I rolled out of bed after only three hours of sleep. I was careful not to wake up David on the bunk below as I crawled down the ladder. I tried to fall into a deep sleep but struggled with all the time change it was 2pm PST back at home. I decided to go the market and buy some clothes since I had nothing to wear.
I got directions from Pete and Attom at the front desk. They have been very sweet and helpful upon my check in. They told me it was just two rights to the market. I headed down the street and got lost in my first moment. Here I was walking down the streets in Thailand. I had not a care in the world but to find a dress to wear today and maybe some fresh fruit. This is exactly what I came here to do. Not shop, but to not have emails to respond to, conference calls to jump on, events to coordinate. I got to stroll through the markets, bargain and browse through Thai dresses.
The markets vendors were crammed back to back on top of each other. The food vendors had big steal pots where at 9am were already heating up Pad Thai, curry and dumplings. The streets were lined with tables and tables of fresh cut fruit and vegetables. I stumbled across a beautiful white and yellow dress that was ฿500. She gave me a sling bag to carry it in so now I would use that to carry around instead of my day pack. This would help disguise me from appearing like a tourist.
I picked up some fresh donuts for David, a bag of fresh cut watermelon for myself and then headed to the store to buy soap. I was hoping my bag would get here today but if not, I had to at least rinse off. I climbed up to the third floor and left the donuts in a little bag on the floor outside of David's room before heading to the shower.
The bathrooms at the hostel are very modern and clean with skylights, frosted glass doors on every bathroom stall door, chic shampoo and conditioner containers hanging on the walls of the shower. After staying in the hostels in Europe, I thought I would be slumming it and didn't even bring a blow dryer, but here, it's provided right on the wall by the sinks. I slipped on my new dress and was little squeamish wearing it out. This dress was designed for a short Thai person. It was extremely short and also very see-through. It was either that or the dress I wore for the nineteen hours of travel and to bed last night, so I embraced my new Thai style and walked out the door.
I headed downstairs to the patio where I found David eating his doughnuts. He thanked me for the present and introduced me to the others on the porch. Michael was from Australia, Doug from Lancaster, California, John from London and Jamis from England. I asked if anyone was hungry for lunch since The Grand Palace plan was out. It was closed for the Buddhist holiday today. I have been dying to have my first taste of Pad Thai and the boys were hungry as well. We all set up to the market to find a place to grab a bite to eat.
A girl named Gemma met up with us on the walk, so she guided us to the best Thai food in the market. She was from Manchester, England but was now teaching here for the last few months. The seven of us were sat at a table on the streets of the main market. The Pad Thai was only ฿100, which is $3.16. Everything in Thailand is extremely inexpensive. After we all ordered our food and got to know each other. It felt so natural getting to know these complete strangers. Gemma and Doug were both teachers so were talking to us about the crazy things little kids say and do.
David and I got to talking about San Diego and asked if I had every got into Vavi, an intramural sports league. I told him I was in kickball this year. He laughed and told me he had played in Vavi Kickball this spring too. There are Vavi kickball leagues in every area of San Diego so I assumed he had played in the one in PB. I told him I played in the OB League and he shook his head and told me he was in the OB league as well. I told him the only team I remembered playing was something with a clever long title because I missed a lot of games due to work travel. He told me his team name was "I got 99 problems but a kick ain't one." I started laughing uncontrollably because that was the first team I was referring to. He told me he remembered playing us because the field lights shut off halfway through the game. I remembered that happening and then the league gave us free vouchers to the bar to get pitchers of beer for ending our game half way through. David and I couldn't believe that halfway around the world, he meets a girl who he played kickball against in San Diego. It really is a small world.
We all sat around and talked for a while at the market and I was glad that I was here. I was so happy that I took a chance to leave everything that was comfortable at home. It didn't take long to discover that once I got over the initial hump of unexpected events, that I was now sitting around eating Pad Thai with an easy going group of people from all over the world (and California). It's so easy to get wrapped up in- anything in your everyday world. It becomes the norm to think about what you need (that you truly don't), what you have to do (which you really don't)- and now today all I needed was to find clothes and maybe some fruit. I loved it and I loved that I get to do this for the next two weeks. Just roam around and meet new people, try new food and maybe buy a dress that fits.
After lunch, I split from the group and crossed the street to a small temple. I followed the crowd and removed my sandals before entering. There was a prayer looping over and over on the loud speaker and every one was in line buying trays of food with flowers and dropping them in front of candles. I sat down in a chair away from the crowd and tried to figure out what was happening. I didn't want to ask anyone around me what to do, so decided to leave. I slipped my sandals back on, turned the corner and my sandal strap snapped. I looked down and my shoes were now broke. I couldn't help but laugh at the never ending events on my trip. These were the only sandals I brought so it looked like next on my list of things I "need" are new shoes. I couldn't help but wonder if my shoes broke because of Kharma. I didn't buy one of those trays and now my shoe breaks as soon as I leave the temple?
