My two Friday classes were canceled today, and by some bizarre miracle, I found out about it in advance. Friday is Bunny & Bobby's normal day off (mine is Sunday) so we decided to go to Bangkok. Unfortunately Bunny was still feeling sick from the scary veggies and possibly meat she at yesterday so she ended up staying at home. But Bobby and I had a pretty awesome time.
There are ways in which Bobby and I are a lot alike. We're both the quieter friend in the introvert/extrovert dynamic and she tends to appreciate schedules & structure like I do. She is however, a lot more grounded & confident than I was at her age. In any case we had a good time. We had a lot we'd hoped to accomplish, and we had a plan.
1. Buy bus tickets to Cambodia (I still can't quite believe we're actually doing this).
2. See Wat Po
3. Do a little Christmas shopping (my family will be getting their presents sometime in February... if they're lucky!)
4. Attempt to mitigate my horror-hair situation with a slight trim by a qualified hairdresser.
5. Eat western food... a lot of western food.
And we managed to accomplish all of it. We took a mini-van to Bangkok because it's faster than the bus. It was late getting started, and made a lot of stops as we left town, so I'm not sure it was actually quicker. And it was, surprisingly, not as comfortable. We were going along at quite a clip and every little rut or bump in the road felt really exaggerated. In any case, we got there in one piece. And I even struck up a bit of a conversation with one of the other passengers. He spoke a little English so we could actually say a few things to each other. And yes... I told him in Thai that I have two sisters.... and in exchange he told me in English that he likes Action Movies. LOL.
Finding the bus station was a bit complicated, the people we asked all pointed us in the same general direction - but all we saw were city bus stops, so we thought there was some miscommunication. Of course there was, but it was all on our end. We finally found a nice man who spoke English and we figured out that we'd gotten off the sky train a stop too early and would need to take a taxi (or a city bus at the bus stop we'd been directed to) to get there. He even wrote it down for us so we could show the taxi driver. Once there we successfully bought tickets to the Cambodian border for December 28th. Yay!
Next up was Wat Po... but first lunch. There was a hoppin little cafe right across from the temple and we were drawn right in by the grammatically correct English on the sign & menu outside. I had a bacon & cheese sandwich, Bobby had the chicken, we both got them on baguettes. It was far from the best sandwich I'd ever had... but it was certainly the best that I'd had since coming to Thailand, so we were pretty happy. I also got up the nerve to talk to a guy who was sitting alone at the next table. It took our entire meal time to do so, but I did. It turned out that he was a Slovakian who'd been living in Australia and was traveling alone. Unfortunately he'd just been to Wat Po & and that was our next stop so it didn't really pan out into any kind of fun day with the strange new boy. Doesn't matter, I was proud of myself for being friendly while sober.
The temple itself was really cool, it's the temple of the reclining Buddha, and when I entered that building - it was overwhelming. The statue is HUGE and incredibly beautiful. Once again though, these temples are treated (by foreigner and some Thais alike) as a tourist destination and not so much a sacred space. Yes, we need to take off our shoes and cover our shoulders... but inside people are just standing around taking pictures and talking. In one of the smaller buildings Bobby & I stopped for a minute just to chill out.
We both knew the rule about the feet being the most 'unclean' part of the body and how you should never point your feet at anyone, and pointing your feet at (or climbing on!!!) any Buddha image was really offensive. So we sat there with our legs to the side, feet pointing backwards - like we've seen other Thais do. There was a farang guy with his Thai girlfriend there and she was telling him not to sit 'indian style' because it was considered rude.... and there was a small group of other farangs taking pictures off to the side. The first couple left... and the second group kept taking all kinds of pictures. At one point, they're all clowning around and the one guy sticks his foot out in the air - pointed at the Buddha. Neither one of us could believe it. It would be like going into a Cathedral and flipping off the crucifix. On the one hand, travelers can be excused for not knowing every cultural rule and more; but on the other hand, if you're in someone else's sacred space... try to act the way you would act in your own sacred space, you know? And when in doubt, do what the locals do.
Oh... and as we were leaving there was a table with all these roof tiles and a box for donations. Basically you pay whatever & you can write a little message on the back of the tile. Then they use them to re tile the roofs. OF COURSE I had to do it. I wrote "Rayong 2008" in Thai and a little message in English. I'm excessively happy about getting to leave my mark and in some small way to become a part of that temple.
Having accomplished the two most primary goals of our trip to the city, we took a taxi over to MBK (the mall I never managed to get to last time) for a couple of hours. We were quite proud of ourselves for not getting scammed and insisting that the driver turn on the meter. The first offer we'd gotten was 400 baht - but with the meter it only cost 91. Not an insignificant difference!
MBK was cool, a less upscale than the other two malls I'd been to. There were TONS of places to buy souvenirs but I showed a lot of restraint; only buying a birthday present for my mom. I'm going to hold off and do the bulk of my souvenir shopping towards the end of my time in Thailand. After shopping for a bit I decided I was ready to brave the hairdresser's again.
This time though, I was prepared. I'd been thinking a lot about exactly what I wanted to have done to mitigate the horror that was my slash & dash mess of a haircut. I told the guy that I only wanted a little bit cut off, cut it straight across the back and just even out the layers along my face. I illustrated how I wanted him to cut it... and even made him stop when he tried to blow dry my hair before cutting it (I don't understand that whole concept!). He did exactly what I wanted him to do. He looked at me like I was a bit of a psycho... but he did it. I'm pretty happy with the hair cut because 1. I managed to tell him what I wanted, 2. he actually did it, 3. I resisted the urge to get the reactionary "just chop it all" haircut and 4. it does actually look a tiny bit better. It's not great, it's still going to need to grow out, but now there's a definite end point to the length of my hair - it's not all different lengths... and he was able to get rid of the funky tail think that was going on. It's still going to take several months to get my hair back to 'normal' but I think the worst of it is over. Of course, after cutting my hair he proceeded to blow it dry & straight... so who knows how it will look tomorrow. But I think it will be okay.
Our final stop of the day was to Charlie Brown's, a Mexican restaurant on Soi 11. OMG... there really aren't words for how good it was. But you know that won't stop me from trying. They brought out chips & salsa right away. I generally prefer pico-de-gallo, but this was pretty good. We both ordered chicken enchiladas, margaritas and a large guacamole. The guacamole was good - made from fresh avocados - but it needed a little help. A squeeze of lime from our drinks and a little salt and it was pretty near perfect. Everything was just so amazing - it was on par with any Tex-Mex food I'd had in California. But we're a long way from Tex. or Mex. here, so it seemed quite magical. I'm sure the margaritas helped too.
All in all, a pretty amazing day. TAG - Code Mango.