If you had any semblance of an upbringing in the Northeast, you’ve grown up believing that California is full of traffic, macro-loaded kale fro-yo served with a side of crystals and om shanti, and people who are as superficial as they are soft from living in the perpetually not-too-hot-just-right sunshine.
Ignore everything I’ve ever said about crossing the street. In Vietnam, God has decided how he feels about everything (see Bangkok), there’s no latte in one hand and an iPhone in the other, checkbothwaysbeforejaywalking.
One of the greatest joys of each of my 26 summers has been finding out what interesting patterns would sear themselves onto my skin by the end of August through a combination of creative swimsuit design, hours of the bike in cycling shorts, and unskilled sunscreen application. This has also come to include a Rembrandt-styled splattering of freckles, which I imagine to be my skin shouting at me to get out of the sun.
After Bangkok, going to Chiang Mai was a bit like being at summer camp. Hot and dry, the ‘Rose of the North’ was full of backpackers, some grimier than others, drinking the cheapest beers they could get their hands on (very cheap) and walking around in elephant pants. Catering to these tourists were a spectacular collection of tour-booking agencies, seemingly in any corner of the city with even an inch of space to spare, with activities ranging from cooking classes to bungee jumping.
When I was warned that Bangkok is very hot and very sticky, I didn’t realize that the implication was that the city is full of cars built in the 1980s and running on diesel, coupled with 95 degree temperatures and a spectacular collection of very polluted waterways. So the humidity is not, shall we say, all natural.
From my favorite spot on the couch in the living room, where my butt is comfortably imprinted and I usually have my coffee and work, when you look out the window, all you can see are the drab brown rooftops of the exact same housing blocks in the rest of the neighborhood. It’s only when you make the effort to get up and stand next to the window that you are rewarded with the beautiful views of Canary Wharf in one direction, typically with lights on at all hours of the night, and The Shard and The Eye in the other direction, backlit against the sunset.
One of the reasons I’ve been so bad about writing for the past year or so is because I am a master procrastinator. Anything that doesn’t urgently need to be done at that exact moment can wait until the next moment … or the next. So a lot of things – like writing – don’t end up happening at all. A lot of what I write about can wait, because it’s not especially topical and whether I write about it now or next month makes no difference. The exception to this is travel – I take plenty of trips, and I always mean to write about them, but the road to hell, blah blah blah. Anyways, by the time I get to three weeks post-trip, it feels a bit silly already to write anything.
In two and a half years in the UK, I’ve managed to get away with never once driving a car. I’ve almost driven when I’ve gotten in on the wrong side of the car (happens a lot), and I’ve cycled a ton (shoutout to Henry), and I also know how to cross the street by now without getting killed (on most days).