Bangkok, you have the hangover now go see the palace!

Okay so you are in Thai…sleezy, you are most likely nursing a headache, the result of one too many Sang Som buckets; a rather sweet Thai whiskey that you are sure to get well acquainted with both on the way in and the way out, you are wondering why you just paid R100 to watch an elderly Thai woman have Birds fly out of her Vagina…but more importantly you are wondering what next.

I think one of the biggest mistakes people make when they visit Thailand is they either doesn’t go to Bangkok at all or they only use it as a stopover. In my eyes this is like skipping Rome when you are in Italy or skipping out London when you visit the United Kingdom. Sure there’s a chance you will sit in hours of traffic or catch a wiff of what I can only describe as death from an exposed sewer but Bangkok really does have its own charm that simply should not be missed.

Probably one of the most popular attractions in Bangkok is the Royal/ Grand Palace. The most important thing to remember when visiting the Palace is that there is a strict dress code.  The Palace is like the holy of holies for Thai’s so don’t disrespect it. Both men and woman should have their legs down to their ankles covered with their shirt sleeves below their elbows with no other skin exposed. There are a few stalls outside selling sarongs to visitors; there is also a rather convenient hiring station inside the palace that provides forgetful visitors with long pants and shirts.  I wouldn’t recommend this though as the line tends to get rather long and the exact change is required to pay for the clothes, so go prepared.

The palace is truly indescribable, as Mike Myers would say: ‘goooollllllllllllllllllld’. Any other place covered in so much gold would either just be plain tacky or be the Oriental Plaza, The Palace however comes across as ‘historical chic’.

Entrance is 400 Baht pp. The Grand Palace is open every day from 8:30 to 3:30, unless it’s being used for a state function, which is quite rare. Be careful of touts working outside the palace area who tell you it’s closed. Free guided tours in English are available at 10:00, 10:30, 1:30 and 2:00. You can also rent an audio guide for about 100 Baht.

Please excuse my dirty hands!

Once finished touring the palace there is a great little market (authentic Thai) just to the right of the entrance the palace, its hot and its sticky but you will easily be able to pick up fresh fruit, some flavoured ice and even some cheap shoes tucked away in some dark corner. Try the fresh popcorn for about R1.50 or the huge packets of strawberries the size of your fist, swimming in sugar for just under R5. There are virtually no tourists in the market and I found the atmosphere rather relaxing…until I stood on a rat the size of a small child.

More to come.

 

 

 

 

We are either the world’s greatest muses or its most common lovers

I’m tired of reading about us: the nuance and complexity of our fusion spilled out in black and white like this sort of thing happens every day, to everyone. I resent the way Davis exposes the quiet superiority you feel over me and turns it up to volume ten; I loathe Franzen for holding a mirror up to my eagerness, reflecting how obvious it is to the rest of the world and how obvious it is to you. I hate Sedaris for exploiting every night the city breathed differently because you and I were moving through it together, why would he tell everyone about that? Our insecurities and vulnerable parts typed up and mass-produced and handled by commuters and students and pedants, it’s exhausting.

And I can’t even turn on the radio anymore without hearing our stories stretched out over sound waves; one band asking if you’re going to leave and a second, more confident voice insisting you’re capable of loving me if you’d only try and one more still that urges us to be young, to embrace our infant blood and each other and it’s no wonder you feel smothered, no wonder this is moving too quickly. It’s all we can think about, all we can hear, all this noise.

When we turn on the television to witness two better-looking versions of us recite our affections almost verbatim, understudies learned in pillow talk. When we rent an old film and there we are, ancient characters created preemptively to act out our arguments like someone knew we were going to happen before we were so much as a thought to anyone, let alone to each other. When we go to the movies and watch paid actors mimic the eyes and the lips and the hands on a big screen while strangers take voyeuristic pleasure in knowing the curve our two bodies create. When the audience applauds or cries or laughs at our intricacies and I have no choice but to feel naked.

We are either the world’s greatest muses or its most common lovers — this is what I think whenever I read these words or hear these songs or watch these images — so I instead imagine the missing parts that have yet to be written: the way your body smells after two days, the taste of the back of your teeth and other places most will never find their tongues, the perfect sour of your breath after a too-long night that lasted just the perfect amount of time. I imagine the static that forms in my stomach and courses through every capillary whenever you brush against me accidentally and the texture of your favorite sweater and the militant veins that protrude from your arms like they’re dying to be noticed, touched. When I think about these things — the symphony of color in your eyes and what might be happening behind them — I know they haven’t got us completely figured out. I know that some things belong to only us.

