A couple of weeks ago, I travelled to the USA for SxSW, or South By Southwest, to meet my new coworkers at Automattic as well as help out with the WordPress booth. After a week of SxSW, The Wife joined me as we travelled to San Francisco, to experience California. Here’s a brief travelog.
In a visit that would turn out to be much more appreciated than was expected, the Girlfriend and I flew to Thailand a few weeks ago. As it turns out, there’s a lot more to that country than meets the eye, certainly enough to merit a travelog.
The stay was just under two weeks at a quite luxurious resort called Evason. Time was spent mostly examining poolscapes, beachscapes and umbrella-drink-scapes. While this certainly makes for delicious if not expensive living, it’s not the part of Thailand I’ll be chronicling. More interesting to me was the profuse friendliness and politeness I was met with mostly everywhere. Having met a plethora of ego elsewhere in the world, this baffled me enough to inquire about. The response was: “this is a good job, I like it”. Smarter than me, this cookie was. A relief to hear also, as it made me feel less like an evil european colonial lord and more like simply another well-treated customer who eventually had a bill to take care of.
The trip from Bangkok airport to the resort was a full three hours in an air-conditioned cab; a trip which kindled more anecdotes than are worth writing about. And here they are. In a city as polluted as Bangkok and a country as warm and moist as Thailand in the rainy season, I suspect an AC set to 18 degrees Celsius is as much an expression of luxury as it is cold inducing. It also helps me explode my CO2 footprint, which I’m sure has been tenfold its usual during the just spent fortnight.
Speaking of C02, I noticed a surprising amount of very large cars. 75% of everyone drove pickup trucks, mostly the Toyota Hilux brand. Another 75% drove SUVs so large they needed an extra rearview mirror. The remaining 50% drove silver sedans that looked just alike. The whole 200% amounted to double the amount of cars I’m used to see. Now you’d think the treehugger in me would bitch at the Thai people for driving gas guzzlers, but in fairness I have no doubt the CO2 footprint of every thai is a mere fraction that of westerners; this was often exemplified by the small crowds gathered on the bed of the pickups.
Interestingly, the assortment of cars also spoke to me of infrastructure, taxation law and the lack of railways. But enough about that. A more interesting observation is the complete absence of well-tasting milk and male baldness. I wonder if there’s a connection there.
At one point we visited Koh Talu, an island modelled after the collective consciousness minds-eye image of paradise. It looks like this:
We went snorkling here. Saw fish of most colors and shapes. Not in this cave, but just outside it:
The food was without exception, exceptional. So with no surprises, I’m here to confirm your suspicions that Thai food in Thailand is as good as you’d assume it was. The culinary highlight of the whole trip was a Tom Ka soup which is now my favourite dish in the world. It’s an explosion of foody happiness which everyone in their right minds should try several times in this life or the next. The Pad Thai is not bad either.
Good food, friendly people, lots of sun and beaches. You’d think I’d never want to leave. On the contrary, as good and as welcome as this vacation was, it surprised even me that by the end of it, I longed back for Denmark. After a while, the food starts to taste a bit too boullion, the sun starts to become a bit too scorching and the near-swamp-humidity a bit too taxing. As cold and grey the sky looked as I strode out of the return-plane, I have to admit I twirled my metaphorical cane in happiness. I believe I’m built for the cold, lonely icescapes of the north. And so, I decided I was a scandinavian after all.
I call this image “Scandinavian Tristesse”, or “I’m really not as sad as I look”.
Last week was spent traveling Italy’s football, or as the locals call it, Sicily. The girlfriend and I traveled from Copenhagen to Rome to Catania, the eastern part of Sicily, where we logged into a hotel. A taxi trip from the airport and to our hotel turned out to be not as cheap as we’d hoped. 50€ will buy you just about anything these days, including a Fiat Punto for a whole day. So that’s what we did for the remainder of the trip.
As it turns out, Italians are passionate and their driving skills are insane. Combine the two and you have an intra-city traffic ballet the likes of which will either propel your driving skills to eleven, or (statistically almost as likely) kill you. As of this writing, I have not yet been killed in Italian traffic. Barely.
As seen from above it might seem beautifully orchestrated; cars switching lanes without signaling as such, merging impossibly and never, ever stopping to enjoy the view that is a red light. Three times I tried stopping at the red lights, three times angry sounds of car horns urged me to ignore it. Apparently both red and green means “Go” in Italian.
Remember Lando Calrissians narrow trip through the Death Star in Jedi? That’s what Italians do in cars. Every day. (Through cities, not Death Stars).
Even so, driving up the side of Etna, all alone, was worth it.
Aside from being really lousy (or great?) drivers, I can confirm the rumour that Italians make excellent pizzas. We found a really great simple pizzeria at the side of the road towards the hotel and their Diavola, also known as pepperoni pizza, is out of this world excellent. From this day forth I shall only eat that type of pizza.
They also make great ice-cream.
I was very careful not to try the poison.
Overall the trip left us satiated with Italy. Which is a good thing. Visiting off-season, I’m sure, made for a very different experience; there were far less tourists than I imagine visit Catania during the summer. Two recommendations for those of you who ponder a trip to Sicily: get a great hotel and rent a car from day one—pick up and deliver at the airport.