I hate your beautiful, cramped streets that overwhelm me with sweet smells and impossible amounts of signs.
I hate your futuristic architecture that makes me really believe I’ve travelled forward in time, but not to a dystopian future, one of those really cool ones. Like that one in Star Wars, but without Anakin.
I hate how I feel like I’m in a peaceful park when I’m walking around a city that holds 7 million people.
I hate your perfect skyline, and how it transforms into Blade Runner every night.
I hate your affordable, world-renowned dim sum. I hate that each dish looks like a present and tastes better than Christmas.
You ruined Christmas, Hong Kong, you heartless wench.
I hate your fancy gondolas, and your misty mountains, and your sassy statues, and your giant buddhas, and, and…
Ok. I love you.
I love that 20 mins outside of the city I can relax on your beautiful islands.
You can have it all.
When my brother arrived in India four years ago, he was told to bring one roll of toilet paper. “This will be your only toilet paper for the next year” they told him. “It will help you adjust to a year of using your left hand.”
Shocking, I know.
How could anyone think that a Texan would need time to adjust? Needless to say, Josh swan-dived into a TP-free rodeo from Day 1, embracing the constant threat of pink eye during his time in India.
Similarly, after I decided I wanted to learn Thai (more to come about that soon), I consulted the wisdom of the extremist language blogger AJATT, and major demands were made upon my life’s necessities. His Polyglotness requested one thing from me: that I renounce all things English.
Wiping away my tears, I put away my Beyoncé, Arcade Fire, and Walking Dead, and entered the mysterious, often confusing, but magnificent world of Thai media. What follows is a summary of my adventures in this New (and Jiew) world…
When my journey into Thai music began, almost every Thai song I came across had some iteration of a girl crying while a singer crooned a slow, sad, lullaby (this is my guess, since I don’t know Thai).
I don’t like sad songs. I don’t like slow songs. And I don’t like watching people cry (if you cry, then I cry, then we’re all crying, and then I’m sad and it’s your fault).
After just a couple days in, I felt alone, uninterested, and increasingly confused: aside from the music videos, several extremely popular artists had names like Big Ass and Potato.
I missed Beyoncé.
Then, in my darkest hour, I stumbled across a diva duo that changed my life: New and Jiew
Not only were they talented, they were happy! After watching the music video for this song, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Except watch all their other music videos and stalk their concerts and realize that they are in Chiang Mai right now and plan on going to their concert this Wednesday. I MIGHT WILL GO TO THEIR CONCERT THIS WEDNESDAY.
Imma let that sink in.
I know you’re thinking: “That’s great Nick. New and Jiew seem really cool, but how can you compare these singers to bonafide superstars with big lady voices like Adele and Christina Aguilera? Furthermore, how can you judge the talent of artists you can’tunderstand?”
First off, tell your enthnocentrism to calm down. Second, if you aren’t convinced of their talent when they sing in Thai, then look no further to accept that they both have big lady voices.
After discovering NJ, I thought it couldn’t get any better. But the next day another resonant voice echoed out of my computer. I looked down at my screen only to see the most charismatic McDonald’s sweatshirt of all time. Not only was the song upbeat and happy, but the artist’s name was Da Endorphine. Everything was perfect in the world.
At this point, dear reader, you may be developing feelings for Thai pop culture. You never thought this would happen – American culture was just so much fun! But when was the last time your heart beat so loudly? When was the last time life felt so vivid, so thrilling, so delightfully refreshing?
But now that you’ve got a taste of Thai music, you find yourself naturally wondering: what about Thai TV? Surely, programming in Thailand can’t compare with Game of Thrones?
Ok maybe you’re right. Aside from a couple game shows (I’m not a game show guy, sorry not sorry), Thailand’s most popular TV shows are soap operas (or lakorns). Perhaps you’ve never watched a soap opera before, or you’ve looked down upon them for their poor production quality and overacting. And perhaps the translation from Thai to English ranges from incomprehensible to hilarious at times:
BUT, I can assure you that you’ve never encountered a TV show that has a storyline as bold and creative as Wiang Roi Dao:
This soap follows the story of Wiang Roi, a Thai woman adopted by Brits as a baby, but left blind by a car accident in England that kills her adopted parents. After a miraculous operation restores her sight, she starts seeing a young female ghost. In order to find out who this scary female spirit is, she travels back to Thailand, only to get involved in teary family drama (while being haunted).
If you’re not sold by this summary alone, watch the trailer and tell me you’re not hooked. I dare you.
After a year of wiping himself with his left hand, my brother said that he could never go back to using toilet paper.* “It’s just a waste of paper,” he told me. “Why kill a tree when God gave us water, soap, and nail clippers?” I thought he was crazy, but now that it’s been almost two months without Beyoncé, I don’t know if I’ll ever want to go back.**
I know you’re thinking: Nick! You’ve been in Thailand for two months? What are you up to? Do you like Thailand? Have you had dengue fever yet? Are we still friends / enemies? Why haven’t I seen a dazzling array of manicured photos and envy-inducing posts in the world of social media?
The short answer: Because I’m a busy and merciful man. But due to constant badgering and a sense of self-importance, I’ve given birth to this blog. So, be careful what you wish for, dear reader, because you made me do this, and there’s no going back. As my Thai teacher said to me when I refused to take her money after winning a game of poker:
“You can’t give an elephant sugar cane and change your mind.”
I don’t really know what she meant, but it probably means that my monstrous diabetic ego is your fault. And it’s not sorry. So, I’ve attached some photos that were taken in Koh Tao this summer, and several from Chiang Mai / Wat Doi Suthep (a temple at the top of a nearby mountain).
Despair at the majesty of Thailand, rethink your life decisions, question your happiness, and consider visiting me.* Welcome to the hell of social media. Remember, you did this. And as a thoughtful fellow Princetonian once said, “[Thailand] apologizes for nothing.”