Gary and Sarah Girotti/Jones|
Southeast Asia, here we come!
Day One--the Adjustment
We finally arrived!! A little shell-shocked and over-tired, we anxiously awaited for our luggage, which miraculously made it through three stops/plane changes all the way here (which begs the question: why does it get lost on a non-stop from Boston to NY??!)
We took a wild taxi ride to our hotel, checked in, and passed out cold...never has lying horizontal felt so good (contorting on planes just isn't the same!) We got up around 3 PM (much to Sarah's shagrin) to go on our first big adventure--a travel agent!
Our first big adventure took us, well, to the lobby of the hotel, where there was a travel agent on staff (yippee!! still close to bed!!) We booked some flights to Southern Thailand and got some Vietnam information, and then set off walk about the city--stretch the legs, try to get blood circulating after 30 hours in a plane!
First observation: can't breathe, can't breathe, HELP!! The pollution is absolutely oppressive...and to think, I thought it was just hazy when we arrived. A lot of people walking about have the right idea--they wear hospital masks!! We walked down to the river to the Royal Palace, which was closed, around the Palace grounds, and back to the hotel...massages were next on the itinerary...
Traditional Thai massage is like something out of a circus act. Gary and I both signed on for 1 hour massages (at a whopping $8 US!) We were led into a room by two women, and instructed to lie face up on the mattresses therein. They proceeded to twist, turn, knead, pulverize, and otherwise abuse us for a full hour--what a trip!! Thai massage is very interactive, i.e they sit or stand on you, and use every part of their body to massage yours. Sarah was highly amused by all of this, Gary less-so. He was thinking that he may need to go to a Western masseuse to undo what was done by these ladies!!
We headed to dinner after our contortionist experience, struggling to stay awake until 9 PM local time. One beer each with dinner and we were done for! [Thai beer market is dominated by Singha, a local brew--6 percent alcohol and actually quite tasty...I shall survive!!] Off to bed we went, with dreams of 12 hour sleep in our heads :o) Tomorrow we'll try to actually see some sights...
Photos can be found by clicking here
The Great Palace and The Great Penny
Mom and Dad would be proud...Gary and I played the great tourist role and saw a ton of cool things in Bangkok!! Our first "real" day brought the Great Palace, which is on the canal in the western part of the city. It is absolutely HUGE, and gorgeous. Upon arrival, they check you to make sure that you're wearing "proper" clothes. We weren't wearing acceptable footwear, so they had us borrow shoes (sandals). We also had to be wearing pants (Gary) or skirt (Sarah), and no bare arms...which is quite uncomfortable given that it was about 30/90 degrees!!
The palace grounds have a lot of buildings, most housing royal artifacts and religious offerings. We learned that you must take off your shoes when entering a building, and never, NEVER have your feet facing Buddha...quite rude if you do :o) The buildings are spectacular--very ornate, gold leaf with small tiles all over them. We found out later that these are all hand-restored, at great time and financial cost. We will upload pics when we have a better connection, descriptions just can't do it justice!!
We went back to our hotel after a few hours (had to get in some pool time, and a nap!), and then we headed to backpack central--Kho San.
Kho San is an area of streets crowded with backpackers, hawkers, scammers, and vendors. What a sight!! Dinner in this area means pointing at various ingredients on a cart, which the vendor (typically a very old woman) then throws into a pot, boils, spices (MSG is all the rage here), and hands over in a large bowl. It's actually quite good, as long as you're sure what you're pointing at. Sarah was quick to learn "no pep", which means "easy on the spice, buddy" (or something like that). Another lesson: when ordering chicken, ask what PART of the chicken--Gary was quite disappointed to find that his skewer was all chicken liver!!
We bartered with the vendors, gawked at our fellow travellers from a street-side pub, and eventually found our way to "Gullivers Travel", a bar crowded with both locals and packers. It was here that we met the Fargo of Australia---Penny. Nineteen years old, drinking Jack Daniels straight, and making friends with everyone in sight. Her best words of wisdom for us: "Visit Bolivia...it's so (wrings hands, tears up)...CULTURAL!!" We had many a laugh over that one...
Canals and Wats and Traffic, Oh My!!
Our second full day in Bangkok was quite an adventure. We fought through the urge to nap (hoping to sleep past 4 AM), and experienced non-tourist Bangkok via a canal trip. We spent the morning at Wat Pho, which was truly amazing. [Wats are buildings dedicated to religious--Buddhist--worship, and they are everywhere throughout the city!] This particular wat features a reclining buddha who is 46 meters long!! It is a depiction of him right before he reaches Nirvana...very impressive. Wat Pho also has the so-called Emerald Buddha, a smaller Buddha statue that is cut from a single piece of jade. It was discovered in the 15th century by a monk, who found a plaster buddha and revered it greatly. It wasn't until years later that the plaster chipped off of his nose, and he discovered that it was actually made of jade! It travelled extensively, until it found it's current state of rest.
Now, the question is, of all the wats in Bangkok, why choose Wat Pho? The secret is in our trust Lonely Planet book--there's a massage school on the grounds!! Gary and I rewarded our good tourist behavior with an hour-long foot massage...mmm. [What are we ever going to do without daily massages???]
When we could walk again (massages are relaxing!!) we headed to the canal, and took a long boat throught the network of canals in the area...what a trip! Long boats are about 10 meters long, with an outboard motor (think lawnmower engine) on the back...attached to a propellor that is about 3 meters long!! They're really funny looking, but they get the job done. The maze of canals is fascinating--there are homes built throughout, with the only access to them being via boat. There are various floating markets all around, providing the necessities for the people that live on the river.
The long boat, of course, took us to the inevitable tourist traps. First stop-a snake farm, where nutty guys tormented cobras and other venomous snakes into striking--but they always danced out of the way in time. The target on my forehead must have been in full glow--when they brought one of them around for us to see (holy fangs!), they dropped his tail on me...boy, did I move quickly! They laughed and told me I was afraid of the wrong end...funny guys, or at least they think so!!
We're off to Phuket (southern Thailand) tomorrow--fun in the sun!!