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La Dolce Vita


THAILAND | Sunday, 26 July 2009 | Views [583] | Comments [2]


After our first few days in Thailand, Jim and I could not be happier to be here.  We are both seeing and trying so many new things...

Our first day, we decided to walk around the historic part of Bangkok, where our guesthouse is situated.  On our walk, we met a Thai law student who suggested some less-known places to visit and even arranged for a Tuk Tuk driver to take us to all of the places for the unbelievable price of 100 baht (less than two dollars each).  It was nice to get our first glimpses of the city through this motorized three-wheeled open-air vehicle.  We saw many places, but my favorite was by far a very small private temple that we visited.  At first, the man who watches over the temple was surprised to see us there and curious about how we found it, but then, he showed us the ropes.  After seeing a couple model it for us, Jim and I each got a candle and three sticks of incense.  We lit the candle and placed it in what resembled a large boat-shaped menorah.  Then, we used our candle to light our three incense (each one stands for something although each person we meet seems to tell us three different things).  We placed all the incense into a sand pile and got on our knees and made a wish to the good luck Buddha that sat before us.  I felt so honored to get the opportunity to follow this tradition and took the opportunity to make many wishes :).  When I took out a few Baht to donate to the temple, the local couple who was in there with us, explained that we should place our donation in a slot that corresponded with the day of the week that we were born on.  Each slot also had an oil candle above it, and Jim and I filled each candle with more oil.  The light of the candle signifies life, and so adding more oil and therefore increasing the light, increases the brightness and length of ones own life.  There was a candle for each day of the week, along with one that represented daytime and one that represented nighttime.  I was amazed to learn all of the meaning that follows the many Buddhist traditions and I'm now even more excited to my three day stay in a temple in August.

After our adventurous Tuk Tuk ride, Jim and I had our first Thai meal (Pad Thai and lychees) and then visited the Grand Palace.  The King and the royal family used to live here, but 61 years ago, the King decided to open it to the public and moved his family somewhere else.  The entire compound is unbelievable in its ornateness and intricacies.  Jim and I hired an tour guide and again were impressed to learn about all of the symbolism.  For example, the different colored tiles each represent the six parts of the human body: yellow for earth, blue for water, red for fire, and white for air.  The final two parts of the body: space and mind are also present on the buildings, although not through colors.  Space is represented by space and the mind is represented by the triangular shaped border around the roof.  This is actually not a triangle with pointed ends, as I first thought, but actually a Garuda (a mythical creature) holding down the evil serpent and thus represented the power of the mind to overcome evil.  Our tour guide also told us many insightful stories about how the mind and the body cannot survive without each other.  He, like all other males in Thailand were monks prior to getting married.  He told us that while before monkhood some men are doctors and some are farmers and some are teachers, etc., after being a monk, everyone is simply  monk and therefore equal.  This was especially emotional for me to hear after seeing so many social injustices while working at John Muir.  I hope its true :)  He also explained to us that the reason that people use the wai (when you place your hands together and sort of bow your head) is because one forms their hands into the shape of a closed lotus flower, the sign of purity.  Depending on who you wai, your fingers rise to a different part of your face (nose for an ordinary person, eyes for a monk, and forehead for a monk.

The next day, Jim and I took a day trip to Ayutthaya, the old capital of Thailand.  It was very cool to see the Thai structures stripped of their ornate decor.  Highlights were the Reclining Buddha with painted toe nails and eating delicious Thai sweets and fruits.  We returned from Ayutthaya on a cruise down the Chaopraya River, which was a very relaxing way to see a lot of the area.  It was also interesting to talk to the other people on our tour.  Some were from New Zealand, Spain, and India.  We then ventured to a local mall where teenagers go to shop and loiter.  The mall reminded me more of a flea market filled with hundreds of small stalls on each floor.  We successfully got a cell phone and visited the local supermarket before heading back to Banglamphu, the area where we were staying.  This is known as the backpackers zone and is a great place to hang out at night, surrounded by visitors from around the world.  We drank local beer and talked politics with a banker from London before calling it a night.

Our last day in Bangkok was my birthday and we celebrated by trying many news things.  Our day started with a visit to the floating market, a market built by Chinese immigrants about an hour and a half from Bangkok.  On our way to the floating market we took a "James Bond boat" (a motorized long boat) and saw monkeys and komodo dragons.  Once we arrived, we switched to a paddle boat.  It was a fun experience to see all of the items being sold while riding on a paddle boat.  We were able to try some great food and explore aroud the market t practice our negotiating skills.  From there, we went on an elephant ride.  I loved feeling the skin of our baby elephant, Floy and also entering into the river while on her.  But the best part was after the elephant ride, when Jim and I bought a basket of small bananas to feed to the elephants.  At first, the elephants grabbed the bananas with the ned of their trunks and then put them into their own mouths.  But then, the elephant curled up his turnk and opened his mouth, letting us feed the banana straight onto his giant tongue.  It was soooo cool and I loved every minute of it!  We were able to hug the elephant and take some pictures before heading back to Bagkok.  That evening, Jim and I went to the Mandarin Oriental hotel for massages.  Jim got a traditional back massage and I got a Thai massage.  The Thai massage was a combination of stretches with intense pressure and some soothing massage.  I really enjoyed the new experience and felt like I stretched 2 inches taller after getting the excellent massage.  We followed the massages with an elegant Thai dinner and dance show at the same hotel.  We liked some of the food and did not care for some of it, but it was great to see a different part of Thai life (the elegant side).  I loved all of the dance performances and especially liked seeing the beautiful and elaborate costumes.  Towards the end of the show, I heard a familiar tune being played by the Thai instruments and realized that they were playing Happy Birthday.  The host of the night brought over Thai deserts with lit candles and I blew out the candles to applause from the rest fo the diners.  It was a very sweet surprise and the perfect closing to an unbelievable birthday.  Thank you so much Brianne, Mami, Papi, and Mary Ellen and Bob for your  generous gifts that allowed Jim and I to celebrate my brithday in such an incredible way :)

We left Bangkok the next morning (after having yummy fruit smoothies for breakfast) and headed to Phuket, one of the most beautiful Thai islands.  We are here now, enjoying the beach and the sun.  I will write more in a few days! 

lots of hugs, kisses, and many wai!




Not bad, not bad!
Keep the fun going!!!

  Miguel Jul 28, 2009 9:45 AM


Happy belated birthday! I'm so glad that you had such a special and memorable experience on your birthday, and that I get to read your blog and feel like I'm there right along with you. Continue having a great time, learning a lot, and make sure to stay safe :)

  Lainey Aug 4, 2009 12:26 AM



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