Friday, September 13, 2019

Canalside

Villa Mungkala is near a canal in residential old Bangkok, a few blocks south of Banglamphu and close to Democracy Monument.

I'm interested in staying in this area again, to see more of it, though I might try different lodging to get an idea of what's out there. I loved being able to easily walk over to all the services of Khao San--Boots, the supermarket, street food, coffee shops, laundry, and best of all, endless inexpensive Thai massages--but being out of the loud fray was fantastic. When I first went to Bangkok in 2000 and stayed at the Viengtai, Rambuttri was so much more off the beaten path. Now it's pretty chaotic, nearly as much so as its neighbor, Khao San, and my 2011 home-away-from-home, Sakul House, is no more. Still, it's hard for me to leave the area for the glossier downtown, since I like the old character of the neighborhood as well as the conveniences.

I followed my Bangkok routine this morning, dropping off laundry, mailing a box from the post office, then heading downtown by canal boat to hunt for the Naturalizer platform sandals I like (they're not available in the US, and I'm pretty hard on shoes so I've been through a lot of them), and then end my day at MBK, the big Thai mall with local character, as opposed to all the high-end malls that could be anywhere in the world.

Exhausting day, but you know I love Bangkok...







Old Bangkok

Morning in a Bangkok neighborhood.


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Break in Bangkok

Since I was on a business trip to Tokyo, I burned some frequent flyer miles and added two more stops to my journey.

First stop was Bangkok for a few days. I hadn't been in six years, plus I wanted to catch up with my old pal Mr. Fixit from my Kuwait days. He'd just moved to Bangkok last time I was there, but these days he's back and forth to Jakarta, so I wasn't even sure up until the last minute if he would even been in town for my stopover.

On arrival in Bangkok, I headed to the S1 bus. Many years ago, there used to be an airport bus, but it stopped when the airport train opened. This "new" airport bus started a few years ago. There was nothing particularly new about the bus, and it took forever in comparison to the airport train to a taxi, but it was cheap. I took it to Democracy Monument.

I walked down the road to a path along a small canal, eventually arriving at Villa Mungkala, a colonial villa turned bed-and-breakfast. I'd spent so much time in Bangkok over the years, but I'd only ever stayed at the Viengtai, Sakul House, and for a few nights in 2011, at Feung Nakorn Balcony. I'd probably spent a grand total of three months in Bangkok over my various trips, and only stayed off Rambuttri for a grand total of four nights.

So I was really branching out this time, but I still like old Bangkok and the easy access to tourist infrastructure, so I didn't want to go too far away from the tourist mecca of Khao San Road. I'd found a nice compromise in this little canal district a mere ten minutes walk from KSR. I checked in and dropped off my bag, then followed a winding path up to the main road, and headed over to Tang Hua Seng department store.

No, I wasn't trying to buy stuff, aside from a tiny container of coconut milk to use in my morning coffee at the guest house. I was hunting the AEON ATM. It's got the lowest fee of any ATMs in Bangkok, and the department store one has been there since at least 2011, though back then, it had no fee at all.

Next up was dinner at the little sidewalk cafe owned by Max, the guy who does magic tricks for his customers. The food isn't any better or worse than any other sidewalk cafe, but everyone who works there is nice, the food is cheap, and Max has a good sense of humor. He'd gotten the cafe from his aunty in 2008, long before I ate there nightly in summer of 2011.

KSR just keeps growing and developing, but it's still got the same chaotic but charming flavor. I noted a self-serve laundromat. That's new. Usually, you drop your laundry off.



I was tired from my day of travel, but I was also delighted to be in one of my many "homes." This is the place I know best of anywhere I've stayed outside the US and Barcelona. I'd done all I needed to do tonight...check-in, ATM, dinner. Now it was time for my favorite Bangkok pastime.

An hour-long foot massage for just a few bucks. Excellent.




Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Passing

photo by Jeff Feuerzeig
This morning, in my hotel room in Tokyo, I awoke to a message from my writer friend Warren Ellis on my personal email. As opposed to my work email, I mean. That's how I knew to sit up and read it.

He was passing on news. Daniel Johnston, an outsider artist and musician, and more importantly, a friend of mine since 1986, had died.

This was confirmed by the next email I received from Daniel's former manager.

I didn't have time to process this. Daniel died on September 11th, but I was a day ahead in Tokyo and I had to get to the airport on the morning of September 12th.

I finished packing my bag and headed over to Tokyo Station, to get on the Narita Express. My next stop was Bangkok. I sat on the train and thought about all the things I wanted to write, but this wasn't the time.

"Don't write something personal while rushing to the airport," I thought. There would be plenty of time on the plane.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Fan Girling near Tokyo

You guys, I did something fun!

I met Gurihiru, the artists on Superman Smashes the Klan with Gene Yang. It's a series I am editing at DC, along with always-chipper Diego Lopez.

I took the shinkansen (bullet train) to see them out in the 'burbs. We had tea and talked via their translator, and they didn't even mind the few tiny art corrections I'd had to do on issue #1 (going to press Friday). The pleasure was mine.


Sunday, September 08, 2019

Touristing Tokyo

I've been through Tokyo many times en route to other places, but I hadn't actually stopped and been a tourist in at least, what, 20 years?

I was in town with two colleagues. The first day, we met up with our local rep and went to some comic stores and stopped by a few sights.

I went back to the hotel early to wait out my jetlag and see how long the typhoon took to hit us.





Be Vigilant

Oh, sure.

I get to have all the fun.


Saturday, September 07, 2019

The Last Thing I Expected to See

I should be asleep. I’m in Tokyo and hallucinating.


Friday, September 06, 2019

So Long As You Have Your Passport

My sewing machine jammed while I was putting the finishing touches on a new handbag for my Tokyo business meetings.

Like really jammed, so I abandoned that and grabbed a DC Comics messenger bag. At least I’m on brand, I thought, as I shoved a bunch of stuff in a bag and called a Lyft to LAX.

I remembered my passport and my chargers and my snacks. I probably forgot something. Oh, I know. My new business cards.

Somehow I’m on a plane, waiting for takeoff.

I hope the hotel in Tokyo has an iron. I’m guessing it doesn’t have a sewing machine.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Stuff You Should Not Tell Passengers

Last night's Lyft driver:

 "I couldn't sleep at all last night. I went to sleep at 3, woke up at 5 and went to work. Then after work I couldn't sleep either. So here I am driving for Lyft, figured I might as well be doing something."

(As I quietly belt up in the backseat.)

Another fun thing he told me:

He was moonlighting from his job as an airplane engineer at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. He used to work at LAX, and the commute was killing him, until one day he realized he could just hop on a flight.

I don't know how that works since there are no commercial flights on this route. Maybe it's something private or utilitarian. Or maybe he was pulling my leg.