Weekend in BKK

Got a reasonably early start on Saturday and headed north to the market. First stop: Or Tor Kor, a wet market, but of the “fancy” variety. Had a nice wander gazing at the exotic offerings as I peppered Ak with repeated inquiries of “What’s that? And what about that?”

But the highlight was obviously in the eating. At the prepared food side of the market, we had som tum, sai oua and mieng kum – all of them delicious per usual. Oh, and a bbq pork bao! Also excellent. Dessert was at an apparently well-known shop inside. We got a couple of custard and sticky rice treats which gave us ample strength before heading to the insanely huge Chatuchak Market.

I barely scratched the surface of this place despite spending a good two or three hours wending through narrow passages between stalls. Lots of cool local t-shirts and other clothes. I was also able to find pretty much exactly the shirt I had in mind for my bike trip in Cambodia – a long-sleeved, gauzy cotton top. Yes, it’s ridiculous and looks like I ought to be in a cult – but comfort is my only goal for this trip!

Finished up our visit with coconut ice cream, obviously. We needed strength for the long train ride home!

I had a quick swim back at the hotel and then freshened up for dinner. Ak was taking me to meet his German friends, Martin and Jill whom he’d met on Little Koh Chang last year. Like me, they’d enjoyed their visit to Thailand so much, they were back! Though Martin had an ulterior motive – he proposed to Jill while they were on Koh Chang. And she accepted. Love is in the air…

But before we could have dinner, we stopped in for our massage appointment at Siladon Spa – they were running a 2-for-1 deal and who doesn’t love a bargain? Given the good deal, I sprang for the “Indulgence” package – three hours of foot reflexology, massage and herbal ball massage (i.e. you are massaged with a heated herbal compress. Get your mind out of the gutter, pervs!). A very relaxing time and helped my effed up back feel rather better.

Dinner that evening was at Thip Samai, reputed to have Bangkok’s best pad thai. The verdict: pretty damn good! We all had pad thai superb, meaning the pad thai is served inside an omelet. “Superb” was pretty accurate.

Drinks atop the Sala Rattakosin, right next to Chao Phraya across from Wat Arun. I’d been here last visit and it was just as lovely this time – plus the Tom Yum-tini, despite the groan-inducing name, is still pretty delcious.

Martin and Jill stayed on for a bit, but given that I’m old, I had to call it a night by 11PM. Ak made sure I got back to my hotel and I had a good night’s sleep before Sunday’s adventures.

Our first order of business (well, after stopping for a delicious breakfast of crispy pork and wontons with noodles at a local hole-in-the-wall) was making our way up to Nonthanburi with Calvin. We went by boat on the Chao Phraya Express – something of a misnomer given the length of the trip, but we made it there eventually. After wishing Calvin well on his journey, we headed to Koh Kret, another market. Our various lunches were excellent – pork satay and dry tom yum for me – and we had coconut custards for dessert. Made our way to the very end of the market where Ak wanted to try the local brew served up at Chit Beer. We raised our glasses to Calvin as we sat along the riverside and all was right with the world.

Another long boat ride back to to Bangkok (and of course we got stuck on the side in the blazing sun – though Ak was kind enough to take the brunt of it, realizing my pale skin would never survive. He did worry though that he’d wind up with a two-tone face…) and we were faced with a difficult question: where should we have dinner?

Ak suggested Suppaniga Eating Room (and please don’t mix up those double consonants….). They had just opened their second location in Silom, not far from my hotel, so off we went. First stop was at the new House on Sathorn, a fancy bar and restaurant housed in the former Russian embassy next door to (and now owned by) the W Hotel. I’d been wanting to try it since reading about it during my last visit to BKK (and in spite of the annoying and distressingly common dress code that forbids shorts. Yes, I get it – without a dress code, stupid tourists of all genders will be showing up in tank tops and coochie cutters. However, when a local blog refers to the weather as “face-meltingly hot,” some leniency would be appreciated. But I digress…). Anyway, the place was super cool. We were going to belly up to the lively looking bar – until we realized it was lively with employees awaiting their first customers of the night. So we grabbed a table…

For me, The Garden, made with gin infused with chrysanthemum and thyme, blended with tea and rosemary and topped with fresh herbs. For Ak, the Diva (obv), a beautiful floral vodka drink topped with rose petals. The verdict? Sensational. We both declared our cocktails some of the best we’d ever had – and Zeus knows, we’ve had our share of cocktails! Drinks were far from inexpensive, but very much worth it, IMO. Just superb.

