Thursday, April 14, 2005

Our guide David gave the tour an adult spin by pointing out the Bill and Monica Rock. Posted by Hello

Who'd have thought bird poop would serve as a visual aid in illustrating shifting fault lines? Posted by Hello

Sandy and I masquerading as outdoorsy types in front of the pink jeep.  Posted by Hello

Sedona rocks!!

Pardon the pun; I couldn't resist. So, I arrived back from visiting my good pal Sandy in Arizona a couple days ago. For me, it's always fun to walk the soil of another state. You find the little things surprising. Like, I forgot that in Arizona, primetime TV starts an hour earlier. I was thrown when Saturday Night Live came on at 10:30. If it were that way here, I would probably watch the show more. And still being funny would help. I also saw a liquor store near Sandy's with its own drive-thru window . And walking around downtown Tempe, a man who looked like Cooter from "Dukes of Hazzard" offered me a card with LSD.

Besides catching up with each other, Sandy, the ever excellent hostess, did all the driving and we made the trek to Sedona. Now, I never expected to encounter extreme weather changes. All I had were jeans and shorts in my luggage. Alas, a misguided decision. See, Phoenix may feel like an oven, but Sedona has an elevation of at least 3,000 feet--depending where you pull over for a photo op. Rain was coming down upon our arrival. We took a scenic drive through uptown Sedona and then along Oak Canyon Creek. We stopped at a canyon edge where Native American vendors were wrapping up their wares amid all these snow-covered pines. Soon, tiny snowflakes graced my coat, hair, eyelashes and other places that Maria Von Trapp would appreciate. But we didn't stay long because it was very, very cold. Yet, the next day, we embarked on a jeep tour at 11 a.m. in quite sunny weather. We took the Broken Arrow tour. Sandy and I shared a pink jeep (like any other car color would've been as cool)with six others--two women from Southern Cal, a couple from Australia and some other couple in their forties from somewhere in the U.S. The man in the Australian duo kept uttering wise proverbs like "The 7Ps: Prior Preparation and Planning Prevent Piss-Poor Performance" and "You're only as old as the woman you feel." Those whacky Australians.

David, our chipper guide, steered the 4x4 over very rough terrain and pointed out famous red rock phenomena such as the Twin Nuns, Snoopy Rock (it really does resemble him lying on his dog house), Mother and Child. It was a very bumpy ride. I felt quite tenderized by the end, but it was worth taking in all the landscape. Afterward, we chowed down on cactus fries and buffalo sandwiches at the Cowboy Club, where all the wait staff wear gun holsters. I definitely got a good taste of the Southwest. Afterwards, we went to the tourist office and the pop cultural nerd in me asked an elderly lady behind the counter where Lucille Ball's former home was. And she said "We don't keep track of that stuff. The movie stars and celebrities want their privacy respected." I had to fight so hard not to blurt out "Um, but she's dead." Anyone who has seen those "I Love Lucy" episodes where they are in Hollywood know that Lucy was a big advocate of celebrity house hunting. Anyway, we went on to hike on the Bell Rock trail, where I stuck to my talent of getting lost, we high-tailed it back to Phoenix.

The next day, I accompanied Sandy to Tucson to check out the University of Arizona. We strolled down 4th Ave, which is a compact-sized, slightly less bohemian version of Berkeley's Telegraph. The only store of interest was Antigone Bookstore where the target audience is lesbians. If I wasn't sure before, the life-size Xena cut-out confirmed it.

Overall, excellent mini-break. In between the sightseeing, we stayed in and I got to watch "The Best of Triumph" and "Napoleon Dynamite" (it's now on my must-own list). I will now go look at my pics and try to figure out what rock is what. I swear it's as bad as looking for constellations!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Nothing says family like cemetary

Yesterday, I went to the all-Chinese cemetary in Colma. The group in attendance was comprised of me, Gary, my mom, Uncle Kin, Auntie Jenny, Auntie Linda and Emily. See, about twice a year in the fall and spring, families are supposed to by san or visit the gravestones of their elders and leave offerings of food, money (in the form of Hell Bank Notes) and prayers. It's actually the first weekend of the season when people come. But, since most of my mom's siblings are semi-retired or part-time workers, they decided to go on a Friday. Kinda nice not having the crowds there. Not that the cemetary is very noisy to begin with.

