Friday, May 20, 2011

Super Giant Asia Tour 2011

A few weeks ago, some friends and I decided to hit up an excellent, oversized, continental tour happening this year.

Now is it just me?  Or do traveling carnivals the world over seem to have some sort of pact in which they compete to find the most derelict, seedy spots to throw down their temporary empire...

A few abandoned buildings on the left can't dampen this party.

And although it took us over an hour on various modes of transportation to finally reach this little corner of Bangkok heaven, all was forgiven upon arrival.  The sheer magnitude of class oozing from SGAT*'s radioactive pores blinded us, captivated us and eventually, destroyed us.  

"What constitutes a good time at a carnival?" - you, forced to ask me
"Many a thing, in fact!" - me, pleased with the opening

Could it be the sweet smell of McDonald's (clearly in cahoots with SGAT) wafting through the park(ing lot) on a sticky, hot May evening? 

Or could it be when four members of your party feign excuses and then actually leave the park after the pleasant sensory experience** that is "The Breakdance"?


Or is it the overwhelming urge to need an oversized styrofoam-stuffed animal to hold on your hip as you strut nonchalantly*** through the park?

It's possible...

Or is there just a certain magic to be found in among the jerky mechanics, the sleaze, the blinking lights, the stickiness, the tinny music, the rows of hard(won) stuffed animals, the gum stuck to the ground, the clang of the winning bell, the beer left in the bottle, the wiping of sweat, hands wrapped around metal, chugging and churning, whizzing, squeals of delight fading in and out, the beautiful, brilliant cheapness of it all.

Yes, it's all of that.

But mostly just this.

*I'm doin' it
**Nausea-inducing nightmare
***'What, this?  Yeah, I won it, whateva'

Actual footnote:  Breakdance picture from

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Best of Bali

Aaaaand we're back!  I realize it's been a bit of a hiatus here and for that I apologize, faithful readers*.

I will relay one funny/chilling tale from Bali and then get back to our Bangkok basics.

Now, every vacation has a few good stories and a few good stories usually mean a few good monkey stories and a few good monkey stories usually end with at least one screaming/scarred-for life child/me**.  Therefore, if you follow the formula correctly, most vacations end with at least one screaming/scarred-for-life child***.  You don't need Bali for this or a monkey, but those elements do provide for a great backdrop and a merciless antagonist.

This guy would never hurt you...right?

It was our second day in Bali.  We had spent a day relaxing on the beach in Kuta.  And by relaxing, I mean fending off the bracelet vendors, the ice cream man, the massage lady, the cross-bow salesman, the fake tattoo hawker, the pedicure woman ("Oh my God," she would murmur as she examined my toes****), the fruit-on-her-head lady, the beer guy (didn't fend him off), the giant wooden penis retailer, the sarong representative, the carved Buddha clerk, etc ad nauseum.  In summation, Kuta Beach in Bali...wellllll, hard to relax.  But it was great to watch the surfing, drink Bintang beer and eventually give in to the bracelet lady and walk away with five wooden bracelets that I haven't worn since Bali...

A more innocent time

That afternoon, we decided to get out of the tourist strong-hold of Kuta and see some of the "real" Bali.  For a price, we got a private driver to take us right into the heart of it.  Where, you ask?  Well, the tourist temple of Ulu Watu, naturally. 

We paid the fee (about a dollar), were given a sarong to wear over our shorts and entered the temple grounds.  The sun was beginning to set, providing a brilliant backdrop for the terror to come.  We were excited, as the naive are, to see many a monkey prowling the vicinity.  They're so cute and funny and just like us.

It was all going well, we posed for some pictures cliffside and enjoyed breathtaking views over the ocean.  We smiled, we relaxed, we let our guard down.  As we stared across the vast ocean, contemplating deep meanings and the complex truths of our lives - a bloodcurdling scream tore through the air.  Behind us, an ugly scene was unfolding.  A young girl was wailing and flailing hysterically as her father held her back.  One shoe ominously dangled from her right foot.  In front of her, a monkey.  Calm, cool, collected.  He held her other shoe in one hand.  He stared deep into her eyes.

And then he ate it.


**India, 2004