From the Thought Catalog

Thailand – where to start?

I often have people asking me advice on traveling to S.E. Asia, especially with regard to Thailand, I think probably because it is the most popular destination for South Africans in S.E. Asia and I suppose for the rest of the world also.

This series of posts are specifically for budget travelers…if you are looking to do Thailand being shuffled from the airport straight to a resort you are doing it wrong. The whole experience of a holiday in Thailand is the people and the adventures you come across when you least expect it, not a mani pedi next to your pool at your over priced resort.

So my first and most important piece of advice would be:

DONT BOOK ANYTHING! Besides your air ticket of course.

Anyone who tells you to book accommodation before you depart has either never been to Thailand or stands to make some money off your booking. Not only is accommodation of all kinds available at the ‘drop of a fake dreadlock’ but it is cheap!

Cheap in SA is around R500 a night for a decent room….in Thailand it’s about 6$ a night for a room with a bed, aircon and a TV with a western toilet…and a window if you are lucky. This accommodation is a dime a dozen but make sure you ask to see the room first to check if it’s clean. My first night in Bangkok back in 2010 I made this mistake and spent the night on mattress stained with what looked like a large amount of blood, I had already paid for the room though so I tried to ignore my gag reflex and thank God for remembering my sleeping sheet.

Start on Khao San Road

Now KSR, dunned the Gateway to S.E. Asia is not everyone’s cup of tea. On the 7th day just before God decided to rest he burped and out came KSR. It’s definitely one of those things you just must see when you go to Thailand but like a lot of those ‘must sees’ once you have seen it there’s no real reason to go there again.

Having said that, it is a hub for cheap accommodation, cheap drinks and cheaper women…or men. Especially if you are travelling alone or in a pair KSR presents a great opportunity to meat hoards, literally hoards of fellow travellers, ask advice or find a travel mate. I would recommend asking fellow backpacker’s advice over going to a travel agent or a tout along the street.

Here is a little snippet of writing from my last visit to KSR:

Khao San road the only place in the world where you can enter a shy first time traveller and emerge a weary looking hippie with fisherman pants, various woven bangles, the obligatory tribal tattoo and of course a set a fresh dreadlocks…all for under $20.

KS road really is a inner city jungle, where hangers replace vines and gazebos and hundreds of intertwined electricity and telephone wires make a great canopy.

The much feared hill tribe women and the touts replace the jaguars, stalking you wherever you go with either a ‘crrrrooaak cccroakk’  or the rather awful ‘puuut’ …which supposedly represents the sound of a ping pong being…well you know popped out. The hundreds if not thousands of drunk English and Australians, put any elephant drunk on Marula fruit to shame, managing to make a ridiculous amount of noise, break anything they come across and still have the thick skin to think its normal to act that way.

Lets not forget the kings of the jungle…the famous lady boys…distinguishable by their adams apples…and if that’s not enough to tell them apart they are usually singing :

“Now I’m the king of the swingers
Oh, the jungle VIP
I’ve reached the top and had to stop
And that’s what botherin’ me
I wanna be a man, mancub
And stroll right into town
And be just like the other men
I’m tired of monkeyin’ around!”

But I digress!

I arrived in Bangkok and headed straight to KS road for a much needed nap…traveling with flu really isn’t fun. My driver Narathorn war really awesome and I found out he lives in his car and every 3 months he travels South to the border of Malaysia to give his family the money, even more surprising was that he is the same age as me…what different worlds we come from.

I stayed at a hostel/guest house called Lucky house just of KS road so there was no noise, its a really nice place value for money AND its clean…something not common along or near KS road. I met up with Craig my one friend..fluent in Hebrew…which was surprisingly helpful. After assuring me that he ‘hated’ shopping and ‘didn’t see the point’ we spent about 4 hours traversing the jungle deciding what shorts made his legs look better. =)

We decided that while we were weighing up which colour palate best suited his complexion to get a beer from 7/11…because they are much cheaper and you can walk around with them.

JACKPOT we found a beer for BHT25..about R6 only to find out it was rice wine and even the Thais don’t drink it! I even tried to give mine away to a beggar who blatantly refused it. Lesson learnt!

After getting hit on by a few more lady boys we decided to get some rest as we both had early starts the next morning.

Bye for now!

ABC

Some useful links are:

Lucky House – I have stayed here 3 times and have been satisfied each time. Be sure to get on the good side of the receptionist and she will give you a few much needed extras for free! Its also just off KSR so there’s no noise!

