Thailand, Summer 2004
This is an account of my trip to Bangkok in July and August, 2005. I wrote it in five "chapters." Click one of the links to jump to an individual chapter or back to the photos page: 1 2 3 4 5 Photos Home
On Friday, I was taken to the city of Ayutthaya, the old capital of Thailand. There are many acres of ruins, numerous temples about 600 years old. There is also a more modern temple with a very large gold covered Buddha. My friend Sa and I rode around and looked at some of the ruins and idyllic grounds on the back of an elephant. Cool huh?
That night we had a fantastic dinner for four at Suda restaurant, which is about a 10-minute walk from here. It is a covered, open-air establishment; basically a building with two walls missing. The menu is loaded with pictures as well as brief descriptions in English. I won’t go into detail about the food (you dodged that bullet!) but everything was delicious and there was a lot of it. With drinks and dessert (sliced fresh mango on sweet sticky rice, incredible), the total came to about $12 for four people.
Later we went out for drinks at one of Bangkok’s famous "entertainment" centers. These are mini-malls of bars and restaurants where you can watch scantily clad young women dancing and where you spend half your time fending off offers for distractions of a more earthy nature. It was amazing. I bet there were 500 women (and some stunningly beautiful ones that I was assured were not really women) working in and around this place. After a short while we went to a nearby hotel restaurant for more food (I’m surprised we had any room left) then came back to the apartment for some quiet conversation.
This morning I got up late and ordered a couple of shirts made. I will be accompanying my friend Barry to a wedding this evening and I don’t have any dress shirts with me. I had some pants made when I first got here and only needed shirt and tie. I allowed myself to be talked into getting two perfectly tailored Egyptian cotton dress shirts, only one of which I will need tonight. From the tailor, I went to one of my favorite eateries for breakfast where I once again ate like a king for the sum of about $2.
It was extremely hot today so after brunch I came back to the apartment to relax for a while and cool off. I again walked up the street and went to a Thai massage place. Last time I was in Bangkok, I went to this same place with some newly made friends when my back was hurting. For $7.50 a decidedly plump lady worked on almost every muscle and tendon in my body. I was prodded, poked, rubbed, twisted, and contorted and despite the occasional stabs of pain, was transported to a place of total relaxation. Afterward she served me some green tea. Usually I’m not a big fan of green tea but this was delicious. Or maybe I was so blissed out that anything would have tasted wonderful.
I picked up the two shirts I had made and went back to the apartment to get ready for the wedding and to start this entry. Barry (my host, in case I haven’t mentioned it) returned from work at Siam University shortly thereafter. Because the main streets are one-way with almost no way to turn around, we walked to a main intersection to catch a taxi to the hotel in which the wedding reception was held (the main event took place a couple of weeks ago). Both bride and groom were Barry’s MBA students five years ago and there was a big turnout of students from that class. They were all so gracious and the bride and groom even included me in one of the posed photos.
The affair was huge, probably 400 people for a 12 course sit-down dinner. Waitresses circulated and you couldn’t get to the bottom of whatever soft drink you were drinking before it was replaced with a new one. Barry, being Barry, circulated among his devotees. I stayed with him for a short while then joined one table of students. I guess I appeared as much the odd-man-out as I felt because one fellow, Gung, came to sit next to me and we had a quite pleasant conversation. He said his wife and their friends had encouraged him to include me in the proceedings, in part I thing because of his excellent command of English, and from then on I felt very much included.
We didn’t stay through all 12 courses (bummer, I was really getting into it!) and one of Barry’s students drove us home.
Since this is a train of thought piece to a certain degree, I will now jump to the next day (Sunday). I got up fairly early (after two weeks I still haven’t completely gotten used to the time change) and went to the Chatuchak (or Jatujak depending on your preference of near-miss transliterations) market. This is a huge market that happens every weekend. When I say huge, I mean there are about 10,000 stores and stalls. It just goes on and on and on. The passageways are about 5 feet wide and the shops vary in size from about 6 by 10 feet to about 10 by 15 feet. It is absolutely jammed with people and it was sweltering hot. There are food and drink places all over and the shops carry everything from clothes (I’d guess about 500 women’s clothing shops) to furnishings, to antiques, to knick-knacks, to beautiful exotic wood boxes, bowls, spoons, chopsticks. There was everything there. Bargaining is de rigueur and I am getting better at it. One thing that makes it easier here is that if one shop doesn’t give you the price you want, well there are fifty others near by that will. This is a truly amazing place.
Well this will be my last "Tales from Bangkok"written from here because I leave for home Tuesday morning at 6:00am. That means I try to catch a taxi about 4:00am (ugh!). I hope you have found these notes interesting and amusing. They have been fun to write.