wander process

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cafe lounging

One good thing I can share with all of you is that I have regained my sense of smell! Whoa, have I been missing out on a lot these last 9 months. It’s like I’m living in a new town, a new country. I feel strangely re-connected with the Jordan who came to Thailand 3 years ago now. It’s like I’m smelling everything for the first time. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on all of these smells for so long.

To be honest, I’ve felt sad, having my wonderful, 3-week long sojourn to Europe and America end. I’ll miss not having friends and family at an arm’s width for me to hug. I’m pulling out of my funk, however, and trying to clarify my life after such a whirlwind trip. I’m still dealing with strange, jet-lagged sleeping schedules, but I’m slipping into the pleasant routine I had going for so many months.

Nothing can cheer up my malaise like pictures of food. So without further ado, here are some pictures of meals I had in Paris. ‘Meals’ being a relative term – we were too poor to eat a full meal when we were there, so we would order a couple small things from a cafe and split it. We’d supplement our diet with the moussy chocolate Sophie brought from Switzerland, the jamón Casey brought from Spain, and the dried mangoes I brought from Thailand.

Almost straight off the plane from Delhi (which was a terrifying experience in itself, my blog post didn’t even being to cover the worst of it!) my friends scooped me up and off we went to a glorious Parisian breakfast.

Falafel from Rue de Rosiers in the Jewish Quarter. Falafel, I have missed you in my life.

Kir & a caipirinha & fancy olives to pass the late afternoon.

Let me first apologize for the abysmal quality of this photo. Once we all get over the fact that I used flash (something I truly, truly hate to do), we can move onto the masterful skill with which this cheese has been melted over the heaven-sent, from-France French onion soup. I died and went to food heaven. And then let’s be real, I probably had to go to the bathroom because 9 months living in cheese exile did not make for delicate dietary transition.

Picnic in the Tuileries. Bread, fresh squeezed orange juice, cherries, and unsurprisingly expensive quantities of cumin-laden cheese. Totally delicious. I promise you that my life is not always this awesome. It just happened to be awesome during this trip.

Here’s where I admit something embarrassing to me. I knew this as a 14 year old, but I cemented this in my mind over my trip to Paris. I don’t like pâté, I don’t like foie gras (foy grass, hehe). My palate is simply not developed or fancy enough, I think. To me, it more or less tastes like the smell of cat food. But I like durian. So to each their own, I guess.

The first time I had espresso and liked it (or mostly liked it). I’ve come a long way from the junior in college who just started drinking coffee because I was working two jobs and managing a full course load and the only way for me to make it through my 7:30 start mornings was to drink small cups of half coffee, half hot chocolate (no, not mochas!). This espresso was fruity. If I had a better memory, I could tell you what country the beans came from, since that’s how I ordered it. Unfortunately, my memory is pretty abysmal.

I will be dreaming about all of the cheese in Paris for a long, long time to come.

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Out and About in Phnom Penh

As I mentioned earlier, I had to make a rather rushed trip to Phnom Penh to obtain a new visa to get a new work permit for Thailand. Phnom Penh was a place I had read plenty about and studied in school, but I had never been there. And what better way to visit the capital city than to have work cover some of your costs?!

I was crashing with Adam (and Nora) when I made the decision late Friday night to go ahead and buy a plane ticket to Cambodia. The ride from Bangkok to Phnom Penh takes upwards of 15 hours, and many times, it’s longer than that. The border town of Poipet, in Cambodia, is far and away the worst place I’ve ever been to in my life. It’s a filthy, nasty center for gambling and an international hotspot for sex trafficking and underage prostitution. Scams abound, and as a traveller, you’re pulled every which way by touts, trying to get you pay money for mysterious border fees. I didn’t have a pleasant experience the last time I passed through, on my way to Siem Reap, so I thought I’d be a grown-up and buy a place ticket. Luckily, Southeast Asia (and a few other parts of the world) are serviced by an excellent budget airline, Air Asia.