Official KSR website– Everything you need to know about the place and more. They are generally rather good with keeping their news stream updated.

 

 

Keep your dick in your pants

Unless you have been living in North Korea, I doubt you have yet to hear about the controversy surrounding the picture of our dear President Jacob Zuma by the rather talented and possibly unemployed Brett Murray.

Basically the picture titled“The Spear” displays Zuma in a Leninist stance with his ‘bits’ hanging out. I’m sure all of you remember the hours spent in English Literature in high school, or for those of us who took it for four years in university the months and months spent trying to decide what the artist meant in one line of a three page poem. It always comes down to the fact that we have no idea what the author of the poem meant. Similarly we have no idea what Brett Murray’s intentions were when he created the piece, although I am rather certain his intention was not to receive death threats.

Gwede Mantashe, secetary general of the A.N.C., said the painting played into stereotypes of black men as hypersexualised. “It is rude, crude and disrespectful.It has an element of racism. It says that black people feel no pain and can be portrayed walking around with their genitals in the open. They are objects of ridicule. I can tell you that if you were to draw a white politician in that way, the outcry would be totally different.”  And how would you know my dear Gwede?

Anyway here are just a few thoughts I have on the whole issue.

1.Lenin is more important than a penis.

Since when did a picture of a penis become more controversial than Vladimir Lenin himself, you know the guy who lead the Russian Revolution, was leader of the Bolshevik Party, and first ruler of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The dude who was possibly was partly to blame for a little thing called The Red Terror, you may have heard of it…if not get out of North Korea. Now I’m not going to get into a argument about the negatives and positives of Communism but to me it seems like somehow the point is being missed. After all one could say that roughly half of the world’s population has a penis, there was only one Lenin.

How is this not the issue?

2. The painting insults African culture?

Talk about a broad statement by Sonwabile Mancotywa, ceo of The National Heritage Council (NHC): “In our African culture and tradition this painting amounts to the most extreme indecency and misnomer.”

I’m African and I’m not offended by this in anyway. I did a survey around my office (or as far as the chain that connects me to my desk would stretch) and not one person felt their ‘African culture’ was insulted; in fact most people were simply amused when I showed them the uncensored picture.

What exactly is ‘African culture’? Now I realise this statement will ensue a flurry of angry comments calling me an uneducated fool, but has African culture always been the most modest of cultures?

Traditional African dress usually doesn’t involve much in way of clothing right? Please educate me if I’m wrong! Perhaps the correct statement would have been to say it is in insult to Zulu culture. But even then traditional Zulu garb doesn’t really provide much in terms of coverage? If an artist had painted a picture of Zuma or anyone in traditional Zulu garb with various private parts would there have been such an outcry? Go down to the Rosebank flee market on a Sunday and you will be greeted by an array of naked paintings of women, walk into CNA and your eyes will be assaulted by half naked women in the men’s magazine sections and for that matter the women’s section too.

Shock! Horror! Boobs!

Sock! Horror! Boobs?

3. So what if he’s the president?

If the painting was of a nameless face I would not be writing this post in angst. Since when did a picture displaying genitalia become such a hot topic. Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon have produced what I would term much more explicit and provoking than Brett Murray?

Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous Virtual Man has his penis hanging right out there for all to see, it’s even included in school textbooks but no one seems to have any problem with that. There are even half naked depictions of Jesus Christ himself yet you don’t see people vandalising the Louvre and causing all out anarchy.

I do believe there’s a little clause in our well guarded constitution called freedom of speech, now obviously there are also laws against defamation, but he’s the president of South Africa nogal. What president doesn’t get publically lambasted just about every day that they are in office? Even Mandela had his critics. You are a public figure people are going to say and do things, my suggestion is get over it.

This is art

William Kentridge, (again get out of North Korea) has said that:  “Both the work of the artist and the controversy his work arouses are to be welcomed,” and South Africans are “fortunate to live in a country with a Constitution that acknowledges the importance of open debate on all issues.” Dam right ‘Willy’!

What I find worrying is that there has been no official statement by Zuma himself. The A.N.C. have  called “The Spear” “distasteful, vulgar, indecent and disrespectful,” and “an affront to the dignity and the privacy of President Zuma in all his capacities, but also as a South African whose right to human dignity and privacy is protected and guaranteed by the South African Constitution.”

So is this

Where are you Jacob it’s your penis we are talking about? Perhaps you have better things to deal with like the unparalleled corruption in your government?

