In late October, I headed to Bangkok for the Luce Midyear meetings. Bangkok is chaotic and disorganized, but also totally awesome. Public transit hasn't quite caught up to the size of the city, and involves two skytrain lines and a subway, which don't connect particularly well. This leads to a sort of skytrain life, where property values and convenience are very high along the BTS, but elsewhere... traffic runs rampant. We trekked up to Ayutthaya, a once-thriving capital of Thailand that was sacked by the Burmese army in the 1700's and now sits derelict and crumbling. There, after a morning bus and walking tour, we rented bikes and rode amongst cars, motorbikes, and elephants to various temple sites. Tamara and I got lost/left behind due to bicycle struggles. No harm no foul - we made friends with the tour elephants, one of whom gave me a kiss/sniff on the hand. From Ayutthaya, we drove to a port on the Chao Phraya River, where we boarded a boat back to our hotel. During most of the boat ride, the scenery along the banks only gradually changed. However, during the last half-hour into Bangkok, skyscrapers, manufacturing complexes, and other signs of a modern city of some 20 million people sprang up out of what had been single story shacks and agricultural land.
On the weekend following wrap up, we traveled to Krabi, an island (peninsula?) paradise in the south of the country. These small communities are improbably perched on the shore, nestled between ocean and jungle, and supplied by long-tail boat. The whole enterprise seems thrown together almost by chance. Power lines have long since abandoned their guide posts, and offshoots leading to various buildings have been spliced onto the trunk line. Unfortunately, trash dumps have also sprung up, especially as you get further away from the beach.