Sunday, January 16, 2005

Adventures in Bangkok

Well life in Bangkok is getting along, I just met with a guy who is probably the biggest name (its all relative) in manure fed aquaculture (if you are in aquaculture then you have probably heard of him). Anyway really nice guy I shelled out about 600 baht and took him to a restaurant he suggested, freakn nice place, read s-w-a-n-k, and if 600 baht sounds expensive keep in mind its about 40baht to the dollar, so it ran me about $15 for something that would easily cost me $60 in the
US or Europe… GBTB (God Bless The Baht). The upside was he was really interesting and had tons to tell me, the down side is he ended up telling me kinda what I already knew; my study is purely academic and has no real world application. The more I look into this subject the more I find that the really big organizations are kinda like universities, they aren't as firmly rooted in the real world, their work is really interesting but not exactly applicable… Yeah, the more I study fish feed sanitation and think about what I have seen in developing/developed countries the more I think "this won't work in the real world", but its too late for that and I doubt there are many professors in my school program that would disagree with my paper (they are mostly academics). In truth, all of it is quite possible but the labor, economics, and 3rd world mentality involved just make it unrealistic… yeah time to go drown my depression in some Chai yen (in the US known as "Thai Tea") and cheap DVDs.

Speaking of cheap DVDs and drowning sorrow I just recently went to the "Fortune IT Mall", and it kicks a*s. What is it you ask? A mall (of sorts) with the 1st floor of misc stuff, fast food, sunglasses etc, second floor cell phones, billions of them (except for the specific smartphones I was looking for, mainly the Motorola MPx, and the Treo 650 [everyone said they could order the HTC, and there were lots of Treo600s]). I did (on another trip) find the
HTC Blue Angel, man, the reviews looks sweet, the feature set it almost second to none and well, the keyboard sucks goat hooves. Plus the sliding out of the keyboard wasn't as easy as I would like... sigh, guess I will continue to lust after the MPx but its feature set is not quite a nice.

On the 3-4th floor, computer stuff, computer stuff everywhere, games, movies, the most extensive collections of software I have *ever* seen, even applications for SYMBIAN, PalmOS, and MS Mobile operating systems (PDA and smartphone operating systems) …wow. Yes, I did look for some games for my brother (I have his wish list in my PDA) but at the shop I looked in they didn't have the stuff, and I was pretty burned out by the time I remembered to look for your stuff (will go looking again). I did however get my hands on a very nice copy (actually too nice, it cost me about 4 dollars, I think I will stick to my less variety, but cheaper $3.50/DVD place [hey, we have rented blockbuster movies for more than that so nothing too big right?]) of Resident Evil 2, and if you haven't seen it I would say its even better than the first.

They have DVDs of software, want almost everything Microsoft? Get a MS office DVD, has XP all service packs and the pro versions of *all* the MS stuff, same for Adobe, impressive. I will probably get the MS and Adobe DVDs later for consolidation purposes (there was enough junk that I think the software DVDs were probably dual layer, it seemed like more than you could fit on a 4.7gig single layer disk). Speaking of double layer lots of the movies had "Dual Layer" stickers on them, like it was a big deal (most movie DVDs in the US are dual layer), I also wonder how many people even know what it means (in English or Thai)?

Other news? I haven't been practicing Thai, I really should get some more basics though, the counting is coming in handy as I keep mentioning but it doesn't make up for my really bad pronunciation, or lack of vocab. Trying to speak a tonal language totally makes Romanian and Russian seem like cake, and in truth I kinda miss those good ole' European languages every time I try to say something in Thai. But stiff upper lip and all, must keep trying (to my Thai friends that was a subtle cry for help if you didn't catch it)

The mobile phone I got in Italy works fine here, the people at work set me up with (at my request) roaming service, meaning I can use it just about anywhere in SE Asia, not bad. I used it about three times while in Laos but I was told that it is mad expensive so those occasions were urgent.

The differences in prices are even more stark here than Moldova, I guess because you can live crazy kind of extravagant or live "native". I had my first non-native food the other day (while at the IT Mall), KFC; what can I say? I needed some finger lick'n good American fried poultry flesh goodness, but d*mn did it cost me. I sank 89baht (about $2.10) on fries, 4 drumsticks, and a Pepsi, yeah it was good but I can get the same amount of food (soup or Pad Thai) for about $.75 (yes, I was figuring a drink with that price), actually as I think I mentioned in my other email I rarely spend more than $3/day on food, it is usually *more* expensive for me to go to the grocery store! But of course I need some comfort foods so I splurge, even so I have never spent more than $15 at the grocery (usually closer to $10) and I usually go about 1.5 times a week. Yeah eating at the markets #1 is funny for a foreigner because most of them are eating more upscale etc #2 semi-risky, I've gotten mild trots but could be a lot worse (plus I've had shots for hepatitis A/B etc so some of the biggest worries are no more), #3, well no #3 yet but I'll let you know if it comes up.

