Bangkok, on to Burma / by Cyrus

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Bangkok is warm. People are smiling. No one wants to kill me on ethnic or religious grounds. A nice change from our last few Raw Music trips.

We are in town to get our visas and minds together before heading to Burma. We succeeded at one of these tasks.   Our papers are in order and we fly tomorrow.

Jacob and I hadn't seen each other since dipping out of Ukraine by cover of night back in June.  It was a rough trip, one we still haven't figured out. But the video is done and coming out on NBC News' website next week (we hope).  And so it's on to Burma.

Bangkok is fine and wild and reminds me of Hong Kong with less rules. We toured the noodle carts and pharmacies but mostly kept close to home. This is a stopover, and my mind was on the Burma shoot.

Bangkok feels like so many other major cities I've seen.  A new super highway from the airport. Towering shopping malls. A taxi driver who knows how to ask "Where you from" but never knows where you're going. Billboards of Wayne Rooney and Samsung. Snarled traffic and uneven sidewalks. Families wandering the streets late at night, neon lit, dodging motorcycles and drunk white people, sharing the city with cockroaches, smog, humidity, and cooking oil.  "Handsome man!" they call from the massage parlors. The cops look tired and hot, hoping no one does anything to rouse them from their lethargy. The street dogs are fat and content.

The lasting impression is kindness. Jacob lives in Iraq. I live in Brooklyn. Where we come from, a smile from a stranger or an unsolicited offer of help is cause for concern.  "What does this fucker want," you think, as you quickly break eye contact and keep pace.  But here it seems like people mean it. Always a smile. It's disconcerting and beautiful and I don't really want to leave. But the flights are booked and in 5 hours we leave for Yangon.

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