It’s Better in Bangkok

Get your mind out of the gutter!  I’m not referring to THAT!!!  (Actually, I wouldn’t know; never tried it.)

What’s better in Bangkok, at least in my opinion, seem to be the dentists and skin clinics/dermatologists.  My first experience with a Bangkok dentist was in May, 2015, and my first experience with a Bangkok skin clinic was this past, October, 2016.  What prompted me to try a dentist in Thailand was the plethora of dental clinics I saw when visiting my Italian friend, Emidio, in Chiang Mai.  He’d told me that many expats go to Thailand to have dental work done as it’s definitely cheaper than in the States or in Europe, plus most dentists and their assistants are trained in the U.S. or in Europe.  As for the skin clinic, I’d shown another expat friend in Bangkok the scar on my right knee that I’d attained by falling on Bourbon Street in New Orleans!  He’d assured me that it could easily be taken care of in Bangkok, although the skin clinics probably wouldn’t be quite as affordable as the dentists (yet still cheaper than in the United States).

In May, 2015, I’d noticed a dental clinic across the way from my condo.  The place was immaculate and appeared to be quite modern.  They did both evening and weekend appointments.  I’d asked if they could do teeth cleaning for me.  Although they were full, they took down my E-mail and promised to send me a message if there was a cancellation.  Sure enough, they sent me a message later that evening.  I went in and had my teeth cleaned with the “water laser” or whatever.  It was quick, painless and cost approximately US$29.  I had it done again by the same dentist in October.  The dental clinic has since changed their name, however.

I did some on-line research for the skin clinic prior to my Bangkok trip.  I was looking for a place with a good reputation, not overly far from my condo with affordable prices.  That led me to ProDerma.  When I inquired via E-mail if they could laser my scar, they asked me to send a photo, which I did.  They assured me that it would be gone within about 4 treatments of US$55 each.  I only had time for two laser treatments on the trip, as they’d said something about the treatments had to be at least 10 days apart.  The women who worked at the clinic were extremely nice.  When they informed me that they’d have to give me a shot to the knee cap WITHOUT numbing cream, I was quite nervous.  One woman in particular did her best to calm me, saying that it would be quick and not that bad.  I took the shot to the knee, which stung.  They then put some type of cream over the scar to protect me from the heat of the laser.  My eyes were covered and the doctor lasered away.  The scar isn’t very big, although it’s a little dark and raised.  The actual lasering only took a minute or two.  After the first treatment, I barely noticed a difference.  After the second treatment, I didn’t notice much of a difference until maybe a week later.  It’s definitely lighter now.  My plans are to return to Bangkok next March, perhaps, with the hope of staying long enough to have it lasered at least two more times.  They may also laser the sun spots/age spots on my face during my next visit.

In case you’re interested in one or the other, here’s the pertinent information:

The S Sathorn Clinic

459/20-23 Suanplu 8, South Sathorn Road

Bangkok, Thailand 10120

+66 (0) 2287 4922

thessathorn@yahoo.com

Dentist:  Monthisa Aiemkrasin, DDS

ProDerma

BTS:  Sanampao

02-6198407

prodermaesthetic@gmail.com

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White Magic

For the past couple of years, I’ve wanted to get a sak yant tattoo while in Thailand or Cambodia, but could never find the right place to have it done.  First, let me explain what a sak yant tattoo is.  These are “magical” or “bamboo” tattoos that purportedly began in Cambodia, where it’s known as yantra.  These tattoos are composed of geometrical, animal and deity designs that offer the wearer power, protection, love, fortune and other benefits.  I’ve read that warriors used to have such symbols on their garments when going into battle, then simply began tattooing the symbols directly onto their body.  They are supposed to be tattooed on you by an Ajarn (i.e. teacher) who’s studied and been trained in such things.  Previously, they used sharpened bamboo sticks to tattoo, as opposed to regular tattoo needles/guns, thus, they’re often called “bamboo” tattoos.  Nowadays, many Ajarns also use steel rods.  They say that the Ajarn queries you about your life and your goals, decides what tattoo to give you and decides the placement of the tattoo.  He tattoos you, then blows on it to imbue it with his magical powers.  Once the tattoo is finished, you are also given a set of rules to follow. If you do not follow the rules, it renders the powers of the sak yant nil.  Being a superstitious Asian/Pacific Islander, as well as having ties to the Thai culture, I definitely wanted one.  The problem was finding where to get one.  The most famous place to get one is at Wat Bang Phra, a temple outside of Bangkok.  I’ve heard that it takes quite awhile to receive as there are so many people waiting.  What concerned me, though, is that new bamboo sticks/steel rods and ink are not used on each individual.  Therefore, I did research to find an Ajarn in Bangkok who sterilized their equipment and who were known for their work.  Of course, the Ajarn who did the two sak yant tattoos on Angelina Jolie is the most famous at the moment, but he also charges exorbitant prices (for Thailand) in the wake of his fame due to having her as a client.  Obviously, I went with someone else.

My sak yant appointment was booked about two months in advance.  I paid in advance as well over PayPal.  For my hard-earned money, I was promised pick-up an hour before my appointment, drop-off after the and an interpreter.

When the morning of my appointment arrived, I was nervous, to say the least.  Petz and Lek were waiting for me in the lobby of the condo I was staying at.  Both spoke English relatively well and did their best to put me at ease during the drive to the On Nut area, though neither of them have a sak yant.  Both are very nice guys.  I asked about an offering, which they assured me that they’d already prepared.  Upon arrival, I was instructed to pray with incense and repeat the words (to the best of my ability) that were spoken by one of the Ajarn’s assistants.  By this time, Petz had control of my camera, so was taking photos and making videos of my experience.  The Ajarn spoke to me, through them, asking me about my life and what I wanted – fortune, love, success, etc.  My response was that I want change in everything – work, life, friends – and the means to accomplish that change.  Based on that, the Ajarn chose the budd sorn for me, which represents change and success.  He said that it would look nice if placed just below my neck in the middle.  Although I was wearing a loose black top, it wasn’t quite loose enough for the Ajarn to tattoo a little further down.  Thus, they gave me a men’s shirt to put on backwards and had me change in the restroom.  I’d made my offering to him by then, while he chanted/prayed.  Then I sat in front of him with my back towards him and awaited the start.  He showed me the clean, wrapped steel rod/needle and the new gloves that he put on first to put my mind at ease.  Lek took over my camera while Petz sat on one side of me and the male assistant sat on the other.  They pulled my skin taut while the Ajarn began the tattooing process.  Various people have said that the sak yant tattoo is less painful than a regular one.  Others have said the opposite.  My consensus is that it’s slightly MORE painful than a regular tattoo; it definitely stings.  We took a few little breaks.  Petz took my camera back while the female assistant helped the male assistant to pull my skin taut.  The tattooing took about half an hour.   Then my back was wiped off and a square of gold leaf was applied.  Lek tried to explain by saying something about the properties of the gold were to seep into my body.  The Ajarn blessed me/prayed more, then gave me a card with a chant/mantra to be repeated three times daily both morning and evening, along with a Buddha amulet.  Petz said that I was perfect – no fidgeting, no grimacing and very little blood.  He said that many people bleed a lot when getting tattooed.  We took some more pictures, then the guys dropped me back at the condo.

The sak yant process was unique and I will consider getting another from him in the future.  If you are interested in receiving a sak yant from Ajarn Neng, you may contact them at Arjanneng Thaisakyant via Facebook.  As stated before, it’s possible to pay them in advance through PayPal as well.

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Making Merit

When in Luang Prabang in October, I definitely want to see/attend the morning alms giving ceremony, although they say it can be a bit of a zoo.  Apparently, there are tons of people shoving their cameras in the faces of the monks, using flash photography and selfie sticks.   My plan is to take my Nikon with the incredible zoom, so as to be able to take photos from quite a distance without interrupting the flow of things.  They say that men are able to stand face-to-face with the monks (but not actually looking them in the face), show them their offering, then place it in their bowl/bucket, after which the monk will say a chant/prayer to the person giving the offering.  Women, however, must be lower than a monk, so must kneel to make their offering.  They also must have their arms, legs and chest covered.  One of the VPs from our L.A. office just told me the other night that he had attended the alms giving ceremony in Luang Prabang.  He said it was well worth seeing.

