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Bangkok: Saturday

posted Jun 10, 2012, 11:48 PM by jj pionke   [ updated Jun 10, 2012, 11:51 PM ]
I did the most stuff on Saturday, but it was also a tipping point for me.  I knew that my first stop was going to be Wat Po (a Wat is a temple).  The hotel used their tuk tuk (long u sound like mule) to get me to the main street.  Here is a picture of a tuk tuk:

tuk tuk

These things are crazy.  No seatbelts, uncomfortable, and fast.  As a form of transportation they are pretty handy, but I wouldn't want to be in an accident in one.  I got to the main road and was immediately approached by a taxi driver who wanted to run the gem scam on me and that was followed by two more drivers of the same.  I finally found a driver to take me that would just take me to Wat Po.  I am somewhat embarrassed to admit but once I entered Wat Po, I bypassed everything and went right to the massage area.  I was still hurting pretty good from the day before.  Wat Po is THE Thai massage school.  I paid my 500 baht and was led to a cool building where there were rows of wide beds (queen sized or thereabouts) with people laying on them and massage therapists grinding out every knot.  I indicated to the woman that I had a lot of pain in my hip/butt area and that this was a long term issue.  She switched out with a guy twice her size and there began the most agonizing 45 minute of my life.  It hurt like hell.  The last 15 minutes were bliss since he had managed to get everything unlocked.  I walked outta there grinning like an idiot.  If you ever go to Bangkok, get a massage at Wat Po.  It's clothes on, it feels great, it's cheap, and it's not a bad way to spend an hour.  After that, then I wandered around the Wat seeing stuff.  Here I am at Wat Po:

me at Wat Po

After Wat Po, I walked over the Grand Palace where weird luck struck once more.  I had to hurry up and get in because the Crown Prince was going to be visiting the Emerald Buddha to pray.  By that point, I was terribly overheated and had a rest in a concession area but it was far too short and since I wanted to see the GP, in I went even though I needed more cool down time.  The temperatures in Thailand were sweltering to say the least and the sun was hotter.  I got a fairly medium sunburn by the end of the day.  Anyway, I wandered around the Grand Palace, took pictures which you can see on Flickr, and then they started shooing the tourists out.  I was hungry, overheated, and cranky at that point.  There was an au bain pan across the street and figured there would at least be something that would be safe to eat there as well as air conditioning and I was right.  I rested there for an hour.  All indications in my surroundings pointed to some type of large scale event that was going to happen and I decided that fleeing was a damn good idea.  I got a taxi to take me to the Mandarin Hotel.  It's the most famous and oldest hotel in Bangkok.  I was particularly interested in the Author's Lounge as Oscar Wilde and W. Somerset Maugham had spent time there. Weird luck strikes twice!  The taxi driver took me to the wrong hotel so the guard got me into another taxi (by this time I had to pee so bad I was ready to start crying) and this guy was a jerk, but he did get me to the right hotel.  I talked my way in for the bathroom and after I cleaned up a bit and put on the long sleeved shirt I had stowed in my pack, I approached the Bell Hop.  Keep in mind that the Mandarin is a 5 star hotel where you should be in pants and nice shirts.  Rich people stay there.  I could never afford a night, believe me.  Still, weird luck holds....I know enough about upper crust society to pass enough to get what I wanted.  It's amazing what confidence, manners, and refined English will get you.  I inquired about the Author's Lounge and was informed that it was closed for a wedding reception but that high tea was being served in the reception area right behind me.  I wasn't keen on going back out into the heat so quickly so I said yes, of course that was why I was there.  Again, I couldn't afford high tea, but I could afford tea.  I had the black tea blend called Marco Polo and it was fabulous.  I spent another hour sipping my tea and writing a very long overdue letter.

tea at the Mandarin Hotel

The large purple thing is a floral arrangement.  I found the Mandarin to be quite relaxing and fun.  At one point there was a pair of Chinese tourists (Honeymoon I think) that came in for tea.  I was somewhat fascinated by how they were treated because it was very clear that they were tourists.  That was not to say that they were treated poorly, just differently.  At any rate, after I finished tea, I asked if there was a humidor and was able to get a Cuban cigar which I am very much looking forward to smoking in the near future.  Then I made use of the doorman and got a taxi to Jim Thompson's, the leading silk purveyor in Thailand.  I picked up a few items for people back home and had the doorman there help me get a taxi.  At this point, I knew I was done.  I had a mostly good time, but I was exhausted, cranky, fed up, and not in any mood to deal with haggling or rudeness and I decided that the better part of valor is knowing when to throw in the towel.  Weird luck strikes again!  My taxi driver was a woman, the first I had seen, and I would find out later that her partner is a ladyboy.  She took me back to my hotel and we chatted along the way.  Her English was very broken, but much better than most people's and we were able to mostly understand each other.  I rather liked her and asked if she might be interested in taking me to the airport on Sunday with one stop at a bookstore along the way.  She said, we agreed on a price, 700 baht (remember, the conversion to the US dollar is 30 baht to 1$USD) and since she would be losing time with other fares and really I was willing to pay for good, no pressure, friendly service, I agreed.

I had some dinner at the hotel, took a shower, basked in fluent English news, watched a bit of the big event that was happening near the Grand Palace (the King was dedicating a statue to his father), and then slept for 10 hours.