Monday, February 16, 2009

Bangkok, Thailand -- Sawadee-ka

Following are two emails from Stephanie, my traveling partner:

Email 1:
Sawadee-ka...Hello from Thailand. It's Monday, 11a.m. Elisa & I managed to lose a lot of yesterday-time change caught up with us. We are staying at the Royal Orchid Sheraton, and have a view of the river. Last night we went to the Suanam Market, ate the most delicious roast pork soup and drank lots of lemongrass tea...The night before I tried fried grasshoppers & washed it down with singha..yumm..They actually don't taste like much of anything-salty & crunchy! We rode in a tuk-tuk--motorized scooter, which are everywhere. They account for a lot of the pollution. We plan on navigating the 'street train' this afternoon..There are lots of (legit) massages places, where you get an hour foot massage for about $6 u.s. dollars. If we're lucky, we'll do that each night before bed..There are lots of other massages places too-and single, older men who are here for young thai women..but that's another story. Also, lots of 'lady boys', or women who are endowed with male parts..most of them quite beautiful. Today we set the alarm, ran for 1/2 hour in the gym & will take a water taxi up the river to go visit some temples-Wat Pho & the Royal Palace. There are colorful fabrics everywhere & the people are friendly, always smiling. We're hoping to making to a Muay Thai (Boxing) match this evening..Sawadee-ka! (Also, goodbye, in Thai)

Email 2:
Hi Everyone,

Here's another status update...It's 6:30a.m. in Bangkok. We made up for losing that day by having a super busy one yesterday. It ended with a reflexology foot massage at about 11p.m. across the street from our hotel. I was so tired, that I finally had a sound sleep last night-which explains why I was awake at 5:30s.m., and am now in the business center writing this email!

We left the hotel & walked around some side streets, where the thai locals were cooking up all types of delicious food. We ate some fried rice and noodles with shrimp & vegetables. I am loving the chili, which may surprise some of the thai people. (I don't think they put the 'hot stuff' on the westerner's tables-but we ask :) We then boarded a boat up the river and went to the Royal Palace. I was wearing a sun dress with a scarf wrapped over my shoulders, but I was not conservative enough. I, along with many, had to wait in a line to put on a button down shirt--I tried not to think about how many others had sweated in that shirt that morning...The Royal Palace has remarkable architecture. The details in each of the temples is unique, reflecting different periods in Thai/Chinese culture. One of the most venerated sites in all of Thailand rests here- the Emerald Buddha. There is an ornate temple, with hundreds of gold-leafed Buddhas, murals depicting stories from Buddhist texts, and a Buddha made of Emerald sitting in prayer position. We removed our shoes and sat next to several monks who were chanting, along with people from around the world. It was like being in another universe-so peaceful, surreal, trying to rest our minds as sweat dripped down our foreheads...deep breath...We continued to other parts of the Royal Palace. There is a throne where the king is ordained-Thailand has the oldest monarchy, and many shaded, garden areas. We drank lychee juice & lots of water--it was hot!

From there, we took a tuk-tuk to the Wat-Pho, another temple and massage school. The Reclining Buddha is inside the Wat Pho. It is enormous, gold, and surreal. On the bottom of the buddha's feet, there are detailed designs etched in mother of pearl. The Buddha spans an entire building..It was a bit crowded, though, and there wasn't a place to stop and sit within the temple. We walked through the gardens, and left to find a place with a.c. to get another snack- pad thai & green curry..yumm..

From there, we ventured to the backpacker's part of town..This neighborhood reeked of Bangkok! So many different sights, sounds, smells. It was a bit of a sensory overload. We stopped and had a singha, people watched, and took it all in. Walking down the streets, it was hard to stay in focus. There were people-old, young, european, thai, korean, spanish, german & lots of young, grungy backpackers. From what we could tell, it did not seem like there were many Americans..We may have to go back again to fully experience that side of town. One stroll through didn't seem like enough.

Finally, we jumped in a taxi to get to Rachmanadam Stadium to catch the Muay Thai-Thai Boxing. It was unbelievable. There are 10 matches, each going 5 rounds-3 minutes each, with 2 minute rests. The stadium was stark, smoking section packed (non-smoking, there were plenty of seats), young kids selling cut fruit, beer & soda. This is a cultural phenom..Thai men waging all kinds of bets-money being exchanged, moved, after every round. We sat & watched the Thai boxers-kicking, punching, throwing eachother to the ground. We also watched the crowd, as they cheered in unison. Before each match, the boxers do a 'dance' that represents their boxing gym..a band ( drums, cymbals, and flute) play along with the energy..We stayed for several matches, and returned to our part of town at about 10p.m.--quite the day.

What better way to end than to get a reflexology foot massage..I was so tired, I collapsed into bed when we got back. I finally dreamt last night-a sign of good sleep!

Today, we plan on exploring some markets, going to a musuem, and eating more thai food-of course!!

Hope all are well.