Tuk-Tuks, Thai Spicy, Lucky Buddha & Stray Cats
Trip Start Jul 12, 2009
27Trip End Nov 04, 2009
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Our flight ended up being 19 hours due to a 2 hour layover in Toyko that I didn't realize we had. It was actually nice to get up and stretch our feet during the layover as well as explore the airport stores filled with bizarre food. I was most fascinated by the dried sand crabs that were packaged in the same manner as trail mix and gummi worms are here back in the US. Apparently they are just as delicious to the Japanese as they are adorable to small children who keep sand crabs as pets in the United States.
We arrived in Bangkok without a hitch - made it through customs without being questioned about my lack of a return flight, didn't get scammed on a taxi, and our bags arrived safe and sound at our hostel
We left the hostel Tuesday morning with no agenda besides a tenative plan of heading to Lumphini Park. However, on our way to the water taxi, we met two Thai women who were very helpful and very nice (and didn't even ask for a tip!). They informed us that today was a Buddhist holiday and all temples were free of charge. Additionally, all Tuk-Tuks would only charge 10 baht each to cart us to each of them (with the underlying assumption that the Tuk-Tuk would take us to various stores along the way in hopes that we would buy something and he would receive a commission from the store owners). Considering that 10 baht is about 30 cents, we were more than willing to take the women up on their suggestion. They even flagged down a driver for us and negotiated the terms. For anyone that may not know, the ubiquitous Thai Tuk-Tuk is a motorized rickshaw that is named after the sound of their engines. These vehicles are neither safe, nor efficient, yet tourists love them so they continue to flourish in Bangkok. Our Tuk-Tuk driver, "Mr. Sinae" looked nothing like his license posted in the back of the Tuk-Tuk. Nonetheless, Mr. Sinae was very friendly and quite inquisitive, asking us our ages (and probably silently calling us old maids, as in the Thai culture, unmarried women over 25 are considered spinsters)
Our first stop was the Standing Buddha (or so the two women we met had called it), which was a large temple with a massive gold Buddha in the center, standing several stories tall. When we approached the courtyard that housed the Standing Buddha, a man tried to sell us small birds encased in cages. A sign indicated that setting the birds free is a tribute to Buddha. This temple is also where I first noticed that there are thousands of stray cats in Bangkok - they are literally everywhere and I'd estimate that at least half are missing a part of their bodies (most common is the tail). There are also unidentifiable breeds of dog everywhere and the dogs are typically sleeping. There were several shrines and small temples surrounding the standing Buddha, the most interesting of which was a room with a shrine that was a semi circle. At the top of the circle, on a elevated platform, sat a monk, sitting completely still with his legs crossed and his eyes closed. He was holding a string that led into a small pond in front of him. There were several people sitting around the semicircle, worshipping. It was an amazing sight.
Next we headed to the Lucky Buddha, my favorite of all the Buddhas. We were greeted by a man in the temple ( as well as some cats) that gave us a brief overview of the Buddhists view of reincarnation and nirvana and kept telling us that if we entered the temple of the Lucky Buddha that we would have much luck
After all the Buddhas and our tuk-tuk adventure (which we equated to the excitement of riding a rollercoaster), we took a water taxi down the river and stopped for lunch at one of the first restaurants we found because we were starving. Our first Thai lunch was delicious but SO SPICY. We forgot that we were in Thailand and that there is no "scale" here. Asia ordered a vegetarian dish that was soaking in hot peppers and I ordered drunken noodles with chicken which was delicious but covered in hot peppers. I could only stomach about half of my meal before my lips almost burned off!! After lunch we headed down the crowded avenue to Lumphini Park, at which point the daily downpour began
After the nap, we headed to the backpackers district, which is a 10 minute walk from our hostel. The backpackers district is several streets lined with hostels, bars, restaurants, and hundreds of street vendors selling shoes, watches, purses, food, clothes, and just about EVERYTHING. We ended up sitting outside and enjoying curry and Thai beer. After dinner, we walked around the shops and had another beer at an Irish bar that was blaring American music. The only thing that is disappointing about the bar scene here is that everyone sits at tables rather than standing. This would be fine if it weren't Asia and I alone, looking to meet fellow travelers and gain some valuable tips! Hopefully we will have better luck meeting people tonight or at our next destination, Cambodia. We ended up going to bed pretty early, still jet lagged and all around exhausted from a very very long day
Wednesday we took it easy. We slept in (well til 9 a.m.), checked our email and wrote in our journals before heading back to the backpackers district to do a little shopping. We enjoyed fresh mango and pineapple from a street vendor before heading to a get a 30 minute Thai foot massage for $4! The massage was so relaxing and very therapeutic - my feet felt significantly less sore afterward. After the massage we grabbed falafels from a street vendor and then headed to this internet cafe to research our great trip to Cambodia (we leave Friday).
Tomorrow we are doing a morning tour of the floating market and then seeing a Thai boxing match. Friday we head to Cambodia!