Friday, August 28, 2015

Eggs and Singapore

I think I'll take the first part of my 30s to try and develop the perfect scrambled eggs plate. Well, perfect for me, since we all fare differently when it comes to our palates. 

This was this morning's attempt. 

It's contains the basics: eggs, milk, spinach, garlic, basil, tomatoes. But instead of adding salt, I pressed and finely chopped two slices of salami, tossed them in the pan and BOO YA... what a delicious kick of flavor. I usually add a bit of hot sauce on top of my finished eggs, but this morning I tossed a wee bit of this into my uncooked, stirred eggs. 

I probably could've used a little more; it didn't really come through. And I'm not sure that I'm fond of so much spinach. It brings a darkness to the dish. I think I'll use less next time. I definitely got a little spinach happy on this one. Overall, I think I'm on the right track.

Singapore seems to be a very ritzy, businessy, expensive, clean, beautiful city. The foliage is absolutely stunning. The tropical air is keeping these plants extremely happy. It's a cultural melting pot of all types - mostly Chinese - including Austrailians, Indians and British; a complete 180 from Chiangmai, where I saw less than 10 non-Thais every day. Singapore celebrated its 50-year anniversary earlier this month, only gaining its independence as the Republic of Singapore in 1965. It's almost a "new city". Isn't that crazy! There are about 5.5 million people living here, English is the common language, and they're known for their "practical, effective, and incorrupt governance and civil service" and has been hailed as "one of the easiest cities in which to do business". 

Just last year, an Indian man was struck and killed by a bus, while he was drunkenly reveling through the end of his weekend, as it was common for them to do. Indians banded together and rioted in the streets. The government refused to tolerate the riots, and passed a law forbidding the sale of alcohol on the street after 10pm. 

Prostituion is legal (yep, saw them all lined up at the Hyatt), but it's IL-legal for girls to be topless in strip clubs. To that end, most media is PG-d down to exclude profanity and extreme violence. We were watching "Salt" last night, and most of the aggressive fighting had been removed. 

If you bring your family to dinner on Friday evenings, you get a discount at restaurants, which encourages parents to spend more time with their children. 

I like the way they run things here. Solid system. And run by the same ruling family for most of the last 50 years- the original prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, passed away only earlier this year. His son, Lee Hsien Yoong, is currently ruling the Republic. 

Today's agenda consisted only of recovery. If I'm being completely honest here, that amazing breakfast plate was brought to you by a fabulous hangover, courtesy of being reunited with my wonderful friend Emerson, after five years of separation and many, many countries between us. After last night, I already feel like I've seen enough to call it a successful trip. 

We started at a fabulous tapas restaurant, followed by an exhilarating elevator ride to the 64th floor rooftop club, Altitude, and finally down into the Hyatt Regency's bar and lounge to join the hard working financier's for an early start to their weekends. I have no idea how I rallied for such a late night. Why I decided to take a sleeping pill for a three hour flight is BEYOND me. I was a walking zombie in Singapore's airport and hard pressed to get to bed early. I guess old friends just bring out the 22-year-old in us. 

Anyway, with Emerson off to the office for a few hours, in a sort of walking zombie state himself and grumbling that he was too old for this too, after breakfast, I decided to go for a jog through Fort Canning Park across the street. I'm not sure how I didn't read more into the "fort" part of it. My legs weren't ready for this.

Or this.

But I made it! 

Sort of. 

WOW, what an amazing fort! The trees! The trees are cah-razy beautiful.

I dragged myself back down the mountain, I mean, park and swam a few laps in the "lap pool".

Not to be confused with the adjacent "community pool". 

Nice job, Emerson! ✔️

And what better way to polish of a day of full-body-systems recovery than by drowning some dumpling's in chilies and soy sauce. 

Sans alcohol, of course. Earl Grey Iced Tea, anyone? How DOES one create an ice cube shaped like a tennis ball?


And some mango pudding to seal the deal. 

Let's try this again tomorrow, Singapore. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Chiangmai: This Isn't Goodbye

This afternoon I'm flying to Singapore, and I absolutely don't want to leave this city! I think in order for someone to fall in love with a city, it has to have many elements that might make you happy as a person. So, for me, Chiangmai has so many. 

There are the mountains. These preserved giants of serenity and mystery, and THESE mountains are dotted with hidden temples, where you can pop in and have a quiet moment with your Maker, with your inner self, and think about your life. 

The motorbikes are so convenient, and quick. I'm so impatient, and who really likes public transportation anyway! You can buzz right from your house to any store, in no time. And you get to scoot to the front of the traffic line,too. 

Thai people seem to keep to themselves. It's known as the Land of Smiles; but they don't walk around with unwarranted, over exerted and forced faces full of teeth. But, if you give any indication of a smile combined with direct eye contact, their faces LIGHT UP, like no return of a smile that I've ever seen. And then, suddenly, I understood the phrase.

There's a small city! Full of life, with everything you need. There are poor parts, there are rich parts, and it's all so close together. Quaint, convenient. 

And, well, the weather. I don't mind bug bites, I don't mind humidity. I love the tropical weather. All day, any day. 

I know I like it here because, well, I don't think I've done a single thing that friends have recommended to me. I'm only doing things that feel organic, with some help from Google. 

The jet lag bug hit me hard again this morning. At 3am, in trying to force my circadian clock to adjust to the time zone, it would have none of it. I discovered the Nong Huak Hard Park last night, when taking my soothing laps around the old city on my bike. I decided I was going to go for a run in it this morning, but I knew it opened only at 8:30. I happened to read that older people practice tai chi in it during the wee hours, so at 5:00, I headed over and sure enough, all of the main gates were locked, except for a small two-foot section of gate where they would slip inside.