I would also like to see an alms giving ceremony in Bangkok, but have no idea quite where to go.  Does anyone have suggestions?  I see that there are tour groups offering tours to alms giving in Bangkok, but that is definitely not an option for me.  I would like to go to a temple that is smaller and out of the tourist limelight, but not too far on the outskirts of Bangkok.  More than likely, it’s best to ask around the neighborhood that I’ll be staying in where they would suggest.

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Never Get Tired of NoLa

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My most recent trip to New Orleans was mainly for Satchmo Summerfest and White Linen Night.  My 6:00 a.m. flight that Wednesday morning from San Francisco to Houston was not off to a good start.  I was, as usual, sitting in a window seat half asleep.  My stomach began cramping which led me to the realization that, OMG, food poisoning was kicking in!  Having had food poisoning kick in midway through a flight from Paris to Seattle in 2013, I was NOT looking forward to the next 5-6 hours!  It was torture to disturb the elderly couple sitting next to me whenever I had to use the facilities, as it took them quite awhile to exit their seats.  Once we landed in Houston, I immediately ran to the ladies’ room there.  I THOUGHT I was already feeling better until boarding the flight from Houston to New Orleans.  I dashed to the facilities shortly after boarding, then again shortly after take-off.  It might have been due to the ashen look on my face, but the flight attendant knew that I wasn’t feeling well.  When I explained that it was food poisoning, she did everything she possibly could to make things easier for me.  She brought me Sprite and some lemon slices to try to settle my stomach.  Then she let me sit in the last row right next to the bathroom.  She even let me use the bathroom shortly before the plane landed, though she emphasized that it was at my own risk and asked me not to exit the bathroom until after the plane had landed.  Upon landing, she asked if I’d rather be the first person off or the last one.  I opted to be the last one; she helped me with my carry-ons, too.  At the New Orleans airport, I spent another good 20 minutes minimum tossing my cookies in the bathroom before feeling well enough to make my way to the baggage carousel and the shuttle.  Once on the shuttle, I passed out for the most part, except for those excruciating stomach cramps.  At my VRBO rental, yep, you guessed it, a few more hours of intermittently tossing my cookies in the bathroom, then finally being able to lay down and nap for awhile.  After napping, I managed to shower, change and attempt to go to dinner.

Speaking of the VRBO rental, it was lovely and oozed NoLa/French charm, with some Asian touches as well.  The attention to detail in regards to the lighting fixtures, rugs, pillows and artwork was perfect.  It was like my own little Creole cottage a few blocks above Bourbon Street – close enough to walk to everything, yet removed enough to not deal with all of the noise.

My dinner reservation that Wednesday night was at K-Paul’s.  Beings it is one of my favorite restaurants, I didn’t want to cancel.  When my waiter (Edgar) came, I explained that, due to my food poisoning, I wouldn’t be eating much and wouldn’t be drinking at all.  However, I would still be ordering the three-course prix fixe Coolinary menu, eating a few bites of each, then have him pack up the rest.  My choices were the fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade (SOO good!), the stuffed pork chop marchand du vin (also very good) and the bread pudding (another very good one).  Rather than staying up late, I retired early after dinner.

My stomach seemed to have calmed down for the most part on Thursday morning.  In anticipation of a total recovery, I went to Rouses to pick up some boDSCN0659ttled water and a 6-pack of Heinekens.  My next stop was Napoleon House.  The older host was the quintessential Southern gentleman in a striped shirt with a bow tie.  He said “Hi, doll!  How can I help you?”  I wanted to sit at the bar, so he responded with “I can make that happen,” as he led me to the bar, pulled out a seat and continued with “This seat has your name on it.”  I eased myself into drinking by having a beer.  The bartender, Kieth, asked if I was hungry.  After explaining the previous day’s food poisoning, I attempted to eat half of a muffaletta.  Meanwhile, another staff member behind the bar was yelling out area codes like 504, 619, etc.  I asked if he was talking to me.  He was!  Apparently, some of them had been placing bets on where I was from.  Even though I assured them that I live in the 415, they jokingly continued to call me “619.”  I asked the host if I could take his picture, which he obliged.  He then insisted on taking my picture with a few of the staff.  En route back to the apartment, I stopped at Trashy Diva for a little retail therapy, buying a dress on sale.  For Happy Hour, it was The Empire Bar inside Broussard’s.  They have Absinthe Happy Hour from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.  At the suggestion of the bartender, Michael S., I had the Duplais Blanc absinthe with an order of shrimp toast.  Since they have an actual absinthe dispenser, Michael told me to meet him at the end of the bar.  He placed two sugar cubes on an absinthe spoon over the absinthe in the glass, ran the ice water over it for dilution purposes, then instructed me to stir and drink.  Though I asked him if they ever lit it, he assured me that their bar is very anti-fire!  Dinner that evening was at Eat for their butterbeans with shrimp.  Since they are a BYOB kind of place, I took along two of my trustie Heinekens, but only drank one.  I then went to Patrick’s Bar Vin.  Alas, Patrick wasn’t there.  After a glass of pinot grigio, I tried a new (for me) place – Arnaud’s French 75 Bar.  Lisa attended to me with a Honi Makai, which I really wasn’t feeling at all.  Once I paid my bill and was about to leave, the head bartender, Chris, came over to ask about my cocktail.  Since he knew I hadn’t enjoyed it, he promised to take it off of my bill, although it had already been rung up.  At the time, I wasn’t aware that he’s a “famous” bartender, who helped to re-establish that bar and the French 75 cocktail in particular.  After finding out that I live in San Francisco, he told me to look up one of his former bartenders at a Cajun/Creole restaurant there.  Chris also suggested some good Cajun restaurants outside of the Quarter.

For breakfast on Friday I walked a little ways out of the Quarter to Majoria’s Commerce Restaurant in the Central Business District.  Service was quite friendly.  If you were getting food to go, you ordered at the counter.  If you were eating there, you sat at a table and the waitress would come to you.  Nothing on the menu was more than $9.00 and the portions were hearty.  I had the CBB (half biscuit), which was a biscuit with a cheese/jalapeno/sausage sauce and an egg.  It was less than $5.00!  Then it was on to the Satchmo Summerfest in Jackson Square.  They were charging $5 admission, though everyone got a wristband with in and out privileges.  I watched several bands, but took a break and went back to Napoleon House when it got too hot.  Kieth welcomed me back, as did the other guys who called out “619 is here!”  Never having had a Pimm’s Cup before, Kieth said that the regular one was probably good for me.  I really enjoyed it; quite refreshing.  I also had a side of jambalaya, which was merely ok.  Then it was back to Jackson Square for more music.  For Happy Hour, I decided to give Vacherie a try, since it was so close to my apartment.  I had a couple of glasses of sparkling wine at $5 each.  The bartender, Thomas, asked “What took you so long?”  I had no idea what he was talking about until he reminded me that he’d spoken to me briefly when I’d walked by at least three hours earlier.  My dinner plans for Friday night were to eat at Jacques-Imo’s outside the Quarter.  As I was standing outside waiting for my Lyft driver, someone across the street was calling my name.  It was John, who I’d met working at Camellia Grill a few years ago!  He told me that he now works days instead of evenings and would be there on Sunday.  Unfortunately for me, Jacques-Imo’s had a sign that said they were closed until August 17th.  There really wasn’t much else in the area that appealed to me, so I took a Lyft back to the Quarter and went to Coop’s Place to try their “famous” jambalaya.  The service wasn’t overly friendly, the atmosphere was ok, the gumbo (rabbit, chicken, andouille) had a kick to it, but was very dry.  I wasn’t impressed in the least.  I later walked down to Frenchmen Street intending to check out the Wild Magnolias at dba and the Wild Tchoupitoulas at Checkpoint Charlie’s.  I perused the Frenchmen Street Art Market, too, but, much like last time, nothing truly caught my eye.  As I was standing outside sweating up a storm and listening to a brass band play on the corner, Steve struck up a conversation with me.  Since I was obviously very, very warm, he suggested that we go inside Dat Dog (where it was air conditioned) and he’d buy me a drink.  We ended up in there for at least three hours talking, drinking and people watching.  He was a nice guy and we had some interesting conversation.  Steve (who’s black) made me laugh when he said “The one thing about white people down here is that they’ve got SOUL!”  He said that because we were watching the two white tattooed bartenders bust some moves behind the bar!  He walked me partway back to my apartment, but I insisted that it was fine for me to walk the remainder of the way by myself.

