Bangkok Christmas

04 Jan 2011 ::

Well it’s officially Christmas here – it’s 1 am, and I awoke after sleeping from 6 pm onward… so headed down for a late snack, and a drunken guy from Norway wished me “Bon Noel “–or something of that sort –a bit hard to tell in his state. Had the most fab plate of pad thai – the real thing too… all for $2.

had such a wonderful day… I felt quite in love with all things Thai… especially the ferry up the river. After the rather crazy traffic it was a blessed relief to have such peace and quiet. The royal palace — which we had been set to visit when we were here — is really quite spectacular — just amazingly beautiful architecture. The king actually lives there. He is very revered — he has been on the throne for 50 years, and still immensely popular.

I love the sweet susurrus of the Thai language… it’s very easy on the ears. Their Buddhist belief means that they have a very gentle way of being. And the food… ahh, such a delight. I had such a sampling yesterday. After the palace visit, we cruised a market en route to the river, and had delicious chicken noodles. Yum. Then we took a wonderful public ferry, that stopped all the way up the river for almost an hour – all for 14 baht each!! We got off, and I was treated to Thai tea — a heavenly concoction complete with added condensed milk — nectar of the gods. Still firmly rooted in my base chakra I fear!! Then we piled into a private boat — much smaller — about 20 of us, powered by this massive great diesel outboard… and we roared upriver like a jet-ski on steroids — followed by a plume of exhaust.

Our destination was a lovely island in the middle of the river — with no cars, and a beautiful winding market with all sorts of locally made pottery, etc., and of course — more food to sample… it was actually outside the city — so I was treated to lovely views of traditional Thai dwellings along the river. I snacked on beautiful deep-fried flowers, washed down with artery clogging Thai ice cream. I guess I will have to get used to rice and veg all too soon — so may as well put on a few pounds now. There was a whole store selling live frogs, eels and other fishy things. Apparently they are not for eating — if one takes one’s purchase and releases into the river — it’s good karma.

On the way back, another stop for hand-made sweets — Paul suggested fried coconut and sticky rice, another glimpse of culinary heaven. Our return trip was absolutely magical. As we got closer to the city, it got dark, and we glided through a fairy tale of the riverbank all lit up. You would have loved it!

PART 1: In the Beginning

Medication

My journey had it’s optimistic origins in effortless smiles and Asian efficiency in Vancouver this gloomy March morning. God am I glad to be heading for the sun.

The real journey begins as I encounter the strangeness that is China, 11 hours later. Evidently, they are unwilling to let our plane go from their authoritarian grip. After a four-hour bleary-eyed stopover, the powers that be declare that something is amiss with Beijing airport traffic control and we may be induced to consume yet more Chinese Starbucks to wait out the boredom. I had been fortunate to find a charging station to refresh my various electronics – my only source of distraction other than the pure entertainment of slaughtered ChinEnglish being relayed over the PA. I always think Public Address systems should be re-named Public Redress – full of apologies for leading hapless travellers astray with incomprehensible instructions that neither Chinese or English speakers are likely to ever fathom.

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PART 1: In the Beginning Continued

Pretty soon Delhi loomed darkly on the horizon with great relief on my part. My global circadian rhythms were shot – what with drugs, delays and damnable dreck dressed up as movies. So I had little idea what time, or even day, we were approaching. I knew that somewhere we crossed that invisible line where you are actually travelling back in time. Or was it forwards? At this point I was well past caring. My next adventure was looming ominously, which is to navigate myself plus belongings through the nightmare which is Delhi traffic. But before that, more prodding, questioning and other indignities had to be suffered to be allowed into the Republic of India. Indira Gandhi airport got a serious makeover a couple of years ago – (which Delhi’s international hub is questionably named)-before which it was a dreary holdover of bureaucratic inefficiency.

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PART 2: Delhi Arrival

Today I did something quite unprecedented. I usually pride myself in making my arrangements independently – not the packaged tour for the likes of this boy. In my superior way, I look down my snobbish nose on the mindless millions who are paying an overpriced fortune for what is generally considered comfortably safe for those who do not want to be too disturbed by main-line raw India. But, I am an old hand! Unctuous drivers to take you everywhere, first class hotels, express trains. Not me, thanks (but it might be nice, perhaps, to be so fully taken care of at my advanced age?)

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PART 2: Delhi at the Dentist

The test of my expensively arranged tourist package is whether the driver actually arrives to take me to my next fun destination: my Delhi dentist. Medical Tourism is alive and well in India, as they have skilled specialists for every body part you may need replacing or fixing – many every bit as good as what you may find at home – and for a fraction of the price. Many choose to sojourn and get their broken body bits fixed, the savings in the difference in price for the treatment easily covering the cost of flying there and having a grand holiday. I got two pairs of glasses plus a prescription last time I was in Kolkata, for less than $100, and matching in quality what would cost me close to $1000 in Canada.

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