Happy Birthday to HM the Queen of Thailand! And Happy Mother’s Day (here in The Land of Smiles.)
Whit and I have had a great, yet interesting day, in Bangkok. We’ve finally started figuring things out and tonight even found a way to run in this dirty, smog-belching city. We opened our eyes and went beyond the guidebooks to find a park where all the locals jog (we saw it through the trees on a van ride to our river dinner cruise a couple nights ago).
It was such a pleasant experience, an oasis of green and shade and happy running smiling people in the middle of bustling Bangkok. We ran 4.5 miles (Whit probably ran 5) around lakes with fountains and paddle boats shaped as swans, dance classes, children on bicycles, rollerblades and running behind their parents, and not one beggar asking for a just a few bahts. It was simply paradise, a slice of heaven on a hectic day.
We started this morning at 6 a.m. with our favorite tour yet, an upclose look at the famous “floating market” located about an hour and a half from Bangkok. We signed up for this trip wanting to see this market we heard so much about and seen so many beautiful color photos of.
But in the end, we got a lot more than we bargained for. And bargaining is the name of the game here in Bangkok. Not only did we go to the market, which by the way was hands down the best thing we’ve done here, but we also got roped into elephant rides (which we declined since we are saving those for a more authentic experience in the north), a cobra show with a side monkey show (I kid you not), a wood carving place, and a fantastically boring tour of a “gem factory” where we saw about three Thais carving away at metal and then were taken into a gallery to buy the jewelry. Again declined that nice offer.
Let’s just say there was no tip for our guides, who obviously work on commission from all the freak shows/tourist traps we were taken to.
We’re learning a lot here in Bangkok, which will help us in the coming year. Here are a few things we’ve learned about Thailand and it’s culture, specifically:
1. The King and Queen are second in this world only to Buddha.
2. HM is not the Queen’s name. It actually stands for “Her Majesty” and every newspaper article prints her name as “HM the Queen.”
3. Never, ever, stand on what is considered sacred grounds or a praying area around a temple with your shoes on. Whit and I came close to seeing the first Buddhist in history lose their cool when I thought it would be a good idea to perch myself on top of this area with my shoes on so Whit could see me when he came out of the bathroom.
4. Speaking of bathrooms, never ever ever put your used toilet paper into the toilet. It just won’t flush. No ifs, ands, or buts (excuse the pun) about it. No matter how many signs I see warning me about this, I can’t seem to remember the rule from when I first read it to when I mechanically toss it in the toilet.
5. And for Buddha’s sake, never point your feet directly at him or at any of the kazillion Buddha statues around here.
6. Don’t drink the water. Don’t even brush your teeth with it. And be careful when you shower in it.
7. When you eat Thai food in Thailand, eat it their way: a spoon in your right hand and a fork in your left, which is used to push the food onto the spoon.
OK, that’s all for now. As you can see, we’re learning the important stuff. We’re having a great time here in Bangkok, but we’re more than ready to move on once we get our passports stamped on Tuesday with our work visas for Korea. We’ve booked a midnight train to Chiang Mai in the north, a mountainous area of the country, and then will head to the beaches for a few days.