I parked, in the wrong spot, and figured a lap of the park was a little larger than a track, and decided to run 12 laps. Wow! I've never surfed, but I was absolutely as slippery as the waxed bottom of a board when I was finished. 

I headed back to the coffee shop that I visited yesterday morning and talked to my Mom for about an hour on WhatsApp, swinging away on my hanging bench, singing to the pop music playing overhead, and planning our return trip here next year. 

At 7:30 I headed back to shower and was the first customer at Rustic & Blue, which I had scouted out the day before. I mean, eggs benedict, what??

I'm going to attempt to get these nails done, pack up, return the bike (in tears) and head to the airport! 

See you in Singapore! 


Chiangmai is a very likable city. You'd know it even before you set foot in it;  your flight drops you over the greenest, mountainous terrain you'd have seen since you arrived in Thailand.

But oh, even before Chiangmai, look at the sunrise as we flew, hours earlier, into Bangkok. 

I felt good when I finally reached the end of my 20-hour journey, and Rebeccah's smiling face in front of Starbucks at the airport was an extremely welcome sight. She's my AirBnB host, hailing all the way from exotic Washington, DC. She settled me into my apartment, located just outside the Old City. 

I'm glad I'm outside of the Old City. It's so intense in there. After I unpacked my bags, I headed down the street and into the Old City, immediately becoming annoyed that I had pretty much no clue as to what I was doing. I didn't research any of the Wats - heck, I didn't even actually know what a Wat was besides a temple. And my feet were so so sore from wearing beautiful, and completely impractical sandals since I left NYC. So I decided ... I was going to rent a MOTORBIKE! Here she is!

The sweet lady who gave it to me, spoke maybe five words of English and gave me a six-second tutorial on how to ride it. 400 baht got me two days with this little hot rod. The last words she said to me as I struggled to balance myself on it were, "Madame? Slow." Pssshhhhh. Please, lady, I got this.

No, I didn't get it. The store was set smack in the intersection of one of the gates from the main road. I puttered into traffic - it was completely terrifying- and noticed the gas tank was almost empty. I tried to pull in to a 7/11 and ran smack into a car. Why the accelerator and brake are operated by the same hand makes absolutely NO sense to me, but whatever. The Thai's seemed to be entertained and asked if I was OK. This motorbike was the best part about the day. I would highly recommend staying outside the Old City and investing in a motorbike.

I drove around for a while and decided I was going to conquer the mountains that I'd just flew over. As I set out of town, I realized my swollen toes were now actually burning from overexposure to the tropical sun and headed back to the apartment for sunblock. Of course I missed my turn several times, this driving on the other side of the road and crazy loop and u-turn system was exhausting. I felt like I was in a biker posse. All the motorbikes weave in and out of the cars and sit at the very front of the traffic light line. I tried to keep up - but that pink helmet and electric yellow bike just screams tourist. 

Back at the apartment, I decided enough was enough. An ex-pat told me that they're not supposed to serve alcohol between 1 - 5pm, but the Corner Bistro would have something for me. And Chang beers they had. Across the street was a massage parlor and, well, when in Thailand! I almost fell asleep. I finally retired upstairs and slept for two hours. 

Lo and behold, my aunt has a dear friend who lives in Chiangmai, hailing from the exotic city of Baltimore, and he took me to an incredible Thai restaurant. The food was so spicy that I had maybe ten bites and was done. I took him out for a beer at a trendy spot on the main strip. 

He talked to me about the "one key" lifestyle. You know your life is simple, when all you need to carry around is your car key. Chiangmai is so safe he doesn't lock his house door. He's an (very successful!) entrepreneur and doesn't hold keys to an office. Sounds like something we should all sign up for. He also taught me this:

I got home around 11pm and was planning on going back out for some nightlife, but my two beers and the jet lag hit me hard and I crashed.

...only to spring WIDE AWAKE at 4:30 in the morning. Fortunately, Doi Suthep opened at 5:30am, and hearing that the 45-minute, windy mountain road journey could be tricky, I decided I'd rather do it with less cars than more on the road. 

Quite awkwardly, the only place I could find open at that hour for a spot of breakfast was a 24-hour Subway. That iced coffee and BMT were an interesting way to fuel up for the trip.

The ride was exhilarating. Whizzing along the steep, windy road, I passed a surprising number of sport bikers who clearly preferred the lighter trafficked and cooler weathered, wee hours like myself. The higher I got, the colder it became. I was shivering about an hour into the ride. 

I pulled into the first overlook. It took my breath away. 

All of the road signs were in Thai! I had no idea how far up to drive. When I finally reached what seemed to be the top of the mountain, I saw a sign for a campground. "Dangerous road, use horn, proceed with caution." I couldn't resist. I drove for another several miles, passing wild dogs, a strolling monk, and a family-stuffed pickup truck. The campground was closed for the season, but I took a moment to finish my iced coffee and stroll around. 

I headed back down, stopped in a local village for more gasoline, provided in a glass jar by an old lady in a hut, and asked three different people how to get to Doi Suthep. 

Oh, and I side-barred to listen to the roosters waking up the valley.

Finally ...

It was only 8:30am, the tourist rush hadn't began. It was beautiful. I found a Buddha, knelt and prayed. 

The road home was easier, faster. I side barred into this seemingly abandoned guy too, and had a really emotional chat with God. I mean, everyone needs to do this at some point in their lives. 

I missed a turn into the Old City, again and ended up on the east side. I deserved this:

And Googled a nice lunch spot on the river, and treated myself to some real Pad Thai. (What IS it about vacation that spawns so many "I deserve this" moments?)

I napped for four hours after all of that. An iced espresso from across the street woke me up a bit, and here I sit watching the sunset. 

Now, let's go enjoy our last night in Chiangmai!