I turned down a side street in search of shoes and passed massage parlor after massage parlor. I stopped at one and read the sign "One Hour Thai Massage ฿250" I was due for one of these and I have a broken shoe, why not? I walked in and the girl led me up the stairs into a dark room and handed me pajamas. She shut the curtain and I slipped off my dress, got into the pajamas and waited for her to return. I'm not even sure what a Thai massage even is but found it odd I was putting on pajamas to get a massage. She pulled the curtain back and asked if I was ready. I asked her what the massage is and she said it is an hour Thai massage with no oils, but with clothes on. I lay down and she began the massage. It was a lot more intense than a regular relaxation massage. They are much more involved, press deeper into your muscles and sit on your while they massage your body. They pull you into different stretches and really get all the kinks out. It was honestly the best massage I have ever had and it was only $7.90. That is just so unreal to think that an hour massage is eight dollars. Before I went to Italy last year, a client gave me the advice to have a gelato every day that I'm there. I decided to apply the same rule here in Thailand but with massages. After the massage I tipped her ฿50. By her reaction, it appeared to be a lot to her but for me; it was the least I could do. I felt so relaxed and she made me forget that I had broken my shoes and still hadn't received by bag from the airport.
I headed back over to the hostel and asked Pete if my bag had come in yet. It was now 4pm and surely it had arrived. He shook his head no and I was defeated. I was beginning to wonder if I ever would see that bag again. They told me it would land at 11am and be here by 1pm. The three hours of sleep was beginning to catch up with me so I decided to head up to bed and get some rest. My new dorm room was on the top floor and had tall ceilings with sage green walls. The bunks were very modern and had corkscrew cubbies by each bed to put your belongings and plugs to hook up your phone and iPads. We were each assigned a locker and a towel rack. I met my roommates again, from England. All traveling alone. I apologized for my short dress as I climbed up the ladder to my bunk. They laughed when I told them my bag was lost and the dress was designed for short Thai people.
Within minutes I fell asleep. Between traveling the markets, lunch, the temple and the massage- I was exhausted. I had done a lot today already and thought I should rest up while my body would allow me to slow down. In a deep sleep, I heard someone saying my name over and over. I opened my eyes to Pete beside my bunk with a big smile. He told me my bag had arrived. The girls in the room were thrilled for me and I jumped out of bed and ran down the four flights of stairs to retrieve my belongings.
David was in the lobby checking out and congratulated me on my success. I hugged him goodbye and took my bag back upstairs and fell asleep until 1am.
I awoke to my stomach was growling. I had missed dinner so made my way downstairs to see if I could find some food. When I got to the front desk Pete and Attom gave each other a glance and then wished me a Happy Birthday. I smiled and asked how they knew and they told me they noticed on my passport when I checked in. They gave me a Lub D Bangkok key chain and then served me a croissant for a late dinner/breakfast.
I went upstairs into the Theatre room where there were several bean bag chairs and a big movie screen. Michael walked in and plopped down beside me. We talked about the rest of our days and he asked if I received my luggage. I motioned to my tank and shorts with a nod. "Do I look like I'm still in that dress that's way too small?" He laughed and said "It was sort of see through too Julie" and we both laughed again. He asked how the temple was and I told him about the trays of food and flowers. He told me that those are offerings for the monks. Monks dedicate their lives to serve others. They voluntarily choose to leave society and live his life in prayer. He went on to tell me people give offerings of food for the monks, to make merit. They believe that through merit-making, they earn a better place for themselves and their loved ones in their future. It's also for good luck. A monk is allowed to collect, receive and consume food between dawn and noon. He is not allowed to consume food outside of this time. I was so intrigued by all these rules. I confessed to Michael that I didn't know and that as soon as I turned the corner out of the temple, my sandal snapped and was broken. He broke into laughter and said "Kharma Julie" I thought the same thing and we started laughing about how I brought on bad luck to myself by not doing the offering, but I didn't know what it was or how to do it. Now I know. He pointed out that I have had quite the streak the last twenty-four hours.
As we were recapping the events, a guy walked in and joined us. His name was Gene and he was from Los Angeles. He asked what was so funny and Michael insisted I tell him everything from the flight, to the cab, to the hostel to my sandal. He said he has never heard of such things happening to one person. Gene agreed that it sounded like the worst was over and that maybe I should go give an offering tomorrow. After sifting through the movie selection we decided against it and to head to bed. It had been a long day for everyone and I was getting sleepy again.
So I'm officially twenty-nine in Bangkok. At home it's not technically my birthday yet, but I'm twenty-nine in the future. I never thought I would be in Thailand and I never thought it would be so easy to adjust. Walking the streets today and shopping in the market was so easy and never once did I feel afraid or in danger. How I feel and the low key lunch with new friends today is exactly what I pictured this trip to be like. I can't begin to explain what a favor I'm doing myself to slow it down, not work, or be running around on a fixed schedule. I would highly recommend it to anyone who can slip away from reality for a short time. Everyone needs a break. A moment in a setting that you are unfamiliar with so that you can let your imagine run in other directions instead of tasks and errands you need to do in your everyday life. An experience like this is priceless and I would lose my bag five more times if it meant that I get to unwind and relax.