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Friday, June 1

Thailand Travels: Day Two

Breakfast by the hotel’s eternity poolside started off day two of our Thailand trip. An elaborate buffet spread was included in the ridiculously cheap package we had booked which allowed me to fill my plate of exotic, local fruits and Thai omelets.

After eating more than our fair share, we hit the streets in search of a travel agency to book all of our trips. Should you ever travel to Thailand, yet another place were the prices are bargainable are the day trips. Even though the hotel offered packages, the prices were not necessarily pricy, but pricier than we were willing to spend. The concierge kindly offered up directions to an agency he recommended nearby. We set off in that direction full of confidence but it took only twenty minutes until we recognized that we would be terrible candidates for the Amazing Race. Instead, we located what appeared to be a reputable service and entered. Perusing their information, we found the tours we had already sought to do and began working at a better price. Three tours – one for six hours, the second an eleven hour tour, the third a ten hour tour, including lunch and we got the price to just under $125 per person. While surely it was not the best deal in Thailand ever, it certainly wasn’t too shabby for my first real attempt at bargaining. Kimono Hubby sat silently by.

Having three hours of free time before the first tour guide picked us up at the hotel, we set off to find a good market. As we stood on the corner, a friendly local asked if he could help. After talking, we discovered he worked at our hotel. He gave us the skinny on local markets, and then escorted us to a cab that looked more like a covered tricycle sporting a motorcycle engine. We climbed in, our friend providing the destination in Thai, and began our excursion through the hectic streets at speeds that seemed entirely risky for the unbalanced contraption we were perched upon. There were moments that cars whizzed by, both going our direction on one side and the opposite direction on the other where, as if I was a small child, I had to be reminded to stop sticking my hand out to touch the zippy passerby’s.

When we arrived at our destination, our surprise was surely evident. We had just been discussing the possibility of hitting one of Thailand’s infamous tailoring shops for cheap suits for Kimono Hubby if there was time. Here we found ourselves pulled up in front of one. There must have been some miscommunication when we had mentioned shopping in our street corner conversation. While this turned out to be a good misstep for Kimono Hubby, it certainly wasn’t the market filled with colorful silks that I was hoping for. Offering me a Singha beer upon entering at 10:30 in the morning did much to make me smile though, allowing me to be quite content as the fitted KH for his multiple suits. Another salesperson worked on me. At first, I was quite resistant as I really don’t need suits or pants or skirts. But once the price hit $100 for three pairs of custom tailored pants made of fine wool, I could no longer say that silly no word and found myself with measuring tapes strapped around my waist and thighs. The sale complete… the beers gone… we headed back to our motorbike cab. (Thailand is known for and very proud of three things – custom tailoring, massage and jewelry. As I will not mention the suits again in my writings, I did want to make it known that the night after the order was placed, a man came to our hotel room for us to try the new pieces on. Any adjustments were made that night. The final product was delivered back to our hotel at no extra cost the next day. That is exactly 36 hours after the order that the final product was hand delivered. And let me tell you that nothing we have ever bought has been so gorgeous in its fit.)

We assumed our cabbie was taking us back to the hotel so we were quite surprised at the next step. A jewelry shop. But not your everyday kind. This place had escorts draped in Thai silk waiting at the door. They brought you through a workshop where jewelers were hand making the jewelry as people watched. Through another set of doors and you arrived inside a huge store lined with glass cases of the most elaborate and original ruby and sapphire pieces. This was all lovely to see and I was happy to be encouraged into trying any piece on that I wanted… however, there is just absolutely no way that I would ever spend that much money on jewelry for myself no matter how much damn bargaining I did. The last case before you exit has the cheap stuff. You were ushered there in a last ditch effort but even this did not sway me into a purchase. It wasn’t that the stones were imperfect as was repeatedly indicated, I just wasn’t looking to drench myself in gold and gems on this trip. Pulling away for the outstretched arms of our salesperson, we made it to the front door. Our cabbie was casually propped in the shade reading a paper under the assumption that we would be awhile. He was surprised to see us out so soon. It was only later that we would come to the supposition that he may have gotten a cut for getting us there.

We had time only for a quick lunch at this point. Ready for the taste of real Thai, it took me only moments to find a street cart on the filthy street behind the hotel to stake my claim at lunch. I think it was pork with some definite, serious chili peppers going on, and a little bit of god knows what else thrown in. Oh and rice from a plastic bag. Taking my lunch to a rickety plastic table in the alleyway, KH looked at me with disdain as I shoveled forkfuls down. The fear of something like Montezuma’s revenge made him shy away from trying even one bite full. Having had this revenge before from the Mexican devil himself, I feared no evil. Only when we came upon another food vendor housed in a concrete cage would KH lower his guard and try it. Somehow the idea that this place was in a building made him presume that it was safer. I couldn’t have cared less as long as he ate. You just have no idea how angry that man gets if he doesn’t eat.