Dinner was also great. More miang kham, prawn curry with cubes of herbed omelet and grilled steak with spicy sauce. We really enjoyed the meal – and the restaurant is charming with a kind and helpful staff. Dessert was a Thai milk tea panna cotta – it was tasty, though a little heavy-handed with the gelatin. A small miss in an otherwise really nice meal.

A good night’s sleep before getting another early start Monday for some sightseeing.


La Gon, Calvin…

Today was a special day for me here in Bangkok – both happy and sad simultaneously. My best little buddy and world’s most delightful cat died this past December. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with his ashes back home – but then I read about a Buddhist temple in Bangkok that performs funerals for pets. Since Calvin had already been cremated, I didn’t need the whole funeral ceremony – but I really liked the idea of scattering his ashes in Chao Phraya here in this city that I fell in love with so quickly last year and to which I hope I’ll return many times.

My dear friend Ak was kind enough to make all the arrangements, reserving a boat to take us out onto the river once we’d made it up to Nonthanburi. After a short ride, we were in front of Wat Bang Jak where a lay Buddhist (and our boat’s captain) said prayers to the river goddess and for Calvin while we burned incense. We tossed some coins into the river for Calvin for his journey, along with a garland of flowers. I scattered his ashes into the river and and then Ak and I strewed some more flowers and a bottle of fragrant perfume in his wake.

It was a lovely way for me to say my last farewell to an amazing cat who brought me so much joy. And it certainly makes me happy knowing that I can visit him every time I’m in Bangkok and that the great golden Buddha at Wat Bang Jak will be watching over him.


A Day with Elephants

Do you like elephants? Well, you’d sure better, because in this post, I’ve finally gotten around to winnowing my 300+ photos (plus action cam vids!) from my visit to Elephant Nature Park down to a discreet 70-something. I still have plenty to blah-blah-blah about in this post, but let me just say that the this visit was everything I’d hoped for and more. If you are interested in interacting with elephants in an environment that is focused first on the well-being of these wonderful creatures, this is the place for you.

So, our guide for the day, Ging, showed up at my hotel as scheduled and I piled into the van with, at that point, one other couple. At our next stop, the first person to board looked quite familiar to me. “You were sitting in front of me on the flight from SFO to Tokyo, weren’t you?” Answer in the affirmative – this was Jodie, traveling with her step-daughter Katie (on a break from teaching English to school children in Korea). As it turned out, not only were we geographical neighbors in the Bay Area, our respective itineraries had much in common. The two of them had just done the cooking class at Thai Farm Cooking School and declared it a rollicking success – it was good to hear, as my own class was coming up later in the week. After our tour wrapped up, the three of us had a nice dinner together (making friends with several resident kittens at the restaurant!) back in CM.

We continued to pick up other folks and the van filled up – kind of a surprise to me, given that October is still the tail end of low season and the other tours I’d been on were rather sparsely populated it seemed. On the halfway point of our journey to Elephant Nature Park, we stopped for a bathroom break and there were probably 20 similarly populated vans, all on their way to the same destination. Another surprise – I was a little concerned about what this would mean in terms of crowds at our destination. But thanks to a large parcel of land and an extremely well-run program for visitors, our tour that day was extraordinarily intimate and with little overlap with other folks at the park.

Anyway, we arrived at our destination, clambered out of the van and there were three gorgeous elephants hanging out in the grass. Seeing a group of easy marks for bananas and watermelons, they made their way toward us immediately. It was really quite remarkable that literally the moment we arrived, we were interacting with elephants. I was also pleased at how relaxed it was. I’ll be honest – large animals can be a scary to be around. But these gentle old ladies (all in their 60s and 70s) seemed pretty content to scarf up the food we had to offer and were clearly used to being around tourists. Of course, our guide and the mahouts were close at hand to make sure nobody got trampled…

From there, we and our new elephant friends ambled along toward the river – most of us visitors attempting to master taking photographs while also feeding our rather demanding companions who knew exactly what was in those bags we were carrying (bananas… sooo many delicious bananas…). And we all adjusted fairly quickly to the fact that one winds up covered with rather a lot of elephant saliva when feeding them.

I have to say, touching the elephants was amazing – most especially so when they were grabbing food from your hands with their trunks. It was fantastic to see exactly how both agile and delicate those trunks are – not to mention how incredibly strong.

At the river, we forded on foot, humans and animals alike, and continued our trek up into the hills a bit. As I got used to the idea of chilling with elephants, I finally noticed how really beautiful the setting was. We were surrounded by tree-covered hills, the sky bright blue with fluffy white clouds. And from the hillside, we had great views of the river and the rest of the sanctuary, seeing other small groups of elephants in the distance.

