I may perhaps have exaggerated the bad news in the last entry. At any rate, it’s pretty much all been sunshine since. First of all, I finally got to have a tuk-tuk ride. Second, I had really good food (which is what Thailand is known for, after all). Third, I saw great places. Fourth, my back is almost all better. Fifth, I figured out how to get rid of the ubiqutous touts that pester tourists everywhere. And, finally, I’m headed for Hanoi tomorrow!
So, where to start? Well, there’s that tuk-tuk:
I’ve actually taken two tuk-tuk rides, and have learned the important lesson that a tuk-tuk is a good thing to take home but a bad ride to start your day with. See, the little things are uncooled and open to the polluted Bangkok street air, so, if you’re headed out, you’ll get a good, yucky sweat on, which you’d ideally prefer to delay until later in the (extremely humid) day. On the other hand, heading home, when you’re already wet and grimy, well, then they’re kind of cute. Now, the downside is that you can’t see out of them, so you miss the scenery, but the upside is that you can’t see out of them so you can’t fear death from driving fast in a tiny, unstable vehicle on Bangkok’s crazy streets.
Now, the trick was to not get ripped off by the tuk-tuk driver, which involved forcefully expressing that I wanted to go “direct” to my destination, not take the discounted trip to some store they highly recommended. One of the two drivers did demand an extra 10 baht a couple minutes into our trip, but, then, I’m hardly inclined to fight over what works out to about a quarter. Rude, not forceful, is the way to get rid of the touts, however. It’s funny, I had just drunk a tasty coconut (coconut juice is served in a coconut shell), and my hands were all wet from the ice water the coconut had sat in until it was fished out to be served to me. I was walking down the street trying to figure out where I could dry my hands, and this little guy comes up and starts pestering me about where I want to go, how the temple I want to go to is closed (this is a common scam and is always a lie), and just won’t go away. He grabs my arm and tries to pull me to the tuk-tuk he’s recruiting for, and that’s when I get my brilliant idea: I dry my hand off on his shirt. He looks at me funny, then actually runs away. Sweet freedom! I was actually disappointed today when a tout gave up, I was about to see if tossing my gum into his shirt pocket would get him to leave me alone.
Anyway, I fought through the legions of tuk-tuks trying to send me to some other destination and got to see the reclining Buddha:
And the grand palace:
Today, I followed up those sights with a Chinese-style temple in, get this, Chinatown, of all places:
And then hit the night bazaar nearby:
Then, it was back to my cute hotel in not-so-cute Khao Sanh:
All of these places were lovely, but it was the Reclining Buddha that was the best, not for the beautiful premises, but because one of Thailand’s kings had established there, about 150 years ago, a national academy of massage. Now, students at this school offered massages for fairly reasonable prices, so in I walked, I pantomimed an explanation that my back hurt, and I bought an hour with a nice middle-aged lady who promised to be able to take care of that. And she did! Thai massage, it must be appreciated, isn’t like Western massage — it hurts to get a Thai massage, you feel like you’re being driven into the massage bed, and your muscles are being punished as the masseuse uses her elbows, feet, and knees to work your muscles loose. So, anwyay, the massage hurt something awful; but then I got up and my back didn’t hurt at all, or start hurting much in the next day. So that was a miracle, and I promise to regularly get msyelf massages on this trip, for my health of course.
Pantomime got me tasty food, as well. I’ve been enjoying street food, with no ill effects (the only small tummyache came after the one restaurant meal I’ve had so far). I’m not entirely sure what has gone into my food, but it’s tasty, especially now that I’ve figured out what to do with the condiments — fish sauce, sour sauce, chile paste, and sugar — that sit at every table:
That’s about it. Bangkok has been great, and I’d come back in a moment. I’m looking forward to more Thailand in Chiang Mai later in my trip, but am also incredibly excited about the more mellow-themed city coming up next — Hanoi. I’m headed there in the morning and can hardly wait for my first bowl of Pho. There’s even the promise of free Internet, so you should see more updates from me in the next few days. Now if I can just make them amusing!
* Seen on a t-shirt today. The runner-up for today’s headline were the “Adolf Hitler” t-shirt and the food cart serving “crape”.