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Published: August 1st 2008
Ok, y'all, time has completely flown by the past five and a half days I have spent in Bangkok. My last blast, albeit a very short one and just to let y'all know I arrived safely, was during my layover in Singapore, before flying directly to Bangkok. I have a friend who lives here who has so graciously allowed me to stay with her during this transition period to South East Asia. We have been keeping quite busy, but doing more "local" things than touristy. Since I have been to Bangkok a number of times before, I have "done" the touristy things, but this time I am concentrating on meeting up with friends, and just soaking up the big city Thai culture.
Bangkok's congested, crazy, stinky traffic gets to me sometimes. For a city of 6 or 7 million (give or take a mil...), people are everywhere, and can I stress, EVERYWHERE!?!? On the BTS (the Bangkok Skytrain -- the best invention for a city this huge), on the streets, in the malls. EVERYWHERE! Even though my friend lives in a very-Thai neighborhood in an area north of the main part of town, her streets and neighborhood never shut down. People are up at all hours of the day and night, and even though we have managed to have some relatively clear streets coming home in the middle of the night from Bangkok proper, at other times, and most times, it is more stop than go.
Oh, how the Thais love their shopping malls. And oh, how they know how to build them. Glass, endless ceilings, high fashion, glitz and glamour. A brand new mall just opened up a few months ago, with more fancy, high class stores than in all of my home county combined. Waterfalls, orchids, perfectly trimmed hedges and flower gardens can be found throughout the foyer as well as into the mall itself. Don't get me wrong, I am so not a mall-goer, or a shopper for that matter, but it is hard to stay away from seeing this part of what Thais love so much. Besides, it's a good meeting place. So many hip, young, trendy Thai kids, teenagers, even young adults adorn these places. As if Bangkok needs more places to shop........
Call me crazy, but there are too many overpriced luxuries as well as necessities in the states. So......come to Bangkok! Thai prices, excellent service and a fair deal are quite the drawing factors. I got my hair cut a couple of nights ago, and even though it was just an all over trim and cuttting of the bangs, the super sweet gal spent 20 minutes (yes, 20 minutes!!) blowdrying and straightening my hair!! I told her I wanted my hair to be cut straight across and she wasn't about to stop without making sure my hair was perfectly straight. Oh, and did I mention she washed my hair three times? While washing, a scalp massage is ubiquitous. This lasted 10 minutes. Ahhhhhhhh.....The end result was gorgeous! It cost me $5.00.
This morning I went to one of the local hospitals for a dentist appointment (yeah, I know, the dentist's office is in the hospital). I hadn't called ahead for an appointment, but they took me in, nonetheless. After filling out a bit of minor paperwork, spending a total of less than 2 minutes sitting in the empty waiting room, I was called in for an incredibly thorough teeth cleaning. The dentist spoke English, and did all the work herself, while her assistant held the little saliva sucker-upper thingy. Ms. Dentist explained everything she was doing while she was doing it and even showed me proper brushing techniques after she finshed with my cleaning. This was done on a mouth mold, the kind with the hinge so you can see the insides of the teeth. I told her her yellow-toothed mold needed a teeth whitening. She got a smile out of that one. Even though I received an "A" from the dentist for keeping healthy teeth and gums, she reminded me not to forget to floss. I asked her if she flosses, and in her cute, sweet Thai voice, told me "Of course I do." She hesitated a few minutes, but then admitted to me in a hushed voice, as if under interrogation, "But only once a day!" Then she started giggling.... The dentist appointment cost me $27.00, a far cry from my dentist back home who's gauging prices are now over $70.00 a visit. I was presented a card and told to come back in 6 months.
Yesterday, Sunday, my friend and I walked over to an Olympic-sized swimming pool about 1/2 mile or so from her condo complex. First off, I have never had the privlege of swimming in, let alone, seeing a swimming pool of this size, and secondly, for this being my first time, it sure was a pleasant experience. NO ONE WAS THERE!!!! OK, I lied. There was one other farang (foreigner, tourist) there when we arrived, but he was reading his paper in the shade. NO ONE WAS THERE!! For $2.00 we were let in, shown to the outdoor showers, and given two plastic chairs to sit on and an umbrella for shade. The hardest part was deciding where to park ourselves. We stayed for a couple of hours, enjoying the sunshine and the solitude. What a peaceful place. The Thais don't like the sun and do everything they can to keep out of it (hence, why so many wear as much skin-covering as possible, even on the impossibly hot days). They must come later in the day, as the pool is open until 9pm (it has been getting dark here around 6 or 6:30) and the grounds are covered with huge stadium-type lights.
My friend and I went to get Thai massages the other day. A two hour massage at this place cost the same as 1.5 hours (which, unfortunately was all we had time for). We dressed in the typical Thai loose pants and smock-llike top and walked into our respected little rooms. My gal was amazing. All the tension was relieved from the stressed of last minute packing and moving before I left Cali, not to mention the 23 hour flight to get here (which included an early morning stopover in Hong Kong, then Singapore). Some of you are aware, Swedish massage is very soothing and relaxing and excellent for getting rid of unwanted stress. Thai massage is more the pulling and stretching of the muscles, working up and down the pressure points on the legs, arms and back. It is not always pleasant and sometimes can be quite painful. But, the end result is often the same, no matter what the type of massage, with a healthier outlook and muscles relieved of built-up tension. I liked my gal, but a few times during my massage, I felt the twisting and bending was reserved for the limber acrobats in the Cirque Du Soliel shows. The massage cost $5.00.
Tuesday, tomorrow, I fly to Phuket, an island in the southern part of Thailand, where I plan to stay a few nights, then catch a ferry to a very special island, Koh Phi Phi, located just east of Phuket (Poo-Ket, for those not in the know) in the Andaman Sea. I have some very dear Thai friends on the islands, folks I met during the few months I spent doing tsunami relief work there in early to mid 2005.
I'll write more when I have a moment. Thanks, y'all, for all your support and wonderful inquiring emails. Please keep in mind, as much as I enjoy hearing from each and every one of you, I may not get a chance to respond right away, though I will certainly *try* and send a response back to each of you, even if my answers are short ones!
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