Sunday, 24 March 2013

... Indochina: "Goodnight, Goodnight, Sleep Well My Dear...."

Finally after 4 days I can say that, after last night, I have had something that resembles a meal to eat! A small decorless Thai restaurant close to the Hualamphong MRT may not have been much on the eyes but it certainly made up for it in the flavour of its food. I had a delicious sôm-dam (papaya salad) and tom yum soup with squid. I was asked if I wanted it spicy or Thai spicy. Of course I went with the latter.... And my mouth was on fire. It was all washed down with a very delicious and refreshing lemongrass drink.

I awoke several times during the night and when I awoke at 4am I didn't go back to sleep. But I felt fine, I had been in bed around 9pm and thus had had a pretty decent nights sleep all things considered.

Once a filling breakfast was out of the way, it was time for a short stroll through Chinatown towards the river where I got my James Bond on Man With The Golden Gun style and took a long-tail boat around the khlongs in Thonburi. In the early days of the city it was these canals not roads that transported people and goods. Much of the canal system is now gone however remaining canals include Khlong Bangkok Noi and Khlong Mon.


Whilst I wasn't quite tear-arsing around them like Roger Moore being chased by the karate school minions, a boat seller did come over trying to sell elephants. I suspect I likely raised my right eyebrow, which I nicknamed 'Roger' many moons ago, in tribute to one of my favourite (& cheesey) Bond movies. "Bloody tourists". Curiously enough despite being in Bangkok I didn't see anyone with a superfluous mammary gland...

The water, despite it's rather disgusting colour and floating litter, is teaming with marine life. Namely catfish and water monitor lizards. It is forbidden to fish in front of the temples and someone appears to have told the fish this. They were literally swimming over each other and they are quite large.  Of course someone has seen a correlation between this and making money and so you can buy a bunch of bread rolls to feed the fish with for 10B. They love it. The two monitor lizards I saw were lazing themselves in the sun and were rather large to boot. I wouldn't like to meet one of those in a dark waterway alley that's for sure.

My khlong trip ended at the Tha Tien pier on the Mae Nam Chao Phraya, which was handy for my next destination.

Wat Pho is Bangkok's oldest & largest temple. Dating back to the 16th Century, it's biggest attraction is the 46m long & 15m high reclining Buddha. It is not hard to see why. Shimmering in all it's gold-leafed glory this absolute beast of a statue attracts visitors in droves. You walk from the massive head to the equally massive & Mother of Pearl-decorated toes & feet hoping to get that one shot that a) does it justice and b) shows off the immense size. On the backside of the statue there are 108 bowls for you to throw a pre-purchased dishful of coins-like discs into to make a wish. I wondered, for one second, if I was in some newly themed Casino in Vegas!?! I timed my visit just right, as I was leaving the grounds after trekking around much of it the queue for the reclining Buddha was insanely huge and out in the heat. The various temples and structures are beautifully ordained and there are a wide selection of various sized Buddhas throughout. As previously mentioned the Wat Pho Traditional Thai Medical and Massage School is affiliated with the temple and the temple is a traditional training ground.

By now the heat and humidity had reached the usual inferno level which not even an iced fruit lolly could subdue. Now that I knew my way, I was at the Massage School and had my 1hr Thai massage booked within 5 minutes complete with air-con. Today's therapist was male and so, once he realized I wasn't going to snap in two, his pressure was a little deeper than I'd previously had, which was great. By now I was used to the treatment. My neck & shoulders are still my problem area and so I think I'm going to have ooooh enough massages between now and heading to Laos to help alleviate that problem. No flying upside down airplane for me today however I think he wanted to see if my torso could move 360 degrees in each direction.... Alas not. It felt better than it sounds though trust me. He also did this weird yet wonderful technique where he stuck his fingers in my ears which really helped release any tension in my jaw. As I left I bought one of their books, translated into English, for the measly equivalent of $6!

I rode the ferry back to the Chinatown pier, read a map wrong and kind of got lost. My bartering skills did me proud though and I talked a TukTuk driver down from 100B to 50B so I could get back to the hotel for another shower. After devouring some Tom Yum with noodles it was time to head to the very busy Hualumphong train station.

Tonight I'm riding the overnight sleeper train north to Chiang Mai on a 12-15 hour journey. I have been advised that the trains are "flexible", a new term for describing "not reliable". That's quite ok, apparently this train has a disco on it!?!

Choo choo!

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