While on the topic of food, I was having lunch the other day with the guys at the office and they were sitting with a guy, I believe he was Thai. I never got his name but we started talking, he was quite nice and apparently the organization his daughter works for is affiliated with NC State university (though apparently not Ag). He saw me eating Pad Thai (one of the booths has this old lady who speaks some English [it still confounds me considering her age and the number of people that don't speak English here, though it is I who should be learning Thai] and the whole family is quite nice so I tend to buy from them) and mentioned that he heard that Pad Thai is quite popular in the US (by the way, another just-for-my-buddies-fact my stomach isn't treating me well at the moment so I have decided that instead of reading magazines while sitting on the commode I would type on my computer, lets here it for mobility!) I replied that "yeah the first thing most Americans think of when they think of Thai food is #1 Hot and #2 Pad Thai". Later I was eating KFC at the IT Mall place and broke a bit of a sweat, it was the spicy wings and it occurred to me that this doesn't happen to me nearly as much as I thought it would here. That is, the food is not as uniformly hot as I thought it would be, they almost always have hot sauces there and quite often Thais make generous use of the sauces but it isn't scald-your-taste-buds spicy initially, so much for stereo types eh?

I'm living in a dorm, I think it is for foreigners but darn if they don't all look Thai to me (actually I think all but about 5 are Thai, one westerner [other than me], and the rest Vietnamese). Its about 2 blocks away from work and for a two person room (with only me in it), my own bathroom, and AC it costs me about $200/month, and all that for about 1/3rd of what living in Rome/Boston cost me, amazing; and I just recently found out that my co workers are living in half of a house that is 3 times as nice for the same price… geeze.

Dogs are everywhere, like Moldova, but here there are like 2-3 that hang out near where I walk sometimes, they always try to surprise me and scare me by jumping out from underneath a car or from behind a sign, I don't play that, and have chased them down sufficiently calling their bluff but it really makes the ole veins in the neck swell when they threaten me like that, I have been tempted to beat them but they haven't touched me so I won't touch them (yeah sounds harsh but put you in the same position time after time and you too will turn to the dark side). Actually as of late they have taken to just lying there until I pass, they wait until they are out of range then they start barking at me so when I run after them they can get away… grrrrrr. I need a taser or something.

(Ok, off the toilet now). Now that I think about it (again), my close to perfect computer setup would be a moderate speed, huge storage server to hold files (video/audio for streaming) and do all the P2P and DVD conversion/panoramic processing, a huge work station super fast, shit loads of mem, to do whatever on, a kicka*s smarthphone, and a ultraportable notebook. The notebook is what I am thinking about now, the monster I have now lives up to its branding as a "desk top replacement" its *heavy*, too heavy to just carry around, the idea of being able to walk around the house and surf the web (assuming Wi-Fi of course), or sitting on the john typing, or using it as an uber remote for whatever (controlling say winamp or power DVD that is running on my workstation [that has a big screen and the big speakers of course]) appeals to me more and more as I use this goliath. Of course a small "ultraportable" (yeah that's what they are called) wouldn't be able to crunch its way through hefty processing jobs like FlaskMPEG, and even photoshop would be difficult (they are rarely faster than say a gighz) but it wouldn't be for that kind of thing (and in truth, there is kind of a way around that, using say my workstation remotely [maybe with something like VNC], not as difficult as it sounds). Ok enough about that.

I have a semi-bar kind of thing on one side of the dorm, and two little café kinda things on the other side, on the other side of the building next to my dorm is a market with all sorts of stalls with soups, dry fish, and my favorite fried bananas. Yes, that fried fruit has really grown on me, and its somewhat of a chore to *not* buy them considering they cost about $.20 for a meals worth. Anyway, on the other side of my organizations building is a food court of sorts, more native food,
and dirt cheap, a Pad Thai in the US costs like $4 and its ok, here it costs like $.50 and its better. Then there are the main streets that run beside the university, all sorts of food, saw what looked like fried coach roaches but didn't take a picture, yeah I'm kicking myself now. I try to stay away from most of the non-cooked stuff (that includes most fruits etc) but the meats are usually cooked fried and if you eat on the street they do it in front of you so you can see its is cooked and for how long.

Other stuff happening? Not really, or not that I can think of. There is another IT place, its supposed to be bigger but more hectic so I might go there and look for your games, or just go back to this other place (especially if I can figure out how to get there by bus, a *ton* cheaper than taxi [even though taxi only cost me about $2.50 one way])