Saturday, June 25, 2016

The second time is better: Why we came back to Chiang Mai

Here’s the scene. We’re crouched down on small wooden stools eating off a coffee table where we are having pad thai and beer at one of our favorite restaurants in Chiang Mai. Though it is nearly midnight, the place is packed. Every seat is taken and the young couples standing along the walls are eyes the seated customers jealously. It takes a long time for our food to arrive at this place. That’s why we are here. While we slowly nurse to beers we stay heavily occupied with serious conversation.  

When my partner and I took off for 6 months in SE Asia, we only had 5 months planned. We assumed we would figure out the last month enroute. At the time of sitting on those wooden stools, we four months into our trip. The calendar just 30 days out was blank. To some people this would be exciting, but to obsessive planners like us, it was maddening.

At first we were going to go to India, but I had no time to plan that part of the trip before we left. Then once we were on we decided that we might want to return to our favorite place in SE Asia, or go somewhere different like New Zealand. But the cost of traveling to New Zealand would have been quadruple that of our entire trip to SE Asia, and we didn’t have any of the gear we needed to hike there. Then my partner had an epiphany:

“Let’s just come back to Thailand.”

By Thailand, he meant Chiang Mai. Not Bangkok. Not Phuket. Not island hopping or traveling around the country. Just coming back to Chiang Mai and staying put in one place for a long, long time.

Honestly, to me, it seemed boring as hell. I have a whole month to travel anywhere in the world. Why would I go back to a place I had already been? I wanted to go somewhere new. I wanted to have another adventure. But I also wanted a purpose. I also wanted to get shit done and work on my novel and blog. I also wanted to be in a place long enough to make friends. Long enough to bump into someone I know accidentally. Long enough to be recognized in a crowd. 
So we came back to Chiang Mai. It was easy. We knew the ropes at that point and didn't have to plan a thing. We took rock-climbing classes and photography workshops. We spent hours writing in cafes and trying new restaurants. It wasn't long until we started running in to people we knew on the streets, before we started hearing our names called from a crowd.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Dallas outfit Day 1

First day back in Dallas in five years. I wore a top that I made out of a vintage dress that was way too silly for me to wear in an ironic way. So I cut off the sleeves and collar and skirt and made it into a top. Perfect for a stroll in downtown in the mild warm weather.

Top: Vintage reconstructed
Jeans: Levi's
Shoes: Target
Bag: Louis Vuitton Speedy

Sunday, June 19, 2016

What did I eat in Cambodia?

Pho Vong in Siem Reap: the best meal I have ever had anywhere. period.

 Although this is not the country from which I have the most culinary memories, I did have some epics wins. The most memorably delicious meal I ever had on any of my trips was in Cambodia. It was beef noodle soup with a Cambodian iced coffee. The place is called Pho Vong and it is on the northeast corner of Khmer Pub Street and Charles De Gaule.

  1. Food I wished I had but didn't: Marijuana pizza. It might have been interesting...
  2. Food I had but wished I didn't: Noodle soups at the rest stop. They were terrible. 
  3. What should have been on the list: Amok. It's a traditional dish and quite unique. 
  4. Biggest surprise: how much Western breakfast there was everywhere!
  5. Most delicious meal: Beef noodle soup with an ices Cambodia coffee at Pho Vong 

Road stop noodle soup 
Several rungs down on the ladder from the best beef noodle soup at Pho Vong, these soups were eaten at roadside restaurants from Saigon to Phnom Penh and Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.Unexpected meat parts and hearty flavors.

at a road stop after the Cambodian border

at a road stop between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap

Amok and Traditional Cambodian food
Amok is a coconut curry in banana leaf and usually has fish or meat. I tried it in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and loved it.  Luckily I had some Cambodian friends who knew how to order. 

