Thailand: My Adventure Begins!

So, the flight over – it was really long. REALLY long. 10+ hours to Narita, 4+ hour layover, then 6+ hours to Bangkok. I left my apartment in SF at 9AM Thursday and arrived at my hotel in Bangkok just before midnight on Friday. That international dateline is cray…

Now, I could find a few things to complain about (I did fly United to Tokyo, after all) – but honestly? It was fine. Nothing went horribly wrong and I made it to my destination halfway around the world just 30 minutes behind schedule. Plus the United Club in NRT is pretty great (esp when compared to the shopworn, overcrowded dump that passes for a “lounge” in SFO) and there is an excellent sushi restaurant right in the airport.

Anyway, I’m staying at the Riva Surya Hotel in Bangkok. It’s quite nice – and I got a bargain! Can’t ask for more than that. Well, except for hoping I don’t run into the boorish Aussie woman again at breakfast. They have a pretty decent buffet spread, including Western-style breakfast foods like bacon, potatoes, sausage, baked beans, along with eggs prepared to order, plus yogurt, fruit, cereal, rice, noodles, salad, etc. Anyway, this dame was dissatisfied with the temperature of her sausage and potatoes. “These are cold. I’m not paying for this. They’re all cold. I’m not paying for this.” Now, mind you, she continued to eat her other selections (and the cold ones, for all I know) – and it was all I could do not to start quoting Judge Judy at her: “You ate the steak! You have to pay for it now.” Anyway, she was terrible to every one of the apologetic staff she spoke to – each time reiterating, “I’m not paying for this.” BUT YOU ATE THE BREAKFAST, LADY. Oh, also? The breakfast runs about US$10.

Decided to go for a bit of walk. It was still quite early – about 9AM – so the streets were all pretty quiet. I’m not far from Khao San Rd., so I checked it out. Let’s just say it’s not my cup of tea particularly… and I suspect that would go double in the evening. But like I always say, “à chacun son goût.”

But I did want to locate Pai Spa, a place not far from Khao San that seemed to be well-reputed (including a recommendation from my hotel). They didn’t open ‘til 10AM, but the receptionist was already there, so she signed me up for 30 minute foot reflexology and 2 hours (!) of Thai massage and told me it’d be a 15 minute wait. I strolled about a bit, then returned.

I’d never had a Thai massage, so wasn’t sure what to expect. But I explained my recent hamstring injury to my therapist, Jin, and indicated my preference for deep pressure. And let me tell you, she did not fool around. She was def of the school of thought, “no pain, no gain.” She probably spent 90 minutes just on my legs, which thanks to bike riding are always super-tense. Anyway, due to all the attention they required (from Jin’s hands, elbows and feet – which periodically elicited grunts and sharp intakes of breath – I figured either I’d be cured or crippled for life), Jin observed, “I haven’t even done your back yet. Do you want one more hour?” Well, yes, obviously! Oh, and Jin was also using heat therapy during my massage, once she discovered that my whole body is basically a clenched fist made of piano wire – she used a steam-heated ball of herbs to really go after my hamstring and parts of my back. I was also contorted repeatedly while she stretched and cracked various parts of me. And did I mention how nice she was? Thai massage – at least for me – wasn’t super-relaxing, due to the intensity of the pressure. So we chatted, during the time we spent together. She was funny and kind and asked me lots of questions about my visit and my home.

And the verdict? I am healed! Well, at least for the day – I honestly felt like a million bucks after 3 ½ hours (!) of treatment. As of this writing, my hamstring is still giving me twinges, but definitely improved.

After this, I wandered back to my hotel for a late lunch poolside – though more importantly, I saw many cats on the street on my way back!

Had a nap before my Nighttime Bike Tour with Grasshopper Adventures. And what an adventure it was! The group was semi-meh. Everyone was perfectly pleasant, but two pairs of parent friends with their two pairs of teenage boys – they were relatively well-behaved but still: teenagers! Also a friendly couple of Texans who currently work in Singapore, so they were just spending a long weekend in BKK – nice!. And our guide was super.

We started off wending our way through the alleys and side streets surrounding Khao San Rd., on our way to the river. Biked along the river walk for a bit, then hopped on a little ferry to get to the other side. Stopped at a Buddhist temple in time for evening chants, which was great. Also, a Catholic church from the Portugese days, where evening mass was being celebrated with song. Wound our way through more tiny alleys, now off from the tourist track and back across the river by bridge to the quite amazing flower market. Our guide also treated us to sticky rice and grilled pork from a couple of street vendors. Finally, we had a nice visit a Wat Pho – not only was it spectacular, but it was beautifully lit and nearly devoid of visitors.

Oh, and about the time we crossed the bridge, it started to rain – not pouring, but certainly not sprinkling. Anyway, it didn’t dampen (heh) my spirits and certainly made if feel like quite the adventure.

All in all, a pretty full day to start my time in Bangkok. I think I’m gonna like it here…

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