Saturday, May 17

Back from Bangkok

Scarfing down some Thai Chow.

I'm back! Certainly I enjoyed my Bangkok experience, even though it was mainly for work and I spent the lion's share of my time sitting in a set or shooting location (albeit a couple of the shoots were on really nice, interesting places). I unfortunately didn't get to go to the scenic, cultural spots of Thailand, but I think I was able to see the city in a nice way, walking the streets among the Thais and tourist crowds, eating stuff from street food to proper Thai cuisine and seeing the place both during rain and shine, both figuratively and literally.

Apparently Han Solo is still a carbonite prisoner, displayed in a Bangkok production house.

Japanese bookstore in Thailand...

Some of my more random, interesting bits in Bangkok include...

... walking the streets in the rain with just my raincoat, eating chicken crisps on the sidewalk and ogling some guy's spiffy media player as he watched some video on the street (more on this later)...

... Eating in a Mexican Restaurant (nice, chunky soup and tasty tacos)and realizing that half the staff are Filipino...

... Stalking a little baby elephant down a sidewalk...

... Walking the techno-paradise known as Panthrip Plaza (four floors of gadgets!!!) and seeing Buddhist Monks shopping for PC parts and talking on cellphones...

... Staring at millions of dollars' worth of jewelry and gems in a Bangkok government-run workshop/tourist display...

... Getting my abdomen crushed by the frickin' barrier at the BTS entrance...

... Finding a taste for Rose Apples...

... Experiencing Credit Card Crappiness as my BPI Mastercard proved USELESS and unusable in Bangkok and being left out with my arse hanging in the wind as their 89-100 service line was unreachable. This pretty much forced me to use up most of my cash to buy the Personal Media Player/Digital Recorder I had discovered. WHAT. THE. HELL. I am SOOOO going to complain about this on Monday.

All in all, I enjoyed myself immensely. The Hotel was awesomely classy and luxurious, the Thais are a lovely, friendly people (albeit I eventually found that Taxi Drivers can be irritating even here, and some are still not immune to the ol' "I don't have change" trick). Perhaps someday, on my own time, I'll come back to Bangkok to experience the culture and see the sights. Maybe. We'll see. For now, I have my memories, a new DVR player and other little doo-dads to enjoy my time living the Thai Life.

Monday, May 12

Hanging in Bangkok

Here I am, chilling (literally... the AC's pretty strong) in my hotel room in Bangkok. I'm staying in a pretty good hotel... in fact, probably one of the best in the place, and that alone is worth the trip. A week in luxurious executive class comfort? Thank you very much. Anyway, as much as I'd want to just vegetate in the room and surf on the complementary high-speed internet, I just had to go out. There were souvenirs to buy, things to see.

Day One had me going out and riding Bangkok's BTS, their equivalent to Manila's MRT. It works similarly, save here you buy tickets from vending machines with coins- the booths with tellers provide change for bills. The trains are well-maintained, cool and spacious... albeit smaller than the Edsa MRT. They're also apparently totally covered with advertising stickers, which makes sightseeing from the train impossible, weirdly enough.

A couple of stations' trip away from the hotel was Siam Square, Bangkok's central mall district, and it's BIG. I walked around for an hour or two, looking at the gorgeous setting, salivating at big-screen TVs and perusing some bookstores (including one that sold all Japanese/oriental books, manga and catalogs). Outside the big malls are countless flea markets, garment stores and shops revolving around the central malls. In a word- dizzying. It didn't help though that it was drizzling so I was walking around in my raincoat, stoically determined to experience the Bangkok night of a street pedestrian, even if it was through the rain. I ate some street food, went into a 7-11, walked through sidewalks and sidestreets and generally had an interesting watch of an altogether new but strangely familiar place.

Day Two had half of the day alloted for work, attending a meeting. Afterwards, I was free to go and I was determined to finish my souvenir-shopping to get it out of the way at least. I got a taxi which was driven by a young Thai driver named Tom, who thankfully had very good english. While I originally wanted to go to Wat Po and look at some temples, I eventually gave up since the traffic was pretty bad and the place was located on the other side of the city. I instead went off to a government-run facility (the name escapes me) where they produced Thailand's famous jewelry (along with other Thai souvenirs). Of course, I didn't exactly have countless dollars to spend on jade, rubies and sapphires, so I just slid over to the cultural goods shop and picked up some stuff for the folks back home.

Afterwards, Tom drove me over to MBK, a large market area where bargains could be had. I spent the next couple of hours walking around, wandering and buying a couple of gifts. On the sidewalk, I passed by video stalls and resisted the temptation to grab a couple of discs. Man, they have a LOT of malls here, albeit some are a lot less posh than others. The price though definitely goes down along with the ambience. Despite all that, I felt safe walking around among the Thai people... there was a nice air to everything, and it was nice to just be just another face in a place where Europeans, Americans, Indians and other Asians walked along as well in a pleasant, eclectic mix. I found myself admiring Bangkok for lots of stuff- the air was definitely cleaner (and not as much, if not at all of the stink you'd find in corners and alleys of Manila...) and sidewalks made for walking. Taxis as well seemed easier to get and plentiful, though I heard and read that even here there are unscrupulous cabbies. I haven't met one yet though.

