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A roller coaster in Bangkok – day 1

We said “meter” three times as suggested a million times on wikitravel before he finally turned on the meter. Then the cab took off going zero to 60 in about 3.2 seconds, all while avoiding dozens of motor bikes that zipped by us at twice the speed. We felt we should raise our hands and smile for the camera ala Six Flags, but the fear we would soon crash into a tour bus and fly through the windshield kept our urban roller coaster enthusiasm at bay. Someone said Italians are crazy drivers. Please, Thais make Italian look british. … and then we were left at the door of the Grand Palace. Interestingly, this was our first real touristy type of activity together and it was surprising how differently we first approached the Palace. Yolanda is organized, efficient, goal-oriented. She knows what she wants to see and wants the tour to move along so we can experience it all. Nestor, on the other hand, likes to sit. A lot. He likes to sit in front of the golden Buddha statue and read the brochure about how the building next to it is used for State dinners with foreign magnataries. He also doesn’t know (or care) what comes next. He’s just happy sitting there looking at the details of the stone elephant. You would think these two contrasting styles would be a recipe for disaster. But today they were actually merged into one quite beautifully. Yolanda became the nagivator; taking us through a maze of golden Buddhas, Palaces, Manssions, monasteries, alleys, and shortcuts. It was as if she was a local tour guide who knew the ins and outs of every location, such as that the north entrance of the reclining Buddha is congested and only for those who don’t know any better. The south entrance in contrast, well that’s for those in the know. Yet, Nestor’s affinity of details and ‘soaking in’ gave us the idea that the best way to truly experience the sites was to meditate. So meditate we did. Short bursts of mindfulness in the presence of golden Buddhas made us feel indescribably there. We finally had lunch/dinner in Kao San Road. Arguably one of the most famous backpacking meccas in the world. $1 street lunch carts fought for space with guys guiding you to the tattoo parlors, hippie shops, and blonde girls and guys with backpacks and clip-in dreadlocks. I would not call them posers, for many seem genuinely cool, but a local guy was selling spandex sleeve tattoos and I’m sure he sold more than one there. The day ended with us walking about 3 miles back to the hotel through some quite interesting streets. The alleys seemed like a world on their own, with street vendors selling roasted frogs, wholesale silver shops, and even factories where they actually make the enormous golden Buddha statues that are all over the country. It was definitely a world apart from the tour buses of Grand Palace or the California kids of Kao San Road. For many many many blocks we didn’t see a single tourist. We debated about whether that made us cool or foolish. and we ended the night at the roof top restaurant of our incredible hotel overlooking the bright lights of Bangkok. Two cocktails and avocado sushi while sitting on jet set couches was just what we needed. Photos to come….

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