Sometimes, when I am in southeast Asia, I feel like I'm a million miles from home in a strange and unfamiliar place.
And other times, I would swear that I'm in my own backyard.
Case in point. One evening, during my week-long stay with Baby Boy, he left his food stall in the capable hands of his wife, Ira, and took me out for a few hours of drinks and pleasant conversation.
Well, that was quite a change from the usual hustle-bustle of his busy evenings of food service, and I was happy to let him entertain me however he saw fit.
We kicked off our outing with a few work-related errands - dropping employees off here, making a bank deposit there. And then, after mulling over a number of possible restaurants, Baby Boy drove us through countless crowded streets and back alleys till we came to a quiet and out-of-the-way open-air coffee shop.
My head was still spinning with the complexities of our travels, so as we walked in and sat down, my senses could not absorb much information about my surroundings. But as we ordered our drinks and settled into our seats, my eyes landed on a nearby shrub covered with strikingly gorgeous blossoms.
I crossed the patio and snapped several shots of the flowers. As I turned to head back towards my table, my eyes swept across the room and fully took in the all the details of the space.
I was totally and utterly charmed.
I didn't take many photos. The light was fading and anyway, I try not to play into the crazy American tourist stereotypes.
But everywhere I looked, I saw clever design, gorgeous texture and color, inventive materials and a super cool urban aesthetic.
This place could be dropped right down in the trendiest hipster neighborhood of my trendy hipster hometown of Seattle and no one would bat an eyelash. The vibe was postmodern, chic and unarguably awesome.
^ Our food and drinks arrived - smoothies in a look-alike Mason jar, meatballs smothered in a silky smooth sauce in a rustic metal platter - and lived up to the same happening standard.
^ Then we went to the wholesale market and bought a whole bunch of chicken for Baby Boy's stall. As usual, the plastic bags leaked and a trail of fresh blood followed us out of the store and into the steamy night air.
And I knew I was in Asia after all.
* * * * *
For more delicious stories about Baby Boy, try these: