Bangkok

Trip Start Oct 31, 2006
1
16
18
Trip End May 2007


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Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Sawatdee ka/krup!!
 
We arrived in Bangkok at 5:00 a.m. a day after the new year's day bomb blasts. Since the military coup which ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin, there has been increasing political tension in Thailand. Yet, one would never notice but for the daily front page newspaper articles. Daily articles appeared discussing the new government's investigations into corruption by the former prime minister (who is presently in Australia starting a new political party called the "Enjoy Life Party"-, leave it to a Buddhist Billionaire to come up with this), a demand for democratic elections, the draft of the new constitutional amendments whereby Buddhism would be declared the official religion (the monks are still meditating on this issue). We had planned only a few nights in Bangkok, but those few nights turned into 7 nights at a modern boutique hotel called Luxx. The beds were fantastic, which made sleeping in quite easy. Other travelers thought we were crazy for having stayed so long in Bangkok. Many thought the city was polluted, congested and a bit seedy. Well, we suppose that is one perspective; but nevertheless, we found it soothing and relaxing like a Swiss lodge in the Alps, but then again compared to India so is traffic in Bogota during rush hour. We spent our time in Bangkok eating very well (we could live off Thai food), shopping at the different weekend and night markets, visiting art galleries and getting daily Thai foot and body massages.  So, we'd like to take this opportunity to let you know that we are moving to Thailand....
 
But our days in Bangkok were more than just lazing around the city and going to markets...there were wats too. We spent an afternoon at Wat Mahathat, a Buddhist Monastery. There, we were introduced to Buddhist meditation and spent the afternoon learning several meditation practices. We also saw Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) not actually visited since we didn't get out of the water taxiJ and Wat Pho (the Reclining Buddha) and where traditional Thai massage was first taught. This was an amazing temple! The city is full of Wats, but upon our arrival to Thailand we had contracted the common traveler's syndrome known as AFT-"another fuckin' temple," so we by passed many of  the lesser known temples and visited the few main attractions only.  Getting around the city was easy with the Skytrain. One interesting aspect of Thai culture is its reverence for the King and Queen. We discovered this one Monday when we were waiting for the Skytrain and all of a sudden a sea of yellow tee-shirts stepped off the train. Could this be a really large tour group? Oh no, every Monday most Thais don on the official His Royal Highness yellow polo shirt in honor of the King since he was born on a Monday. Fridays it's the blue shirt for Her Royal Majesty the Queen.
 
Bangkok is famous for its "nightspots" known as Patpong and Soi Cowboy. If you have read any of the Bangkok Tattoo books by John Burdett [we read Bangkok Tattoo while in Thailand and highly recommend it] you understand what these nightspots are all about...sadly. Mainly balding, older, Western men enjoying the company of young Thai women, girls, and katueys (you can look this up). It is actually quite a sad scene of offerings of ping pong shows, which are sex shows where you can select from a menu of options. Young Thai men stand around the area screaming out "free drinks" and "no likey, no pay" while harassing the farangs to go in the bar and "only look." Even the bar mamasan in her garish outfit and big hair will be standing outside inviting farangs in for a free drink.  Frankly, this scene represents the worst of Thailand, in a country that is rich with culture, but it is this aspect that sadly draws many farang men to visit Thailand. 
 
The two most fun and interesting things we did in Bangkok were going to see a Muay Thai boxing event and Thai cooking lessons at the Blue Elephant Cooking School.  Muay Thai is Thai kickboxing where men battle it out in the ring while mobs of locals are betting on the matches and screaming out for more blood...OK, maybe they're not screaming out for more blood, but they were shouting a lot in Thai. The main event was a knockout in the first round. Christina thought, "Oh no poor guy, he might be dead." So Uddy went and had his picture taken with the champ.
 
Uddy and I donned on our aprons and spent half a day learning how to cook Thai recipes at the Blue Elephant Cooking School. The course included a morning visit to a local food market where we drank iced coffee out of plastic bags. And yes, it tasted great. We felt like we were on a cooking show-chopping chilies, making sauces and burning fingers. After the class, we had lunch at the restaurant where we ate our dishes...thank goodness they tasted good, plus some others prepared by the restaurant.
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