My last day in Bangkok was just as good as the rest. I got myself together late morning, hopped into a taxi, and had the driver take me to the Emerald Buddha Temple and Royal Palace—the 2 must-see sights for tourists. I wasn’t as into it as I thought I’d be—I guess I’m just worn out by Buddhist temples after living in Asia for the past months. But it was still unbelievably beautiful. Thai Buddhism is so much more extravagant than Nepali or Tibetan Buddhism. The temples are literally covered in gold and emeralds and all sorts of other gems. Not very Buddhist, if you ask me. But it was a sight to see. And I love the curved corners of the buildings, and the little curved shoes that all of the statues of temple guards wear.
I wandered around in the heat for a while among hundreds of other tourists, constantly wiping the sweat off my face while watching Thai people pray and dip flowers into what was probably holy water and then sprinkle it onto their heads. I also sat and listened to some monks chanting for a while. It was a very peaceful place. Had it not
been so hot I probably would have lingered a lot longer just to people watch.
I had not eaten breakfast, so after I finished wandering around the temple, I wandered down the street to a neighborhood where I saw just one other foreigner. I found myself in the middle of a very packed street market with row upon row of food stands. There was not an English menu in sight, so I sat down at a busy stand, pointed to some fried thing the guy sitting next to me was eating that looked good, and waited. And boy, was it delicious! Turns out it was fried clams with egg and who knows what else that’s not good for you, especially on the streets of Thailand, but I ate every bite of it and loved it! I also picked up a little box of chocolate cake balls dipped in chocolate and covered in rainbow sprinkles. I watched a woman making them for a while, and they looked so delicious, I couldn’t resist.
I went back to the main road and wandered down the street again. Sunday must have been market day, because everyone had their stands out or their
Emerald Buddha Temple
These guys were lining the side of one building.
blankets covered with goods lying on the sidewalk. There were little Buddha charms, what looked like antique coins, and lots of stands with herbal remedies. I again found myself in an area with food (the Lonely Planet was right—food is always a few steps away in Bangkok), so this time I bought a fruit shake. A woman with a little coffee stand had cups of sliced fruit and veggies set up on a table. You were to pick a cup, and then she blended it with ice. So I picked one where I could recognize at least half of what was in it (pineapple, carrot, melon). Whatever was in it, it was delicious and perfect for such a hot day. I also bought a huge slice of fresh papaya from a guy at another stand, with a little bag of sugar with chilis to sprinkle on it. Sounds strange to sprinkle sugar and chilis on fresh papaya, but after I tasted it, it made sense.
Exhausted from all of the eating and wandering, I decided to spend the rest of my day at the spa, again. So I booked myself for a 3-hour treatment. Did I feel overindulgent? Yes.
Emerald Buddha Temple
Thais praying at the temple.
Did I care? Not really. After all, when in Thailand, you’re supposed to be pampered. And when I saw it was only about $55 for a 3-hour treatment, I couldn’t think of a reason why not. And besides, I have vowed to take on a little bit of the Eastern approach to health and treat myself to such things more regularly because they do so much good not only for your physical health, but also your mental health.
This time my therapist was a middle-aged woman named Lert. We went to a different part of the spa into a private room with a toilet and shower next door. The first hour was a body scrub—she scrubbed me down with this vanilla scented scrub. Much needed after the havoc Kathmandu water did to my skin! After rinsing off, I then had a one hour mint-scented oil massage that was incredibly relaxing.
I was reveling in my Thailand beauty treatment bliss when Lert started massaging my stomach and said, “Baby?”
“Umm, no, no baby. Not yet.”
“Oh. No babies? Husband?”
“No husband. Boyfriend.”
“Boyfriend in Bangkok?”
“No, boyfriend in the U.S.,” I said. “Next time
a tuk-tuk taxi
my boyfriend will come to Bangkok.”
“Oh. How old?”
“How old am I? 27 years.”
Laughing, she said, “Oh! I am old! 40! 4 kids!”
“Wow! You do not look 40!” I said, truthfully.
“You go back to America, come back to Thailand, bring boyfriend.”
“Yes,” I said, “definitely come back to Thailand,” as I drifted back into my bliss.
The final hour or so was a foot/reflexology massage where she took this little wooden stick and pressed it (sometimes rather hard) into all of my pressure points on and around my feet. I know nothing about reflexology, so I don’t know which point is supposed to benefit what, but my feet were happy afterwards. She then rubbed me down again, made me sit up, and jumped up behind me on the table. Again, I was twisted into different ways that made my back crack half a dozen times. I vowed to look up places to get a Thai style massage back home the next time I was online.
After showering, changing, and drinking a glass of iced green tea, I bought some bath products from the spa and floated back out
food stands everywhere!
into the street. It was now down pouring, which was to be expected with all of the humidity earlier in the day. I was hungry (again), so I went to a restaurant called Naj right next door to the spa for a fancy final Thai meal. And that it was! They sat me at a table with a white table cloth and a candle and brought me a little shot of rice wine. I ordered coconut juice, and they brought out an entire coconut with just the top sliced off and a straw stuck in it. After ordering dinner, they brought 2 little appetizers of fruits and nuts wrapped in leaves. I had chicken satay with peanut sauce (that I would have licked clean had I not been in public), green chicken curry (that was incredibly hot even though the menu indicated it was a mild dish), and of course, mango sticky rice for dessert. Finally, they brought me a little shot glass of green apple jello to cleanse my pallet. I was thoroughly stuffed, but had there been more food, I probably would have eaten it. There was even a little traditional Thai dance show in the middle of
dancers at Naj restaurant
the meal, where a man and woman came out in elaborate dress and twirled around. On my way out, the staff all put their hands together in front of their faces, bowed their heads, and said thank you in Thai. I was handed a small flower garland that smelled wonderful. I walked back to my hotel to pack up my stuff and take a nap before heading to the airport at 3am, sad that this magical adventure was coming to an end.
Maybe I was biased coming from Kathmandu, but I fell in love with Bangkok! The food, the focus on good health and relaxation, the fact that I didn’t understand a damn word anyone was saying but still managed to find my way around. It was a perfect way to celebrate the end of my Fulbright. And after all of the challenges I faced over the past 7 months, I felt I earned a few days of pampering and amazing food. Of course, it would have been more fun to have a traveling companion, but I can not believe how much fun I had on my own in a foreign country where I did not know any of the language. Maybe I’m just a more seasoned traveler now? Regardless, a 3 day stop there was a brilliant decision on my part!
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