Bangkok, July 6
Returning to Thailand was something that we were really looking forward to. Although we thoroughly enjoyed our time exploring Japan we were excited to be traveling to a more budget friendly country. It was great to be back to Thailand with its hot, humid weather, its rich culture and beautiful temples, its friendly people, and of course its deliciously inexpensive Thai food!
After spending over a week sleeping on the floors of our Japanese ryokan hotels, we decided it was time to upgrade and stay at a nice hotel rather than the typical Bangkok backpacker hostel. We stayed at the Ibis Hotel for three nights and thoroughly enjoyed our king size bed and flat screen television. The timing could not have been better as Cameron came down with a bit of a head cold upon arriving in Bangkok.
Of course the first thing we did was head to a local restaurant to indulge in some Pad Thai and Singha beer. We got to talking to the owner of the restaurant, a Dutch man who had spent several years running restaurants and guest houses. He gave us some insight on where to shop, eat and play. The converstation got very interesting when he described his shocking experience during the tsunami that struck the region a few years ago. He was actually swept into the water and had to swim to land! Tragically he lost several of his restaurant staff who were in an unfortunate position as the wave hit. It was very sobering to hear of his first hand experiences during the terrifying event.
Two of the top things that we wanted to do during our brief stay in Bangkok was the floating market and the old capital of Ayutthaya. Both were places that we didn't get to visit during our last stay. Long story short, neither worked out. Both required some planning, dollars and very early mornings. So we elected to hang around the city instead. I know, tough times!
While in Peru we met Krit, a doctor from Thailand who is studying in Baltimore. We got to talking and coincidentally he was going to be in Bangkok while we were visiting. We had one of those "when we get to Thailand let's look each other up" moments. So we did! It was fantastic traveling through Bangkok with a friend who knows the real Bangkok, to see the city through his eyes. Krit took us to a few streetside restaurants and ordered several different dishes for us to sample, which was great because we love Thai food! It allowed us to try new foods that we probably wouldn't know existed without his guidance, let alone how to order it. Nicole now has a new desert favorite of ice, fruit, condensed milk and a bunch of other goodies!
The highlight of the evening was Krit taking us to a Buddhist temple, fortunately during the Buddhist holiday. The temple was filled with orange cloaked monks, local Thai worshippers, and burning incense. We were lucky to have Krit explain the Buddhist religion and worshipping practices. He was actually a monk for a brief period of his life, as are many Thai men in their late teens to early twenties, and had to shave his head and eye brows.
Of course we had to partake in the ritual while we were there, especially having Krit with us as a guide and interpreter. We received three sticks of incense with a lotus flower, lit the incense and circled the temple that contained a huge buddha statue three times. The basic idea is to clear your head of negative thoughts and think about postive things for the coming year. It was an enlightening and memorable experience, magnifed by the vibration of chanting of monks from within the temple. The smell of fresh lotus flowers, burning incense and humid evening air will stick in our minds forever!
Rather than get too religious on you, the basic goal is to rid yourself of materialistic items and greedy thoughts. To live an honest life and do good at all times. Interesting fact; women are not allowed to touch monks, nor are they allowed to touch a women. This includes a simple handshake. We took so much from Krit and the experience at the temple, and were truly grateful to have him show us around Bangkok... thanks again Krit!
Our last night was spent doing what most foreigners do in Bangkok, shopping at the night market! We went to the nearby Suan Naum Night Bazaar, which was a little more expensive than some of the other night markets but conveniently located a few blocks away from our hotel. It was a quiet night at the market, probably due to the Buddhist holiday, but that didn't stop us from bartering our way to some well needed cheap T-shirts.
Our final day was spent eating pad Thai at an outdoor restaurant before heading back to the Bangkok airport. Our next destination was Hanoi, Vietnam to meet up with Nicole's longtime friend Jackie...