Amok is on the far left. Also pictured: curry and stir-fry beef

Amok with fish

Western Breakfast 

Maybe it's because Cambodia was at the tale end of my 6-month trip in Asia, or maybe it's because western breakfasts are so abundant and diverse, but all I wanted in the morning was brunch food. With plenty of options to choose from, I never had to eat the same dish twice. 

pancakes with a cappuccino

granola with fruit and yogurt

Lox bagel with cappuccino
eggs Benedict

 Market Food
I had hoped that Cambodian market food would be as good as Thailand, so when we were in Phnom Penh, we made a trip to the Russian market to check out the culinary offerings. Unfortunately, it did not feel very sanitary and much of the food was cold. Still an interesting experience, and by far the cheapest meal we had in Cambodia. 

Stir fried noodles with egg, freshly cooked and delicious

waffle, super cold and stale

bread with sweet cream dip, also cold and stale

Fruit Juices and Smoothies
As in most SE Asian countries fruit smoothies are amazing and plentiful. I  can't remember all the flavors and fruits we tried, but you can get a sense of the variety just by looking at the colors. 


Monday, June 13, 2016

Black lace at the wine tasting party

Going back to my gothic roots, I wore this lace top from high school to a house party. 
I think it's going to be a dark summer...

Top: Victoria's Secret
Jeans: Levi's
Shoes: Target
Bag: vintage coach

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Magic Flute

The last time I wore this dress was when I had tea at the Adolphus Hotel in 2008. I've been hauling it around since then and finally wore it again to a showing of the Magic Flute in Portland.

Dress: vintage, probably from LA
Belt: vintage from Deluxe in Orange Country
Bag: Louis Vuitton

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Days in Dallas

The view this morning from the cafe window

I'm sitting in a café I've never been before, in a part of town I should know like my own backyard. The mugs says "established 2011."  I didn't recognize my own backyard.

The last time I was in Dallas was April 2011 for three days, when I barely left my friend's house and lived one of the best weekends on my entire life. This trip was my chance to show my partner a part of my past. I would visit my childhood home and my high school. I would eat at my cherished restaurants and relive my teenage memories. This was supposed to be a nostalgic trip.  I thought I would feel energized returning here. I had so many good memories of growing up in Dallas. I loved my life here. But seeing this new city depresses me and has left me with an odd feeling of displacement. The Texas that I'm from is just a place of memory and imagination. It is no longer real, and no longer somewhere I can return.

It's true that Dallas, as a city, has changed a lot. But so have I. I'm not impressed by my high school tastes and yet I find nothing in Dallas that speaks to the soul of my adult self. I left Dallas in 2005. My mom left in 2007, my dad in 2008, and my best friend in 2013. Without my friends and family Texas has no appeal. I recognize nothing. I feel nothing. I couldn't even find my way to my childhood home from the highway exit. All the experiences I had this weekend make me feel nothing but a dull sense of loss. From now on, when people ask me where I'm from, I'll say "I don't know yet." I am still finding that place.

- Diary Excerpt, 11:27 am Oak Lawn Coffee, Dallas, Texas

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Angkor Temple Profile: Preah Khan

Name: Preah Khan

Built: 12th century

Conservation Body: World Monuments Fund

Distinctive feature: wide moat and outer walls guarded by 5-headed nagas

Visitor's note: This temple is still mostly in ruins, but is expansive and gorgeous. While parts of Angkor Wat and Ta Promh are sectioned off and obviously very well-traveled, Preah Khan feels like an exploration.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Cemetery in Izumo

Despite having lived just outside Izumo for a year, I never made a purposeful visit to a cemetery there. Instead, I stumbled upon one when I went for three days in 2010. For years these photographs lived in a folder on my hard drive and I forgot them. Then one day I decided to revisit my 2010 journey and was surprised to find these vibrant images of jizo, stone Buddhist statues with knit hats and bibs....

Touchdown Tokyo

Every time I fly to Japan, I have this routine of changing clothes in one of the large, accessible stalls in the arrivals lobby. I would do ...