Saturday afternoon was lunch at Galatoire’s.  Though I thought they opened at 11:00 a.m. and my reservation was for 11:30 a.m., they actually didn’t open until 11:30 a.m.  The host directed me to the bar next door at Galatoire’s 33 Bar and Steak.  I wasn’t up to drinking alcohol just yet, so the bartender was more than happy to give me water.  Once Galatoire’s was officially open, I ordered their three-course prix fixe menu – crab and okra gumbo (fine), chicken bonne femme (good) and custard with fresh berries (good) for a mere $20.00.  The gumbo didn’t blow me away; the chicken bonne femme was quite flavorful, though I was less enthused about the bone and skin; and the custard was good, not too eggy.  When my main course took awhile to come out, a staff member ran by and deposited a nice piece of garlic bread on my table with an apology for the wait, although I still had a warm baguette.  Several other staff members came by every so often to see if I was ok or needed anything. Saturday afternoon found me back at the Satchmo Summerfest.  This time when it got too hot, I dashed into Muriel’s for a quick drink.  I ran by Napoleon House again, but the bar was packed, so headed back to the apartment.  I’d read that the Wild Magnolias would be playing at Howlin’ Wolf at 10:00 p.m., so thought I’d try to see them again after White Linen Night.  Once in the apartment, I changed into a pretty white cotton dress from Bali, then had the Lyft driver drop me off over on Julia Street.  He said he’d just started driving for Lyft, that I was his second customer and that he’d already dropped his first customer at White Linen Night.  Several blocks of Julia Street were blocked off.  Art gallery doors were open and everyone was encouraged to go in and check out the art.  There was also a DJ in the street, plenty of food and drink to be had and even free WiFi.  Of course, the vast majority of people were wearing white.  It was such a nice summer evening event.  I wandered through some of the art galleries taking pictures, then walked back to the Quarter.  I went into Orleans Grape Vine for something quick to eat.  The male bartender who was about to get off was rather jovial.  The female bartender, Charlotte, on the other hand, seemed a tad surly.  I didn’t want to drink alcohol; only wanted water.  When I ordered still water from the male bartender, Charlotte made some comment like “Oh, major excitement – still water!”  I think she was being sarcastic because I’d asked her what the soup of the day was, as well as what was in the gumbo.  Both had crawfish, which I don’t care for, so I’d said to her “Well, both of those are out!”  I ended up ordering shrimp remoulade.  It was fine; the seashell-shaped dish it came in was far more interesting.  I stopped in to Patrick’s Bar Vin again, but Patrick still wasn’t there.  After a couple of drinks, I took a Lyft to Howlin’ Wolf.  Ok, so I arrived a little after 11:00 p.m., expecting the Wild Magnolias to still be performing.  I thought they’d play for half an hour, take a break, then play another half an hour.  Instead, a group of self-described “country” boys in a band with a horn section were cranking out some R&B type music – covers, as well as originals.  They were Tyler Kinchen and the Right Pieces.  A group of young girls were screaming directly in front of the stage.  Although the male singer was strutting about the stage in that Southern white boy way, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.  I found the band wildly entertaining in a slightly disturbing (to me) way.  I stayed until their set was completely over, went back to my apartment and had the crap scared out of me when I entered in the dark, forgetting about the cat statue near the doorway!  After catching my breath, I went back down to Bourbon Street for a nightcap – a mudslide-flavored frozen daiquiri!

Breakfast on Sunday morning was at Camellia Grill on Chartres Street.  Although you just squeeze in wherever you can get a seat, John ended up being my waiter after all.  I ordered a bowl of gumbo, which, though not spicy, was good.  He was joking with me, saying something about me sneaking into town.  When I was leaving, he insisted on paying my bill.  What a nice guy!  A second line was scheduled for Sunday starting at 11:30 a.m. from St. Augustine Church in the Treme all the way back to the Quarter and the Satchmo Summerfest.  I walked down Governor Nicholls into the Treme, slightly unsure about the neighborhood.  There were so many pretty houses, though, and no one paid me any mind at all, except a homeless man who was very hungry.  He said that he’d really appreciate it if I’d go to the corner store and buy something/anything for him to eat.  Being short on time, I simply gave him the cash in my pocket, which he appreciated and thanked me profusely for all the way down the block.  When I reached the church, several people were hanging out on the stoops in front of the neighboring houses, waiting for the sermon to finish and the second line to start.  They started at least half an hour late, but it was SOOO much fun.  I wanted to dance along, but I was mainly running from one side to the other trying to nab a few great photos.  Whatever the first street was, it turned onto Esplanade and then on to Decatur back into the Quarter.  There were a couple of brass bands and steppers, some baby dolls, VIPs in cars, a man on stilts, etc.  People lined the streets taking pictures and joining in.  By late afternoon I went to try out Café Soule.  At first, I was the only customer.  I ordered jambalaya.  Although it didn’t taste quite “authentic” to me, I really enjoyed it, for some reason.  The restaurant was very cute inside in that French way.  As I was leaving, a couple at the bar motioned me over.  “We were sitting you next to you at Napoleon House the other day.  You’re from San Diego, right?”  they said.  I laughed and explained that the staff there likes to call me “619,” but I live in Northern California.  They were a very nice couple from South Carolina.  We mainly talked about which restaurants and bars we’d been to, as well as our travels.  They also told me a funny story about their friends booking a place with AirBnb for the first time.  Well, it ended up being a TRAILER, which they had to share with another couple, so…  they left!  Anyway, I’d had the waitress pack up my leftover jambalaya with some plastic cutlery and two to-go cups.  I’d run into the homeless man and his friend in the Quarter, and he was STILL thanking me.  When I went to look for him again, I could only find his friend.  So I gave his friend the leftover jambalaya and two Heinekens (plus the to-go cups) from my apartment.  Since someone had paid for MY breakfast that morning, it was only right that I pay it forward as much as possible.  Back at The Empire Bar, I ordered more absinthe from a different bartender named Michael.  This Michael didn’t put the absinthe in the dispenser, however.  He merely put the sugar cubes on the absinthe spoon over my glass, then handed me a small decanter with the ice water in it.  He was rather friendly with me, so I told him that he’d probably see me later that evening when I had dinner at Broussard’s.  He didn’t, though, as I had dinner there without passing by the bar again.  Broussard’s three-course prix fixe Coolinary menu was only $19.20, which was quite a deal because I had a chicken/corn/whatever soup (good taste, but a little watery), chicken Pontalba (the BEST thing I ate on the entire trip!) and bread pudding (complete failure; spongy and bland).  The service was extremely good.  I made one more stop at Patrick’s Bar Vin (still no Patrick!) before calling it an evening.

My intended breakfast on the final day was to be at Jimmy J’s.  Being too lazy to walk those last two blocks, however, I ended up dining at Café Fleur-de-Lis instead.  I ate the breakfast poutine, accompanied by a bacon Bloody Mary!  I had to go out with a bang!  My waitress, Claire, was hilarious.  I hadn’t quite finished my bacon Bloody Mary, so she gave me a to-go cup and I was on my way!  I wandered around taking more pictures.  One of the staff at Soniat House was kind enough to let me into their courtyard after he saw me gazing inside longingly.  It was beautiful and serene in there.  Once the shuttle picked me up and deposited me at the airport, I couldn’t resist eating one last time.  I had gumbo and jambalaya from Dooky Chase’s, but they were both mediocre.  I should have saved my money.

