Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bangkok Commandos



Bangkok does not try to be anything that it is not.  This city is brutally honest.  It is a megalopolis teeming with the lives of around 10 million people, and each of them carries with them a wry smile and bag full of charms.  Most of them are selling something, and if you are a tourist, then you are their mark(et).  You can feel the population swirl around you as the roads pulse with speeding taxis, trucks, and tuk tuks.  It is a tough place to cross the street, and a tougher place not to love for its down to earth gritty charm.  This is Thailand and proud of it.

We really lucked out with our hotel booking.  Our room is probably around 1000 square feet, and we have a kitchen, washer, dryer, and an enormous bath.  The washer and dryer are what I want to talk about.  We put a load in early in the morning and went back to bed.  Some backstory:  when we checked in the evening prior, we were informed of some "light" construction work being done on the floor directly beneath us.  About an hour after falling back to sleep, the sounds of saws came to life.  We were kind of complaining to eachother, and when Kristin went to check on our laundry she realized that it was not saws at all; it was our washing machine.  Truth be told, the sound emanating from this machine sounded more like jet turbines spooling than a saw.  It was endlessly hilarious, and since it was our noise, it immediately became less annoying and we were able to fall back asleep.  After our first load was done, we put our clothes in the dryer.   The dryer must take about 3 hours to dry a load.  We did not know this.  Since we only brought 2 pairs of super high-tech Exoficio underwear each, and both were in the dryer and still extremely damp, we had to leave for our exploring missing a customary wardrobe staple.

We initially walked a few blocks to get a feel for our neighborhood, and then hailed a taxi for a trip to Wat Pho.  Wat Pho houses a huge reclining Buddha statue and is known as the birthplace of the traditional Thai massage.  We were going to check out the grounds and then go for a massage.  Our taxi driver told us that he was Michael Schumacher from Formula 1, and proceeded to carve a butt-clenching path through the mayhem of the streets.  He also chanted Obama for about 3 minutes.  As a matter of fact, every single person that asked us where we were from today, shook our hand after we said USA, and proceeded to talk about Obama and how great he is.  It is a world of difference compared to the last few years, when I would say that I am from Texas, foreigners would kind of grimace and ask about George Bush.  When we arrived at the temple, we were having a great deal of trouble attempting to cross the street.  A young Thai fellow told us to follow him, and we did.  After that he started to ask us questions.  Sometimes when you are traveling, you have to go with the flow.  So when a mustachioed Thai man asks you, "How long have you been in my country?" You answer the question and apparently let him become your impromptu travel agent.  In a moment, he was hailing us a Tuk Tuk (motorized rickshaw), and after inspecting the drivers license and insuring that he was a legitimate government approved Tuk Tuk driver, we were off.  He negotiated our travel trajectory and terms. Wat Pho would be our final stop because the royal family was there and it would be shut down for several hours. This driver would take us around all afternoon for 40 baht, or about $1.17.  Now, we realized that this low cost arrangement is similar to hulu or other "free" internet based entertainment that makes one sit through advertisements.  In this case, the advertisments were shops, and our driver was very forthcoming about this arrangement.  He told us, "Go in that store for 10 minutes and I will get free gas and a coupon.  It is good for you and good for me."  So we endured the occasional shop for essentially free transportation all afternoon.  He had marked up our map with a progression of stops.  Temples and markets were the general fare.  Our first stop was a temple called Sitaram (we think).  And after walking in, and in the wrong direction, we were corralled in by another Thai gentleman, Vince.  He told us that we were going the wrong way.  At temples, Thais go counterclockwise about the temple and visitors go clockwise.  He then told us about that each day of the week has a separate Buddha, and the reclining Buddha was the Tuesday Buddha.  He then invited us into the temple to pray with him.  He really showed us the ropes and made us feel at home.  We prayed at the alter of a solid gold Buddha surrounded by a number of other various Buddhas.  It was a very peaceful prayer and lasted about 3 minutes, the wind sort of brought some fragrant warm air in the open windows, and you could hear children playing quietly outside.  After prayer, we sat on the prayer mats and talked about life, work, cultural differences, religious differences (he said when he goes to Christian churches he sees Jesus crucified and it makes him sad and scared), and of course, Obama.  He told us that the temple houses one of the premier meditation schools in the world, and he had taken the extremely difficult course.  It was a very rewarding experience, and we are glad that we met Vince.  After that temple, we had some Sing-ha and Thai stir fry, followed by some shops and more temples, and then the sky opened up and started to dump the Andaman sea directly on to Bangkok.  We never made it back to Wat Pho, riding in a Tuk Tuk during a monsoon in unbelievably hectic traffic is damn near as exhilarating as it gets  We threw in the towel after about 5 very frightening and wet minutes.  We paid our driver and boarded a taxi home.  After waiting out the storm in our room, we had dinner at Vertigo on top of  the Banyan Tree Hotel , 61st floor patio.  There is not a better view from a dinner table anywhere.  Up in the clouds, we shared lobster spring rolls, fois gras, seared scallops, and tuna tartar with caviar.  We sipped champagne and acted like the young aristocracy that we most definitely are not.  We are both suckers for a great view though, so I suppose we could endure this level of opulence for one of the best that man has built.



Now I am about to go to bed once Krisin is finished getting her massage in our bedroom.  She arranged a two hour massage for about 20 bucks.  It is very quiet and looks kind of weird in there.  Tomorrow, we leave for Cambodia.



Tuk Tuk on Thai Street




Small Shop



Sodas, Kristin liked the Coca Cola logo



Temple Palace


Democracy Monument



Huge temple complex



Some poor Thais hanging out



A lady selling some type of snack



Dirty waterway



View from inside a Tuk Tuk



Beat up Thai flag



Thai schoolchildren


Statue at temple



Mr. Happy at lunch



Stir fry dish



Chicken fried rice with peppers


Marble temple



Temple Dog



Storm rolling in over the temple



About 30 seconds before a downpour



Pigeon and Monk


Bell tower



Outside Banyan Tree Hotel



View from dinner



At Vertigo atop the Banyan Tree hotel



The place was really expensive, so we split this appetizer tray for 2
left to right - Lobster Spring Roll, Seared Scallop, Caesar Salad
2nd row - Fois Gras, Tuna tartar, and more Foie Gras


View of Bangkok



It started raining, and we had to finish inside, so they gave us an additional lobster spring roll
and scallop each







4 comments:

  1. Can you bring me one of those lobster spring rolls back? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
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