We apologize for our lack of posts recently. We just returned to Bangkok from an 18 day trip to Myanmar and didn’t know we would not be able to post while we were there. So without further adieu, we give you our last post from Thailand (6-9-11), with posts on Myanmar to come in later days.
Jude left. It was good and bad. Bad because we love her and she’s a plethora of fun. Good because E & I need some couple time. We’ve been traveling with people for over a month now, and although we don’t regret a second and have had an incredible time with the company we’ve kept, we sincerely just need some quality time with one another.
The morning Jude left, we went to the US Embassy with a hope that E could get some extra pages for her passport. We want to go to Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, and some of those countries require entire pages from one’s passport. We got lucky and she basically got a new book taped and stapled into her existing passport. She has enough room to visit about half the countries on the planet.
The plan for the afternoon was to head to the palace. We took a cab, stepped out, the cab pulled away and a man came up to us. To our surprise, we were not dressed appropriately (pants and closed toe shoes) and the palace was closing in just over an hour, so we would not be let in to see the opulence (we made it to the palace the following day). To top it off, it was scorching hot. So, in our inappropriate sandals, tees, and shorts, we started walking. We weren’t exactly in accord with one another. It was hot and exploring wasn’t in both of our agendas, but E picked a general direction for one block, and I did for another km until we stumbled upon a flower market.
The fresh, perfumed, humid scents hung heavy in the air. Men and women squatting down with piles of orchids and lotuses in every color being folded, chained, and made into wreaths for temple offerings. We passed through to the other end and E walked into the middle of an intersection at rush hour to try and hail a cab. She apparently looked confused, so a lovely high school sociology teacher asked if she needed any help and they began talking. He was not a typical man, schooled only in Buddhist philosophy until he went to university. No math, science, or need to discuss truths taken for granted.
Together, they walked up to me, and he offered to walk us through the market. His suggestion: rush hour would not be a time to head anywhere in Bangkok and he was walking home that way. He navigated us through the other side of the market, explaining flowers, fruits, and sweets and their meanings for Buddhist temple offerings. He told us we were lucky to find the authentic and ancient place. Indeed. He walked us to a pier and said that at dusk Thai residents from the old town (Thanburi), who apparently work the market, would soon be heading home from work. So, it would be an opportune time for a canal cruise. He procured us a fisherman and boat at a very fair Thai price, explaining that the man who would be taking us actually lived in the boat. The arrangement then, would be in the interest for everyone: A ride with a friendly working fisherman through old Bangkok’s canals, in exchange for fair compensation would as he put it, “betters all our lives.”
The slightly slanted stilt houses rose about 5 ft. above the waterway. Small boats with people heading home from the market occasionally passed, as people in their homes sat overlooking the water. Others tossed scraps into the water that were instantly devoured by the tens of thousands of thigh thick catfish surfacing for just one morsel. Crocodile lizards as big as Erika lounged about and swam the waterways looking for a resting spot or food. Children splashing and bathing in the murky waters. The canal ride weaved past hundreds of shacks and about 20 temples. It was tranquil scenery and a connection E and I needed to restart our trip as a couple.
Thailand, although beautiful down south on the islands, has been a big change for us. We have been used to people speaking enough English to help us, stopping you in the street to ask if you need directions and actually helping you get there, bargaining, and people generally helping you have a wonderful time visiting their country. Malaysia had a huge tourism trailer we actually visited and the Indonesian people were their own “visit Indonesia” ad. Thailand, possibly because we have only been on islands, has not left us with the best taste in our mouths. People seem jaded by the positive and negative effects of the tourism dollar and always seem pining for more. Before we left I felt as though it was the most popular destination of all the countries on our itinerary, yet it is host to the least amount of English speakers we have encountered on our trip (due to the fact that they are the only country we are visiting that hasn’t been colonized?). People are always looking for reasons to take more money from you, and usually the better their English, the more I don’t want to trust them. Its not all been bad, but it has made me want to go back to Indonesia for the rest of the trip.
And so it is why that when we left the lovely teacher at the pier I wished we could have shared a meal with him. He single-handedly help to restore our faith in the Thai people (friends excluded:). Fortunately, we’re open enough, and have plenty of time on our hands to keep exploring and sharing our trust.