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Categories: Drinking, Entertainment, Food/Restaurants, Music, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunny South Beach

The end of May marked my return to South Beach for a week.  My AirBnB rental was near Washington and 8th, not that far from last year’s rental.  On this trip, I made it to the beach every single morning or afternoon and it was so relaxing for me.  My daily routine was generally sunbathing at the beach, shower, lunch somewhere in the area, window (or actual) shopping, brief rest, Happy Hour, possibly dinner and a few more drinks.

I saw a few of the bartender friends made on the last trip, but also made a few new bartender friends.  Someone said that I “collect” bartenders from around the world!  The best Happy Hour was on Thursdays at TiramesU, where women drink completely free for a couple of hours.  Say “hello” to George while you’re there.  Also, stop by Joe’s Stone Crab to give Brandon a shout out.  My favorite new bartender is Zorr, who bartends at the bar in the Blue Moon Hotel on Collins.  How can you not love a bartender who refers to you as “Beloved” and says that he likes your energy?  Go check that man out now!  You’re sure to be a fan.

One of my favorite meals was the Jamaican jerked chicken salad at Jimmyz Kitchen over on Alton Road.  I also really liked the arepas and empanadas at Charlotte Bakery on Washington Avenue.  Finally, if you’re vegan, make sure to eat at Full Bloom Gourmet Vegan on Belle Isle.  One of the owners is Alessandro, who used to live in San Francisco (where we met).  The restaurant has fresh, healthy cuisine, all of the décor is eco/green and the view outside is beautiful.

What I wasn’t aware of when booking the trip was that the Urban Beach Week takes place over Memorial Day weekend.  Thus, South Beach was swarming with tourists and policeman.  It was a bit much for me, so I doubt I’ll ever book during that time again, but it was still a great trip.

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Categories: Drinking, Food/Restaurants, Holidays/Special Events, Photos, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Addendum to My Thoughts

In actuality, this is an entirely new post since it’s not attached to the “Gathering My Thoughts” post, but it’s still in the same vein.

In addition to losing the person I love most in this world, I’ve come to the realization that the loss of him also makes me feel old(er).  While he will always remain at 58 3/4, I will continue to age.  We once thought, or hoped, that we would grow old together.  We pictured ourselves doing many of the same things, but at a much slower pace – still being completely affectionate, still playing cards and board games, still watching all kinds of movies and possibly still doing dances like the Body Language and the Freaky Dekey!  I thought I’d live to my 80’s or 90’s, but now I don’t want to.  I can’t imagine 20 or 30 more years without him.  It’s been 7 weeks since his passing and the pain doesn’t go away.

In my checkered history of boyfriends (and other men in my life who weren’t “boyfriends”), no one has ever taken care of me in the way that Noy did.  He cooked for me (I possessed no cooking skills whatsoever), we cleaned together, we did each other’s laundry, he drove me to work when we lived in Burbank and my job was in West L.A., he picked me up from work whenever he could and he babied me when I was sick,  In college, when my hair was down to my waist, he took incredible joy in washing and brushing it.  When we lived together in L.A., I used to stand on the ledge in the shower and wash his!  I remember going out for his birthday with another Thai couple one year in L.A.  We drank at a bar or club over on La Cienega, but ended up at the Red Onion on Wilshire Boulevard.  We drank and danced, and danced and drank, and apparently drank some more.  When I woke up the next morning feeling queasy, there was a trail of clothes from the front door to the bedroom.  I felt like tossing my cookies, but couldn’t quite do it.  Noy volunteered to stick his finger down my throat, even if it meant that I would get sick all over him; I declined.  When I did finally feel able to toss my cookies on my own, he bundled me up in his robe, just in case I had an accident.  Once my stomach felt better, he went out and got wonton soup for me.

Our Chow Chow, Pea, was actually my dog, in the sense that I bought him and did most of his training.  Although his real name was Kolohe Pea, which meant “Naughty Bear” in Hawaiian, we called him Porky Pig whenever we were talking about him because he made a snorting/snuffling sound when he was happy; we referred to that as the “happy pig” sound.  I worked in the morning and Noy went to work in the afternoon.  Before Pea was completely paper trained, I instructed Noy to put Pea in the bathroom with newspaper, a water bowl, a towel and a toy whenever he left for work.  Yet when I’d get home from work, Pea would be out and running around the apartment, although Noy insisted that he’d put him in the bathroom every day before he left.  One afternoon we decided to see how he got out.  We put him in the bathroom and sat in the living room waiting.  Pea simply continually ran into the bathroom door until it eventually bounced open (it didn’t fit the doorway exactly), then he’d run to the sliding door between the little bathroom hallway and the dining room, stick his fat little paws in the corner and keep pushing at it and scratching until it opened, too.  It took him less than 5 minutes to escape the bathroom!  Pea was a fat little puppy who loved to eat.  At first, his little legs were too short to go down the stairs without him bumping his nose.  He had the same problem with curbs, so I’d always pick him up whenever we got to stairs and curbs.  Of course, he grew to be 35+ pounds, at which point, I refused to carry him around.  He had a funny habit of insisting on sitting in Noy’s lap while Noy drove, though.  Most dogs want to sit with their face sticking out the window of the car.  Pea did, too, but he had to be sitting in Noy’s lap while doing it or he just wasn’t happy!  Noy didn’t mind, so we’d indulge him.  Noy’s nephews told me that Noy had a pug in Thailand that followed him everywhere.  When I asked what his name was, they told me it was “Chow Chow!”  They never understood why he’d named him that, until I told them the story of Pea and showed them pictures.  He really did love Pea and vice versa.

You know how superstitious I am.  Noy and I were always meant to be, according to my beliefs.  My lucky numbers are odd ones, particularly 3, 5, 7 and 13.  His birthday was 5-30-57.  He came from a family of 5 children that were born girl-boy-girl-boy-girl; he was the second child and the first son.  I came from a family of 5 children as well.  Ours were born boy-girl-boy-girl-boy; I was also the second child and the first daughter.  Both of us even had a mole on nearly the same spot on our backs.

In college, I used to vividly dream that he died in my arms.  I didn’t dream it only once, but several times.  It seemed so real that I’d awake crying, then immediately call him to make sure that he was ok.  Although he didn’t die in my arms, I’d rather he had died in my arms than for us to be apart when he passed.

The other part of my superstition has to do with a black crow.  On January 2nd of this year, when I was in L.A. walking around our old neighborhood, possibly 4 blocks or so up the street from where we used to live, a black crow appeared and followed me for two blocks, squawking loudly the entire time.  I admit, Noy was the first thing that came to mind.  I didn’t think about it too seriously, though, because he hadn’t been sick recently and his health seemed to be holding steady.  On February 27th in San Francisco, as I was down at Fishermans Wharf, another black crow appeared in front of me by the cable cars in Aquatic Park.  Once again, he was quite noisy.  Although he flew away very briefly, he came back to the same spot in front of me and squawked.  The following afternoon over near Japantown, another extremely noisy black crow followed me for a few blocks again.  Once more, Noy came to mind, but I refused to believe that anything was wrong.  If he was sick, I was sure that he or his family would tell me.  At that point, I didn’t know that he’d already been in the hospital for nearly two weeks.  We generally communicated via Line every 2 or 3 weeks.  I’d sent him a message, but he hadn’t answered it yet.  I wasn’t alarmed because we didn’t necessarily answer each other right away; it might take a day or two.  Besides, he often went on weekend trips with his friends from high school and/or college.  I should have followed through on my initial feeling and checked on him, just to be sure of his health, but I didn’t – something I’ll regret forever.  Now my two loves, Noy and Pea, are together again.