Of course, standing in front of my maternal grandparents' graves had us all thinking about visits past. I looked around and noticed how much smaller the group was compared to during my elementary school years. The cemetary is on a hill and my grandparents' headstones are situated right next to a concrete path that cars can take up to the next level. Hehe, I still remember when my grandma was with us. As she got older, we worried the uphill climb would be too hard for her. Once, we didn't want her to stand for too long during the entire ritual. So, Uncle Kin put his big blue cooler on the pathway for her to sit on. And we all had to take turns standing with at least one foot against it so the cooler and Grandma wouldn't go sliding down the hill. Of course, now she's there for the long-term. I wonder if she wishes more of us came. But, it's all part of the natural progression of change. I didn't go many times when I was in college and for a couple years after that. And the past two years, I've gone. These days, everyone has either moved out of proximity or they're just too busy to even consider coming. So, hopefully, more relatives will be around next time or at least if I can't come, someone else will be able to.

The adults got to rehashing things my cousins and I did when it came to paying respects. Uncle Kin recalled how several years ago at his home, some of the cousins had to pray to a little memorial--incense, oranges, the usual set-up--in front of two chairs. My cousins Tina and Randy--brother and sister--were just little kids. After the praying and offering of food, a slightly spooked Tina asked "Do you think they're still here?" (They being the ancestors). Randy: "Nah, I think they left after they ate."

Another thing I noticed gazing around the cemetary was some of the names on the headstones. I think many people sometimes just pick an English first name by writing a phonetic spelling of their Chinese name. Now, I don't mean any disrespect by snickering at some of them. But honestly, somebody--a family member, Immigration, whoever--should of told these older Chinese folk that maybe that wasn't the best way to pick a name. What really surprises me is that I forget these names by my next by san visit and it seems like I'm hearing about them for the first time. Anywho, here's a sample of what I saw:
Dip Yee (Dip might be ripe for a playground ass-kicking)
Suey Gooey Fong (Rhyming in a name is almost never a good thing)
Sitting Woo (His Chinese name is pronounced Sitting; it's not that the Chinese word for sit is his name)
Hung Tang (Um, I don't think I need to elaborate except to say he is NOT related to my family)

OK, well, now that I've managed to poke fun at some innocent, dead and elderly Chinese people, here's hoping Hell isn't waiting for me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Viva Espana, pollo asado y "The Finger Sweep"

It's been a while but exciting things happen to me less often right now. But a few unique events have occured in the past few days.

1)As of last Saturday, I became certified in adult CPR and administering aid to a choking victim. My friend Jen, who lives in Oakland, invited me out there to an East Bay Red Cross gathering of free CPR classes. We had to sit through lame instructional videos where choking victims just happened to know the universal sign for choking (which is wrapping your hands around your throat and coughing if possible). Ideally, you have to get consent from the victim before assisting them. But I'd feel like a freak going up to someone as calmly as the woman in the video did and saying "Excuse me sir. Are you choking? I can help you." The class instructor said if the person falls unconscious, then the consent is implied. Anyway, after the film, we adjourned to another room where we got to practice on a mannequin. Nothing is quite as fun as blowing air into a piece of plastic--as any man who's dated Cher can testify to. Since so many people showed up for the free classes, they just sort of did everthing at a drive-through pace. But I retained enough info to ace the written exam. I'm only licensed for a year. So anyone who goes unconscious after March 12, 2006 in my presence--sorry, you're out of luck.

BTW, after the training, Jen and I went to Jack London Square and found ourselves at House of Chicken and Waffles. With all my fond memories of chomping down fried fowl goodness at Roscoe's in LA, I couldn't not go in. I highly recommend that place if you feel like simple, home cooked eats. I had a crisp, not too oily chix breast, macaroni and cheese, greens and a right back...must go wipe the drool from my face. Those were pretty much the highlights of my weekend.

2)I got an e-mail from a woman in the syndicated permissions department for Conde Nast in Spain (!) An article I helped write and research with my fellow ex-Wired intern, David Goldenberg, (it was a take off of Coolest College Campuses called Coolest Corporate Campuses--we looked into employee perks of seven companies i.e. Pixar, Google, Microsoft)will be reprinted as is in the May 2005 issue of GQ Spain!! And I should get a bit of monetary compensation too. I don't really care about that. I wouldn't be half as ecstatic if it was any country other than Spain. As most people know, Espana has a special place in my heart. So, the notion that my name will most likely appear in a Spanish edition of a magazine makes me feel warm and gooey inside.

