I started my portion of the trip by myself, I left Chicago on Turkish Airlines with a layover in Istanbul. I departed Chicago on November 2nd and arrived in Bangkok the 4th of November, the group I was traveling with had made their way to the beach house and I decided to wait for them in Bangkok. Though I was nervous at first, I enjoyed my time alone in Bangkok. My first night in town, I found a spot for a manicure and pedicure for 250 baht (about $8 US). I then made my way to MBK – a huge electronics super store. I then walked to Siam Square which is a happening little area for high school and college kids. In Siam Square, one will find many restaurants and bars, I found one that had cockroaches crawling all over the place. That was my only experience with cockroaches in restaurants while in Thailand, though I did see many huge ones in the street markets and being sold as food.
The next day, I made it over to Wat Pho, the temple where the Reclining Buddha rests his head. Have it be known, the reclining Buddha is not a resting, in fact just the opposite. The reclining Buddha has reached “Nirvana”, he is fully enlightened. It is a thoroughly religious pose for the Thai people. In any case, seeing him was awesome. He is 155 feet long and gold with mother of pearl on the bottoms of his feat. I have great photos in a camera that was stolen (read on, I will tell you more about this later) so I cannot really share them with you.
The group arrived late this afternoon. I had an appointment with The Peninsula and the Four Seasons on this day. I met the Public Relations associates of both hotels (one for lunch and the other for late afternoon coffee). The two hotels are both lovely and both are very different from one another. The hotels are located on opposite sides of the city, in order to get from one to the other, I had to get on a ferry, transfer to the Sky Train and then walk. On the way home, I grabbed a tuk tuk which was my favorite form of transportation while in Thailand.
Most of the group had gone shopping that day and we never met up that night. Instead, I went to our hotel pool and had dinner poolside. I met a nice Dutch couple who were traveling for 25 days (I envied them) and then I met a nice British couple, older, who come to Thailand at least once a year. The British couple stunned me, they were “pre-partying” before they hit the streets of Bangkok. As for me, that night I went to bed shortly after dinner, around 10pm. Sightseeing really takes a lot out of you.
I caught up with the group on day 3 and we spent the entire day sightseeing though we did not see much. We headed to the Grand Palace and then to Wat Pho. Since I had already been to Wat Pho, I got a massage from the massage school at the temple. One of the best massage schools in Thailand is at Wat Pho and a few of us opted for the massages (150 Baht or about $5 USD) for a 30 minute massage. The difference with Thai massage is that you keep your clothes on and you lay down on a thin, firm mattress in a room with at least six other people. It is not a private experience. It takes some getting used to at first but eventually it just feels normal.
Around 4pm, the group decided to head back to the hotel and a bunch of us decided we wanted to take a ride on the river. We wanted to do a “long tail” boat ride, which is only a tourist thing but we were tourists. We ended up taking the bus back to The Peninsula with the family and hoped to catch a boat there. Due to traffic, it took nearly two hours to get to the hotel and it was too late for the long tail boats (they stop service at sundown). We opted for the ferry up the river and then back down the river. We were told this experience would take a ½ hour but it took more like an hour and a half just to get UP the river. By the time we reached the last stop, we realized we only had an opportunity to catch the LAST boat back. We waited at the dock (which was all local, we were the only tourists) and decided we wanted to wander into the night and see the local parts of Bangkok.
At one point, we stopped and got a coke at the restaurant that was at the end of the pier. We stopped at a tiny shop that sold tshirts and bags for younger, Thai kids and finally, we stopped on the corner to ask a white girl for directions. When we stopped on the corner, a drunk Thai man offered to help us, he leaned over our shoulders and rudely interrupted. At one of these points, I must have either put down my camera OR someone cut it off of me. Another thought was perhaps as I debarked the crowded ferry someone cut it off me? I remember being paranoid that I would drop the camera that was around my neck as I got on/off the ferry because it is choppy and the docks look like some dudes just quickly put them together 20 years ago. Nothing to hold onto, they are not stable and you get splashed with water. I held onto the camera firmly as I got on/off. After that point, I don’t recall ever noticing the camera again until we were an hour into our walk. I yelled “my camera!” but it was too late, it was gone. We went back to look for it but never found it.
That evening we all went out as a group, probably a poor choice because it was the night before the wedding. We went down to the Pat Pong area (where the girly bars are) and, yes, we did end up seeing a “ping pong show”. I cannot go into detail regarding this because this is a rated PG blog but I will tell you this. There is nothing sexual about the show, in fact, it is more like a freak show. The women we saw had abilities I never knew a woman could possess. It was also sad because the younger girls dancing on stage are life-less, they have no emotion on their faces and it is apparent that they are unhappy. The older ones (who usually possess unimaginable vaginal powers) are hardened and angry. These women have likely been working in the brothels and ping pong bars their whole lives and their children likely work there too. They treat their work just like any other street vendor would, they do their best to sell you their product and take as much money from you as possible. Aside from this strip of girly bars, I did not see ANY overtly sexual or unusual behavior in Thailand, on the contrary, the culture is quite conservative and reserved.