Monday, January 7, 2013

And then there was BANGKOK!

Many apologies for the long hiatus in posting - we do realize that although the trip is over we've only posted about...2 of our 10 or so stops... But now we're fairly settled back in and ready to complete the journey on the blog (and I get to do so with nice, fast America internets!).

So, Thailand! Well, Bangkok, really.

We spent just a weekend in this wonderful city and it was enough for me to fall in love with it. I'm pretty sure I will be back and living here at some point in the future. I'll try to describe some of the reasons I so loved it (in no particular order):

1. The Food

We all know Thai food is great. Spicy and great. And I had a concept before I went of how this food could be found just by walking down the street for very cheap prices. But, I was still surprised by just how cheap and just how available and just how delicious and just how safe to eat almost* all this Thai street food was. There were little markets everywhere with beautiful veggies and fruits (half of which I couldn't identify) and little stands and restaurants everywhere that smelled delicious and had wonderful Thai food like it was no big deal.

We didn't really know what we were doing when ordering this food, neither of us being able to speak or read Thai. And, yes, we did have an experience or two of misinterpretation: like when we sat down in a small restaurant and they handed us a slip of paper that looked vaguely like a long version of this:

               __ 1. อาหารที่ดี        30 baht                                    __ 3.      คุณควรลองนี้                   20 baht 
               __ 2. สิ่งอร่อย          40 baht                                     __ 4.     สิ่งที่คุณไม่ควรสั่ง               5 baht

Which prompted us to look at each other and say: "...okay. What's your favorite number??" The meal turned out...good. A little bizarre, but yummy and filling. And we're pretty sure they crossed out one of our orders because it made absolutely no sense, like ordering 2 banana splits with 3 packets of mayonnaise.

Another of our attempts at ordering things without knowing the language included the more sure-fire approach of pointing at things that looked good. We wound up getting something vaguely like local eggplant that one could find in Burkina! *Unfortunately, everything was already wrapped up in plastic bags so we couldn't smell how "different" one of the things we ordered was, and DW's attempt to power through and eat all of this mystery food did not end very well..

In any case, these were by far the iffy-est of our food experiences, and even they turned out 90% delicious. Each meal was a wonderful adventure and everything was so so cheap!

Plus, there was stuff like this around!
The only identifiable things on this table (by us, at least) are those small squid and the delicious spicy sauces it can be dipped in (back right). The only delicious things on this table were probably everything.

2. Easy/fun transportation

This part of our experience might have been due in part to the primo location of our guest house, which was right near both a station of the super easy and navigable subway system and a stop on the cheap and fun water taxi line. The water taxi went right into the heart of where a lot of the main tourist destinations live and the subway went right to Lumpini Park (described below) and a lot of shopping areas. It was really well set up and allowed us to dodge using tuk-tuk drivers, who are purportedly deft at ripping off Bangkok tourists.

Awesome bridge, right?

3. The temples

I couldn't get over how down seemingly every little street there were these brightly colored, intricately designed, and downright gorgeous temples. I kept comparing them in my mind to the religious building's I've seen in other parts of the world (Notre Dame, Mosques in Burkina, etc.) and I have to admit that the colors and details and vastness made them win every time in my book.  Here are just a few we saw in passing:

A family just playing badminton in front of this temple!

This small shrine is in front of a car dealership!

And then there were the gorgeous details inside of the complexes we explored:

Gold and blue tiles EVERYWHERE!

DW in awe of the HUGE, gold, reclining Buddha

Mother of Pearl inlay on the soles of the reclining Buddha's feet
Love all these temple guards

There must have been over a hundred Buddha statues at this temple alone

[And respect for the sacred spaces was demanded.]
To me, it just felt like there was an endless supply of beauty in this city. The temples had a lot to do with that. As did:

4. Lumpini Park

This park was described to us as similar to Central Park, but safer [the whole city was actually very very safe, even late at night, according to all of our sources]. It was set up in a very exercise-friendly park with beautiful surroundings. There was a small track that skirted the park on which many powerwalkers and joggers were intently doing their thing as well as a few group classes of Tai Chi and such with loudspeakers pumping music and the intense voices of the instructors. Surrounding all these areas were beautiful lakes and bridges and trees and grass - along with big old monitor lizards (supposedly..we never saw any). It seemed like the perfect city getaway with so many opportunities to "recharge". It made me fantasize about leaving work and going straight to a sunset class of some variety of martial art, being the only foreigner in the back of the class, kickboxing monitor lizards, and trying to cluelessly copy my classmates motions while laughing at myself.

So, have I convinced you yet? Let's all move to BANGKOK!!