So, those are the cool things going on with me as of late. Oh, and here's a link to the first article I've written for the Palo Alto Weekly in a while:

I interviewed a certified master of Sumi-e (Japanese brush painting) who was commissioned by the PA Pacific Art League to paint an original work. She's a very smart and talented lady but I've never met anyone who enjoys talking in metaphors. But it's personalities like that that make life not run-of-the-mill.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Look who's on the cover of the issue I'm published in! Posted by Hello

Here's to Iris

Well, I *finally* found a bookstore carrying the Feb/March issue of Audrey magazine. Before, I wasn't even sure the magazine had come out because the staff sends contributing writers a comp copy. And I was worried cuz I hadn't received anything. And I've been waiting for my article on Iris Chang's passing and accomplishments to come out. Back in November, the managing editor asked me to write something; I think it's mainly becuz I live so close to her family, hehe. The whole experience--learning more about her, talking to her husband, Brett, and her parents who seem so kind--was sorta surreal. In college, I actually did a phone interview with Iris and then I met her in person when she came to UCLA for a book signing. I remember that she was really nice and really passionate about having the Japanese government atone for the Nanking massacre. It's still hard to believe that someone like that would sink to a point where she thought suicide was the only solution. Nevertheless, I'm really glad I got this assignment. It seemed like a unique way to honor her. Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but I made a major error in my UCLA Daily Bruin article on her book, RAPE OF NANKING. I still cringe when I think of it. For some reason, my brain cells weren't all there and I had called Nanking a "village" when in fact, it was China's former capital city. I still feel bad and wonder when Iris read the article, if she thought I was a total ditz. I feel especially foolish because I still would like to have a career similar to hers--journalist and novelist. Though I'm more about pop culture and chick lit then hard-core investigative journalism that makes a difference. All in all, I'm really proud that I got a sort of do-over and the end result is an--I believe--accurate and in-depth portrait. The article won't be online for a couple more months. If you want to read it, you'll have to see if your local Borders or Barnes & Noble carries Audrey. And I know people will think I planned this, but you'll never guess who's on the cover of this issue. Look at the cover above.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Me "hanging" with Lea at the San Francisco Performing Arts Library in November '04. Posted by Hello

V-Day thoughts

So, I keep forgetting that today is the day Cupid turns a profit. On Saturday, I went to see Lea Salonga in concert at the Nob Hill Masonic Center in the city. If you didn't know that Lea is one of my favorite singers, then that means you and I must get to know each other better in the future. Most people haven't heard of her because at the music store, her work is filed under movie soundtracks (Jasmine in "Aladdin" and Mulan), showtunes (Kim in "Miss Saigon"--won a Tony for that--and Eponine in "Les Miz") or easy listening (a pop album that didn't fare too well here). She's from the Phillippines but resides in L.A. now. Anywho, San Fran was the first of four concerts on her first U.S. tour.

In between belting out Broadway numbers and Pilipino songs, she crooned "Someone to Watch Over Me," prefacing it with Valentine's Day talk about how it doesn't matter if you're gay or straight, she truly believes every person has someone he/she is meant to be with. Nothing against her ideals, but I don't know if I like the idea that there's only one person for me. How am I supposed to find him? There isn't any special detector or sonar equipment. Also, it's liket that scene with Meg Ryan and Carrie Fisher in "When Harry Met Sally." The man I'm supposed to be with could already be married. As I write this, he could be eating dinner with some other girl. And I only be left thinking "That b**** is eating with my guy!" BTW, I'm pretty calm right now; I know it may not seem like that, hehe. Well, I'm too young to be that cynical yet. Best be off before my ranting gets me tangled in a butterfly net. Laters!

Friday, February 04, 2005

Yes he's real and he's even cuter than Dumbo. Posted by Hello

Help Wanted? Anyone?

