Friday, 7 November 2008

Lady Boys and Tofu...

...never let you down.

It is great to be back in Bangkok again. The city reaches out with an instant warm welcome unsurpassed by any other major capital we have yet been to. It starts at the airport with the gentle smiles and easily given directions from courteous staff and continues on the quite airport express bus into the city centre that cruises along empty four-lane highways - at least until it meets the clogged arteries of dowtown. The easy welcome carries on in the reception desks of the backpacker hotels as you are handed keys to check out the rooms, but most of all the pleasant feeling of arrival is everywhere on the streets. This is due to two major cultural Thai traits. Thais don't rush and they eat on the streets. Every Thanon and Soi is lined with eateries, offering cheap stir-fries, fresh chilled fruit that varies from the recognisable pineapple and melon to the more Asian exotica that is the aptly named Dragon Fruit and the pungent Durian.

In our first two days here we have done some of our favourite activities in Bangkok. After checking in to the cheap but very clean Bella Bella Guesthouse in Banlampu, the first thing we did was to grab some fresh stir-fried food from a street vendor. We found a stall specialising in vegetarian food, so we didn’t have to hover over the dried shrimps and say no repeatedly until we had received the food without their liberal application, while enjoying fantastically cooked and delicious tofu with garlic, fried vegetables with tofu and spicy salad with tofu. Next door was a smoothie bar run by two lady boys. All around were pot plants on the street. We then took a ferry down the river to get a cool breeze and away from the traffic noise and followed that with a Thai massage in a tranquil garden. Georgia then called into a 7-11 for an ice lolly. That finished the evening, and a stretch of 32 hours flying without sleep, perfectly. We were in bed after 9pm, jetlag beating.

The next day, Friday 7th, we visited the Royal Barges Museum, a floating delight of sparkling gold leaf, coloured glass and ornate wood carving. There are four graceful boats still kept to in immaculate condition to carry the royal family along the river for major ceremonies. The bowhead of each is carved into a mythical being that carried one of Brahma or Vishnu in Indian epics, including a multi-headed serpent-like Naga, a garuda and a bird. The walk to the museum was along narrow alleys between houses given a glimpse of how Bangkok may have been 50 years ago before the rise of concrete and futuristic skyscrapers. We went on the river again then had a failed evening of shopping and drinking, the mall had closed by the time we got there, the skybar enforced a no sandle dress code. We made up for it with a beer under a tree back on the street of or guest house.

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