School has been crazy with the approach to the end of the Thai year, which is in March. I cannot believe I only have one week of teaching new content left, one week of review and then 1 week of exams. With reports and final exams being written, I can smell the end and judging from the wild animals that have emerged in my class, so can the students! Just 3 days ago I booked my ticket home and while I have loved my time here – the word ‘flying’ or ‘home’ just makes my tummy tingle!!
Last weekend Izzy, Ella and I headed up to Bangkok for a weekend treat away. We flew out on Saturday morning and arrived in Bangkok in midday heat where we took a taxi to a hotel. I was both looking forward to and dreading this trip. The last (and first) time I went to Bangkok was on my way from South Africa to Phuket. I was exhausted from two full days of travelling and arrived in Bangkok at 10pm in the evening. With it being my first time in Asia it was a major shock to my system and I remember being completely overwhelmed by the vastly
different…..everything! I was uncomfortable and I remember feeling like I had made a drastically wrong decision by coming to Asia. Truth be told, I was scared and dwarfed by the vastness of the difference in every aspect of the country and city. So I went to my cheap motel room and collapsed in a heap feeling so low over my bad decision and scared to death of the months that lay ahead of me. I hated Bangkok. This was why I was not looking forward to going back but on the other hand, I realise I was exhausted at the time, it was my first time in Asia and I was hoping that now that I knew the country, most of its customs, some of the language and of course that I was now visiting it on holiday and with friends that it would be a far more enjoyable experience….and it was! I discovered the sheer joy that comes with travelling with friends…flying with friends is SUCH FUN!!
We stayed at the Karmanee hotel close to the weekend market and had a very pleasant stay there. Our main objective in Bangkok was shopping at Chatterchuck Road – an enormous weekend market known for its diversity of every and any product you can think of. So we headed off on our 15 minute walk to Chatterchuck Road, navigating the city and the traffic on and off the road! Chatterchuck can be described best as a maze of intertwining and weaving stalls that roughly translates to a grid of ‘make-do’ shops. The pathways are one to two people wide and you walk along these little paths with your eyes darting right and left to see whether you want to shop in this nook or not. If you do, you quickly divert your feet left or right and pop in and out of the shops. All prices are bargained down and you decide whether you really want to pay that or not…Bob Marley shirts, Billabong and Quicksilver Caps, board shorts and shirts, ornaments, Asian silks, cushions, table clothes, t-shirts, swimming costumes, baby clothes, jewellery, Cd’s, DVDs, baskets, flowers, fruit, fruit shakes, hand crafted items, precious china teacups and teapots, candles and a number of items that were unidentifiable to my eyes!!! A feast for the senses. After about two hours Ella headed back to the hotel and Izzy and I took a break for lunch – fried vegetable rice and coke for energy cost us around R20. Back to it we went still striking up a number of good deals. We shopped for six hours in total before we decided to head back (this is coming from two girls who are not the world’s best shoppers) while negotiating our way out of the maze we were blown away to discover that we were going (in our minds) back the way we came but we were seeing stores that we had not seen all day. How can you shop for 6 hours and still see new stores?!!!!
After passing an elephant on the main road, we showed off our clothes and gifts at the hotel and competed for the best bargain achievement before we headed off to dinner. We went in a very vague direction of somewhere that Ella remembered from when her dad lived in Bangkok for somewhere to eat. The great thing about Bangkok is how cheap it is to get around. We were travelling by car instead of motorbikes for the first time in months and I remember at some point thinking – this man must slow down! We are speeding at a ridiculously dangerous rate and when I leaned over to see his speedometer it only read 90 kph! Clearly I have become used to a MUCH slower pace of life than even I’d realised! While hunting for a restaurant, we came across Coyote – the Mexican restaurant that we went to for Ella’s birthday that had the world’s best Nachos with black re fried beans, guacamole and dripping in cheese – out of this world!
Izzy had read about a meditation program that you could do in the morning at a temple so she and I were up at 6am to make our way across the city to find the temple. We found it with ease (well, the taxi driver did!) and we headed inside. This was my first Thailand temple, before this, I’d only seen temples in Malaysia, so I was a happy snapper tourist! We entered the main temple where we obviously couldn’t take photos and we had entered from the back left corner of the building. We walked the red carpet barefoot around the perimeter of the central open area where people were already worshipping and an enormous golden Buddha statue was lavishly embellished and sparkling. The sight was mesmerising as the five meter statue overlooked its worshippers on carpet mats at the dawn of the day. Due to the early hours we visited, we were so lucky to be able to see the temple and its surrounding buildings at sunrise – it brought a quiet austerity to the air. Finally, we found Jik, someone who spoke English who could help us find our building where the course was to take place. He asked where we were from and was blown over by the fact that, “HA! You fom Africa! Africa black. You White!” This is the first reaction of its kind since I’ve been here, which is great because I found it quiet amusing. Unfortunately when we found the room we were supposed to be in, the teacher was not there. So now here we were, 7am on a Sunday morning with nothing to kill our three hours with. Thailand doesn’t normally begin functioning until 9am on a weekday so just imagine how slowly things start on a Sunday!
We took another taxi to the area of town where we’d been the night before and we set off to find anywhere that would sell breakfast. We found a little French delicatessen and something to fill our tummies. Realising how long it was going to take Thailand (and Ella) to wake up and how much time we had to kill before any shops opened, Izzy decided that this was the perfect time to get a haircut from a 24 hour hair salon called ‘gay-cut’. Now – a note on hairdressing in Thailand…I have braved my first and only haircut where I glared at the lady-boy (a transvestite) via the mirror who was cutting my hair because there have been so many disastrous haircuts I have heard about and also because Asian hair is SO different to ‘farang’ (foreign) hair. I was terrified but I’d gone 3 months without one and I decided I had no choice but to brave it. Izzy had already been once and was not happy seeing as they had cut her hair ‘Thai style’ which looks amazing on Thai girls (and Lady boys) but is simply not for the average Westerner. So I sat with my book as Izzy casually approached her second Asian haircut. I was thoroughly engrossed in my book and had just got into a rhythm of bouncing my legs up and down enough to keep the flies off when I heard screaming from behind the mirrors, “STOP! STOP! NO MORE! NO! NO! NO MORE! PUT THE SCISSORS DOWN!” Oh dear – too much, too soon. Of course it didn’t look nearly as bad as she imagined or made it out to be but she was devastated that her hair had been butchered and kept saying, “I have bangs ALL the way round my head!”. To ease the pain, we headed over to a nearby park where we lay on the grass under the trees next to a big pond and chatted about our holiday plans which cheered her up immensely until it was time to meet Ella.
Once we’d met up with Ella we went to an upmarket Spa where we had a very luxurious Thai massage (yes, ANOTHER one) It was a real treat to do this with friends. Each person has a mattress within a canvas curtained area but because we were together they made ours like our own little room. I was in the middle and really loved it. The first thing they do is wash your feet to get all the icky Bangkok dirt off them before you lie on their white sheets and cover you with a soft white towel. While having her feet washed, Izzy got the giggles, which of course set me off. About half way through the massage, I was sure Izzy had fallen asleep because I heard snoring – it was actually the guy next to us but it turns out Izzy thought it was me! I would cry if I’d slept through and missed the enjoyment of my massage! After being bent and pushed and pulled by the masseuse’ arms, hands, legs and feet, we were ravenous and headed to an Irish pub for lunch. We enjoyed ‘real’ food and a pint ‘o beer at an Irish pub before bidding farewell to Bangkok and a wonderful weekend away.