-touristy things seems disingenuous. I am, after all a tourist. So for my next day I decided to strap on my metaphorical fanny pack and embrace my inner tourist.

So the next morning I found myself  3 hours outside Bangkok for a dizzying itinerary that included a WW2 graveyard, a historic WW2 bridge, a 1.5hr train ride through the country and mountainside, lunch on the river, a 15 min of bamboo rafting, an elephant ride and a trip to a waterfall. Throughout this experience I switched between vans three times and had about 4 different tour guides. I had no idea what was going on and I loved it. Along the way I got to pet a leopard, lost one of my three pairs of shoes and, as the only American, got to practice my français and the 3 phrases I know in Chinese (which are “hello” “I love you” and “I miss you,”- a consequence of having a high school boyfriend who spent some time in Beijing. It makes me a very devoted sounding conversational partner).

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Travels in Thailand: Part 2


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I was a bit temple-d out from my forays into India’s many ruins, temples, tombs, mosques etc. My brain can only take in so much amazing historical architecture- it has been addled by the steady diet of E! Reality Shows that I feed it (just kidding future residency directors- I exclusively read the New England Journal and thick, onerous medical textbooks for fun). Anyway, long story long, I was absolutely floored by the amazing temples in Bangkok. They are truly unlike anything I’d ever seen.

I took the public riverboat bus or walked between temples and along the way ate some amazing food, walked through a relic market and did some solid people watching. I especially enjoyed climbing the super steep steps of Wat Arun (although the way down left me a sweaty palmed mess- 

Imagemy mom would have hated it!) and grabbing a quiet moment in the queen’s textile museum at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

I tried to be very helpful to my fellow tourists, always offering to snap a picture of the whole family. I even took a picture for some young monks who looked about 12 but were actually 16. The best was when I took a picture of a British family and when I walked away they were saying “so polite, Americans. That’s their way I suppose.” Umm, has our national image changed? I almost ran back to eat a big Mac in
one bite while firing a gun I bought at Walmart just to make sure he knew how we ‘muricans really are. ‘Murica!

I even splurged $8 for 30 min of traditional thai massage at the famous Wat Po massage school located in the temple complex. My blissful massage experience was somewhat sullied by the small British boy (around 4 years old) getting a massage next to me who was, I guess, bored with his massage and kicking the table pretty hard. Now my patience for the wee race is almost endless (I have been a nanny for several families) but I finally had to open my eyes and fix him with my best Mary Poppins look and ask him to “please stop kicking, bud. Just close your eyes and take a nap. Or squeeze your hands really tight and say the ABCs in your head.” And my babysitter magic worked like charm…not. I finally just tattled on him to his older cousin who threatened to tell his “mummy.” (tattletale: 1; tiny British tot: 0).

Please note that you can click on any of these pictures to make it bigger or view as a slideshow.

Travels in Thailand Part 1

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I can’t believe how derelict I’ve been in chronicling some of my adventures. I went to Bangkok for a week for a conference  and took 2 days after to explore. It was one of my all time favorite trips but it will be too boring to describe in detail so I will give you the highlight reel: 

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1. International Leprosy Summit/photojournalism.  I went to help with the International Leprosy Summit. My not-so-secret dermatology nerd was immensley pleased to marry my twin passions of derm/infectious disease with global and public health. The meeting was a great success and I was so excited to see that a photo I took was used on a giant poster that will also be distributed internationally and was used in international newspapers!

2. Bangkok/street food: I stayed in a budget hotel right next to one of Bangkok’s night markets, Patpong,  in an area called Silom which boasts some delectable street food. I am not a foodie by any means (my “cooking” is more along the lines of eating raw veggies and trader joe’s frozen dinners with the occasional sauteed spinach or brussel sprout/stir fry/kale chip thrown in) but WOW the food in Thailand was good. 

Street food in Thailand is safe, hygienic, delicious and very cheap so I availed myself of every opportunity. Some favorites: the fresh fruit, lod chong, sum tum and BBQ street meat. I had a fabulous experience near one of the temples where a som tum vendor took a shine to me (I had tried to entice some other tourists into trying her amazing dish) and gave me all sorts of free food.

