Friday, February 28, 2014

Bangkok, Thailandia: From RuPaul to Russian Prostitute

Finally, I've made it to Thailand.  In case you don't know (but I've probably mentioned this a million times in this blog but don't remember - chemo brain) coming to Thailand is a pretty big deal or me.  I was supposed to come here about a year and a half ago with my sister and brother-in-law, but 10 days before I was supposed to get on a plane, I was told I had cancer.

So I finally stepped foot in Bangkok on Sunday...... sick.

I got off the plane feeling exhausted and having a lot of trouble breathing.  I knew I was in trouble when I couldn't eat dinner that night.  I took my temperature and had a slight fever, 99, which is normally nothing alarming, but for someone with still a slightly compromised immune system it can quickly snowball into a monster, so I decided to watch it and if got any higher, I would see a doctor.

I was lucky enough to be able to crash at Justin and Marlo's place in Bangkok.  Justin also served in the Peace Corps in the Philippines and he met Marlo while serving.  Now they both teach in Thailand, but will hopefully be moving to the US later this year.
Justin, me and Marlo!

Early Monday morning, I took my temperature again and it had risen to 100.  An hour later it was up to 101.  Justin had taken the day off from work to show me around Bangkok, and given my condition, the first thing we toured was the local hospital.  Not an awesome start to my time in Thailand.

We walk up to the counter and the women looks at us and says, "no sa-peak engish." and points towards a separate waiting room.  We enter and a translator was sitting there waiting for foreign visitors.  After filling out some basic paperwork, we are sent to another waiting room.  We sat there for a few minutes until a nurse came over an took my vitals.  A few minutes later a nurse came over with a paper and pointed to my name, which I nodded yes, and she escorted me to tiny examination room where an older doctor was already waiting for me.  I told him my symptoms, which I kinda already knew it was a respiratory infection, but I also mentioned I was in a dengue infested area of the Philippines, so the doc decided I should be tested for that just in case.  From that room, I was escorted to the blood draw lab where a women was waiting for me and immediately drew my blood and was informed it would take an hour to get my results.   I didn't have dengue fever, but it did show my white blood cells were low.  I've been told it may take years before that goes back to normal.  The doctor wrote up a list of medications and gave me a bill.  I was then escorted to another waiting area to pay my bill and pick up my prescriptions.  The whole thing cost around $80.

We then went home and Justin put on RuPaul's Drag Race, which we watched until we went to bed.  I ate some rice and a few potatoes from the curry Marlo made and was noticing I was starting to feel better.

I woke up the next day, no fever, no aches, but still not much of an appetite.  I decided I was going to take it easy for the day and only planned on going to the train station to get a ticket for a train Chiang Mai the next night.  By the time I got back I was so worn out that I took a nap until Justin and Marlo got home from work.  Later that night, they took me to nice restaurant to have some delicious Thai food, my stomach was still not quite right so I was only able to eat only a portion of my green curry, but it was yummmy!  We then wondered around a little mall where i picked up a really nice black silk tie set for my dad, something he might be able to wear for my brother's wedding.  Silk here is extremely cheap here.

I decided I would get up early  the next morning to go see come temples in the city.  As I was weaving through the little alleys to go to the sky train station, a man pushing a cart of woven mats flags me down.  He opens up a mat, shows it to me and then takes out a piece of paper.  He writes down a number, and then hands the pen and paper over to me. I write down counter offer.  He shakes his head no, and writes down a counter offer and then I take the paper and write down another counter offer and he smiles and shakes his head yes.  So I bought it.  I didn't want the mat, and I don't really have room for it in my luggage, but I bought it because once you start negotiating, you are kinda expected to purchase once a number has been agreed on.  it cost about $8 so I decided it wasn't too much to worry about.  But now I was stuck carrying this dang mat around with me all day.

Before I go up the sky train I find the coffee lady, some of the best ice-coffee I have ever had is here in Thailand and there are little carts all over the place.  And it is REAL coffee, not the fake instant stuff you get in the Philippines or Chile.

 I take the train all the way to the river where I buy a ticket for a river taxi to Wat Pho, a famous temple in Bangkok.  My very first temple ever, and I was excited.