Had dinner at a nice resto which served good Thai food... I was determined to do this since my first night's dinner was eaten at McDonald's. Don't scoff- I just wanted to see any differences from McDo at home. Not many, though incredibly enough they have a DOUBLE BIG MAC. Four freakin' patties. My. God.

After dinner, I walked back home and found myself inhaling a smell that reminded me of armpits times ten. I realized that walking ahead of me was a little elephant. A real, live pachyderm, on the street, walking along with it's owners/herders (who were vendors of some kind). I followed, just wanting to stare at the thing all the way. That moment I really regretted I left my camera in the hotel room. Well, at least the smell won't ever be forgotten.

And so, my second day in Bangkok passed. I finished my souvenir shopping and here I am. with the week still young. There's work to be done from here on in, but I think I'll still have chances to have more fun here in Bangkok. We'll see.

Sunday, May 11

Fast and Not-Too-Furious

On a side note, I spent my pre-departure night with El and Jonas watching the Wachowski-directed Speed Racer movie. I wasn't that hot for this anime-to-film translation (not really a race fan) but kinda knew what I was getting myself into from a couple of reviews, but what the heck. The movie looked like it would be a blast to watch, at least visually. And what do you know... it was.

On the bright (or psychedelic, to be exact) side, Speed Racer is indeed eye candy overload. Pretty much every frame is exploding with bright bubblegum colors as the movie depicts the world as a futuristic, sunshine-bright pinball-machine in which full-contact acrobatic car racing is the biggest craze. It's amazing though it's easy to get lost in the twisting, faster-than-you-can-comprehend races (being seated in the very front row didn't help either). Since the movie is like, 80 percent all-CG and filmed in blue screen, it's kinda like Sky Captain except instead of all sepia it's like someone spilled a gumball machine's worth of colors on everything.

That all said, the movie's kinda long, it's very cheezy and a bit too family-friendly (no deaths like in the anime, save for one supposed death of a major character), but even through the family/friend bonding and long tirades and constant flashbacks and stream-of-mind cutaways for many characters, there's an earnest theme to the movie about being true to yourself, about love of family and how ability and talent and drive rising above the system despite all odds. Yeah, it sounds shmoozy but it actually works.

High points? Man, Christina Ricci is UBER-hot in this film (despite the movie being family fare) and every time she's onscreen you can't take your eyes off her. John Goodman and Susan Sarandon were also great as Speed's parents, and the little kid and the monkey were constant crack-ups.

Goofy and silly at times, often thrilling with lots of action on and off the racetrack but having a bit of an anticlimactic climax, Speed Racer was nevertheless surprisingly enjoyable and worth seeing. The movie's playing now in theaters all over the Metro so check it out.

Another aside- perhaps the coolest thing in the night was the surprise showing of a trailer for the new CG Star Wars: Clone Wars movie! Clearly based on Genndy Tartarovsky's CW cartoons, this new reveal of the battles fought between Star Wars Episode Two and Three looks like it's gonna kick as much arse as the CW series did. Definitely want to watch out for that. Heh.
Out the Door

Nope, I'm still in Manila.

Got up at the crack of dawn this morning. Fortunately, I was able to get some sleep despite my usual pre-departure insomnia. A chartered cab took me to the airport, and here I am. It was kinda unnerving to go through the various checkpoints and stages- divesting yourself of metal objects and depositing them on trays or conveyor belts about twice, going through security and having documents checked and fees paid. After it was all said and done, I had only enough pesos left to buy myself breakfast- lukewarm sausage roll and Coke from Delifrance... which were grossly expensive but tasted like nectar and ambrosia to my rumbling stomach. No more money though, aside from the dollars that I'd be using for the trip, and my credit card. Hopefully I won't use up either. I'm not much of a shopper anyway, save for things that I really love. But I doubt I'll be finding a copy of Tekken 6, Soulcalibur IV or Metal Gear Solid 4 anywhere in Bangkok. Or anywhere else for that matter, yet.

Anyway, I've got a small list of requests to track down in my free time. A duster or two for Mom. A bag for the boss. Souvenirs and sweets for The Salt Mines folk. And... a tube of Thai toothpaste. Shouldn't be a problem.

Less than an hour left to boarding. It's almost time.
The Night Before

This always happens before I go on a long trip... I usually can't sleep, and it's because I'm excited or anxious or just had too much soda to drink. This time, it's a particularly long trip. I'll be off to Bangkok for about a week, attending a shoot for a TV commercial as a Filipino language consultant. Conceivably most of my time will be spent stationed at the shoot itself, but perhaps I'll be able to slip in some personal touring, sight-seeing and shopping as well.

But of course, I'm also a bit antsy because it IS my first time traveling alone in a foreign land. It's like that Sting song. I wonder how the people will be? How will it be different or alike from home?

From all indications, I'll have internet in my lodgings, so I'll most probably continue to update the blog (one way to keep my sanity and ease homesickness, I guess, if that creeps in) and surf. Gladly, the web knows no miles or borders... just bandwidth. Anyway, have PSP, will travel. Before noon, I fly off. The next post I put up, will be from Bangkok.