Monday, June 20, 2011

Bangkok: The Promised Land

I had heard that Bangkok was not a great city - polluted, crowded, terrible traffic.  But stepping off the plane after six weeks in India, it was if I had been transported to a futuristic metropolis.  There were sidewalks!  7-11s on every corner!  Drinkable ice! Brightly-colored, modern, metered taxicabs with aircon and suspension!  In short, it was like arriving in the promised land.  Here's how we spent our first five days in the heaven on earth they call Bangkok:

Yay! We were in Thailand, a brand new country to explore!  So, we headed straight for the mall.  Siam Paragon was no Mall of the Emirates, but it was big and clean and air-conditioned, and it had really nice bathrooms, and a fabulous food court, two internet cafes, DUNKIN' DONUTS COFFEE, and the fanciest movie-theater we'd ever been to.  Our VIP tickets to Adjustment Bureau bought us pre-screening access to the VIP Lounge (where we enjoyed complimentary coffee, juice and cookies), decadent two-seater pods tricked out with leather full-flat recliners, pillows and blankets, and waiter service for all the popcorn, diet coke and candy a girl could want.  I could have slept there. I wish I could.
Standing outside the VIP theater entrance.I was concerned I would be cold in the movie with no longs
(long-sleeved shirt), but it was no problem as I cozied up in the freshly laundered blanket provided.
Gym Rats
Well, not quite gym rats, but we did make it to a Muay Thai Boxing class - three and a half hours of jumping rope, calisthenics and sparring.  At one point I had to hide in a corner behind a punching bag because I could no longer lift my arms.  Dave impressed all the instructors with the vicious roundhouse kick he honed in TSK.

Street Foodies
Everything we had heard about Thai food in Thailand was true: it is amazing.  We focused our stomachs on foods we could buy from a street cart for under $3, and we were not disappointed.  Hundreds of bowls of soup, piles of mango sticky rice and platters of roast pork later and we'll still going strong.  Much more on this to come.
Hellooooo, pad thaiiiiii?
Spa Addicts
Promotional materials tout Thailand as "The Land of a Thousand Smiles," but I think "The Land of a Thousand Massages" is more like it.  Massage chairs line the streets of the Khao San Road backpacker district, and massage parlors seem to take up every other storefront.  (And that's just talking about the reputable places).  We enjoyed countless $3 roadside foot massages, but it was at Wat Pho Massage School that the magic really happened.  After changing into our massage outfits and settling ourselves in a darkened room, we were pummeled and kneaded and stretched into pure bliss.  Needless to say, we went back the next day for more.

Dave does not enjoy a mani-pedi.
He claims that I "made him" get it.

The stress of losing his calluses is unbearable,
so he unwinds with a half hour foot massage
(and maybe a quick nap?)
Bucket Connoisseurs 
Khao San Road is the legendary epicenter of backpacker revelry.  Anyplace that is not a guesthouse or a spa is a bar - a bar that is playing either bad techno music, the Eagles' Hotel California, or an off-key live performance of the Eagles' Hotel California.  While we did for the most part act our age, we couldn't pass up the occasional bucket.  Even better if it was served from a mobile VW van bar.
Khao San Road by night
Dave, Russ, the monkey on Russ' back
 and I enjoy a bucket - literally, a bucket
filled with mixed drink
When the Martens arrived in Bangkok
(during our second visit there)
we felt it our responsibility to introduce them to
the awesomeness of a bucket
A VW van bar, of course
This bar (actually a table on the street)
proudly displayed its wares
Rocking out (probably to Hotel California)
in a jaunty cap (purchased) and with a
giant lighter (gifted)
Luckily, the Super Police did not need
to get involved in any of our shenanigans
This delightful collection is called a "set':
A pint of Sangsem (Thai whiskey that is actually rum), a bucket of ice, soda water and diet coke.
Sex Tourists
OK, not really (of course!).  But we did visit Bangkok's infamous Patpong district and take in a notorious ping-pong show.  It was really depressing.  Really, really depressing.

Night Bazaar?  More like, Ladyboy of the Night Bazaar
Medical Tourists
Thailand is one of the most popular medical tourism destinations in the world, with western-trained doctors, first-class facilities and reasonable fees.  So we spent a day at Bumrungrad Hospital getting our teeth cleaned and having Dave's ears checked.  (He thought he was losing his hearing but it turns out that the Indian people are just really soft-spoken).  The hospital was gorgeous and the staff super-friendly and accommodating.  I would recommend it for all of your medical tourism needs.
Complimentary juice boxes and drinking water at the hospital.
Real Tourists
We actually managed to fit a bit of sight-seeing in there too.  We visited the Grand Palace, the official residence of Thai kings from the 18th century on (although the current king lives elsewhere). This large complex is brimming with gold, jewels, paintings and fantastic sculptures.

We also checked out the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho - a giant buddha who is, well, reclining.

We are both experiencing nirvana right now 
This buddha is BIG
Stay tuned for a few more posts about the rest of our first - but certainly not our last - visit to Bangkok.

More of our Bangkok photos are available here.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Looks like you had a great time in Bangkok, and you got to do lots of things.
    Many people who came from India to Bangkok said it was like heaven coming back in terms of convenience :-)
    The Wat Pho massages are great, I get one every time I am there. I walk around a lot in my job, and this just helps to keep me fresh and get all my joints and aching muscles fresh.


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