Moderation

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This blog entry about the events of Sunday, November 21, 2004 was originally posted on November 24, 2004.

DAY 400:  Paul and I met in the Sawasdee House’s trendy-looking ground floor restaurant that morning, the same way we did every morning in Bangkok thus far.  It had become our Central Perk (from Friends), our Monk’s Cafe (from Seinfeld).  He nursed his bottle of water while I sipped on a Thai iced coffee.  Cold coffee, for Paul, wasn’t a concept he could grasp — but to each his own taste.

“What are your plans for today?” I asked him.

“I need to get me camera sorted out,” he told me.  I forgot that he told me he needed to get his big SLR serviced since it ceased to power on after an Aussie girl he had traveled through Kashmir with dropped it by accident.

“I think I might check out the temples around here,” I told him, pointing to a section on my map after he reciprocated the question.  He seemed disinterested — he had been to Bangkok many times before and really knew that all temples looked the same (i.e. he was “templed out”) — and had his own errands to run anyway, but we made plans to meet up later that evening.


I GOT SIDETRACKED RIGHT AWAY when I started my walk towards my first temple — beyond the nearby Democracy Monument, commemorating the transition of absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy in 1932 — and I saw from my map that I could check out the sights of the nearby Dusit district first.  I got even more sidetracked when I got lost in Bangkok’s streets on the way there (I was disoriented as to which way was north), but managed to stroll through a nice, quiet residential neighborhood of Bangkokers, with houses so close together between intimate alleyways, so secluded from the backpacker district that I felt that I was intruding on someone’s property. 

I eventually found the Dusit area, where some sort of Thai Muslim carnival fair was going on.  In front of the Parliament building was the point-of-interest I saw on my map, the statue of King Rama V.  Also known as King Chulanglongkorn, he was (and still is) arguably Thailand’s most revered king, who reigned from 1868 to 1910.  It was because of his strong hand that Thailand never got occupied and colonized by the British and French, who at the time, had infiltrated the neighboring countries like Cambodia and Vietnam.  King Rama V has also been credited for abolishing slavery and modernizing Thai society — and hey, while we’re at it, we can thank him for bringing yummy Thai food to the rest of the world too (but don’t quote me on that). 


BEFORE MY BARRAGE OF TEMPLES I went to check out the Queen’s Gallery, a contemporary art gallery showcasing the latest show “Trinity” by painter Thawan Duchanee, an exhibition with a series of three-headed creatures in a wild, almost comic book style.  It was unlike anything I’d seen in the art world recently, which is the exact opposite notion when I finally went out to see the temples.  Yes, when you’ve seen many temples, especially on a trip like this one, many of them begin to look the same and you get “templed out” — the key to keeping sane is to see them in moderation.

With that said, I decided to see only three that afternoon, each one unique in its own way.  Wat Saket, a big golden pagoda 80 meters tall, was built atop the Golden Mount, an artificial hill with a view of the city, accessible by a big, long spiral staircase.  Wat Suthat housed Thailand’s largest cast-bronze Buddha, as well as some statues of horses sculpted with attention to anatomic detail.  And Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn, was on the other side of the Chao Phraya River (easily accessible by ferry for just 2 baht).  With its Khmer-style architecture, the Temple of Dawn was meant to be seen in the dawn’s early light, but I thought that it was just as impressive at dusk as well (picture above).


“SOMEONE DIED HERE,” Paul told me back at the house as we were munching on the fried chicken we were offered by the two girls working the travel desk who had befriended us.  “I seen the body.  An American guy.  He was from my floor.”  Paul got details from a police officer when they got prints and carried the body away down the block.  Apparently, an American backpacker had drank himself to death — not surprisingly, the bar/club scene of the Khaosan Road area would be conducive to such a thing — and the night before he had been in the bathroom vomiting over a toilet, only to choke on his own puke and suffocate.  A cleaning woman found his body the next morning.  What a shame.

