E-Travels With E.Trules.....into the asiatic void: Bankkok ......S.E. Asia, Scandinavia, Borneo, Malaysia, Travelogues

into the asiatic void: bangkok

may 10, 2000

hola amgios,

c'est moi, your ever-adventuring gringo travel fiend. i'm on another two month see-the-world-before-you-die discovery trek --- this time to southeast asia. i left for bangkok on may 7th, and i have a "flexible" return ticket for july 7th. i hope to see cambodia, vietnam, laos, thailand, malaysia, and maybe even bali. having never ventured to asia, it feels like a big cultural departure - and psychic immersion - to the east -- hopefully in a good way. i'm really looking forward to it. leaving my isolated LA routine for the great asiatic void is another leap of faith into my ambivalent trust of the universe.

so -- just two days into the tumultuous void and what can i report? duh -- i'm a little overwhelmed. i feel like jack nicholson's character in "as good as it gets" -- traveling around obsessively paranoid about where my passport is, where my money belt is, which pocket my wallet is in, which other pocket my travelers' checks. which books, journals, keys should i have with me at which time....?

but hey, it's just the reason to travel, right? to loosen up all these mundane, tight-fitting, routine concerns - to open up to the great, yawning unknown. so what if i lose my bag, my sandals, my watch, even my almighty passport (which i surrendered today to a thai travel agent to get cambodian and vietnam visas!). so what? they're only things. i can get new ones. new clothes, new things, mo' money, another passport...


anyway, i think it's going to take me a while to get into the NEW routine. in the meantime - patience, ride the white horse, the yellow tiger, relax.

got met at the airport by tasha's friend, bob halliday, an american ex-pat who's been in bangkok as a writer/correspondent for over 30 years. corpulent, upbeat, and artsy-knowledgeable, he's a joy to be around. took me and el mario (martinez, the happy alternative LA mailman i'm traveling w/ for 3 weeks) from the airport to our hotel in a cab, then right to khao san road, the backpacker's tourist mecca of the new millennium. sidewalk cafes sprawling with scraggly-looking kids mostly thirty years younger than us, serving thai noodles, kloster and singha beer, strange tasting cabbage salads we enjoyed our welcome immensely. took a tuk tuk (3 wheelie transport) back to our hotel, soaked to the bone in the thick, humid air of southeast asia. bombarded by its strong, virulent and pungent smells. up to the hotel room (mercifully air conditioned), into a swim suit, and then into the hotel's tepid and starlit outdoor pool, its early morning temperature a wonderfully refreshing bathtub revival.

monsoon's early this year, rain on its way....

jet lag? i don't know. slept about two hours, up bright and early with the motorbikes and roosters (reminding me of echo park!). picked up by sammy, alex ho's friend who worked w/ him on "platoon" and "heaven & earth". sammy takes us right into the hubbub of the tourist trade in central bangkok. i see the royal palace and wat pho, one of the most impressive of the unbelievably beautiful and ornately-tiled thai buddhist temples -- multi-colored green, orange, red, and yellow, mirror-reflecting, gold leafed, hand-crafted houses of worship to the local deity - housing 5 story lying buddhas, bigger than most whales or beverly hills homes. buddha being the main dude around these parts, i definitely have a feeling i'm not in kansas anymore.

then out to ayyuthaya, the ancient capital of thailand - before bangkok (1767). full of scorched brick ruins built by thai emperors and kings from the 14th-18th centuries, now historic rubble courtesy of the neighboring and pillaging burmese. seems like the familiar story of hostile adjacent empires scorching and looting the neighbors closest to the border; human beings staunchly retaining their cruel and suspect "humanity" - even on opposite sides of the globe.

i'm assaulted by this totally new cosmology - all without commentary, guide, books, or points of reference - all in my first day. chedis (thai steepled shrines), wats, tuk tuks, sights, smells, sounds, language -- an overwhelming informational assault on this unaccidental tourist's psyche, plowing his way into yet another culture and civilization they left out of our americentric education. i need a more conscious and graceful introduction. i need some history, some context, some terms of reference. anyone know anything? any books to read? the history of asian civilization 101? helllppp!!

okay -- i'll give it time. try to - relax. disappear into the heat, sweat, smell, taste of the place. alright. give me a more few days.. .....................


still stateside johnny