In celebration of my 2 year anniversary of this great big adventure, and in the spirit of housekeeping and general updates, please find below a State of Legal Nomads Update, from 736 days into my trip. The format is the same as Jess’ 100 days in report from 2008.
1) Environment. After a magical time in Burma, followed by ten days of temple-hopping in Angkor, I have a rented a room in Bangkok for the next few months. Unlike the many larger apartment buildings in the city my room is off a small garden, with a shared kitchenette outside. The landlady loves to decorate, and it shows: the room is sumptuously put together, with some serious attention to detail. The best part of all is that it is costing me less if I were renting a hostel dorm bed for a month. The room is also on a smaller Soi tucked behind Victory Monument, and every time I walk down the street, the entire alleyway either asks me “Where are you go?” or gives me a wide smile and a hearty wave. Though I feel that I have stepped out of Bangkok proper and into Mr. Roger’s Neighbourhood, it is a lovely feeling to have after so many months of moving around. I haven’t unpacked my bag and stayed put since my two months in glorious El Nido, and this time there are no rats chewing up my computer cord – yet. There is, however, the landlady’s dog – who is not my biggest fan. Let’s see how his condescension holds up against some succulent chicken treats….
2) Economy. Though the long hours were definitely tough, working as a lawyer enabled me to save up over the span of several years, and thus I am still on the same budget that I set for myself when I left. On average, I stay in $4-10 a night places, and since I have a serious street food addiction, no meal runs me over $1-2, unless it is a special treat (such as this Friday’s upcoming all-you-can-eat sushi bonanza). Due to the whole ‘being a midget’ thing, I am also a cheap date when it comes to alcohol, so I never blow my budget on that and certainly tend to avoid drinking when travelling solo as common sense would dictate. Overall, though South Africa and Australia were expensive, life in Asia isn’t – and staying here made perfect sense to keep me within my budget and eat as much sticky rice as possible.
3) Healthcare. Happily, since those initial months of bronchitis, sinusitis, torn tendons and a variety of parasites, I (knock on wood) appear to be healthy.
4) Agriculture and Food. Given my aforementioned street food ‘problem’, there is no shortage of awesomeness in this category. The state of agriculture and food is strong. Very very strong.
5) WMD’s. No sign of them here in Thailand, though the red shirt protests have certainly put the country on edge. For updated news and information, please see Thailand140’s media roundups, the Bangkok Pundit’s Blog and Newley.com. The giant game of chicken continues with the red shirts occupying the main commercial shopping area and blocking traffic, demanding a dissolution of parliament. Thus far, the government has refused to use force to disperse, and has also refused to dissolve parliament prior to its 9 month offer of earlier last week. Talks between the parties have failed, and though the movement has been astonishingly peaceful (and as my red shirt protest pictures show, even celebratory), things do tend to be turning at the moment. This weekend, a young Thai man drove his Porshe into a crowd of redshirt protesters, and a women did the same today. Arrest warrants for 10 redshirt core leaders have been approved by the Administration of Peace and Order this afternoon, and the anti-red vitriol on Twitter and Facebook is getting frothier. Hopefully things will stay peaceful.
6) Allies. Legal Nomads finally has a Fan Page on Facebook, and at the time of this State of Legal Nomads address, is seeking allies to join it. I will be posting videos and pictures from the blog and my trip there.
7) Domestic Affairs. There are certain things I miss from home. I get peoplesick, of course – how could I not miss my friends and family? But there are other items I miss, more tangible ones.
– Poutine. There are a few fellow Tweeters who wax poetic about this mind-numbingly terrific, cholesterol-filled meal endemic to my home city of Montreal. For those who have never tried its deliciousness, poutine is a bowl with interspersed layers of french fries and cheese curds (the squeaky cheese variety), topped with steaming hot chicken gravy. As the gravy is poured, the cheese melts and the fries get chewy and it is truly a terrific taste sensation. No question about it, the best poutine there is at La Banquise, preferably at 4am. But I’ll take any poutine at this point; I love the greasy, goopy, cheesy deliciousness. My mother is meeting me in Hong Kong for a few days at the end of April and has promised to bring St. Hubert Poutine Gravy with her. Now I just need to find a worthy cheese in Bangkok.
– Extra Sharp Old Cheddar Cheese from Quebec: Oh, crazy, tangy cheddar – how I miss you so. Sure, I can go and pick up some English old cheddar from Villa Supermarket here in Bangkok, but it merely leaves me wanting. Nothing cheeselike makes me happier than the biting-you-back feeling of eating some Old Quebec cheese, preferably with wine.
– Cadbury Creme Easter Eggs: I have a confession to make: I don’t even like the chocolate around the egg. I merely crack open the top and then scoop out all the sugary treats inside, discarding the shell. But no matter, because these are nowhere to be found in Bangkok. For real, people. I’ve searched every ex-pat supermarket and store, and they just don’t have them. Thankfully, that’s what care packages (and people doing visa runs to bring them back for me) are for: I am eating these mini Cadbury Creme Eggs as slowly as possible to savour them the longest.
– The Smell of Conifers: this one hits me fairly regularly, and to the dismay of the random lady at the market selling pine cones (but why can’t I smell them?). I grew up spending my weekends near the Vermont border (on the Canadian side), buried deep within the forest in my dad’s country house. The smell of pine trees is deeply embedded in my blood at this point, and nothing makes me happier than when I’ve found a patch whilst on the road. I tend to skip off into the forest and start smelling tree bark. It’s a bit awkward.
8) Foreign Affairs. Though some expected this trip to ‘get the travel out of my system’, it is fairly obvious that no such thing will ever happen. Unfortunately for my family and loved ones, there’s just no separating the travel from the Jodi. Thus: I will stay in Bangkok until June and then head back to New York in time for TBEX, and then spend the summer with friends and family, and trying ascertain what exactly I plan to do for the rest of my life work-wise. Also, I need to make sure I re-certify as an attorney admitted to New York State so as to keep my bar membership. For my tradition of climbing a birthday mountain, I believe I will aim for Iceland – excellent climbing to do, and it is far cheaper than it used to be (ah, economy crash). I’ve promised my brother that I will meet him in Nepal come September, and then who knows! Something tells me I will be heading back to Bangkok at some point in the not-so-distant future, on a much less temporary basis.
That’s the news that is fit to print for the moment! I have also been aggregating a list of FAQs that people ask me about my travels, so if you have any questions, please feel free to email them to legalnomads-at-gmail.com and I will add them to the list.