Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Berta's Bangkok Index:
+ Baipai Thai Cooking School
+ Body Tune massage: ask for Jaruwan (#7) at the Silom Road branch.
+ Yoga Elements Studio: yoga - a self-administered massage!
+ Rut & Lek Seafood: the intersection of Yaowarat Road and Soi Texas in Chinatown. Frong the Ratchavongse pier on the Chao Phrya River, go north and make a right when you hit Yaowarat Road. Soi Texas is about two blocks down the road, and the "restaurant " (it's an expansive sidewalk affair) will be on your left. Highly recommended are the crab fried rice, crab curry, and shrimp with black pepper.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Today I had took a Thai cooking class at a school located in the Bangkok suburbs, in a beautiful open air teak home. I learned how to make fish cakes, chicken larb, padaman pork curry, and water chestnuts in coconut milk. I definitely want to come back to Thailand and take the whole 5-course series.

Later, I stopped by a local grocery store to pick up curry pastes and fish sauce (total, less than $2). Thailand is so liveable. There is so much good food, and the grocery store had such a nice selection of food staples. I don't understand why groceries in Hong Kong and Bangkok are so much better than those in Taiwan (although Taiwanese grocery stores are improving). Maybe it's a population issue, a minimum number of people needed in order to support demand for international foods.

Anyways, I must be jetting off to my yoga class now...!
I just had the BEST massage of my life! To all, if you ever go to Bangkok, stop by the Body Tune massage therapy place on Silom Road and ask for Jaruwan (#7), who is the nicest lady and the best masseuse I have ever had. I've had two two-hour Thai massage session in the past 2 days (for only about $15 each) and a pedicure and manicure for only $6.

I also met up with a friend who was in town for about 24 hours, and we ate at what is supposed to be one of the best seafood restaurants -- Rut & Lek Seafood, on a sidewalk in a corner of Chinatown. Fabulous prawns with black pepper, curry crab, and crab fried rice. I love Thailand!

Monday, December 22, 2003

What a change to travel with just a little bit more money! My arrival to Thailand was so much more pleasant to go to the designated arrivals area at the airport to be greeted by a friendly face from the hotel -- instead of hordes of touts pushing the hard sell. Unfortunately, I was very distressed to find that my cell phone wouldn't work; somehow Chunghwa Telecom wouldn't let me roam upon arrival, which caused me to miss a call from a dear friend that I had hoped to meet up for lunch in the four hours we would overlap in Bangkok.

I eventually overcame my disappointment. It was hard not to, the weather was perfect - not too hot, not too cold. My room number has my lucky number, which I took to be an especially auspicious sign. The hotel is located in a bustling, yuppie part of town. Exploring the environs around my hotel, I came across many chicly designed restaurants. And according to Stan Sesser, the Asian Wall Street Journal's restaurant reviewer, one of the best French cafes is just across the road from my hotel.

Saturday evening I took the Bangkok Sky Train (the Sala Daeng station is just 5 minutes from my hotel) to Sukhumvit Road, where I stopped by the legendary Atlanta hotel, which is Angela's absolute favorite. Unfortunately, rooms were unavailable when I tried to make a reservation. I was able to dine in their restaurant (having my favorite soup, thom kha gai - coconut chicken soup, and an unusual and tasty spicy fresh fruit salad) and peruse their annotated menu, which Lonely Planet's Joe Cummings describes as a crash course in Thai cuisine. Fortunately, the Atlanta staged a special performance of Thai classical dance that evening. Apparently, the three performers were among the top performers in Thailand, and a long-term resident of the hotel provided background information. All this, and for free.

My good fortune continued the next day as I trekked from one end of town to another (in the comfort of the Sky Train) in search of shopping bargains. In the morning, I headed to Chatachuk Weekend Market and navigated the 15,000 stalls. In the afternoon, I headed to the BITEC convention center for Jim Thompson's semi-annual sale. This sale happens only two days a year, and I'm extremely lucky to be in Thailand during this time (and read a tiny blurb about it in Thai Airways' in flight magazine). Fine silk products at 50-70% off! For a pittance, my day's bounty included a number of fine Thai silk and comfortable cotton products.

After I returned to my hotel with all of my shoppings, I set out for Lumphini Park, a 7 minute stroll away. Lumphini Park is like New York's Central Park, an oasis in the center of a bustling city. I passed joggers and young families to catch an hour of the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra giving a free outdoor concert. The concert ended with a fireworks display, and then I headed to Saxophone club, where I listened to acoustic guitarist and and a live band playing soul while I ate fiery sliced beef and eggplant salad. All in all, a very good weekend.