A stop for lunch, a simple vegetarian spread that was that special kind of delicious that goes with a healthy appetite after a good hike. We all got to know each other a little better – it was a fun mix of Yanks, Brits and Aussies in our particular group.

After lunch, we headed back down to the river along a different path, though we crossed at the same place. Once across, we got buckets (and more watermelons!) to give our elephant friends a nice soaking, followed by a group photo.

Once back to where we started, we piled back into our van – though not before I took the opportunity to purchase what is likely to be my most cherished memento from my visit to Thailand, a small elephant carving, made by one of the mahouts. Not only does this little guy have a ton of personality, but like each of the carvings for sale, he is based on one of the local residents – in this case, a handsome fellow called Banyen.

For some reason, I’d forgotten that the particular program I was enrolled in – “Pamper a Pachyderm” (IKR?) – included a raft trip. And this was in spite of the fact that Ging, our extremely personable and knowledgeable guide, had mentioned it repeatedly – though he’d also been quick to pull  my leg about a couple of things, so I thought this was just him ribbing another camera-laden city slicker.

Anyway, it was no joke! Which was fine… but I suppose I imagined a gentle ride down the river while I sipped a cocktail. Well, it was a bit more athletic than that (and required me to don a highly unflattering life jacket! And to paddle!), but it was a super-fun trip down a mostly gentle river, with a couple of small but exciting rapids.

Our raft trip ended at ENP HQ, home to the main lodge along with all of the various support facilities, like the kitchen, vet, etc. This is also where we met lots and lots of wonderful dogs and cats who reside at ENP – and who are for the most part ready to be adopted.

We spent the rest of our time observing a couple of groups of elephants, one including a toddler who happily played with his tire and frolicked in the river while his adoptive moms bathed. Wrapped things up with a beer in the lodge before heading back into Chiang Mai.

I can’t recommend Elephant Nature Park highly enough. They do a really amazing job looking after their resident elephants and their programs for visitors are well-organized and provide a truly memorable experience. All of the staff appear to be really engaged with the organization’s mission and to care deeply about the elephants in the park – and they are certainly a huge part of what made this day so special. A superb highlight of my visit to Thailand.


Here’re a few excerpts from my head-mounted action cam. It’s a little Blair-Witchy, so if you’re prone to motion sickness, maybe skip it. But I hope it gives at least some sense of exactly how up-close visitors get to interact with the elephants. I know I keep using the word, but it was really quite amazing.

And here’s a bit of rafting!

The Cats (and a Few Dogs) of Istanbul

THERE ARE CATS EVERYWHERE IN ISTANBUL! And, I must say, for the most part, they seem in relatively decent shape. Though I’m sure it’s still a fairly tough life out on the street. And, as much as I wanted to, I refrained from cuddling with them. I do love cats, but I also value my stunningly-beautiful countenance and didn’t want it slashed to ribbons.

Oh and there is also a pretty decent size cat population in Tel Aviv – so the last few photos are actually from Israel.

Cat Dressed as a Shark Riding a Roomba and Chasing a Duckling

I repeat – cat dressed as a shark riding a Roomba and chasing a duckling.

I posted this already on Facebook and it got only ONE response. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? This is the pinnacle of both human evolution and technological innovation. Keep your flying cars and your moonbases and your cure for the common cold. This is a cat dressed as a shark riding a Roomba and chasing a duckling – along with a cameo at the end of a dog dressed as a hammerhead shark.

Oh, GIFs…

Every time I see an animated GIF, I think, “Oh, this is the best one ever! There’ll never be another one better than this…” And then, this, from #whatshouldwecallme entitled “When a Couple Starts Making Out in Front of Me”



from #whatshouldwecallme

For Unto Us a Child Is Born

I don’t get much into the “holiday spirit” beyond emulating the demeanor of one Ebenezer Scrooge before those infernal ghosts somehow altered his completely realistic and appealing view of the season. But, being a big ol’ gay, I do like to decorate – and several years ago, I crafted a truly glorious scene of the Nativity.



Thanks, Lil’ Kitteh

So, Wednesday at work was just a bit hectic – nothing out of the ordinary, other than having to work on my annual self-review (a chore that I never particularly enjoy but #getmoneybitch). I was quite looking forward to getting home for the start of the long Thanksgiving weekend.

As usual, I heard my kitty-cat meowing his little head off as soon as I got off the elevator. It’s a pretty great way to be greeted, I must say. A somewhat less great way? Opening the front door and, before even laying eyes on my little cat friend, being enveloped in the hot, thick stench of a freshly laid cat poo. Honestly, I don’t understand how such an adorable creature can produce such a foul odor. Not to mention that he spends about ten minutes in his box, scratching and pawing all over the place yet manages to leave the poop sitting right on top of the litter like the cherry on a sundae, thus ensuring the smell permeates the entire apartment.

