Monday, March 08, 2004

Bangkok, Thailand--Day 38

Today I woke up and had to meet my bus for the river cruise at 7 am. I got up and headed outside and realized that this cruise that I was going on wasn’t quite the backpacking type that I am used to. I met the bus which turned out to be this huge touristy bus and climbed aboard to meet my companions for the day. I decided that I should book some sort of tour to see these places, as it makes more sense to do that than to hire a taxi all day long or something since these places are a day’s trip from Bangkok but I have to say that I am not a big fan of tour bus type deals.

Anyways, enough complaining, at least I got to see everything that I wanted to AND had actually company--other people on the tour with me! I met quite a few really nice couples who were traveling from here to there for various reasons, all seeming to be on their way to one destination or from another destination. We had to drive about an hour or so to Ban Pa-In which is the summer palace, which turned out to be interesting although very much so catered to tourists. The architecture of the buildings varied, with some having Chinese or Thai or British influences. Our tour guide sort of dropped us off which left many of us wondering if we were supposed to walk as a group on a tour or by ourselves. Eventually I ran back into my group who had been following the tour guide the whole time but I was happy to wander around on my own.

After Bang Pa-In, we stopped at a few temples before heading to Ayuthaya which was the Siamese royal capital from 1350 to 1767 (thanks again Lonely Planet). Ayuthaya is now ruins which are scattered all around the present day town. We got out and walked around a fair share of the ruins, but didn’t get to some of the really interesting ones that you could see farther down the road. It was absolutely fantastic because you could see what used to be such grand buildings (their ruins were absolutely stunning) and there were countless sitting and standing Buddhas around. Of particular interested is a Buddha head in which a huge tree has grown around it holding it down, but the head is still facing forwards which is pretty amazing.

After Ayuthaya we headed back into our bus and then onto a large reclining Buddha statue and another beautiful temple before hitting the docks where we boarded onto our boat. The boat was great and there was a buffet lunch all set up for us. So I sat down with a couple from Australia and another from Canada and we had a nice time eating and then headed upstairs to the viewing deck (which was disappointingly small) where we could watch us make our way back in to Bangkok via the river (which was surprisingly fun). The river boat ride back was a great way to see the sights and temples along the rivers, and to get an idea of how Bangkok is laid out.

After getting back to Bangkok we were then shuttled off in various directions back to our respective hotels and about an hours’ worth of traffic later I was back at the hotel. I headed out to find something for dinner and ended up eating the BEST pad Thai ever, all for one US dollar. It was fantastic and was made fresh right before my eyes from a woman who was making it on the street. After having a completely wonderful dinner I spent the next few hours just wandering around the main streets of Bangkok where there were about a billion other people walking around through all of the various street shops. I perused though them and picking up a few things before heading into a Thai massage place.

It happened kind of by accident- I was just sort of walking along and then passed the window where people were getting their feet massaged and almost didn’t take a second look but then doubled back. They were offering traditional Thai massages for 200 baht (about 4 US dollars or so) for a whole hour! Could I really resist? After all, I had heard so much about these Thai massages that I thought I would give it a go.

I walked in and before I knew it I was having my feet washed by a guy who didn’t believe that I was 23 (“You look like you are 18!”--Gee, thanks) and he took me into a little doorway that led into a larger room that had several separating curtains which divided the large room into smaller ones, each set up with pillows and cushions for the massage. I was told to change into the outfit laid out on the pillows and my soon-to-be-masseuse pulled the curtains tight.

Hmm, that’s when I realized that this had the slight (very slight) potential to be just a little bit awkward and sketchy (me being alone with this man getting a massage) but chose to ignore those feelings of uneasiness, which turned out to be good because I had a wonderful time. My masseuse A-Lee was amazing and did all sorts of crazy pushing and pulling and kneeing and pounding (and at one point getting behind me, linking my arms and then pulling me backwards OVER him so that I was sort of laying back like you would laying out in the sun, but I was on him and the pillow that was between us--how he actually got me in this position I still can’t quite figure out) and all sorts of parts of me that I didn’t know could be cracked were.

It was great and of course the hour was up before I knew it. After my massage and chatting with A-Lee (whose main concern was asking me about Michael Jackson and whether or not I think he is gay btw) I paid and was set on my way feeling much better! I headed back to my hotel and decided not to go to the beaches tomorrow but to Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and the Grand Palace instead. I can always go to beaches, but can’t always visit temples! So I cancelled with Sam and will be heading to the Temple and Palace on my own in the morning, and perhaps meeting up with one of the people on my boat cruise today at Lumphini Park, which is in central Bangkok and is supposed to be lovely.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.