Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Welcome to ประเทศไทย (Thailand)

It's so much fun to be a foreigner. There is always the danger of getting ripped off, kidnapped, taken advantage of or getting lost but there are just so many perks.  The first and most obvious one being, you are the oddball in a place that has existed with its traditions, language, food, etc for a very long time.  So you get to wander around admiring new things, taking pictures of peoples houses and neighbourhood and sometimes even the people :)  

Yesterday I arrived to Bangkok around noon and took a water taxi up Bangkok's central river to find the Wat Pho Massage school.  It costs 13 baht for the water taxi (about 40 cents USD).  There are some beautiful parts to Bangkok, and also some very poor parts.  Especially lining the river are some of the nicest hotels - Mandarin Oriental - and many shacks.  This morning I passed a man bathing in the river.  The river is a murky greeny brown with branches and other debris floating in it, and no clarity.  I had to admire his efforts as he dumped river water on him for the few minutes it took the boat to pass and he was still washing as he went out of sight.

Bangkok is swelteringly hot, and I wish I could shower every few minutes... I need to! It's 30+ Celsius and exceedingly humid.  I'm on the lookout now for some light, Thai clothes as I've wandered around visibly sweaty for the last two days which is not a good look.  Today, at noon, I wandered around the Wat Pho temple.  It is incredibly beautiful.  The reclining Buddha is enormous, gold and takes up the whole temple. It's too big to even fit into one picture so I'll have to paste a bunch together to give any sort of idea of how he looks. My favourite part of the Buddha has got to be his feet.  The bottoms are covered in designs made of mother of pearl.  The walls of the temple are also illustrated with pictures.  I assume they are stories of the Buddha's life, but I only had an hour so need to learn a lot more.  There are numerous temples scattered around the big temple and each one is so intricately carved that I could easily spend a day staring at them all.  There are also gardens and fountains with statues, and some real, live Buddhist monks. I had to say that, it is actually really cool to see them throughout the city.

One monk was seated under a tree in a prayerful pose, and the scene was so beautiful I wanted to take his photo.  I asked him and he smiled for me to take the picture. I felt somewhat bad taking pictures of it all, as it is a temple and many people were there praying at the various Buddha statues.  Obviously the monks are part of the "scenery" if you're a tourist, but for them it is their religion and they are simply there to pray or study or do whatever it is they do - I have a LOT to learn  :p  

Today, I started my Thai massage course.  There are three of us in the course; a guy from South Africa, a Thai girl and myself.  We started this morning observing as the teacher performed step 1 of Thai massage on the guy.  We then spent the afternoon practicing on each other.  It's actually quite difficult and intricate, and we have only learned one stage of the whole massage.  A great deal of it comes down to practice though, so over the next 4 days I hope to become quite comfortable with it all.  We learned by watching the teacher perform the massage and doing the same steps.  I received one massage on my right side and then one full massage.  The guy from South Africa received 4 massages on his right side, he was thinking of going to get a massage tonight and asking them to just massage his left side twice to attempt to even himself out...

I'll upload photos soon - probably in Manila.  I'm nervous to bust out all my technology while I'm still at the hostel as I'd hate to get it stolen.  I'm off now to eat some supper - food here is good, but I am starving!  Now that I've entered an air-conditioned room some of my appetite has returned.

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