Palaces, Boat Tours, & Theivery! Thailand (Pt. 2)
After a decidedly up-and-down Day 1 in Bangkok, I was ready for a more traditional Day 2, with fewer possibilities of human slavery and more smiles. It was Christmas Eve, so I guess “traditional” may have been the wrong word to use there – I was in Thailand, alone, wearing shorts and soon to board a bus for the beach. Not very Christmas-y at all. But still, I was quite happy and quite excited to continue the rest of my trip without incident. (Oops!)
I woke up around 10 and made my way downstairs to Rambuttree. About 30 yards down the road was a little outdoor restaurant. I took up residence at one of the tables and ordered me some breakfast and coffee.
Oh, Thailand – your food was so amazing, and for so many reasons. The fare itself is wonderful. And it’s everywhere. And it’s cheap. No matter where I was, it seemed I could walk up and down the road and see little food stands and restaurants everywhere, cooking up fresh Thai food, frying up Thai pancakes, blending fresh fruit shakes. There was also an abundance of Western food wherever I was – way more than in Taiwan – and that’s always a welcomed blessing. Plus, the food was very, very, reasonably priced. I’m sure there are expensive restaurants to be found, but there was so much cheap, fresh goodness all around us, we never needed worry about it. My breakfast that second morning – which consisted of eggs, ham, toast, potatoes, muesli and yogurt, and coffee, came to about $3 US. Simply fantastic.
My plan for the day was simple – drop off my bag at the tourist shop where I’d booked my bus ticket down to Krabi, then go check out the Grand Palace, then maybe a boat tour, then grab some dinner, make my way back to the tourist shop and board the bus at 6 pm.
As I got ready to head to the Grand Palace, I remembered that visitors aren’t allowed to wear shorts or sandals there, out of respect to the king or something-or-other. I needed to change out of my shorts, but this left me with a conundrum – I had all of my extra money that my mom and sister had wired me the day before in a hidden little pocket in my shorts. I would have to put my shorts in my pack, which I was going to then be leaving unattended with strangers in Bangkok – did I really want all my money in there? I decided that no, I did not, and so I took the 7000 baht I had left and stuck it into my little black notebook that I carry around in my right front pocket at all times (foreshaaaadowiiiing…). Satisfied with myself, I walked over to the tourist shop, dropped my bag off, and headed out for the Grand Palace.
The Grand Palace is a magnificent, ornate complex of gold towers, bejeweled buildings, beautiful wall murals, and other impressive structures, all sitting on a wide tract of perfectly manicured land. I was told by several folks that I needed to see it while I was in Bangkok, and so I obliged. It was indeed stunning and beautiful, and you can see more pictures in the gallery below. (The chillin’ buddha from Pt. 1 was at the Grand Palace.) But as far as important information and details regarding the Grand Palace, I won’t pretend to know too much about it. I’m downright ign’ant. Here, let’s see what my research staff can drag up:
Built in 1782 – and for 150 years the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government – the Grand Palace of Bangkok … continues to have visitors in awe with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail, all of which is a proud salute to the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people. Within its walls were also the Thai war ministry, state departments, and even the mint. Today, the complex remains the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom.
From there, I walked along a few roads, exploring a couple street markets, where I saw everything for sale, from shoes to rocks to peanuts to dentures (seriously). Along the way I came across one of the saddest things I saw on my trip. A little dirt-faced girl pulling along an old blind man on a string as he played a little coconut string-instrument. In her hand, the girl held a tin cup to accept donations. Nothing too exciting or too terrible, but it yanked my heartstrings pretty hard nonetheless.
I walked along the Chao Phraya river until I got to the place where Joe told me I could buy a boat tour ticket for 18 baht. I did, and it was excellent. Again, nothing too exciting or surreal, but it was neat to float along this great river and witness another town with a completely different look and feel from anything back home. We went up a few miles, then turned around and came back. It was beautiful, in a tropical, natural, poor yet proud kind of way. I found myself riveted by all of the dilapidated houses and businesses along one side of the river on the way back. I took way too many pictures of them all.
When that was all finished, it was nearly sunset and time to wind down the day. I walked back to Rambuttree, ate some excellent sweet-and-sour pork (for about $1), and headed to an Internet cafe to get the exact directions to where I was to meet Joe after the 12-hour bus ride to Krabi. I took out my little black notepad and jotted them down. I emailed a few people and then headed out to the tourist shop, where the bus was picking us up at 6. On my way there, I headed to the 7-11 on Khao San to stock up on munitions for this epic bus journey. And then, at 5:45, I walked into the tourist shop. I chatted with a few of the other people who were there waiting for the bus. At about five to 6, the workers told us to grab our bags and head to the bus. It was at that moment that I noticed my front right pocket was a little light. Empty, in fact, save for about 20 baht.
My notebook!! It wasn’t in my right front pocket!! Where was it??? And more importantly, where was the 7000 baht it contained?? I checked every other pocket in my jeans. Not there! Looked in my bag from 7-11. