I am here, in Thailand! And I have turned into a scary sweat monster. It pours off my back, slicks my legs, never leaves except after at least an hour in air-conditioning. I drink copious amounts of water, four to five bottles a day, but never need a toilet. It all comes out in sweat.
At least it’s keeping me cool and hydrated!
Bangkok is an assault on the senses, both good and bad. I savor the incense burning in temples and riot of colors on everything from longtail boats plying the river to the women’s skirts. The noise takes getting used to. This city girl is overwhelmed by the noise. From everywhere. Tuk-tuks and cars whiz by, as motorbikes weave through lanes and somehow never take out the pedestrians only inches away. I learned from day one to follow the locals and forge my path along the sides of narrow streets and soi when sidewalks are nonexistent. It is a whirling sea of humanity, cliche thought this may be.
I got the rest of my vaccinations today – typhoid and Japanese encephalitis, for a fraction of the cost I would have paid in the States. ($30 versus $800+) The travel clinic at the Madhipol University’s Hospital for Tropical Disease is modern, efficient, and English-speaking. An hour later, after making sure I didn’t have an allergic reaction to the shots, I emerged ready for the mosquito-laden rice paddies of northern Thailand. Well, soon. Give it a couple of weeks to really kick in!
Yesterday I braved the hordes of tourists to check out the Royal Palace and its sacred Emerald Buddha. Packed like sardines, we shuffled around the palace temple, past glittering mosaic encrusted temples, baked by the merciless sun. Despite being swept up by a flood of uniformed school children as I entered the main temple to sit under the glittering gold pyramid on which the Emerald Buddha perches, a young boy’s backpack deposited in my lap, I didn’t mind. The darkness gave sweet relief from the sun.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and the king is highly respected. To the point that if I ever lose my baht in the wind, I will never chase it down and trap it with my foot – I run the risk of stamping my soiled foot on the face of the king which adorns all the money, a huge insult!
Today I wandered the grounds of Wat Pho, another Buddhist temple in this city of temples. Leisurely and quiet, cool winds given room to blow among the chedis and temples. Direct contrast to the Royal Palace grounds. I savored my explorations. Saffron-robed gold Buddhas in stately lines. Cats napping among the porcelain terraces of a chedi, blinking at me in contentment. And the largest Buddha I have ever seen. The Reclining Buddha – how do I even begin to explain the sheer size of this Buddha, so large it inhabits an entire temple, with barely enough space for people to walk the perimeter? He props his huge gold head up on his arm, stretching out his giant feet – this is not a proportional Buddha. His legs go on forever.
Wat Pho is home to a university for young monks. As the thunder crackled and the monsoon unleashed its rage, the saffron-robed boys raced through the growing lakes of water, clutching schoolbooks and umbrellas. There is also a highly respected school of traditional Thai massage in the temple and I took advantage! An hour of being stretched and prodded, kneaded and rubbed – at times a little more pain than pleasure – and I emerged strangely content and relaxed.
Tomorrow is my friend’s wedding. Chip is from Bangkok, a university friend and sorority sister. I will apparently be in the groom’s procession (another college friend, Tim), carrying gifts of incense to the bride’s family, while wearing a traditional Thai dress. But I don’t have it yet! The dress shop didn’t believe Chip that I have hips (curves are not typically found on Asian women, I gather), so my blouse was too big. I will receive my altered dress before the ceremony.
Now off to explore more of Bangkok! And sweat some more.
Time to do as the Thais do and just deal with it with grace. And a big bottle of water.