City of Angels, City of Life

Bangkok is a great city. I’ll just go right out and say that. I know that sounds like quite a statement to make, but I’m not the only one who thinks so! Practically my entire family agrees! This place can be amazingly overwhelming (even more so than New York) but it’s just brimming with character and so full of life! If you want it, you can get it. Anything you could possibly need is right there, including today, when my family decided to buy a duffle bag for my parents’ trip home. There were 4 options within a 5 minute walk!

We returned here yesterday as we bid adieu to the Kingdom of Bhutan. We again flew via Calcutta, though this time, the stop was purposeful. Along the way, we even caught a glimpse of K2, the second highest peak in the world, though not nearly as famous as its superior, Mount Everest.

As we arrived, Bangkok was in a State of Emergency due to increasingly tense protests by the Red Shirts, supporters of the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a coup while I was studying here. This is nothing new…just the latest in a back and forth between different economic classes of people. The protests have escalated though and have migrated their way to the intersection we’re staying off of! Across town, troops finally began to push back against the protestors and the entire mass transit system has been shut down. In fact, before we would leave Thailand again, the troops would kill 19 people.

But we didn’t let any protests spoil our fun. Our days in Bangkok have been comprised of some well needed R&R, as well as a couple of ritualistic events that would have made my grandmother proud.

The first? Spring Rolls (from a fantastic Thai place named “Cabbages and Condoms,” which funds AIDS prevention and population control programs…you even get condoms as after dinner mints!). When we were all here together three years ago, she was determined to find delicious Spring Rolls, a desire which turned into quite a grand event. Somewhere at home I have a whole series of photos of her victoriously eating Spring Rolls once she finally found some she liked.

The second? Why to have High Tea at the fanciest hotel in town, of course! It was my grandmother’s little way of dabbling in the lives of the rich and famous (or something). She once threatened to disown me if I didn’t attend High Tea at the Empress Hotel while I was visiting Victoria, British Columbia back in 2006! This couldn’t possibly have been more fitting either, as last time around, we all had Tea at the Oriental Hotel, so we decided to return again. The Garden Room, where Tea is traditionally served, was occupied that day, so we were moved to a fancy room overlooking the beautiful Chao Phraya River! It was so fancy that once a tablecloth was placed on a table, it was ironed, right there on the actual table!

We also indulged in a couple of ever-so-addicting Thai massages for ourselves. If you’ve never experienced one before, forget everything you know about a Western-style massage. Thai massage is all about pressure points and moving your body into bizarre, Yoga-like positions. It’s a truly fantastic and energizing experience! I still contend that the best massages in the city are found at Wat Pho (home to the exceptionally long reclining Buddha), which houses the traditional Thai massage training school. It’s a bit pricier, but absolutely worth it!

While I’ve certainly enjoyed playing tour guide all over again and am sad that my time in this great City of Angels is over (for now), I am ready to move on as my family does. But instead of heading back to the U.S. (as my parents are) or to an island beach (as my brother and his wife are), I head to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in the morning as I restart my solo trip. I’ve had a lovely vacation from my travels. Now, it’s time to get back into the swing of things!

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