The only other time I’ve felt such a loss was when my Filipino grandmother passed away in the late 70’s.  I’d just spent the summer with her in San Francisco, but had gone back to Kansas to start my next semester of college.  When she passed away, my only solace was Noy.  As soon as he found out, he drove over to the dorm, picked me up and took me back to his house.  For the next two, maybe three, days I did nothing other than sleep, cry and occasionally eat.  Noy would hold me while I cried, he’d feed me, he’d kiss me.  As usual, he was so caring.  Now that he’s gone, I find no solace in anyone.

 

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Gathering My Thoughts

My thoughts are still a jumble of memories and emotions.  For the most part, strangely, I don’t think it’s hit me yet how completely he’s gone from my life.  There are the photos that he sent to me via the Line app; there are messages on the Line app and a text or two on my cell phone.  There are E-mails that I sent to him.  After having lost touch with him for 25+ years, it kind of feels as if he’s on an extended vacation somewhere without internet.

When Noy came to pick me up at BKK back in October of 2014 and we saw each other again for the first time in all those years, it struck me how much the cigarette smoking and alcohol had aged him – far more than I’d expected, considering he’s only a few years older than me.  He’d walked right by me in the airport.  I can’t be sure if he wasn’t really paying attention or if he actually didn’t recognize me.  Although he definitely looked older and more frail, I immediately recognized his sweet face.  Always after that, whenever I saw frail-looking older Asian men, I wondered if they’d been beautiful young men like him.  It made me feel bad for the way that I sometimes dismiss older people when passing them on the street, in the store, at the movie theater, etc.

Shortly after we’d met and began dating, we’d celebrated Noy’s 21st birthday together.  We didn’t go out to dinner or dancing or anything like that.  Two of his three sisters, his younger brother and his older sister’s boyfriend were there, though.  His older sister and her boyfriend made some Thai food, while his sister that’s the same age as me made a pizza with whatever ingredients she could find.  There’s a Kodak of all of us, sans Noy (since he took the photo), sitting at the table frozen in time.  Who knew that 38 years later, he wouldn’t make it to his 59th birthday, but I would once again be reunited with those two sisters and his brother in Bangkok to send him on his journey?

We used to go to the movies a lot, both in Kansas and in L.A.  In Kansas, when we were in college, the walk-in movie theaters cost $2.50 and the drive-in movies cost $2.00.  Rather than popcorn and Swedish fish, we always took our own shrimp chips and Cadbury Fruit and Nut chocolate bars; I’d inevitably exit the theater with chocolate smeared somewhere on my clothing!  The first movie we ever saw together was “The Goodbye Girl” at a walk-in theater.  We also saw “Star Wars,” “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease,” among others, in Kansas.  He had a bunch of international friends, most of whom were single, who often went along with us – guys from Colombia, Venezuela, Lebanon, Vietnam and a few other Thai guys.  In L.A., I remember seeing “The Road Warrior,” “The Breakfast Club,” “E.T.” and “Year of the Dragon” with him, three of them at Mann’s Chinese Theater.

The year and a half or so that we were apart (him in Kansas, then in Arizona; me in Northern California), I’d written a “diary” to him.  It was a thin, blue “Thinking of U” notebook.  Whenever I’d miss him, I’d write something in the diary to him.  I also wrote in there after he came to see me over the holidays and after spending Spring Break with him in Arizona.  I wrote in it a few days before flying from Casper, Wyoming to L.A. to live with him and begin our life together.  I wrote to him in there once after we’d broken up.  I wrote on the final page after we’d reconnected via telephone, but had yet to see each other.  When I saw him that October, I gave the diary to him.  “It must be bad,” he said.  “It’s not bad at all!” I insisted.  Neither of us ever mentioned the diary again.  I wasn’t sure if he’d ever actually read it, since he didn’t like to read in English.  It wouldn’t have surprised me if he threw it away or never looked at it at all.  However, when he passed away, I asked his family to see if they could find it.  If it was still around, I wanted it back, so as not to forget any of those precious memories that I’d written about.  One of his nephews managed to find it and sent me a picture of it on Line to make sure that it was the correct “diary.”  The nephew is still currently in Bangkok, but is returning to the U.S. at the end of this month.  He’s promised to bring the diary with him, then mail it to me from his home state.  In the picture that he sent me, there were several other papers stored inside the diary.  That makes me believe that Noy at least opened it and read part of it, probably using some of those papers as a bookmark.  It also makes me wonder if reading it rekindled all the wonder of our first love and was instrumental in his decision to return to the U.S. to visit in June, although it will never come to be now.

A few weeks ago, the person that introduced us back in college called me.  She said that she’d been thinking about me and wondering how I was doing.  Obviously, she’s aware how hard I’m taking this; she just wanted to tell me that she’s there for me.  When I was with Noy in L.A., I was sort of insular, in the sense that I only had 2 or 3 people that I hung out with.  If I wasn’t doing things alone or playing with my Chow Chow, I was usually with him and/or his Thai friends.  Therefore, most of the people who knew our history together were from our college days; I’ve lost touch with many of them.  It’s difficult for me to talk to any of my current friends about him, as I don’t think any of them truly understand how deeply I loved him or how much I’m grieving.

Every night when I go to bed, I sleep with his picture over my heart.  I’ve never slept well in San Francisco, anyway, but now it’s even worse.  I wake up constantly throughout the night and always call for him.  I know he can hear me.  I felt his presence a couple of days after my return from Bangkok, the weekend after that and a few more times.  Yet, because I’m selfish and miss him so terribly, I wish that he’d come to me every night to make this transition a little easier.

It’s probably hardest for me in the morning.  I remember how I kissed him and my Chow Chow “goodbye” every morning before I went to work.  Noy would be half asleep in bed and my Chow Chow would be sitting by the window, waiting for my kiss on the top of his nose.  Even when I’d be angry with Noy, I’d always kiss him goodbye because I’d be so worried that something might happen to him that day, then I’d regret not kissing him.

I went to a movie last night by myself.  It was about some guy remembering his youth, his lost loves, his friendships, all the parties, etc.  When he finally spent the night with the woman who was probably his deepest love, it showed them cuddled up in the morning together.  Even that made me cry.

All the clichés ring true.  “Hindsight is 20/20.”  “You never know what you had until you lose it.”

I don’t have a point to this post; just reminiscing and continuing to mourn the loss of him.  Please bear with me while I try to get through this.

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Still Struggling

The last 14 months have been tough as far as losing people.  I lost my grandfather last February, a friend died in a hang gliding accident in June, a distant cousin died in December, my Aunty died a few days later and now the person I love most in the world has been gone for a month.

This most recent one is the one that’s hit me the most by far.  I can’t even fathom how I’ll get over this or IF I’ll get over this.  He was the same age as my main boss, which is a few years older than me.  His parents outlived him, although his mother was ill.  Even my parents are outliving him, although they live a completely unhealthy lifestyle.  Granted, he smoked day in and day out when we were younger and drank heavily after our break-up.  According to him, he’d given up smoking cold turkey and quit drinking hard alcohol 12-15 years ago.  By then, the damage had already been done, though.  On a daily basis I see people who require walkers, who have dementia, who are morbidly obese, who take forever to get from Point A to Point B, who live on the streets, etc. and I can’t believe that all of them have outlived him.  I think about David Bowie, and other rock stars, who have done massive amounts of drugs and alcohol and had tons of unprotected sex, yet they survived into their 60’s and beyond.  It doesn’t seem fair.

There are people who are angry, vengeful, mean, useless, hopeless and who don’t even want to live, but he’s the one who passed away.  He was the sweetest, kindest man who never had a bad word to say about anyone, who never cursed and who constantly took care of others.  Why was it his time?

What makes it worse for me is all of the comments from people that say “Are you still down in the dumps?,” “Cheer up!,” “Be happy” or “Time heals all wounds.”  None of that makes me feel better.  In fact, it makes me feel worse.  If they don’t know who he was or what he meant to me, I’d rather they didn’t say anything at all.  People seem to think that I should have a limited mourning period, then be over it.  They obviously don’t know how deeply I loved him.