Anyway, after stopping to shovel some sand over the offending turd, I went to the bedroom and he followed me and jumped up on the bed, as is his habit. He did have the courtesy to affix me with a guilty stare, seeing as he’d had a couple of nice vomits on the blanket I’d just washed. I realize I’m anthropomorphizing, but it’s hard not to; not only did he appear shamefaced, he’d pulled the blanket over the offending mounds of puke. Poor little fella… Of course, I had to pick him up and squeeze him and tell him what a good boy he is (and yes, he totally understands every word – I’m convinced of it).

A quick trip down to the laundry room and soon enough his blanket was as good as new and back on the bed, nice and warm from the dryer. I think it was about 20 minutes later that he puked on it again…  Sigh. Back to the laundry room – good thing I had plenty of quarters.

But it’s pretty much impossible for me to be mad at him (OK, I’m not especially fond of when he “helps” me change the bed linens). I don’t think he’s stopped purring since the moment I brought him home from the SPCA over eight years ago. Whenever I get home, he runs after me into the bedroom and jumps on the bed so he can demand to be picked up. And he cuddles with me every single night. He’s my best little buddy…

“Let’s play with mousey!”

Et alors…

Dinner on Sunday evening at Terroir Parisien just a few steps from the Seine on Le Rive Gauche. I was interested to try this place, as it had a similar mission to Le Galopin – namely using locally-sourced, in-season ingredients.

I arrived for a quite early dinner at 715PM. And, despite being asked to arrive at 715 rather than 7 as I requested, the place was quiet. This isn’t surprising for Paris – though I still wasn’t quite sure why I’d been asked to delay my arrival by 15 minutes…

Anyway, this place is nothing like Le Galopin. It’s sharply modern and a much less casual atmosphere – which is neither good nor bad, just a very different atmosphere. I had a great seat at the large central counter, with a view of the kitchen and the restaurant.

A reasonably priced carte (with descriptions in both French and English – for everybody? Or just les americains stupide comme moi..? It was helpful nonetheless). I started with a salade des petits legumes – carrots and beets, both raw and cooked, endive, a bit of broccoli and cauliflower. All in all, very nice – but to a degree uninspired. It’s all well and good to present fresh vegetables straight from the garden. But there was nothing particularly inventive here and certainly nothing to elicit gasps (well, OK – it was gorgeous in color). Perhaps I was a bit spoiled by my previous night’s dinner…

For my main, I had filet de boeuf – thin slices of steak, seared and tasty, with some lovely salad garnishing it and a side of pastry stuffed with potato and cheese. Yes, that’s right – pastry with potato and cheese. I thought this was delicious – simply prepared, yes, but satisfying in it’s entirety. The beef was chewy but not tough and tasted of meat – something I really like about steak in France. I thought this dish was excellent.

Et maintenant, le dessert. I was torn between pistachio and cinnamon bavaroises topped with black- and blueberries or the trio of pots de crème – vanilla, chocolate and coffee. I wasn’t sure about the cinnamon, so I went with trusty old pots de crème. Sadly, this was disappointing. The coffee version was very gelatinous and not really creamy at all; the vanilla was more like an egg custard – not a bad thing, but not what I expect in pots de crème; the chocolate was the best of the bunch, in that it was wonderfully creamy – but not especially chocolatey. Quel dommage!

The wine list was reasonably priced and I had a tasty rosé, followed by a couple of different reds, both quite good. Service was accommodating, with the staff happy to assist me in English (but I still try my best in French!). I think given its handy location, its chic atmosphere and its reasonably priced and mostly tasty food, I’d recommend it.

Stopped for a drink or two on the way home through the Marais, but made a relatively early night of it. Was up at reasonable hour this morning and after my usual breakfast at home of eggs, ham and croissant, I headed for La Grande Galerie de l’Evolution. WOW! Really cool. And amazing interior, like something out of a Jules Verne novel, with four floors of every variety of creature.

Headed back toward my apartment and stopped at an Italian cafe just downstairs. One of the many, many (many!) things I love about this city is that sitting outside at a cafe is possible during virtually any weather. Today, it was rainy and cold, but thanks to heaters and awnings, I sat on the sidewalk, enjoying my plate of penne all’arrabiata.