Yes I think there are better things to worry about then a picture of a penis let alone try muse on what the artist was thinking when he painted it.

My life is an office

There is something perverse about office life. It is necessarily hierarchical and competitive, with bosses, subordinates, promotions and ‘employees of the month’, and yet it is usually conducted under communal auspices, also known as ‘team spirit’. We must work to survive, yet it becomes necessary to maintain the illusion that we approach our tasks passionately and harbor sacred feelings of loyalty for our comrades up, down, and a few rungs over on the corporate latticework. Given such conditions, it’s no wonder that offices can often be hothouses of envy, pity, despair and contempt. Paradoxically, they are also very dull places to spend your days. Offices are either the theaters of our ambition or the prisons where we were condemned when we betrayed our dreams.

Maybe In Another Universe

You just found me in the wrong universe. That’s all. This is, as they say, the darkest timeline. Everywhere else, nay, “everywhen” else — us in the Civil War, us in Ancient Egypt, us in the swinging ’60s — we are happy.

What if, in another universe, I deserve you?

Hear me out. There’s this philosopher from the 1890s named William James, and he coined this theory about “the multiverse” which suggests that a hypothetical set of multiple universes comprises everything that can possibly exist simultaneously.

Are you following? The entirety of space, time, matter and energy is all happening at once in different timelines: It’s the idea of parallel universes. Right? So okay, let’s presume the multiverse is real.

Well then, maybe somewhere in those infinite universes is one, or several, where I deserve you.

Maybe there’s a universe out there — happening now — where we end up together and when I close my eyes at night, I’m not dreaming the way a normal person would. Instead I’m seeing flashes of our lives in the multiverse. They’re not simple dreams because I miss you, right? They’re scientific, anachronistic visions.

For instance:

In this universe, I don’t want a family, but maybe in another, I’m more of the type to settle down. Maybe there’s a universe where you hold my hand while I give birth to our daughter in a white hospital room with pink flowers and fuzzy teddy bears on the window sill. Where we take family vacations and pose for dorky pictures in our neon bathing suits on the sands of a Florida beach. Where we curl up to watch a cheesy movie at the end of a long day in our big, green, suburban house once the kids have fallen asleep.

Maybe there’s a universe where we are middle-aged and taking our child to college and bickering over where to put her dresser or what posters she should hang up. Where you kiss her on the forehead ‘goodbye’ and we drive home in contented, proud silence, your fingers grazing my knuckles, our wedding rings glistening. Where we both have gray hair and we laugh and smile and hug and drink lemonade on the porch.

Maybe there’s a universe where that’s the life I want. Where I don’t second guess everything and I’m not afraid of commitment and of the future and of love. Maybe there’s a universe without all the noise in my head and the pride that makes me so fiercely independent and the coldness in my heart that I can turn on and off like a security fence.

Maybe there’s a universe where I’m the right person for you. Where I adore every nice thing you did for me without starting to resent you. A universe where you actually end up with someone who appreciates you. Where no one becomes a doormat. Where both of us can shed our baggage and curiosity and issues. A universe where we’re happy — without wondering if that happiness is some messed-up Jenga game ready to topple at the slightest quiver. A universe where we’re comfortable and sure, and we have cats.

Maybe there’s a universe where we fall asleep next to each other every night like spoons, like two innocent bunnies — my face buried in your neck, hugging your warmth — and we both don’t want anything or anybody else. Where we don’t want more, we just want each other.

Maybe there’s a universe where I don’t covet so much all the time and where I’m content and where I don’t wonder about picking up and moving to Japan without saying anything to anyone and where at this very juncture, I can just know I’ll always want to come home and cook dinner with you.

If you think of it all this way, then it’s like neither of us did anything wrong.

You just found me in the wrong universe. That’s all. This is, as they say, the darkest timeline. Everywhere else, nay, “everywhen” else — us in the Civil War, us in Ancient Egypt, us in the swinging ’60s — we are happy.

If this theory holds, well, by the law of averages, there had to be one universe — just this one — where we don’t end up together. Here and now just happens to be it. If you think of it this way, nothing is our fault.

So see, that explains everything. We’re not together anymore because of the multiverse.

Well, isn’t that comforting?

If you’re sad, do like I do and just think of the other ‘verses. The ones where I believe in love and where I don’t hate myself and where I never feel the need to kamikaze relationships. A universe where we can have nice things. It’s helpful, right?

Because you could have loved me forever. And maybe in another universe, I let you.

From the thought catalog

When Did We All Get So Old?