Friday, December 19, 2003

I leave tomorrow morning for my one week vacation to Thailand and Cambodia, whee! In Bangkok, I'll be staying at the Swiss Lodge, and in Siem Reap, I'll stay at the Mysteres d'Angkor. Funny enough, even though I'm going alone, Southeast Asia seems to be the place to be, and I plan to meet up with a few friends and colleagues who will also be in town.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

A rash of birthdays recently: happy birthday to my beloved brother, Galen, and also Maria and Bonnie!

My weekend in a nutshell: Our company had our weiya (year-end party) last Friday at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. Although I didn't win anything in the drawing, I did get a nice meal out of it. Although I'm not a big fan of this old-fashioned American-style food, where all the vegetables are drowning in cheese and cream. But I am a big fan of American dessert, and I quite enjoyed their warm apple crumb tart--which ended up lasting me three days (and which I shared with a colleague of mine). Saturday I went to my roommate's brother's wedding. On Sunday, I listened to my acupuncturist's admonitions and slept in for the first time in months, and then had brunch with friends. The conversation, as usual, was excellent.

Writing of awesomeness, my trainer is the best! Today at lunch I did ab work, continuing some of the exercises I learned last Thursday. One is where I'm in the sit-up position with my arms over my head, holding on to a 4-pound medicine ball. As I sit-up, I throw the ball to my trainer, who is standing about a yard in front of me, who throws the ball back as I lie back down. Lots of fun and you can really feel it. Another execise I did last week was to stand in a static lunge position, arms overhead holding the medicine ball (yes, it apepars again). As I lunge down, one of my arms takes the ball and passes it to my other arm on the other side, and I rise as the other arm lifts the ball overhead. Very cool. Sheng-hong, my trainer, made it even harder by having my front leg rest on a balance mat, which is an inflatable pad that adds a little bit of instability, so that I train my core that much more.

I always feel so much better after working out a lunch. Too bad my dealings with banks here weren't as pleasant, but I'll save that rant for later.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

An article in yesterday's Taipei Times explaining the group I traveled with to Ilan. And in today's New York Times, an article covering the latest issue in Taiwan.
I've decided I'm really not a cat-person. My flatmate and I have been house-sitting her friend's cat for the past week, and I am looking forward to when that cat's owner takes her back tonight. Unlike most cats, this cat isn't aloof and standoffish. She literally rubs me the wrong way. Unlike dogs, who are affectionate in a very cute and appealing manner, this cat manages to be constantly underfoot. I've nearly tripped several times, as has my flatmate. And, this cat has managed to soil every cushion on the couch. This morning I saw that she had thrown up in the living room and balcony, always a good sight to see while eating breakfast.

To top it all off, due to a confluence of factors, I was woken up three times last night by calls -- all of which would not have happened if not for the presence of that cat. This makes for a very sleepy and grouchy Berta at work today. I'm turning off my phone tonight before I go to sleep.

Monday, December 08, 2003

I went to the Chilin Cultural and Educational Center in Ilan yesterday as part of a tour group consisting mostly of foreign nationals who played instrumental roles in Taiwan's democratization. At the Center is the Taiwan Democratic Movement Museum. As Jen and I had worked on the english text of the guide to the Museum, we served as volunteer guides through the museum. What was ironic was that although I'm familiar with the topic, yesterday's trip was also my first visit to the museum, and many of the tour group members spoke better Taiwanese and could read more Chinese characters than me. Most of these visitors had been Presbyterian missionaries to Taiwan.

I always find spending time with Lin Yi-hsiung and his wife quietly inspiring, and yesterday was no different. What made yesterday extra special was that I really was able to get a sense of the excitement, trepidation, and sorrow that some of these people went through as they remained steadfast to their beliefs of social justic, democracy, peace, hope, and love while living under an authoritarian regime.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Brenda told me the music that was playing at the most fun place (besides salsa) is funk and blues.

Boy, am I glad that Sunrise is having a sale. I bought a wonderfully heavy and warm wool comforter on Sunday, perfect for the now damp and chilly winter weather. Very cheap! The department store was swarming with people hunting for bargains though. Ugh. As Maria wrote, "even top class department stores look like night markets."

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

I went to the most fun place Saturday night, the Saturday Latin Lounge at G-Down. Finally, a funky, beautiful space that plays mostly salsa, a little merengue, and what may be funk, old school hip hop, and jazz (I can never classify music, but I know I like it), a place where the people are focused on dancing and not other unsavory missions. Kudos to all the Salsa Taipei folks who are hard at work arranging these events!