 

Image3. The joy (?) of being a solo traveler. I was hell bent on taking advantage of this work trip and seeing a bit of Thailand. Problem? I didn’t have anyone to sightsee with as my boss was ill and the rest of the people at the meeting were honorable ministers of health etc. Solution? Strike out on my own! One thing I am amazed by is power of the internet (please read that sentence a if it were said by the people in this video …”what is internet?”).  I used TripAdvisor and other message boards to figure out the best (read: cheapest) hotel to stay at, where to change money for the best rate, how to navigate Thailand’s public transportation and which attractions were a must see. To get to the temples, for example, I had to take the skytrain to a river port and hop a local public boat bus and figure out which station to get off on. The bonus about traveling alone is that you meet all sorts of amazing people and in my experience people were kind, generous and eager to help. The best part was when I asked directions from 2 women, one Thai and one American. “I’m from Bangkok but I live in the US now- we both do,” the Thai woman explained. “Where in the US?” I asked. “Boston,” she replied. “No way! I grew up in Boston!” I exclaimed. “Well, not really Boston, we live in a small town outside of Boston called [she named the exact small town outside Boston where I grew up].” “ME TOO!!!” Seriously, what are the odds? Gotta love it. 

 

Yogatime

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Our yoga class at Lodi Gardens (Photo credit: Adriane)

We all know that exercise is important blahblahblah.  

But sometimes when I come home I just want to eat a mango, read my book and bother my friends at home for a bit. Luckily, my commute entails about 45 min of walking everyday and my office is on the 4th floor (I am generally a stairs >> elevator type of gal). Also, the WHO offers yoga classes three times a week and I’ve started attending that. 

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Another tomb where we did our 7 min workout (also not the right tomb for yoga)

I am in India after all and I would rather see the sights than pound the treadmill but I’ve been trying to keep exercise a part of my daily routine after work. I take the dog for a long walk every day in Lodi garden near my house and then do the 7 minute workout.

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This was apparently the tomb we were aiming for. Maybe tomorrow?

This morning I thought I’d get up at 6 and go do some free yoga at Lodi Gardens. Grace, my incredibly kind friend who let me stay with her, goes regularly and gave me some instructions- go behind Mohammed Syad’s tomb. Well, let me tell you that there are so many tombs and ruins in this garden that I ended up wandering around looking lost.  A kind passerby saw my mat, my white skin and my confused expression and pointed me in the direction of another tomb where I saw a yoga class, joined my friend (she saw the same yoga class)…and then realized that the whole class was in Hindi. Womp Womp.

No matter, we enjoyed our breathing (but had to keep one eye open to make sure that we weren’t left behind- which we were…the entire class). We were hoping to blend (hah!) but one of the instructors kept coming over and breathing loudly until we breathed as fast as he did and until I almost passed out from lack of oxygen to the brain. We did have a smug moment during our back bridges when the teacher told us that our poses were “excellent” and we were “experts.” I would like to thank Penn Med Yoga and of course Donna/BodyTrio 🙂 

I think that people romanticize the idea of yoga in India but the truth is that it’s more practical here,  less glamorous but also less pretentious. No lulu lemon-clad lithe little girls doing complicated poses…more like a middle aged man with a small gut or an older lady in traditional dress breathing rapidly from the belly. We fit right in! It’s refreshing and fun. And when it came to the laughter part (yes, laughter is a big part of some yoga practices here), my laughter was totally genuine.  Here I am in the stunning Lodi Gardens in New Delhi, doing an outside yoga class totally in Hindi- what’s not to smile about? 

Next week I will try to find the correct (English) yoga class/bootcamp but for today, this was just right. 

Hey Laaadies!

ImageSo one of my favorite things about New Delhi thus far is the incredible metro system.  It’s sleek, has incredible signage, the trains come around every 5 minutes and it has a very convenient smartcard system. My commute to work takes around 30 min and costs 13.6 rupees (around 23 cents). This metro system has totally spoiled me and I am dreading my return to the US and its sub par public transit.

But probably my fImageavorite thing about the New Delhi metro is the Ladies Car. Not women’s car- ladies car. Because all the women in New Delhi are ladies for some reason. Only three years old, this is a part of New Delhi’s initiative for women’s safety that feels appropriate in the wake of horrible gut-wrenching acts of violence against women that gained international attention.

So the first car of every train is marked by pink signs and reserved for the fairer sex. It’s less crowded and FAR less smelly than the rest of the metro. Image

It’s very hard, however, to refrain from shouting “hey laaaadieeees” ala Outkast every time I get on the train. But I already get enough stares for being white and having blue eyes so I don’t think I need to add “crazy psychopath” to that list. But we all know that my inner filter is shoddy at best so you never know…

But what if I’m a lady in New Delhi and have to run to catch the train and/or can’t find the ladies car? Fear not, fellow female traveler. There are provisions for you in the regular cars as well. Signs and periodic announcements remind male passengers to kindly give up their seats for “the elderly, physically disabled or women.” Because, you know, it’s all kind of the same thing, right?

This ladies only concept has proved very popular and is very much appreciated by this lady.

ImageNow to end I would like to introduce you to my favorite subway sign creature: a be-snouted, afro-sporting, skirt and clog wearing man(woman?)-bear-dog hybrid: enjoy.