After that, I spent an hour or so at the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme – it’s small but well organized, with a helpful audio guide. Quite interesting and a testament (heh) to how little I know about that portion of my heritage. My next stop was at Hotel de Ville for a special exhibition about Jewish children in Paris during the Holocaust. It seemed fascinating, but was largely text-based and in French, so, regrettably, I wasn’t able to get much out of it. Next went to the Memorial de la Shoah – which was inexplicably closed today (or am I revealing my ignorance of October 8 being one of the High Holy Days..?). I’ll be back to visit later in the week…

Home again, home again. Had a lie-down, then, map and Metro ticket in hand, I set forth for Le Severo in the 14th, reputed to have some of the best steak frites in Paris. I must say, my steak, a filet de boeuf, was excellent. Beefy, meaty, full of flavor and cooked a perfect medium rare. I was surprised by the just-OK frites, especially given some of the delirious reviews of them from a variety of reputable sources. The Cotes du Rhone I had was very tasty. And dessert was a serviceable  creme caramel. As much as I enjoyed my steak, I’m not sure it was worth the trip from my place in the 3rd… But certainly a great steak!

Also, I’m finally starting to get over the guilt I feel if I’m not doing SOMETHING CULTURAL every moment. I realized today that going to two different museums, an exhibition and two restaurants (plus walking several miles) is actually a pretty full day.

And now, I’m back home, with a glass of wine, having successfully battled the French washing machine into submission and now in happy possession of a bunch of clean underpants. Now THAT is something to be proud of!

I’m Lazy…

Surprisingly, I’ve not yet gotten up the steam to rant about how terrible NBC’s coverage of the Olympics has been (other than a couple of Facebook posts). And I’ve not been inspired to write about anything else this week. So, in the meantime, please enjoy an elephant drinking from a swimming pool.

Oh, that feels good…

Yes, once again I’ve gotten too lazy/uninspired to actually write anything – thank Zeus for online videos! Though I do try to keep it somewhat topical – I leave for Maui in a week, so here’s a short clip of me floating in the delightfully warm tropical Pacific the last time I was in paradise…

When the lights go down in the City…

Yes, I know that I spend a lot of time complaining about the Y – it is, after all, a freakish hellscape. Why do I keep going then? Well, I have to go somewhere to work out if I want to continue my consumption of gigantic quantities of wine and coconut macaroons – and the Y is both conveniently located and cheap. So, yeah…

Anyhow, Thursday night wasn’t too bad. The main annoyance was the guy who chose, from the literally scores of empty lockers, to use the one directly next to mine as I changed into my sweats – though at least I had only started undressing and I was able to move to another less intimately located locker. This is the type of guy who’ll use the urinal right next to you despite there being 12 other unoccupied urinals. Weirdo. Also, the lady who was wearing so much perfume that it made my eyes water from eight feet away while I used the elliptical machine was not making my evening. Yeesh…

But (before the designer imposter fragrance assault), I was peacefully enjoying the view from the elliptical machine. The Y is located directly across from the SF Bay, so I was gazing at the water at dusk, the western span of the Bay Bridge beautifully lit up for the evening. And there were a couple of sea lions frolicking in the water… Really kind of amazing and a reminder that while I may hate the gym, I do love San Francisco.

When all else fails…

So, I’m already failing in my efforts to post every week day. So here’s something – baby sloths! Getting baths! And eating hibiscuses! Enjoy…

The Cat Who Came in from the Cold

After nearly ten years in my place, I’ve finally decided to turn on the radiators. They were on when I first moved in and were constantly clanging and spewing rusty water. Not cool. So I relied on a nice little space heater. Granted, it wasn’t perfect, but it generally kept the living room warm enough.

But, presumably thanks to global climate change, SF is apparently in for another bone-chilling winter. The last two winters have been uncharacteristically cold and my little heater wasn’t cutting the mustard. Of course, what with being old and infirm, I seem to take on a chill much more easily than when I was young and spry…

So, I turned on the radiators – and so far, so good. Had some clanging issues which the management company fixed quickly. And I’m still adjusting to having to keep the windows wide-open so that I’m not roasted alive.

But guess who is the happiest little creature on earth thanks to the new apartment heating protocols? Yep, the cat. Frankly, I’m a little jealous. While he hasn’t completely given up on lap-sitting, he prefers to spend his time splayed out in front of the white-hot grill. But on the up side? Good opportunity for me to find an adorable new kitty bed! And really, if he’s happy, I’m happy…

UPDATE: My mom pointed out that he’s closer and closer to the radiator in each photo – like he’s been building up his tolerance for the surface-of-the-sun-like temperatures he has to endure. Tonight one of his little paws is actually underneath the radiator. Soon, he’ll probably be sitting right on top of the thing…