With such a downer on the mind, there was just one pick-me up to do.  No, not go drinking you alkie, I’m talking about the Thai massage.  Bangkok is full of many massage parlors, many of them fronts for prostitution, which really isn’t a good thing with the epidemic of AIDS and other STDs around the country.  Paul knew of one parlor that was legit and we paid the 180 baht for a one-hour session each. 

After a woman washed off our stinky feet, we were led upstairs to disrobe and put on this huge pair of boxer trunks big enough for Michael Moore.  We were led into a big dimly lit room of mattresses where a speaker softly played soothing Asian melodies.  The two women asked to lie down on the mattresses and relax.  Uh, is this place really legit Paul? I wondered.

It was legit in the end; there was no sexual or romantic undertones with these two.  Mine laughed at me for some reason and Paul’s girl actually teased his hairiness and called him “Monkey Boy.”  To add to the legitimacy, as the hour progressed, the room filled up with other clients, both male and female, each with a professional Thai masseuse. 

The Thai technique involves a lot of kneading, pulling and stretching (unlike the Chinese one, which involves a lot of hard pressing on pressure points) and it was every bit relaxing as I had heard about.  The grand finale was when we placed our heads in the girls’ laps, and they massaged our face muscles and temples; it was one case where I wouldn’t have minded getting “templed out.”


PAUL AND I WERE OUT FOR STREET FOOD and a couple of drinks that night, when one girl that he met in his travels a while back recognized him on the street.  The Irish girl was Orla and with her was fellow Irish girl Ruth; we hit it off right away and went out for a round in a local pub to talk the regular backpacker stuff.  The session, which might have escalated into something longer, was short-lived when the Irish pair called it quits early because they had to pack to leave the following day. 

Paul and I headed back to the Sawasdee House to partake in a nightcap, some of his prized bottle of Glenfiddich whiskey, which he only brought out for special occasions (which was pretty often). 

“Oh, that’s nice,” I said, the velvety liquor hitting my lips and going down smoothly.

“Smooth as a baby’s bottom,” Paul said.

Aged fifteen years, Glenfiddich is not a liquor to gorge and Paul knew this; he poured just two mini-shots for the each of us, enough to get us warm and toasty and a bit more drunk, but nothing too crazy — unlike the guy whose body was found on the third floor bathroom that morning.

I guess in a city like Bangkok, a city where you can get mostly any vice you want and plenty of it, a place where you can get “templed out” by day and “boozed out” by night (sometimes permanently as we learned), the key to survival is definitely moderation — at least until the next binge session.






Next entry: So An Englishman, A Scotsman and An American Don’t Walk Into A Bar…

Previous entry: Mallkings




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Comments for “Moderation”

  • HAPPY THANKSGIVING AMERICA!

    400 days down, just 100 to go…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/24  at  04:17 AM


  • TD0T:  They are re-cementing the corner opposite Gulliver’s… no shake woman there.  I haven’t seen any shake people actually, just people selling watermelon as fruit to eat.  Perhaps she’ll be there when I get back to Bangkok—as I said, All Roads Lead To Bangkok—in my onward travels I will have to stop in town at least three more times.

    SIMF2P:  I’ll do Patpong in one of those later times too…

    I’M OFF TO CHIANG MAI NOW…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/24  at  04:24 AM


  • erik, when you took the chinese massage, did you feel super sore the next day, like after a work out session? a few weeks ago I took a body massage at my regular reflexologist of choice, and I was SO sore the next days. my work colleagues say it’s normal. I would hate if I had to give up the reflexologist because of the body massage. I actually liked the massage very much, but the soreness was weird.

    are you taking cooking classes in chang mai?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/24  at  04:53 AM


  • LETS:  Not so much sore, but I know what you mean.  The whole Chinese got me ticklish actually…

    Thai cooking classes in Chiang Mai should go without say… yup.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/24  at  05:24 AM


  • ok, im procrastinating.  moustache #1 at work did not show up.  woohoo. 

    so that must be the equivalent of a thai happy ending for a massage????