For the first time since arriving back from my trip, I took an itty-bitty baby step--more of a crawl, if you will--in my quest for a real, honest-to-goodness job. I attended a job fair today put on by ASNE (American Society of Newspaper Editors) and the San Jose Mercury News. The all-day affair drew about 15 recruiters--mostly from California-based dailies--and many jobless applicants and fresh-faced college grads. Although I feel more simpatico with magazines, I am open to possibly being a features reporter at a big or small newspaper. And as you all know, I need to chuck the internship shackles. Obviously, I'm not quite ready to jump in as a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times or the San Francisco Chronicle. Overall, the "diversity" job fair was encouraging and discouraging.

In my naivete, for about a minute I thought a real job lead might come out of it. Then I started hearing the same old song: we're not hiring right now, but here's what the candidate-mold--which you don't quite fit. Basically, I'm quite ripe for a position on a community newspaper or if a tiny town is in need of a town crier. The recruiter from the Oakland Tribune complimented me on my writing style (which I liked) and said what I needed to do was get the heck out of the Bay Area for at least a year and live in a small town like Tracy (which I didn't like). If I have to move, I will move. But can't I be picky about it?

Joe Grimm, the recruiter for the Detroit Free Press, was the keynote speaker at lunch. I had never heard of him before though he's quite the known figure in journalism job circles. He's quite a funny guy. He gave a "speech that wasn't really a speech" by telling us different recruiting anecdotes and asking us to say if what the applicant did "works or doesn't work." The last story he told really has you questioning how much of the brain a human neglects to use. A long time ago, a young woman who was the movie reviewer for the Free Press, was driving when a branch fell onto her windshield, resulting in her death. Just one of those unfortunate freak accidents. Shortly after, as the staff began mourning together, Joe received a call that started something like this: "So, I hear you need a new movie reviewer..." Though Joe said it was a little premature, the guy wouldn't quit pestering him so Joe said he could send in his clips of past movie reviews. The very next day, the clips arrived. Aside from not being very well-written, they came in a messy fashion--as though someone had spilled coffee on them. The guy called back and asked Joe to pass them onto the arts editor. Joe said no because frankly, they weren't good and they were stained. This is how the rest of the conversation went:
Applicant: "Oh, THAT. My cat got sick."
Joe: "You turned in clips that your cat got sick on?!"
Applicant: "Don't worry. He died."

After lunch, I caught the end of a panel--"How to get your first job." The Mercury News had rounded up four of their younger employees. By coincidence, they were mostly Asian American women--one of them was my editor for a year at the Daily Bruin(!)--and two of them write for the A&E section. I couldn't help but be a little envious. What can I say except I'm human. I felt like I was watching a special club in which I still haven't been able to gain membership. I haven't gotten out from under the shadow of internships (not that I'm not grateful for all the opportunities I have) but here are these girls who are of similar age and ethnic background and they somehow made shorter paths to very cool career destinations. Yeah, I know a lot of it is timing and luck. But, there's only so many times I can tell myself that without going too nutty. Oh well, if I feel blue, I'll just look at my baby elephant picture (See above).

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Home again

Well, I'm back in California. And I made it through customs with all of my grandma's odd gifts. (I doubt many people understand the risk of embarrassment at having to declare dried shrimp and dried fish bladder to U.S. customs agents)Everything looks different--the difference in cleaniness is amazing. And I was a little weirded out when I got off the plane at SFO and saw non-Asian employees for the first time in a couple of weeks.

Gotta mention that while I was in Bangkok, I got a haircut. Normally, I would never get a haircut in another country; I have a hard enough time trusting salons in this country. But my sweet cousin Somchai wanted to treat Jen and I to "girlie" activities and took us to this hairdresser near his own home. The stylist, a skinny Thai man with a shaved head except for a small clump tied back (yes, he was gay) was astoundingly deft and fast with scissors and a comb/knife. It was like getting cut by Edward Scissorhands. Although it doesn't look like the picture of Reese Witherspoon that I had pointed to, it's growing on me. I don't think many American stylists could pull it off. After the cut, the assistant stylist blow dried my hair. She had a great haircut--like a long-layered-Jennifer-Aniston coif going on. After we finished at the salon, Jen, Somchai, Somchai's sister Ann and I got into the car. Then Somchai dropped a mini-bombshell and told us the assistant stylist used to be a man. We thought he was playing a dumb practical joke 'til Ann (who knows almost no English) said "Yes, ladyboy." I know my radar for transsexuals isn't exactly at the highest signal, but I had no clue. I kept thinking about how I had admired her figure and the cute flower-belt she was wearing. Do I even still use feminine pronouns? And she was so gentle when shampooing my hair. Apparently, Thailand is actually a big sex-surgery capital because it's much cheaper than other countries. The things you learn...