I still cry every day, several times a day.  It’s the hardest for me in the morning when I remember how I used to kiss him goodbye when I’d leave for work, followed by kissing my Chow Chow on the top of his nose.  Not that I’ve ever slept well in San Francisco, but it’s even worse now.  I wake up even more frequently, always thinking of him, always wanting him.

The regrets are many.  Why didn’t I get back with him earlier?  Why didn’t I try to find him earlier?  Why didn’t I call him a few months ago?  Why didn’t I send him more messages in February?  Why didn’t I tell him that I’d be there in October?

I can blame other people as well.  Why didn’t any of my friends or his friends tell me how much he suffered when we broke up?  Why didn’t his friends or family tell me after he’d been in the hospital 7-10 days?  When I was in Hawaii, if the doctor had said that he probably wouldn’t survive, why didn’t they tell me then so that I could have flown there immediately?  I was under the mistaken impression that he was stabilized and getting better.

I just don’t know how to deal with this.  I’d give anything to have more time with him or even just to see his smile.  I just can’t emphasize enough how little time we actually have in comparison to how much time we THINK we have.

 

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One Night in Bangkok

Technically, it was three nights in Bangkok, but the first one didn’t really count, as my flight arrived about 11:45 p.m.  By the time I exchanged currency, made it through Immigration, collected my bag, got a taxi and checked into the hotel, it was definitely after 1:00 a.m.

Nearly all of the following day was spent with the family of my ex-boyfriend, but I’m not going to write any more about that than what was previously written.  As for that evening, I grabbed a Thai omelette with minced pork, steamed rice and a blended strawberry drink at I’M Petra for dinner.  I like that place because the food is good, affordable and the people who work there are really nice.  There’s both indoor and outdoor seating; the clientele is composed of both locals and tourists.  I then went to Smalls for a cocktail or two.  Both the main waitress and one of the owners recognized me from last May, which is always nice.  There was a new bartender, though.  Danny said that he was from Canada and looked to have impressive cocktail making skills.  He was also cool under pressure, as an expat (Aussie, perhaps?) yelled at him, saying something like “I hate to interrupt your conversation, but where’s my drink?!  I’m being ignored over here!”  Danny, though speaking to a local couple that was seated next to me, was actually in the midst of making the expat’s drinks.  The expat was with a much younger Thai woman, so was trying to impress her, no doubt.  He was also yelling something about being in the hospitality industry and being associated with some hotel or other; quite rude and obnoxious.  That would have made me see red, but Danny was calm as a cucumber.  Due to a serious lack of sleep, I was about to pass out at the bar.  My plan was to go back to the hotel, freshen up, get a second wind, return and hang out until 4:00 a.m. or later.  Unfortunately, the owner said that they’d be closing early (2:00 a.m.) that night.  So I told him that they’d see me on Tuesday night instead.  He was sad to inform me that they would be closed on Tuesday night, thus he really tried to convince me to stay longer or come back in less than an hour.  I intended to give it my best shot.  I walked back to my hotel, which was basically across the street and down a block.  I freshened up, but don’t recall laying on the bed and NOT setting an alarm.  The next thing you know, I’d passed out and woke up at 2:37 a.m.!  Guess that means that they’ll see me nearly every night on my return trip in the fall!

Tuesday was my only full day by myself in Thailand, as my flight on Wednesday was at 5:50 a.m.  (Who dreams up these bizarre flight schedules?!)  I didn’t leave the hotel until about 10:15 a.m.  There are two jewelry stores nearby that I’ve purchased things from the past two trips.  I walked into one and they remembered me, much like the people at Smalls.  I was eyeing rings and pendants.  There’s usually a little boy in there.  This time he was chattering away in Thai, but every once in awhile, he’d yell “Chicken!”  I was amused, but a little puzzled until they explained that that was one of the few words that he could say in English.  He also managed to get a few numbers out here and there.  He really appeared to be trying to communicate with me in whatever way possible.  Once I purchased something, he was the one that wanted to wrap it up, so they let him.  The next time I see him, I’ll teach him “Hello,” “Goodbye” and “Thank you,” which is probably more useful in everyday conversation than “chicken.”

It was on to Le Spa for another Thai massage/torture/chiropractor session.  I ordered up my usual – a one hour oil massage for 300THB.  The young guy at the front was unique; he was wearing gold-flecked powder on his cheeks, which was rather Kabuki-like.  He led me upstairs and into a room.  As I sat down and started to remove my jewelry, he felt compelled to inform me that the massage would be conducted by a male.  I assured him that it wasn’t a problem, as I’d been there before and knew what to expect.  He then disappeared while I disrobed, kept my undies on, lay on my stomach and covered myself with the towel.  The masseuse who conducted my massage turned out to be him.  He has some seriously powerful hands.  I like pressure, but was completely taken aback by how powerful he was.  It was all going swimmingly until he unexpectedly cracked my toes!  I’m not a fan of having my fingers or toes cracked, and usually mention this to masseuses in Thailand and Bali in advance of the massage.  Oh well, too late now.  When he asked me to turn over, I expected a breast massage like my 3 massages there last year.  I didn’t get a breast massage, but a heavy duty stomach massage.  Good thing I hadn’t eaten yet!  Next up, he asked me to put my feet sole-to-sole with my legs in a diamond shape, keeping them as flat as possible.  That already will seriously stretch your muscles, but when he began massaging my  legs – the inner thighs, in particular – it was painful.  “You can deal with it,” I kept telling myself.  I was expecting him to massage my inner thighs hard maybe 3-4 times per side.  In reality, it seemed more like 10 times per side.  Plus, since he was doing it so vigorously and getting treacherously close to my punani, I was wondering if he was trying to give me the big “O.”  He didn’t cross any  boundaries, though, and I managed to endure the pain.  Of course, we weren’t quite done yet.  I already knew that he’d then ask me to put my hands behind my back while he wrapped a leg around my waist and quickly pulled me one way, then the other, to crack my back.  He would then put his knees in the small of my back and pull me back three times.  Since I was already anticipating this and, since he spoke English better than the guy who had massaged me last year, I begged him to be “gentle.”  He tried, and definitely wasn’t as hardcore as the guy last year, but it was still a shock to my system!  When it was over, he indicated that I could take a shower in a certain room, as he went downstairs.  I showered up, went downstairs and had my tea (which was really good; tasted of cinnamon and honey), paid, tipped him well, told him that he gave me a great massage and asked to take his picture.  He was very shy about having his photo taken, but allowed me to do it, nonetheless.  He then wrote his name on the business card and gave it to me, apparently so that I can request him by name the next time.

I headed a few doors down for lunch at Uncle John.  I craved another Thai omelette, but had a minced shrimp one, along with steamed rice and chicken laab.  The Thai omelette was on par with the one at I’M Petra, but the chicken laab, though good, wasn’t spicy at all.  He’d even asked me if I wanted it spicy.  He must have assumed that I wanted it “American” spicy, but I didn’t detect chili whatsoever.  My dinner plans were to meet up with a friend, so I went back to the hotel to rest up a bit in the meantime.

Around 4:30 p.m. I went downstairs to catch a cab to Silom Complex.  My friend had asked that I meet him on the second floor in front of the Swarovski store at 5:00 p.m.  They seemed to be filming some bizarre fitness show on the first level, so I didn’t check out that floor at all.  I immediately went to the second floor and had time to look around before my friend showed up.  When he arrived, we took the Saladaeng BTS to Ploen Chit and walked to Plaza Athenee.  My friend is in all kinds of good with everyone at Plaza Athenee.  Everyone recognized him, hugged him, welcomed him and chatted with him.  Since I’d never been there before, I got a tour of the pool area, as well as all of the restaurants on the second floor.  We had a reservation for 6:00 p.m. at the Thai restaurant on the second floor, but had the option to switch to any of the other restaurants.  After a drink at the bar downstairs, we took a gander at what was on offer at the buffet in the Rain Tree Café (also downstairs) and that pretty much settled it for me.  They had everything – American, European, Thai, Chinese, Indian, seafood, cheese and desserts.  We decided to eat there instead and opted for the free flowing drinks in addition.  I made it through four plates, plus drank my weight in prosecco.  My friend eats there frequently, so knew what to expect. I tried to pace myself, but four small plates was all I could muster.  Luckily for me, since my friend is some sort of member there, we got a nice discount on the price.  When I return in the fall, I’m heading back there to have Sunday brunch with him.  (I’ll try not to eat for 1/2 day before!)

