Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bangkok - Day Two

Before leaving, I had meticulously planned out the plane route in order to determine exactly when we should take ambien. Four hours into our 13 hour flight to Taipei would put us at 20:00 Bangkok time, what we considered an acceptable time to fall asleep. Our flight left at 02:00 Utah time and it proved to be a challenge to staying up the additional four hours as the previous night had been our wedding night.

After the wedding ended, we went back to the majestic suite at Hotel Monoco to relax in the jacuzzi tub. Afterward, we put back on our wedding clothes and met up with David’s family down at Murphy’s. We drank until last call then headed back to uncle Reuben and auntie Helen’s room at the Monoco. We partied down with David’s mom’s side of the family. His sister, Stephanie, and I tangoed with Uncle Rueben until three a.m. at which point Stephanie stopped to order two of every sandwich on the menu. For the next hour Stephanie’s husband, Mike, kept interjecting all conversations with, “Can’t a brother get a sandwich?” or “What’s a brother got to do to get a sandwich up in these parts.” Needless to say, the sandwiches took a long time. By the time we got to bed, it was 04:30 on the day that we left for Thailand.

We ended up taking ambien an hour early so our first night in Bangkok saw us asleep by ten. Our first morning had us rising at 4:30, showered by 5:30, and pounding the Bangkok streets by 6:00. We found the streets to be empty, the temperature to be cool and headed out with the mission to see monks on their morning alms route
[1]. Heading in the direction of the Grand Palace, we stopped for bags of fresh pineapple chunks from the first vendor we spotted.

Moments later, we were completely lost. Whenever you find yourself in this situation in Bangkok, it is best to play what we call Follow that Monk! Wander until you find a monk, easy to spot in bright orange, and follow him because a) who’s going to jump you when a monk is around? b) he’s probably headed someplace that you’ve either been or want to see and c) will guarantee that you cross the road safely if you always position cars with a monk between you. Who’s going to hit a monk?

While the monk did help us avoid early morning traffic, he also lead us to a part of town where we immediately got even more lost. There was even a map near one building! None of the streets listed on the map were discoverable on our map of Bangkok, rendering the entire thing useless. After finding our way out of a twisted maze of streets, we hailed the first cab we could find and ordered it to the Grand Palace. Half a mile later, we were there. I had to laugh…If only we had kept walking.

Killing time until the Grand Palace opened, we headed over to Wat[2] Pho. As the origin of my beloved Thai massage, I was anxious to check the place out. We were steps away from the entrance when our path was blocked by a determined tuk tuk driver. “You need ride”, “Where you from?”, “Grand Palace closed today. I’ll take you to special clothing store instead.” I just walked away while David tried to shake him. When I could, I grabbed David’s hand and pulled him into the courtyard of Wat Pho.

We found ourselves alone, save twenty or so school children playing football on one side of the courtyard. There are three things that I’ve always wanted to hear or see in Thailand and the first occurred when we rounded a corner. From a building next to us came the deep monotone of thirty chanting monks and laid out before us were tables divided with equally offerings of their morning alms offerings. We stopped and took it all in. The chanting monks saying their morning prayers, the simple offerings, the temples glowing in the early morning light and not a single other tourist on the premises.

We emerged an hour and a half later, thirsty and starving. The hunt was on to find out which vendor would supply us with breakfast. Wandering up and down a main street in front of the Grand Palace, we settled on another soup vendor. This time, we were not only provided with beef balls and thin flank we were treated to crispy duck! The duck was from the crispy duck vendor across from our vendor, making it fun to see how they work together to make a livelihood.

After being harassed several times by tuk tuk drivers wanting to take us to “special clothing store”, our defenses were up when we were stopped by a man on the street. He introduced himself as a member of the Royal Thai Army and pointed to the nearby army building. He informed us of a few things we could do to not get ripped off by tuk tuk drivers and then informed us that the Grand Palace was closed to tourists until 1:30 that day. Damn tuk tuk harassers were telling the truth all along. He then pulled out our map and showed us several wats worth seeing that wouldn’t have many tourists. At that point, he called over a tuk tuk and showed him every wat that he wanted us to go to. The driver said “100 baht” and our guide said something in Thai about him being Royal Thai Army at which point the driver got wide-eyed, bowed a bunch, saluted him and said “40 baht” to us. This story is not only remarkable as it tells you how we got an entire day touring Bangkok for $1.18 but is remarkable as the Royal Army guy had the World’s Longest Mole Hair. Not kidding. The mole was just under his left eye and the hair went about ¼ inch past his chin. It wasn’t until afterward that I realized that David totally could have gotten a photo if I would have said something like, “Can I have a photo with our new friend?” A missed photo opportunity.

We were definitely not lead astray by our hairy friend. Temple of the Golden Buddha, Temple of the Golden Mount, Temple of the Four Buddhas, and one additional temple later, we were always by ourselves or the only foreigners. At the Temple of the Four Buddhas, the only other visitor was a 28 year old Thai man who was saying his morning prayers. He was fascinated that foreigners had decided to come there and ended up telling us the significance of all the monuments at the wat. He took us into a prayer room, explained the proper prayer method and then said a prayer with us. Being the skeptics that we are, we kept wondering when he was going to ask us to visit “very special clothing store”. All he wanted was to share his culture with two farangs who decided to travel off the beaten path.

By one p.m., the heat was stifling. As heat and I equal bad news, it was time to get me off the streets. Just as my condition was deteriorating, we were held hostage by our tuk tuk driver who refused to take us where we wanted to go. He just kept yelling at us that we must go to “special clothing store. You don’t need to buy. They give me coupon for gas.” After a shouting match between the three of us, David ordered him to pull over and caught us a proper taxi back to Soi 11 for another two hours of Thai massage. The ice cold room hit the spot.

We had planned on getting a bite to eat after the massage and then retiring to our room for a nap. We wanted to leave the crowded streets, people in every photo, and sweltering humidity to the inexperinced tourists. After all, the light was bad at that time of day anyway. What's the point of even taking out your camera?

Prior to our massage, we saw many street vendors right off of the main street, Sukhumvit. By the time we got out of our massage, all had packed it in as it was too hot to operate. Starving, we pounded the streets for a vendor, any vendor. We came across a green coconut vendor so we each stopped for fresh chilled coconut milk. After thirty minutes of finding nothing but more refreshments, we hailed a taxi back to the Four Seasons.

We deposited ourselves at their poolside restaurant and went hog wild. Mixed satay skewers, spring rolls, tofu pockets and plenty of Perrier. This story ended shortly with the heat putting me in bad shape. David got me back to the room and put me to bed. I slept until 20:00 at which point I woke David up for a dinner and a night in the Big Mango.

“No, I want to sleep.” He whined. “Come on, it’s a night in Bangkok.” I retorted. “Sleep tonight,” was his final word.

So I slept. Until 12:30 a.m. at which point I was wide awake and pretty irritated that he wanted to sleep through a night in Bangkok. I was thinking about all the missed opportunities. Would I have eaten the famed fried chicken in chili sauce from a vendor? Would we have ended up at that delicious Indian restaurant at Face Bar? Would we have spent a night shakin’ our groove thangs at Bed? As soon as he rolled over, I ensured that he was awake and miserable too. What could be done about it other than eat that yummy-looking congratulations cake that was put in our room and to get up early the following morning to enjoy the town without the rest of the world?

[1] Alms route: Thai’s make merit by providing food to the monks. Each morning, the monks come by with alms bowls and are provided with offerings. These offerings feed the monks for the day.
[2] Wat: Thai Temple.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.