Border crisis averted! (on the way to Cambodia, that is. The way back to Thailand was a whole different story.)

I had few goals for my time in Cambodia. Really, I only had two (besides getting my visa, of course):
1. Eat a sandwich
2. Go to Tuol Sleng (this will have its own, forthcoming post)

I was successful!

Phnom Penh was a lot of wandering around, sitting in cafes and reading. I set up a Goodreads account at the end of last year and I made the goal to read 30 books in 2012. I was eager to get a jump start on my goal (and I finished one book, started and finished another, and started another).

every morning, hot or iced.

after my morning coffee and baguette, I discovered what had been nestled under the table the whole time

dental care (of unknown quality) abounds in phnom penh

what are these? they're so weird and great.

Patterns are starting to emerge. I'm always taking pictures of dogs.

The Central Market of Phnom Penh. Purveyor of knock-off Ray Bans and showcaser of fine art deco architecture.

Look closer! I think Banksy has an admirer in Southeast Asia.

The cheapest way, besides walking, to get around.

also the cheapest way for monks to get around

I take delight in the strangest things.

el aire libre

nothing says national healing quite like mass aerobic exercises

these darn dalmations would bark at me every chance they got (and they had many chances).

When in Southeast Asian countries that were colonized by the French, I am ALWAYS on the hunt for delicious sandwiches.

this building was right next to the UNESCO offices, and it was way more charming than the UNESCO offices.

Here’s a shot of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. I tried to go here multiple times, but they had the wonkiest hours of operation. Upon my last attempt to visit the Palace and its famed Silver Pagoda, I was told it was closed again.

“I always come when it’s closed! Are you sure it’s closed?”

The guard was amused, I think.

“The Royal Palace is closed,” he repeated.

Then he leaned in.

“If you give me ten dollars, I will let you go in now.”

I was a little taken aback.

“But you said it’s closed! Won’t they notice me walking around after it’s closed?”

“You just tell the guards that you left to find a friend and now you’re just getting back in to the Palace.”

I looked around. I looked at the motorcycle driver standing next to him, the driver that we taken my to the Thai Embassy earlier in the day and had recognized me (how did a capital city get so small that motorcycle drivers remember me?). I looked down at the gun of the guard. I looked at the city around me, lit up golden as the sun was beginning to set.

“I don’t think so,” I said. It wasn’t worth $10 to me, and it certainly wasn’t worth getting into trouble with the guards inside.

Riverside of the Mekong at night. I've lost count of how many Mekong towns I've been to by now.

I catch myself saying things like, “oh, maybe I’ll move to Cambodia someday.”
Cambodia was nice for a visit, but I don’t think I’d like to live there.
I was, indeed, very happy to return to Thailand. So maybe I will not move to Cambodia.


In Praise of Thai Egg Custard

By now, you’ve noticed me yammering on and on and on about my favorite road in Bangkok. I talk about Charoen Krung incessantly, in blog life and in real life. Everyone that visits me is dragged there. That’s because it has everything. It has bead shops, gun shops, Mr. Donut, antique shops, camera shops, endless food, it runs parallel to the Chao Phraya, runs through Chinatown, Burapha, and ends up right in the heart of Banglamphu at the foot of Wat Pho.

And it has egg custard.

Glorious egg custard.

sah kai yah.

It was my last week at work and I had little to do. I went to go school supply shopping with a few teachers. I was warned that we might walk a long way to get to the market with school supplies. On the cab ride there, Aon mentioned a shop with egg custard that old people loved to go to. It was close enough to where we needed to be. She asked me if I wanted to try it and you already know the answer to that.

We stopped on Charoen Krung (a part of the street I hadn’t been before) at On Lok Yun, the famous egg custard cafe.

It was both love at first site

and love at first bite.

I loved the egg custard, I loved the homemade bread, I loved the weak Chinese tea and the hot coffee.

I am falling in love with places all of the time, especially in Bangkok. And I fell hard for On Lok Yun. So if we are in Bangkok at the same time, we will go.