That pretty much concluded my quick sojourn to the City of Sin.  I went back to my hotel, relaxed briefly, packed my things and was on my way to BKK at 2:30 a.m.

Categories: Drinking, Food/Restaurants, Friends, Shopping, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spring in Paradise

Due to the $100 credit that Virgin America issued me for the flight delay in December, as well as their fare sale, I booked another week in Hawaii at the start of March.  I had another AirBnb place all set up in the vicinity of the place that I’d stayed at and loved in December, Island Colony.  My flight took off and landed without a hitch.  As I was in the shuttle and headed towards my AirBnB, I texted the owner to let him know that I was on his way.  He then responded to ask me to meet him around the corner from the place instead as the building I’d booked wasn’t “cool with AirBnB.”  The shuttle dropped me off at the appointed stop and the owner and I found each other.  He informed me that, due to a last minute cancellation, he had a larger one bedroom spot available in…  Island Colony.  He said he’d show me both places and let me make up my mind, though I was already leaning towards Island Colony.  We checked out the one bedroom at Island Colony first.  Though it was decidedly decorated by a guy (he admitted that he stayed there every so often), there was a great view of the Ala Wai from the living room window, a great view of Waikiki from the large balcony, internet, a full kitchen and the added bonus of the fantastic pool/Jacuzzi/sundeck area that Island Colony has.  We then went to look at the one bedroom around the corner.  It also had a great view of the Ala Wai from the living room window, was smaller, had a full kitchen and a pool, but no dedicated internet.  I went with the Island Colony space, of course.  He charged me an additional $60, saying that he hoped he could keep me there for the entire week, but no promises.  He said 5-6 nights in Island Colony were most likely before being switched to the smaller place.

After depositing my bags and freshening up, my first stop was, you guessed it, the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal HaIMG_0031waiian!  I had one drink, but assured Chris that I’d be back mostly in the evenings.  My second stop was Hawaiian Crown Plantation for that Minty Hawaiian smoothie.  I’m SOOO addicted to it!

Next up was a quick run to Chinatown via the bus.  I bought a few leis from Lina’s Leis on Mauna Kea Street (especially liked the one of pink rose buds), then stopped at Bar 35 for their Happy Hour.  Bar 35 has pizzas, a few bar bites, certain cocktails, martinis and beers on special.  I didn’t feel like eating an entire pizza, so simply got triple cheese crostini and a Heineken.  The crostini was fairly average, though it DID have some bacon crumbles.  It would certainly do in a drunken haze, though.  Bar 35 has a HUGE beer selection with beers from Hawaii, the Continental U.S., Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Scotland, Tahiti and Thailand.  It’s almost as good as going to Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood!  (Yeah, I know, yet I stuck with my usual Heinie.)  Afterwards, while wandering down Hotel Street, a cute dog was sitting inside Smith’s Union Bar, so I snapped a photo.  I made it back to the beach in time to watch the sunset.

On Friday, after an hour and a half at the pool, I had an early lunch at Tango Contemporary Café.  Although they serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch, I was a little late for breakfast and my desired loco moco.  I settled on a chicken salad sandwich on focaccia bread with Swiss cheese and tomato, as well as a glass of pinot grigio.  It was good, solid food with good service.

Often when I go on vacation, I search Groupon or one of those websites for special deals prior to my arrival.  I found a deal for a photo shoot, so had one set up for that Friday at 3:00 p.m.  The photographer from HawaiianPix had asked me to meet him at one of the lifeguard stations at Magic Island.  I showed up in an Island-inspired sundress, a lei, slippers and sunglasses.  I told him that I don’t usually photograph well as most photographers don’t make me feel comfortable, but endlessly search for that photographer that I click with.  He was quite friendly, did most of the shots well away from other people and we actually joked around a lot.  Oh, and he did NOT let me wear the sunglasses for any of the shots!

When the photo shoot was done, I dashed over to Ala Moana Center intending to hit up the Mai Tai Bar there for Happy Hour.  It was completely full, though, so I stopped in at Alan Wong’s Pineapple Room in Macy’s for a quick snack.  Although I’ve eaten at Alan Wong’s downtown a few times, I’d never tried the Pineapple Room before.  It was decidedly not busy on a Friday after lunch and before dinner.  Service was excellent, though.  Not being overly hungry, I chose the black tiger shrimp and pork gyoza appetizer which had ko choo jang vinaigrette, housemade kimchi and garlic chive chimichurri.  It was a good portion, tasty and beautifully presented.  I washed that down with a watermelon soda, which was delicious, but overpriced.  As I dashed through the department store on my way out, a Bobbi Brown makeup artist at Macy’s offered to do my makeup.  She did a great job (should have had her do my makeup PRIOR to my photo shoot) and I loved the Perfectly Defined Long-Wear Brow Pencil with its slanted tip.  It’s waterproof and contains waxes and emollients, but I had to pass on purchasing it for $42!

Back at Island Colony, I had a great view of the Friday fireworks at the Hilton Hawaiian Village from my balcony.  I got ready to go out with my cousin through marriage, Davey.  He’d moved to Hawaii from the Bay area nearly a year ago and is working on the new rail transit project.  When he picked me up, we drove around getting caught up for awhile.  We ended up at the Mai Tai Bar in Ala Moana for a drink.  He then texted his roommate, who told us to meet him in Chinatown at Polarity.  The place was small, had a $15 (?) cover and drink tickets, if I remember correctly.  There were DJs, as well as stripper poles and aerial equipment for patrons to make use of.  However, if you wanted to play on the aerial equipment, you had to sign a release form.  I really liked the vibe of the place.  We later moved on to Asylum Afterhours Club.  It wasn’t that busy when we arrived, but seemed to be filling up.  It was a bunch of little rooms and DJs playing various music.  We had a few drinks there before heading home.

I was up early on Saturday for the long bus ride to Haleiwa.  My lunch was gumbolaya from Dat Cajun Guy.  The gumbo was a little soupy for me, but I love his jambalaya.  I wandered through various stores (Matsumoto’s, Mahina, Pineapples, Happy Haleiwa, etc.) and bought a few dresses that were on sale, plus some Maui Onion sea salt to satisfy the saltaholic in me.  I then grabbed a small regular acai bowl ($7) from Haleiwa Bowls before getting on the bus and heading back to Honolulu.  The girls who work at Haleiwa Bowls were about as indifferent as last time.  Their acai bowl is probably in my top three, though.

That evening Vince at the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel introduced me to his Big Blackberry Cocktail – a concoction of blackberry, lemon, habanero, ginger, honey, tequila and another ingredient or two.  It’s spicy and you’re only allowed two, for fear of what you might do!  In reality, the guy sitting next to me was drinking one.  Since it looked interesting, he offered up a taste, which convinced me.  After making a few friends at the bar, I headed out to the food trucks over on Beachwalk for dinner.  I got the Beefy Wild Ramen from Kamitoku Ramen for $10.25; flavorful and good, but not mind blowing.  That was it for my Saturday night, aside from picking up some water at CVS.  I love their Gold Emblem flavored waters, particularly the strawberry and pineapple-coconut ones.

On Sunday morning I took the #42 (Ewa Beach) bus to the Swap Meet at Aloha Stadium.  Though I wasn’t in major shopping mode, I bought some Hawaiian quilt purses, some T-shirts, a silver necklace and a silver pendant.  Then it was back to the pool.  Someone barbecuing at the pool got me in the mood for a late lunch.  Mahaloha Burger in the food court at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center took care of that.  I love their loco moco burger; it’s a good size and economical for the Waikiki area.