Anyway, the last day, before I had to catch a 10:25pm flight for Tokyo, the entire family piled into a 10-person van with driver and we rode the train on the memorial Bridge on the River Kwai in the city of Kanchanaburi (may be spelling it wrong). After lunch, we stopped off at an elephant park and I got to feed a baby elephant. The elephant even knows how to bow. That's more manners than a lot of people. We tried to pack as much quality family time. Somchai hired the driver to stay longer and drive us to the airport so almost the entire gang could come along for the ride. Jen and I had an entire entourage carrying our luggage into the airport. After we exchanged goodbyes and hugs, the two of us walked into passport control. While in line, I turned around and saw the entire family was still out there waving to us--not quite ready to say farewell. It occurred to me at that moment that I really hit the jackpot. Besides reuniting with my grandma for a little while, I discovered an entire branch of relatives whose company I truly enjoy. I now see where a lot of my personality traits--good or bad, hehe--come from. Although I'm glad to be home in my own bed, a part of me is still in Bangkok. Hopefully, I'll be able to visit again soon and keep my new familial bonds growing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Condeman lives in Bangkok!

So, my last couple days in Bangkok, I got to see the fun and consequences of the sexual culture in Thailand. Three days ago, Jen asked Somchai to take us to Patpong, Bangkok's red light district. Basically, it's a couple blocks of go-go dancers and sex shows. We did everything short of actually going inside. From what I could see, the girls parade around in bikinis and each one has a number on her. Different men kept coming up to Somchai trying to lure him in to watch. A few also asked us girls too. Overall, it doesn't look that different from what you'd see in sleazy parts of big cities in the U.S. Except in Thailand, most of the customers seem to be Japanese businessmen and older, unattractive white dudes.

The next day for lunch, I asked Somchai to take us to this restaurant called Cabbages and Condems. The eatery was started by this doctor who worried about the overpopulation of Thailand due to lack of access to birth control. His reasoning is that condems should be as attainable as vegetables at the grocery store. Hence, the name of the restaurant, whose profits go toward the clinic next door. The food was pretty good. Some of the menu items have cheesy names like Condem Salad. The atmosphere is definitely geared toward tourists. Nice chairs and table cloths. But the walls are adorned with condems from around the world--Tanzania, Russia, India (brand name of Kama Sutra of course) and pictures of Condeman. When they bring you the bill, they throw in a condem for each person. Funny enough, the condems are American-made.

My next post will probably come when I'm back in California. I'm actually at Narita Airport in Japan awaiting the last leg of my trip home. How my last day in Bangkok and overall impressions of my trip deserve its own post.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Should have done something shorter than "neurosurgeon"

OK, before I get to the explanation for this entry's title, let me recap our last day-and-a-half in Siem Reap.

Yesterday, we visited some more famous temples and took a boat ride along Tonle Sap Lake. There's a whole boating community of Vietnamese refugees as well as Cambodians living along the lake. As you can imagine, it's pretty filthy but the people, especially the kids, can be quite charming. After we watched the sunset on the lake, the three of us were taken to a restaurant across the street from our hotel. Another buffet, of course, ensued along with a live show of traditional Cambodian dance. The routines went back and forth between guys and girls in play clothes dancing jovially to the girls wearing really elaborate, shimmering costumes with tall, pagoda-esque headdresses and bending their hands in ways I didn't think were possible. At the end, they let the tourists run up on stage and take pics with any of the dancers. You can imagine how many guys wanted their photo taken with the girls. One group of tourists, mostly Caucasian, posed with five of the girls and one older, BIG white guy in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts put his arm around a girl without even asking her. As Jen would say, pervy.

