I can now report back to all of you that I have found the place in the world where you can buy anything. It’s the Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok, and it’s amazing. I spent 5 hours there the other day, and I can confidently say I probably saw about 10% of it. Prized items in my haul include: a super cool string of lantern lights for the terrace, candles in the shape of orchids, a woven purse, a huge bag of saffron for about $2, a cute white linen dress for $9, enough Masaman and red curry paste to make a lot of Thai dinners, woven placements, handmade chopsticks with tiny knife and fork decorations on them (utensil irony), and a beautiful painted ceramic tea set. But those things were far from the weirdest or most exotic wares available in Chatuchak. After seeing whole stalls delivered exclusively to the following: silk flowers/snow globes filled with Disney princess dolls/life-size bronze elephant statues, I thought I had seen everything. Then I hit the “puppy” row. That’s right, an entire endless chain of stalls devoted to selling every kind of adorable, wriggling puppy available in Asia. If I thought I could sneak a dog through Pakistan customs, I would have bought one on the spot. (Not that I support keeping little puppies in cages.) Oh, and I also got to drink coconut water out of a coconut they hacked open in front of my eyes, have a surprisingly accurate cartoon of myself done in 6 minutes, and shovel down delicious pad thai from an outdoor makeshift set of “restaurants” in the center of the market that beat […] Read More

Cheeseburgers in Thailand

So: it’s paradise here. I know, I know–everyone told me a million times before I came: Thailand is the coolest, the best, most awesome vacation ever. But I always go into those kinds of things with a wee bit of skepticism. How can you, oh rapturous Thailand-traveler, guarantee that I will like it as much as you did? The answer is because who wouldn’t like the following: pristine beaches, fresh tropical fruit of every description, perfect sunny 75 degree weather in January, delicious spicy brothy curries and noodle soups, friendly hospitable people, easy motorbikes to rent at all hours, a continuous sweet and gentle breeze, gorgeous rolling waves, hour-long massages on the beach for $9, and all manner of other wonderful things to do at what seem like illegally low prices. I have been wanting to come to Thailand for about 10 years now. That’s about the time that Thai food became my favorite kind of food, and when photos and stories of friends’ backpacking adventures starting trickling in. (Oh shoot, and that terrible Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach.” I wish I didn’t have to count that among my influences.) One of the best things about living in Asia is how close you are to a bunch of countries that are really too far away to visit regularly from the U.S. A direct flight from Islamabad to Bangkok is under 5 hours and is fairly reasonable if you book early. Being here–not worrying about my security, not walking through metal detectors, being able to wear a dress in public, eat food from street shacks without fear of dysentery–feels like a real vacation. Pakistan is a […] Read More