After an eventful flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok, it was a relief to easily and quickly obtain a free Tourist visa to Thailand. In fact, we were able to skip the long immigration lines that other passengers on our flight had. We got money at an ATM and this continues to be a challenge. With 31 Thai Baht equaling 1 US dollar, this was far more manageable than our recent currency exchanges. We grabbed a cab to a Phranakorn-Nornlen D’antique Hotel that once again was superbly researched by Frances. Phranakorn-Nornlen has a retro feel to it, yet clearly Thai-based with its small temple and flower offerings. The entire hotel decor is with items from the 1930s-1960s. Many of the walls incorporated painting of plants, furniture, windows, books and lamps. So our actual room had a bed and dressor – but everything else was merely painted on the walls. It was really funky. Well done Frances!
Our first full day saw heavy rain, but we managed to get out in the early afternoon to tour temples. First stop was the Emperor’s Palace, residence of the King of Thailand, and houses some of the governance buildings— most famous for the Emerald Buddha statue. Close by was the Wat Pho temple that housed a mega sized reclining Buddha almost 50 feet tall and 150 feet long. We finished our touring by taking a boat across the river to visit Wat Arun. We climbed to the top of temple which was a bit scary given the steepness of the stairs and the lack hand rails, but the view of the city across the river were worth the effort.
We took a boat back across and were fortunate to find a bar/restaurant that had great views across the river. Thanks to the suggestion of our friend, Pearl Singhakowinta, we were able to enjoy a beautiful sunset with the beautiful Wat Arun temple across the river.
On Sunday, our good friend Chats, from Durban, referred us to one of his former students, Apple, who lives in Bangkok who offered to spend the day with us and help us navigate. We were surprised that she showed up with her uncle who was driving his taxi. We asked to get to a Floating Market —it was a beehive of colors, flavors, aromas, food, clothing and activity. Our new friends were very patient in allowing us to explore at our own pace—the variety of food was amazing. In hindsight, we should have gone on empty stomachs as the number of delectables were too many to comprehend. Included in the unique things we was was a tank where people could immerse their bare feet and have minnow fish eat your dead skin off! The heroes of this story are the Garrarufa fish, small scavengers that love sucking and nibbling on dead skin. They grow in the freshwater basins of Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. These toothless creatures are placed in tanks filled with warm freshwater. When the customer immerses their feet in this water, these fish get to work and exfoliate the skin.
Frances made friends with Wana Sonplensri, a singer and guitarist hired to entertain market guests. She emailed her photos to him and he was delighted . . . they email each other periodically and he has offered that the next time we are in Thailand, he will take us to a floating market and will feed us—so sweet.
We took a boat tour along the river where we witnessed the neighboring community before ending our time at the floating market. After several hours, our friends took us to a major shopping mall to look for some camera gear. This mall was mega huge and very upscale. Again our friends were very patient while we took it all in. The traffic was pretty intense even though it was a Sunday. When we returned to our hotel, we tried to pay the uncle for his cab and time and he refused to accept payment because they felt that Chats had done so much to help them – they wanted to return the favor in some small way. I was able to leave some cash in the back seat as a token of our appreciation for their friendship, generosity, and time.
Monday and Tuesday were quieter days. Our hotel was quaint and inviting and the food was off the charts great. Each morning breakfast array had some form of breakfast curry. Being an Indian food fanatic, Frances was in heaven. Each plate was made to order and totally irrestible. We did explore some local markets and watched a very skilled woman fishing from the street above the river with much success. To continue our efforts at mastering the art of receiving a massage, Frances and I both signed up for massages at the hotel. It turned out, this Thai massage was very different from the relaxing massages we enjoyed in Morocco, the Maldives, Bali and Vietnam. We each had our turn while our massage person, who was an older woman than us, had us lie on a mat and while she forced her foot into our groin area and pulled and tugged at the muscles in our legs. She actually sat on us some of the time as she was stretching us in ways that were frankly uncomfortable. Frances thought she was trying to kill her. Because the masseuse complimented Frances that she looked much younger than her years, all was forgiven. It has been so interesting to notice the differences in the many massages we had on our tour. And we are feeling so fortunate.
On one of the evenings, we decided to visit a Thai restaurant that was far away but received excellent reviews. It took a while to find a taxi that would take us as we had a language barrier and a distance problem in that some of the drivers said it was too far. Finally, the cab driver said ok, read the address that we had shown him in the Thai language and took off, but I could tell he was going the wrong way when he crossed the river and got stuck in a major traffic jam. I knew that crossing the river was a red flag. Eventually he re-recrossed the river and it was clear he was totally lost even though we were on the restuarant’s street. After alot of tension, he wanted to let us out on a sidewalk anywhere. I had the good sense to make him find some upscale hotel nearby to drop us off at. I did pay him for his time, but he was not happy getting lost. Once we entered the hotel and asked for directions to the restaurant, it turned out be virtually around the corner, so close we were able to walk. The restaurant only had about 6 tables and was mostly for take-out orders but the food was good. Fortunately, we were able to get a taxi back to our hotel with no problems. It certainly was an adventure.
We are for grateful for Pearl’s input, Apple and her uncle’s generosity and the wonderful hotel staff for making our Bangkok stay so memorable.