I was at a party recently where I spoke to a guy about his job. Having recently graduated college and settled into a rather prestigious career field, he mentioned that, though the money was good, the actual job itself was kind of draining. He wasn’t sure if it was for him, and had long since stopped enjoying it, but doubted he could do much better. It’s the kind of field where you work extremely long hours, especially when you’re new, and don’t get a whole lot in the way of recognition. As the party was beginning to heat up and we all decided to take some shots, he declined and said that he needed to go home — on a weekend, at just before midnight. When we teased him, he reminded us with a bit of a sigh, that “his crazy party days were behind him.” This is a guy who was once preceded by the reputation of being the life of every party, who now eschewed going out for the most part because he’s “too old for it.”

He’s 24.

And this is far from being a unique case. Even a brief trip around Facebook to take a look at people you rarely talk to anymore can confirm that, in their early-to-mid twenties, people are already settling into careers they rather dislike, staying with the same person they’ve been with for years even though they’ve occasionally voiced their desire to see elsewhere, giving up on dreams of travel or adventure, and deciding that they are now “too old” to enjoy the occasional real party. There are even those who have transformed from party girl to sanctimonious mommy whose life is now “so meaningful,” all at the ripe old age of 24. Beyond giving up on the crucial time for experimentation, there are those who openly look down upon the people whose careers have yet to really be selected, who are traveling the world, who are remaining steadfastly single — essentially, anyone who is taking their twenties to make the mistakes they may not be able to make in the future.

 

Of course, we all know people who have been rather “serious” their entire lives, who have always gone home early from parties, turned down offers of travel and experimentation, and have chosen the straight-and-narrow. But what’s crucially different about them is that that is just who they are. They enjoy the safe, the familiar, the reliable — and frankly, we need people like that. There’s nothing wrong with those who have always been, in some way or another, an “old soul.” But the people to whom I am referring here are those who feel, whether through societal pressure or their own sense of competition, the need to grow up far too quickly. They have put some kind of social premium on keeping jobs they hate simply to say they are on a good career path, on cutting adventure nearly completely out of their lives, on settling down into a relationship that may not be right for them simply to avoid being alone at too “sad” an age.

 

As you begin to enter the world of social media and peer interaction where a huge amount of everything people your age have to say has to do with how much they love their significant other, how stressful their job is, how drinking is now too much for them, or the various dimensions of their children’s excrement, it can feel incredibly stifling. You have this sudden urge to yell at the top of your lungs, “Is this all we have left to talk about?!” And it is certain that behind these people who’ve chosen such “stable” life paths in their early-to-mid twenties, there are often parents and competitive peers who nod in approval and muse on how much more “adult” they are, but at what price? Do we not owe it to ourselves to make the decisions — and mistakes — that we want to, while we have the youth and the means with which to do it? Should we force ourselves into a job we dislike or a relationship that doesn’t fit us to fill out some model of adulthood we’re not even sure we want?

I have been to brunches and happy hours amongst acquaintances who, at the tender ages of 23-25, will spend the entire time talking about their problems at work and their desire find a bigger apartment. It’s almost like watching a bunch of children put on their parents’ clothes and shoes and shuffle around the house like grown-ups, a kind of caricature of boring adulthood. It’s hard not to see your life flashing before your eyes at moments like this, a chilling feeling that if, in the dawn of your adult life, you’ve already limited your conversation topics to the rigors of responsibility and commitment, things can’t get too much better from here. Not when the people who choose an alternative lifestyle or follow their dreams, even while clearly young enough to do so, are spurned and mocked by these peers as being “irresponsible,” or “immature.” Not when conversations of sex, politics, art, culture, or even the weather have been replaced by a comparing of notes about the varying degrees of adulthood one has attained.

We live in a world now where we can see our generation’s successes and failures in real time. We know what every friend and acquaintance is doing, we know where they live, we know how things are working out for them. And though we no longer have the intense societal pressure to marry and spawn, as well as have a good job and own a house all by your late twenties, we have an enormous amount of pressure we put on ourselves. In many ways, this constant comparison to those around us has replaced the traditional rules of becoming an adult, and now these restraints and objectives are ones we largely put on ourselves. “If my friends are all getting boring 9-5 jobs and settling down right now,” we think, “I’d better be doing it, too.” But few things are more disheartening than watching someone so young actively put aside the things they long to see and do in this world for a perfect, adult kind of happiness that they’re not even sure exists. Don’t we owe it to ourselves to live life, and above all, be young, on our own terms? Who is telling us what to do anymore, and more importantly, why are we listening?