I actually had another photo shoot set up for what I thought was that evening.  It turned out that it was supposed to be at sunset at Kahanamoku Lagoon.  Since the photographer and I had that timing misunderstanding, he said we should probably just meet for a glass of wine, beings neither of us were doing anything then (he’d already put his lights and equipment away).  We met at the Sunrise Bar at The Modern Hotel.  We ended up having a bottle of wine, a few appetizers, then a few more glasses of wine.  Obviously, we hit it off.  We had a very intense conversation that went from humorous to profound.  He then dropped me off back at Island Colony (I got to meet his sweet dog, Bernie, in the car) and planned to reschedule for either Tuesday or Wednesday.

My evening ended at the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, of course, where I made even more new friends.  I love the bartenders there.  When I asked what time last call is, Shane said “Whenever you’re done!”  When I paid my bill, he smiled “See you tomorrow!”

Monday morning began with some pool time, of course.  Lunch was at Duke’s Canoe Club because I have to stop in there at least once per trip.  Besides, I love their salad bar at lunch.  In addition to all the different types of salads, there’s usually teriyaki chicken, kalua pork and cabbage, pasta and maybe some fish.  The kalua pork and cabbage really hit the spot that afternoon.  At 1:00 p.m. I was being picked up for a half day Island tour, which encompassed mostly the East side.  I’d reserved and paid for it through Hawaii Discount Tours (www.hawaiidiscount.com).  Our van driver, whose name was Ernie (I believe), was hilarious.  He made jokes throughout the tour that kept us amused and on our toes.  We saw Hanauma Bay, Halona Blowhole, Makapu’u Lighthouse, the Pali and a few other places, with a short stop in Waimanalo.

I was back at Ala Moana Center after the tour ended.  I finally managed to find Farmers Market Hawaii to pick up a few T-shirts.  Then I stopped by Lupicia Tea to buy a few of their exclusive Hawaiian tea blends.  My favorites were the Hoku (Taiwanese oolong with pineapple and guava) and the Lanikai (black tea with pineapple, coconut and vanilla).  I also bought a melon oolong tea, which was very refreshing.  When I passed through the food court, I decided to grab something for dinner.  At Poi Bowl, I ordered a small chicken long rice.  My Filipino boyfriend used to make chicken long rice for me back in the late 70’s; haven’t had it since because I never attempted to make it on my own and never really see it on restaurant menus in California.  I also ordered bacon and cheesy fries from some Philly cheesesteak place.

There’s a “hidden” bar on Royal Hawaiian Avenue called Cuckoo Coconuts.  It’s set back off the street with a clothing store in the front (which may be theirs), so it’s not easily located without prior knowledge.  The crowd was eclectic in age, character and seemed to be equally mixed with locals and tourists.  A woman was playing ukulele and singing.  I found an empty seat at the bar.  Just my luck, there was an obnoxiously drunk guy on my left.  The guys on my right seemed to know him, but not want to be associated with him, if you get my drift.  He kept trying to chat me up.  I was “social,” but not overly friendly.  He did inform me, however, that they offered $4 Mai Tais, which are NOT advertised on the menu.  I went with that; mine was served in a smaller glass, but was relatively potent.  I might have stayed for another drink, but the guy was getting on my nerves.  So…  another nightcap at the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian to end my evening.

Tuesday morning was my sunrise photo tour with Blue Hawaii Photography.  Evan picked me up in a van around 5:45 a.m.  There were 3 other passengers, besides me.  The tour was about 5 1/2 hours and we also went to the east side of the Island.  We shot near Eternity Beach, then at Makapu’u and the tide pools, Waimanalo and at Judd Waterfall, stopping for breakfast at Kalawapai Cafe in Kailua.  The sunrise wasn’t spectacular and it was a little breezy out, but Evan was a wealth of information as to camera settings and little tricks to take better photographs.  He’s one of THOSE people who simply seems to spread positivity everywhere he goes.  If I lived in Hawaii, I’d definitely want him to be one of my closest friends!

While on the photography tour, the AirBnB owner had called me to say that he needed to switch me to the smaller apartment.  After the tour, I moved my things to the other place (he’d already left the keys for me), went to Zippy’s for a mini chili moco, picked up a small loco moco from Rainbow Drive-In (for later) and went to Chinatown for a fresh lei, in case I had a photo shoot at sunset.  While perusing the leis at Cindy’s Leis, I noticed that they had hakus on sale for $10.  Since one of those might be nice for a photo shoot, I asked the owner, Ray, if any or all of them might be fresh enough for that night and/or the next evening.  He was kind enough to take each of them out (there were 3) and examine them.  All 3 of them were fine; they just had overstock.  I picked one that had a few little blue flowers in it, plus two other leis.  He sold all 3 of them to me for $20.  I then asked him if it might be possible to pick up manapua somewhere.  He directed me to Sing Cheong Yuan Bakery across the street.  He said that they wouldn’t be as fresh as first thing in the morning, but that they were as good as any in Chinatown.  I went over and picked up a couple of chicken curry, a baked (or was that steamed?) chicken and a black sugar one, plus some pork hash shu mai. By then, the photographer had said that it was a no go for the photo shoot at sunset as it was too windy.  I went back to the apartment instead and heated up one of the chicken curry manapua and one of the pork hash shu mai.  The pork hash shu mai was good, but the chicken curry manapua was YUMMY!!!  That will be one of my newest Hawaii food obsessions.  When I ate the other chicken one and the black sugar one the next day, they weren’t as impressive.

Wednesday morning came quickly, meaning my vacation was nearly over.  I was slow to get out and about.  After my morning manapua and pork hash shu mai, I spent part of the afternoon at the Mai Tai Bar at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel.  I ran into a couple that I’d met a few nights earlier, so we spent a couple of hours hanging out.  The only reason I left was because the photographer had said it was a go for the photo shoot.  I needed to go back to the apartment, change, freshen up and meet him at the Natatorium next to the Honolulu Aquarium.  Never having truly been there before, it seemed like an odd choice for a photo shoot at first.  However, he set the lights and equipment up in the banyan trees, then walking along the paths and finally on one of the walls.  The photos that he showed me were quite nice, although I knew he would edit them to make them even better.

My cousins from Ewa Beach were meeting up with me that evening.  They’d asked for some Super Bowl T-shirts and hats, as well as regular San Francisco T-shirts, which I’d brought along.  Since my cousins were hungry and we were all a bit tired and quiet, we simply had dinner at the IHOP in the Ohana Waikiki Malia.  All I wanted was a side order of fried rice, but it was HUGE!  The service was extremely slow and a little weird, so I don’t see any of us frequenting that place again.  We were looking to have a drink, so I suggested either the karaoke bar, the Italian wine bar or Cuckoo Coconuts, since it was close.  They settled on the latter.  The place was about half full and we’d just missed the live music, but my cousin happened to know one of the guys from the band, who were packing up their equipment.  Thus, they reconnected after not having been in touch for quite awhile.

Another friend of mine took me to breakfast at Wailana Coffee House very early on Thursday morning before my flight.  I was very, very sad (due to receiving bad news on Tuesday night), but he always manages to cheer me up, even when I’m crying over my scrambled eggs.  He calmed me down and took me back to the apartment to pack my things.  Of course, when the shuttle driver picked me up, he seemed to be in a bit of a rage.  He yelled at me and threw my bags in the back.  When he dropped me at the airport, he seemed to regret his actions a bit, though, ’cause he was extra careful with my luggage.  Maybe he thought he was going to get a tip, but I merely grabbed my bags, gave him the stink eye and walked away.  Of course, since I was already emotional, that little incident set me off.  While the woman at the counter was checking my bag, I was crying hysterically.  Neither she or the security guards standing nearby were sure what to say or do.  I actually had to take an extra 10-15 minutes to go stand off to the side, continue crying and attempt to compose myself before going through security.  My departing flight was uneventful, though – no delays, no mechanical problems, etc.

All in all, even with the bad news that I’d received towards the end of the trip, my vacation in Honolulu was still good, for the most part.  I’m simply better around Poly people.

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