Today, an acquaintance of Jen's, Andrea showed us a great silk store to buy from. Andrea grew up in England and used to live in the Bay Area. She was a PR person in Southern Cali before. Now, she and her husband run a guest house B&B in Siem Reap. What's cool is that they hired only locals for their staff and paid for them to learn English. They have their own local guides, drivers and even a gardener. It's the locals who could use jobs and new opportunities that really benefit. They also run a school for some local children next to their B&B and encourage guests to give a few English lessons. Andrea led us to this really charming, Cambodian-Western cafe with balcony seating. She also shared stories about her business which is only about a year old. A few months ago, she had a single guy come to the B&B. He was really paranoid about catching bird flu and refused to eat anything with eggs in it. This same man asked Andrea's assistant if he could hook him up with a Cambodian prostitute and bring her back to the B&B. This man also bragged about sleeping with more than 200 prostitutes throughout Southeast Asia. Safe to say this man definitely does not think with his head.

Later on in the afternoon, about four hours before we were due at the airport to fly back to Bangkok, we took a touk-touk (a motorized wagon with a canopy) out to the landmine museum. I highly recommend that just because the subject matter is so compelling. It was started by a former child soldier for the Khmer Rouge named Aki Ra. He spends a lot of his time clearing landmines throughout Cambodia and turned his collection into a museum. The museum is actually three wooden shacks that show press clippings about his cause, actual deactivated unexploded ordinances, etc. There are also 10 children, all with injuries like lost limbs due to landmines, living on the premises and learning English. I chatted with a couple and they were really sweet. It really breaks your heart to think of the pain they had to endure. There were some Europeans living there as well as volunteer teachers. I've thought of volunteer teaching but I don't know if I could go hardcore and live in a hut.

Ooh, I should wrap this up. Well, we got to the Siem Reap Airport with plenty of time to spare before our 8pm boarding time. This airport is pretty tiny--all the gates are in one room and there's only one eatery--a coffee stand really. Only a couple airlines fly into it. Somchai, Jen and I managed to grab a table. Later on, we started asking Somchai what games he knows and ended up playing Hangman. After a couple rounds, Jen wanted me to pick something for them to guess and I decided on neurosurgeon. Somchai was so on the verge of getting it that we didn't even bat an eyelash when Jennifer said 'What's that smell? It's coming from them closing up the cafe." Somchai was still trying to guess when one of the coffee stand employees said to us "Um, your flight." We turned around and saw that the entire room was empty of travellers and Thai Airline employees were standing by the open gate looking at us. So, yes, three generally responsible adults almost missed their flight because of Hangman. The only reason anyone knew to get us was because we were on the last flight out and the airport was virtually empty. And not to name names, but one person in our group was almost 2 for 2 in the missed flights department. Anyway, I'm now safely ensconced in my relatives' home in Bangkok with my 90-year-old Grandmother doting on my every move and even going through my underwear.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Now in Siam Defeated

Siem Reap translated means Siam Defeated. Cambodia and Thailand didn't always get along, hehe.

So, I don't know if anybody is actually reading these posts. But, what the is rather therapeutic for me. And I have a forum to say that Cambodia is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited. With the exception of a few concrete roads, there's nothing but lush jungle and woods. There is a healthy mix of bayons (the kind of tree Buddha would meditate under), palms and other cascading trees. The pace is pretty slow and their rush hour even seems easy-going compared to traffic back home. Tourism here will probably only continue to grow; new luxury hotels seem to be springing up everywhere. Alas, most of the locals--a lot of them children--have to sell goods like clothes, souvenirs, or cold beverages to make money. The little children are frighteningly persistent and will follow you for several feet before giving up. You feel bad because they look so vulnerable but even when you buy once, others nearby don't give up on pitching items to you.

Today, the three of us rose early for the second day in a row. This time, we caught the sunrise at Angkor Wat. It was pretty amazing and peaceful. I really like our tour guide for the whole time we're in Cambodia. His name is Prom Chomrong. He is a local who lost three relatives to the Khmer Rouge. Chomrong always tries to take us through temples where there are fewer crowds or where there's shade. (It's a sauna out here) Yesterday, he regaled us with stories about his experience as a driver on the set of the first Tomb Raider movie. He got to chauffer Angelina Jolie around Siem Reap. When I asked if she was nice, I think he misunderstood and thought I asked if he thought she was pretty. He said he didn't much like her because her "lips too big" and she was "too skinny" and "dark-skinned." He didn't like how she was dark in real-life but the camera made her look white. Apparently, he was more impressed by her stand-in.

