A Hazy Shade of Winter in Bangkok

The past few weeks have been pleasantly (relatively) cool here in Bangkok. The occasional dawn temperature of about 18c although highs have still be in the low 30s.

There was a cold front pushing down from China, strong winds that kept the skies crystal clear, so clear you could even see a few stars at night – a rarity in light-saturated Bangkok.

Then the winds stopped and an inversion layer set in, trapping the pollution and suspending it in the humid tropical air. This morning, I drove in the dark to Rama IX Park and the view the whole way reminded me of driving in the fog of my native San Francisco.

By the time I arrived at the park, I was wondering whether it was a good idea to run. Stretching out and warming up, I captured the above image. All the lights had been turned off already except for one bright flood light in a parking lot across the park.

The light beams cut through the filter of the pollution, streaming between branches and backlighting runners who looked like zombies moving in the misty distance.

The temperature was pleasant and I decided to run. It was my fastest run in nearly a year, 5 km in 35 minutes. Not a record setting pace but good for me. By the end, though, I could feel the irritation in my lungs, the soreness in my throat, and the burning in my sinuses. No doubt, the air was not fit for strenuous exercise.

Hopefully, in a few days the inversion layer will break and the air quality will improve. Until then, indoor exercise only.

Pool Party

As part of my efforts the past year to improve my overall fitness, I have taken to running and swimming on alternate days. Our condo has a nice pool, although at 15 meters, it is a little shorter than ideal. Morning swims are best for me as they get the exercise out of the way and the water is generally cooler. The problem is, there is a crowded, informal “schedule” of who uses the pool, when. If I am not downstairs on time, I miss my opportunity!

About 6:30 on weekday mornings the middle-aged, silver hair British gentleman takes the plunge. He is friendly and our paths cross in the fitness center, but since he and I both use kickboards to augment our swimming, I would feel a little self-conscious if I was in the pool at the same time. It would feel like swimming class.

After he has finished, a Danish (I think they are Danes) retiree couple arrive around 8:00. Though they appear stern, they are friendly enough. The wife floats around while her husband’s swimming style involves a lot of splashing. Not enough room for me to share the pool without the sense of intruding upon their morning ritual.

By 9:00, the quiet, Japanese-looking (I think) Thai man who lives on the first floor with his male roommate comes out to swim. We were in the pool together at the same time a few weeks ago and his head-always-out-of-the-water combination doggy paddle and breast stroke is so slow that his body is almost vertical. As we swam, I was hyper-conscious that any wake I made would slosh him.

The sun hits the pool by mid-morning and I generally don’t like to swim in the full sun. In the afternoon, a Japanese retiree who lives on our floor removes his toupee and heads to the pool for his daily regimen of sunbathing. He alternates between lying on the lounge chair and lying in the pool resting his head on the deck. As he turns an ever darker shade of brown, the water around him is so still that I can’t bring myself to interrupt his sense of serenity by swimming laps.

By late afternoon, the children arrive at the pool. I love children but trying to swim laps while children are playing in the pool is futile. You become a target as they swim across the pool, seeing just how close they can come to colliding with the farang. Great fun for them. Less fun for me.

So that leaves me with my 7:15 am slot, right after the British gentleman and before the Danish couple. Use it or lose it, as they say. Of course, I am speaking a bit tongue-in-cheek. There is enough room that three people could swim laps without running into each other. But you know how it is, different people have different swimming styles and sometimes you don’t want to share a smallish pool with them. 

Have a good weekend!

 

How Well Do You Know This Region?

There are plenty of stories written in the American media about how little Americans know about the world and how few can identify various countries on a world map.  Certainly such knowledge is important to have and as of late, quite a bit has been going on in the North Africa – Middle East – Central Asia area.  So it was with interest that I received an email forwarded by my father that linked to a map quiz from the RethinkingSchools.org website.  The results were interesting.

Muslim World 1

First off, the quiz (which is located here) is an easy drag-and-drop style quiz where you simply drag the name of the country to the corresponding space on the map.  If you are correct, the name sticks and the country color fills in.  If you are incorrect, a red “X” appears.  There is no timer and no score is given so there is no external pressure.

“Interesting,” I thought, resolving to try the quiz.  I consider myself a bit more knowledgable about the world than the average American, although the primary arc of the Muslim world is not the corner of the globe with which I am most familiar. 

I started dragging names to places, beginning with the ones with which I was most familiar and then filling in around them based on the spacial relationships I know exist.  Of the 35 countries I was able to fill in 24 before I began to second guess myself.

I’ll add a few blank lines and you can scroll down if you want to see which ones I knew.  Warning: If you plan on taking the test yourself, you should do so before you scroll down.  No cheating!

 

 

 

 

Muslim World 2

This was how far I made it.  The next two countries I guessed – Chad and Niger – I got correct.  But after that it was a bit of hunting and pecking.

Muslim World 3

The complete results are here.  A good exercise to reinforce that we rarely know as much about the world as we think we do and can always benefit from some more learning.