Wat Pho is much larger than I expected.  I knew it was famous for the large reclining Buddha.  (Buddha in Thailand is skinny, not fat like the Chinese buddha.)
Buddha and I

When you enter a temple, you are required to take off your shoes and women must also wear clothing that covers their legs and shoulders.

I first entered the temple with the humongous reclining Buddha, it was much larger than I imagined and quite breath taking.  It is stretched out in the middle of the building laying on its side.  You first walk along side down the front and then to the back side where I spot a table lined with little cups of coins for 20 baht.  A Thai couple pick up a cup each and give  women sitting behind the table 20 baht and turn to Buddha and begin praying.
Lady collecting money for the coins

Praying couple

When they leave I ask the women what they were doing.  She told me to take a cup and say a prayer to the buddha, then when you go to leave the building, you put on coin in each of the pots that lined the back side of the buddha for good luck.  No one else was around, so I decided I would give it a try.  The woman watched me curiously, I don't think many foreign tourists actually participate.  I looked at the Buddha and started to say a prayed when I was overwhelmed by emotion.  It came out of know where, and I'm still not quite sure why it happened.  Maybe it was such a long time coming Thailand, maybe it was because I've always been curious of Buddhism because it seems like a religion, or philosophy that speaks to me.

My cup of coins

When I prayed, I didn't really pray to anything, but myself.  I asked myself to seek out my path and to find the signs I need to know I am on the right path.

I then began down the line of pots and threw a coin in each one, there must have been at least 50 pots.
I dropped the coins in these pots for good luck

I  continued to wander the grounds of Wat Po, there was courtyard after courtyard of gold Buddhas, it was quite impressive.  I then wandered into another temple that had a soft carpeted rug for kneeling or sitting.  When in a temple, you should never point your feet at Buddha when sitting, so you can either kneel, sit Indian style or sit with your legs to the side.  I found a little spot on the floor and lingered in that temple for a good 15 minutes.  I felt incredible peace in there.
There were so many courtyards with these Buddhas
Peaceful temple

I wandered around a few more courtyards before I started making my way to the exit.  Just before the exit was a gift shop selling miniature Buddhas and other trinkets.  What caught my eye were these beautiful paintings on sheets of silk.  The lady quoted me a price, and wasn't willing to negotiate.  It only cost around $10, which I thought was great deal. Then as soon as I step foot outside of the temple a women comes running up to with an arm load of these silk paintings, first giving me an outrageous price and then in desperation as I am ignoring her she yells out, "4 for $500!"  I stop in my tracks, I had just paid 1 for 300 baht, so 4 for 500 baht was an incredible deal, and so I bought them.  Marlo told me when I got back to the apartment that I could buy those for less than 100 a piece in the market.  I am such a sucker.
In Wat Pho

After Wat Po I took a river taxi across to Wat Arun, an older temple that you climb a couple flights of stairs to get an excellent view.  The stairs were no joke and not for people who are afraid of heights.  They were incredibly steep. I huffed my way up, snapped a few photos and slowly made my way back down.  As I was exiting the temple, I pass by a few market stalls selling various souvenirs and  a skirt caught my eye.  I ask the man how much and he first says 350.  Then he says, for you, 300.  I asked if he can do 200 and he points to another skirt, one of those ugly hippy skirts and I say no.  The skirt is a beautiful wrap skirt made from cotton that went past my knees so I could wear in temples.  I simply loved it and for $10 I thought it was a good buy, and so I bought it.  on the way out I see the same kind of ties I bought my dad and I asked how much.  He was selling them 3 times the amount I had just paid. I looked at my purchase and realized I had probably just paid 3 times the amount for that skirt.  Suckered again.
Wat Arun
Wat Arun's extremely steep stairs

View of the river taxis from Wat Arun
I then get back on the train to head back to the apartment.  From the train I could see a protest happening and I felt extremely relieved I was up in the sky and passing it very quickly.  A lot of violence has erupted during these protests.  I spot Marlo on the same train, and walked up to him.  He was on his was back from work.  He mentioned the protest and that he had accidentally be caught in it, but was able to quickly get away.  When I got back I showed him everything I bought and tried on the skirt, to which he replied, "oh, I really like those colors! It is really pretty.  You look like a Russian prostitute in it."  Filipino compliments are an art form, you are always left feeling like you've been praised and bashed all in the same breath.  We both burst out laughing.  He did reassure me though that I got a great deal for my mat.
I love this!

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