At this same temple where Tomb Raider filmed, there's a little 83-year-old-man who for years has taken it upon himself to sort of maintain different nooks and crannies of the place. It's an awesome temple; there are a bunch of trees whose roots somehow grew on top of parts of the temple. A picture of his smiley face graced the cover of a recent Lonely Planet Cambodia. I'm sure everday, somebody cries out "It's the Lonely Planet guy!" OK, I was one of those people. But Jen got really excited and took a couple of pictures. Some of the people here are pretty amazing. I'm going to be sorry to leave although the sketchy bathrooms I keep encountering will help ease the pain. Well, off to take advantage of the indoor plumbing at our hotel and wash off the aches of some of the intense climbing we did today.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Nothing like hugging after a butt-kicking

Hi all! I found a cheap cyber cafe in this six-story mall in Bangkok. Everything is more Westernized than I expected. They have crammed so many stores, arcades, pharmacy, etc. in here. Not sure if it's more bad than good.

Last night, Somchai and his friend took me and Jen to watch muay thai, a Thai boxing match at one of two boxing stadiums in Bangkok. There are 10 matches and the whole evening starts with boys between the ages of 12-15 facing off. Each match consists of five rounds unless one person gets really knocked out. After four matches, the competitors went higher in age so it got a lot more interesting. According to Somchai, a boxer gets points for using different parts of his body. So, there's kicking as well as hitting involved. After each bout, which usually got pretty intense, the guys always made it a point to hug. I don't know if they do that in American boxing. But, it's funny that Thai manners seem to resonate in everything.

After six matches, the four of us left for this street called Khao Sarn. It's a long street filled with vendors, massage parlors, and people getting their hair braided. It was a major buffet for the eyes and ears. I saw that some food vendors were selling fried bugs and worms. Blech! Sorry, but I'm not a Fear Factor kind of girl. Somchai took us to this really good Thai restaurant called Tom Yum Kung. I think I had the best Thai meal ever had--really yummy coconut milk soup, chicken with cashews and awesome pad thai. After dinner, we went back to the car. In Bangkok, there's often someone lingering by where you park your car. If so, you'd be smart to pay them like 10 bahts to watch your car. Otherwise, it might not be in the same condition you left it. Also, a lot of people leave the car in neutral so if someone needs to get out, they can just push your car up so they have space. I learned this when Somchai got out of the car and single-handedly pushed a parked truck a few inches.

Well, tonight, we are supposed to have dinner at my uncle's because my grandma hasn't seen me since our arrival. Should be interesting, especially if there are old pictures of my father lying around. Sigh...have to get up at 5am tomorrow to catch a 7:30am flight to Siem Reap. Funny how we call it a vacation but we make ourselves get up early for a jam-packed day.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Tang-Chotipuriphan Reunion

Well, the last couple days have sorta been a whirlwind. Our last full day in Tokyo, we tried to take it easy because we had to get up 6am the next day to catch a flight to Bangkok. We just checked out this garden that used to belong to the Shogun and is surrounded by a moat. I bet it's beautiful in the spring. But now, most of the trees are bald and there are only a few peonies in their Peony Pavilion. After that, Jen and I checked out the Sony Building where they have showrooms for PS2, music players, High-Definition TV, digicams, etc. We both drooled over a tiny network walkman. The prices ranged from $158-$258, depending how many MB you wanted. I think for $258, you could have 512 MB (23 CDS worth). It's a really small gadget. Think it's a better deal than an iPod? Our feet got really tired, so we parked ourselves in front of a HD TV showing a sumo match. This elderly Japanese woman sat down and started talking to us. Leave it to Jennifer. Although Jen knows only like four phrases in Japanese like "Do you speak English?" and "Excuse me," she somehwo sustained a 20-minute conversation with this 83-year-old lady--who by the way was very sweet. Jen's social skills know no linguistic boundaries.

Anywho, I'm in Bangkok now. I'm staying at the Sol Twin Towers. When we arrived yesterday, I spotted my cousin Somchai and we officially met for the first time. His brother, sister, mom (who's full Thai) and dad (my dad's older brother) all live in Bangkok. At the time my uncle settled in Thailand, there was anti-Chinese sentiment. So, he changed his last name to Chotipuriphan. You could see how he'd get that out of the name Tang, lol. As soon as he said Grandma was waiting for me outside the hotel, I ran over to where she was. For those who don't know, I grew up with my Grandma or Mah-Mah. Two years ago, she moved here to live with my uncle. As soon as she saw me, she leapt up from the bench. And that's pretty good for a 90-year-old. Though she's a little skinnier, Grandma is more or less the same; most synapses firing. This is especially good news because it could be a great genetic omen of how I'll be in another 60 years. She got kind of misty-eyed when we hugged. I have to say that has been one of the bigger highlights of my travels so far.

