Fairly poorly, I'd say; now that we're at the home stretch, let's see how she copes with life in the city.
There are just a few days left before we face the long trip home. Travelling with no checked luggage and no set schedule gives you a lot of freedom but it makes for some long waits and last minute decisions. The thought of going to Tokyo for a few days and skipping Bangkok on the way home sounded good but, with Chinese New Year being such a big time for travel, all the flights were full. We booked for Bangkok and arrived around noon. Not having a hotel was a challenge and, to end the search, I suggested we try the Holiday Inn! A travel agent at the airport booked us 2 rooms with the caveat that we also book a tour of the city through her agency - which we did. I asked if this meant a mandatory trip to the tourist trap jewelry and silk stores and she just smiled.
Surprisingly, the Holiday Inn has been one of the nicest and most modern hotels we've seen and of the service is... well... overwhelming. There are people to open the doors, people to press the elevator buttons, people to show you where the restaurant is, and people just... well, bowing and pressing their hands together in a gracious sign of welcome.
Our tour of the city began from our hotel. A sweet young man accompanied us and a driver in a spotless, air conditioned car to the center of the city where the old original Bangkok was still evident - tucked into the maze of skyscrapers and modern concrete architecture. Here the signs were in Thai and Chinese and Arabic. The facades of the buildings were ornate. Tiny crowded shops were bustling with activity as people did a ritual cleaning of their homes and offices, putting out offerings, and socializing with neighbors in a real holiday atmosphere.
[Image = Food carts proximate to Holiday Inn]
Flower sellers had long wreaths of orchids and yellow chrysanthemums stacked in piles and hanging from posts - all part of the ritual. The small shrines and the big ones alike were spotless and decked with wreaths, candles, food, and drink. Overhead, rows of orange lanterns hung like necklaces above the streets, colored lights flickered along the shop walls and everywhere there was the feeling of joy and excitement. This is the Thailand I was looking for - not the cosmopolitan streets of downtown lined with the English signs; MacDonald’s, Dunkin' Donuts, and Starbucks pressed into glass malls with Gucci and Prada and Guess.
[Image = Interior, Buddhist temple]
We toured two beautiful shrines which we entered barefoot. The artwork in these places always takes my breath away. In the courtyards there are places to buy lotus and incense and they teach you how to pray - just for your own peace, not to any one God in particular. People from all denominations and backgrounds shared moments of personal thought as others took photos, herded kids, and just marveled at the rich, awe inspiring buildings. Gold tipped rooftops, ornate blue, red, and yellow mirrored tiles, paintings, murals of inlayed pearl and precious stones all attest to the intensity of devotion to these sacred places.
[Image = Lynn consulting with astrologer.]
At the drink stand was a fortune teller and for about $20.00 Canadian, he told me I was a good person, my lucky number is 5, and I’m going to live to be 87. Lots of travelling years ahead!
[Image = Astrologer consulting his charts]
Then we were lambs to the slaughter. Disguised as "traditional handicrafts", jewelry is the main reason for taking you anywhere and, like many tropical ports, seems to support a huge population. We expected the ruse, made our way through the mazes of glass cabinetry full of very expensive trinkets, and were finally allowed to escape to our hotel. The next city tour I take will be with a private guide. But, even THEY get a cut from the gem shops!!
[Image = Interior, local shop with wide veriety of handbags.]
This evening, we got a cab to the night market and the one here is something to see! It is easily a square mile of shops featuring everything from fake name-brand handbags to the finest of silk dresses. Tattoo artists work away next to women in chadors selling beaded shawls and handmade carpets. Women in saris float by men in white robes and ladyboys in tight fitting skirts and impossibly high heels work side by side in narrow alleyways. A honeycomb of tiny cubicles full of colorful wares take your attention away from the uneven flooring so you have to be in full shopping stamina to keep from falling over. We saw several foreign women with taped ankles and on crutches - it's easy to see why. I am still together, in one piece, and I thank my luck and my bifocals for keeping me this way. The fact that we can't carry anything has kept us from shopping but we walked 'til we dropped anyway.
[Image = Interior, clothing store]
Well, today is a new day. We have taken the train to a less swanky part of town to seek cheap internet. My time is just about up and there's more stuff to see and do. Until the next installment, the intrepid explorer signs off, Sa wa dee ka! LJ
- Lynn's fairly poor at hiding her disgust with the trip so far, isn't she? She comes across as a spoiled child whining about being boooooored and wanting to go hooooome.
- That is, of course, up until the point that she finds the "real" Thailand hidden behind the modern façade that the locals bafflingly enough seem to prefer. Her crowing that she found what her racist upbringing made her expect could hardly be more obvious.
- This shows through in her idiotic and ignorant take on what Buddhism is.
- Also, she really shouldn't put too much stock in what the astrologer says. Anyone who dismissively uses the word "ladyboy" has lived long enough, thank you very much.
- Her description of the local shops is, unfortunately, the least anyone who can read at at least a fifth-grade level could do.