Adventure ahead! I’ll hit up REI for a fitting and invest in a backpack, rain cover and compression sacs that can make it through 10 days in the consistently rainy, 90 degree temperatures of Thailand in October. I’m not hiking, but I imagine I’ll feel like a post-collegiate world traveler who decides to take a year off to “find herself” in an exotic land, surrounded by unfamiliar sights and experimental flavors.
This is my Big Trip for 2015! As I’m sorting through my professional camera equipment, wondering how many pairs of shoes is too many, and borrowing even more compression sacs to stuff my clothes into, I realize this is a suitcase trip. The suitcase has wheels after all! Plus, Cheryl Strayed, American memoirist, already wrote the scene in Wild about trying to lift her massive hiking pack onto her back, on her novice adventure, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
Even with my well-traveled plaid suitcase, Moroccan leather satchel and borrowed travel purse, I’d still get to experience all of those wildly unfamiliar sights and experimental flavors!
With so many public transportation options in Thailand, from tuk tuks and scooter taxis to subways, busses and elevated trains, it seemed a bit more relaxing to ease into exploring Bangkok by boat. But it was bustling! Floating down the river toward the Grand Place, the surrounding temples, shops and residences were full of colorful sights.
Wat Pho, a Buddist temple complex in the Rattanakosin district, near the Grand Palace, was an incredible place to explore. I found statues bathed in gold, breathtaking architecture like I’d never seen, and religious art in every direction, causing your head to literally spin. Along with the Grand Palace, it was impossible to take it all in, knowing how much more there was to take in, around every corner.
Inappropriately dressed, and not wanting to offend those who were visiting for religious worship, I took off my shoes upon entering the many temples I visited, and added additional layers to cover legs and shoulders, despite the extreme temperatures. I hope the photos illustrate that it was very much worth the discomfort to see the interior of these spaces.
The temple complex houses a 150 ft long Reclining Buddha, one of the largest and most visited you’ll find in the country. As impressive as this grand statue was, I was further impressed by what appeared to be a meditative practice of some sort . . .
There are bronze bowls in the corridor along the back side of the statue, representing the 108 characters of Buddha that constitute his perfection. For a small fee, visitors purchase a dish full of coins, which they are guided to drop, one at a time as they walk the length of the temple, into the metal bowls. The practice is thought to bring good luck, while also serving to provide funds to aide in the maintenance of the structure. ( http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma7/numbers.html )
On the temple grounds you’ll also discover a school of Thai medicine, the birthplace of traditional Thai massage, which is still taught and practiced at the temple. What an introduction! I managed to have some type of Thai massage each day in country – head & shoulders, pedicure with foot massage, full Thai massage, complete with yoga-like postures and chiropractic manipulations. At $10 – $15 USD for up to an hour massage, it could not be passed up, despite the sore muscles.
Outside of the temple complexes, and all across country, the artisans of Thailand welcome you to observe a demonstration of their craft, for the opportunity to sell you their wares. I saw hammered metal, colorful silk, intricately carved wood and delicate paper, painted and converted into umbrellas. Seeing the artist at work with ease was a highlight.
The varied beauty of the material goods in Chang Mai was matched, over a dinner performance later in the evening, by music and dance that was as flashy as it was skilled.
Late night in Thailand? Well, that will have to wait for another post, perhaps some week when I’m not traveling. There’ll be a disclaimer about “adult content”!
Still to come: There’s the food of Thailand, which I haven’t even mentioned. I returned home with recipes, varied spices & foodie stories to share. In the New Year, as I gather with a group of close friends to attempt to recreate the amazing food of Thailand, I’ll be sure to share.
Ready for the next Adventure!
Massage School: http://www.watpomassage.com/2014/
The Arts of Thailand: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/the-arts-of-thailand/