Before we could blink, Jen and I were whisked into Somchai's car with him, his dad and Grandma. On our way to dinner, Somchai's cell started to ring. Then he suddenly pulled the car over and my uncle popped out of the car. Jen and I thought something was really wrong. Somchai said his cell had fallen somewhere behind the seat and they needed to look for it. Later on when we got to the restaurant, uncle got out of the car, stumbled and did a sort of wobbling squat and managed to get himself back up just before contact would have been made with the ground. It was after these two incidents that I finally saw the family resemblance between myself and them.

We went to this firepot restaurant in a mall called Paradise at the Mall. Afterwards, uncle insisted on taking me to the bowling alley on the same floor. This bowling alley is one of three that my father has financial investments in. An old friend of his talked him into being a backer. I find this quite amusing since as far as I know, my father has never bowled a game. The man does know his way around a ping-pong paddle; but that's all I know. Anyway, I don't know if I get to call myself a bowling alley heiress.

So, my biggest fear is getting some kind of gastro-food-poisoning affliction. Please wish me luck. I still have Cambodia to conquer in two days.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

I'm a giant ... for a little while

Kanichiwa! So, you know it's quite a feat if someone of my stature feels like a giant. Everything is so compact here in Tokyo, from our hotel room to the Hagen Daaz containers which look more like condiment holders on a TGIFriday's plate. Jen and I are staying at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel. It's pretty swanky. I'm at their Yahoo! cafe. There are a bunch of stores and even a bowling alley where you can catch the Japanese people in their business suits and sneakers bowling on break from work. The toilet in our bathroom is also an interesting piece of work. It's one of those electronic deals with a shower/bide option and a seat that maintains a level of warmth. Of course, I had to try it. I hope the room next door didn't hear me yelp when a spurt of very tepid water hit me. I don't think many guys get as far on first dates. Anywho...we've eaten a lot of good ramen at ramen bars. Every restaurant in Tokyo either has only bar stools or six tables with sliding doors. Like I said, everything is economy size. Yet, I'm fighting not to break the bank.

Today, our first full day, Jennifer's friend Eri, such a sweetie, took us around to some great economical shopping spots. The Japanese come up with the most interesting things for home and everyday use. I bought a rice ball molding tray. (The next hordeurves I serve will rock.) We also met Eri's husband and I don't think I've ever met such a ball of energy. He literally came bounding out of his office. He tried to use a little bit of English like when he ran up the steps outside of his building, singing the Rocky theme. BTW, Eri and Jen know each other from Spain. So, it was cool that the three of us spoke in Spanish and could talk about how sucky people sitting near us at dinner were for smoking. It was like sharing a table with three chimneys heating during a winter night. Overall, we're really enjoying ourselves. But not sure how tomorrow will fare. We won't have our own personal tour guide any more. It's all part of the adventure I guess! Sayonara and hope everyone is doing well!

Friday, January 07, 2005

Now open for posting!

Well, I've crossed over into the world of the blogger. We'll see how long it lasts. It could be the start of something profound and culturally relevant...or just a scrap of an impulse that will eventually disappear in the landfill of cyberspace. On the one hand, I'm not sure if I'll have anything life-altering or amusing to say here. However, the one thing that I've learned is that EVERYONE has a story, even those who like to tell one. Right now, I'm in a transition period. I have been gently nudged out of the internship nest at WIRED. But, before I can think about job hunting, I'll be getting ready for a 15-day trip to Bangkok and Siem Reap, Cambodia with a three-day lay-over in Tokyo. Except for Bangkok, I've never been to the other two places. I'm unabashedly stoked!! Yes, I know it's Thailand--a tsunami-drenched area. But we are not going to the south. So, we'll be fine. We is my cousin Jennifer and I. Hopefully, I'll encounter more adventures than misadventures. I'll see my grandma for the first time in two years and get to know my cousins on my dad's side. Thank goodness one of them, Somchai, speaks English! I really hope to post while I'm gone. Thanks for reading and again, welcome!