Soaked through from the heat of the day and the heat of our lunches, we changed into heavier clothes for our afternoon tour. Or should I say the tour forced us into heavier clothes. The afternoon destination was the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha, a magnificent temple structure that required having shoulders, legs and toes covered. Our tour guide promptly picked us up at one in the afternoon, talking incessantly on the way to the Grand Palace. She told us a little history about the King and then a little history about the royal family. Then after that was more on the King’s history and a little more about the royal family. I think she mentioned Bangkok once or twice. But what we came to realize above all, is that it was all about the King. While I understand that royalty is quite important in Thailand, there were moments throughout the day with our guide that we began to question if brainwashing techniques were involved. I’m not trying to be cruel or not understanding when I say this. I just can’t fathom a country who can only talk about how wonderful their King is. The streets are lined with royal yellow flags. Yellow is the color for Monday and the King was born on a Monday. The Queen was born on a Friday, hence more infrequent blue royal flags. Pictures of the King were plastered onto every third building. Magnificent shrines housing the King’s portraits were found on every other corner. We heard stories about how the King does so much good for his people. The King gives everything back to his people. And the stories were repeated over and over throughout every single tour we took. Somewhere in the afternoon, it was mentioned that it was illegal to talk bad about the King and you could be imprisoned for doing so. A-ha! Could that we why the nonstop praise and all-hail-glory-be? I will stop there because I am still pretty close in proximity to Thailand and I don’t want to spend even one day exploring the Thai prison system. But seriously… weird!

The Grand Palace it self… well? Simply amazing. Gold. Glittering. Magnificent. I don’t know what more to say about this place. It was honestly beyond words. Every where you turned, there was a structure or statue more amazing than the one before. This place was certainly a place fit for a king.

The Emerald Buddha, one of Thailand’s most famous Buddha’s is housed in this area and we were eager to see the glory of the jade sculpture. Blessing the crown of our heads with a lotus flower dipped in blessed water, we entered the gold room that housed the Emerald Buddha. Many were kneeled on the floor saying silent prayers. High above the many heads in the room sat one tiny Buddha. For all of its hype, we were expecting something bigger than three feet tall. While honestly a superb piece, we just were not prepared for its smallish stature.

After all the gold glory, we were ready to be shuttled back to the hotel. Our guide prattled on during the drive, more King talk, blah, blah, born on Monday, blah, yellow color, blah. Hey look! Another shrine for the King! How can the people not love their King when it seems to almost be shoved into their brains? (Gah! Please don’t arrest me! I too love the King!)

Instead of taking us to our hotel, we pull up into… yet another jewelry factory and store! Seriously, what is this racket? Same deal except they added a movie about gemstones and some free drinks to this tour. We moved much quicker this time out of it. I no longer cared if it was construed as rude. I wanted a shower and nothing on this earth would have made me chose a ruby ring over a shower! Our guide seemed disappointed to see us so quickly on the other side of the building but begrudgingly led us to another tour bus that proposed to escort us to our hotel. The heat and the constant bargaining had worn us down for the day.

Without any real energy but not wanting to miss a place on our Thai wish list, we drug ourselves out for dinner. Our hotel provided the hotel and we provided the address for a restaurant in an area called Sukhumvit. However, traffic on a Friday night in Thailand adds about an hour to travel time. No exaggerating. I would have been asleep and probably sold into Thai prostitution in an hour. A quick change of plans and our cabbie chose to drive us to Suam Lum Bight Bazaar. Again outside of the plan but absolutely what I had been hoping for but was told it was very pricey. How very wrong this information was. We ate an excellent Thai dinner under the stars and then wandered through the maze of shopping tents until the heat threatened to destroy our three years of marriage. We had passed an outside bar area with live concert in process on a huge stage at the front. Even the thought of an icy drink was not enough to calm KH’s heat fatigue and fury. I was melting too but willing to allow it to happen. I just hate to think of missing one single moment of this life. Heat be damned. But sometimes, you just have to make the sacrifice. So I called it a night. Yet a third shower for the day and then I can only assume I made it to bed of my own volition. Sweet dreams… to me… and the King.

2 comments:

Mike S said...

Sure do miss doing that stuff. I spent 7 months there one time and had a beautiful apartment and a full-time tricycle to provide transport at all hours. Wish I could go back despite the heat and fumes. Love the food too:)

Mike S said...

It finally came to me what they used to call those trikes "back when", tot-tot or tat-tat. Possibly a different set of words altogether but, as was told to me, named after the sound of the small engines they have. 'tot-tot-tot' I guess:)