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/24  at  05:46 AM


  • CHRISSY:  But you LOVE a moustache on a man, remember?  Hahaha… 

    Happy Thanksgiving to you too!  All the “cousins” back home are getting together on Taft Rd. I believe, and I’m having them read The Chennai Episodes if they haven’t already…

    Gobble, gobble…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/24  at  07:41 AM


  • look for A Lot Of Thai (http://www.alotofthai.com) for your cooking classes… I heard great things of them from Daniel (http://www.noplaceashome.com) and I plan to take them for my cooking classes… The catch for me is that Yui gets put aside from the tourism mafia because she refused once to pay her ‘fee’ to a tout that took someone to her once, since this person already had make contact and signed up with her, she just asked the tout for directions on how to get to the school.
    And the classes are pretty goot too, I heard!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/24  at  09:06 AM


  • No shake lady?! That’s too bad… I’d fly the 23h just for one more watermelon shake.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/24  at  01:30 PM


  • Cool stuff. 

    “Wat Saket” pic is 404.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/24  at  03:33 PM


  • who wrote wheat on my bowling ball?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/25  at  12:48 AM


  • GREETINGS FROM CHIANG MAI!  This morning on the train ride up it rained—the first rainfall I’ve seen in two months (in Tokyo). 

    I’m all caught on entries up to Thanksgiving on paper; I’ll type up and upload that for ya, hopefully in the next 24 hours.

    TJW:  I’ll upload that missing pic in that batch too.  Thanks for your keen eye!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/25  at  05:40 AM


  • Didn’t any of you guys watch AR this week?

    Posted by Liz  on  11/25  at  10:06 AM


  • WARREN:  I don’t seem to have your postal address; send it to me to my yahoo address.

    The next postcard point will be in either Laos or Vietnam…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/25  at  10:22 AM


  • Hey, what’s the deal with Bird Flu?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/25  at  10:35 AM


  • ERIK:  The WHO is trying to mix human and bird flu to see if they can create a hybrid virus that can easily infect humans (it doens’t seem to readily infect people now, but a few still catch it),  The idea behind WHO is to try to figure out a virus that could become a pandemic.  The virus has been around for years and doesn’t seem to want to recombine with the human virus, so maybe we all wont die grin

    LIZ:  I think everyone is holding off talking about AR6 until you d/l it and watch it.  How about you kick off the discussions?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/25  at  11:44 AM


  • TJW - ok smile  I’m so glad those twitty girls are gone.  Sure they never fought,  but they were so dumb!  I mean really.  It’s kinda funny that the old couple took the wrong car LOL Lets all pray that the entrepreneurs get eliminated next! 
    As for Norway - it didn’t seem all that spectacular… doesn’t Norway have fjords?  Kayaking or something in a fjord would have been awesome.

    Posted by Liz  on  11/25  at  12:49 PM


  • Liz, I missed that episode, but was glad too that those twits were eliminated.  I really can’t stand the entrepeuners either.  Don’t seem to have a favourite yet either.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/25  at  12:59 PM


  • I was disappointed in Iceland, too.  No city stuff and the outdoors stuff wasn’t that cool.  I think I want the entrepreneurs to stay a while because he is fun to watch.  What a tool!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/25  at  01:19 PM


  • nice horse statue….

    chrissy - yeah the “cousins” hung out and listened to tito eric and tito nes sing karaoke over and over….

    ummm…francis has longer hair that lis!

    hah…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  01:09 PM


  • Erik:  I sent my address to you.

    Re AR6:  What about the first week, when those two guys, AKA Team Nerd, got voted off.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/28  at  05:41 PM


  • Wow - that monument just SCREAMS democracy… or not.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/30  at  05:19 AM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
So An Englishman, A Scotsman and An American Don’t Walk Into A Bar…

Previous entry:
Mallkings




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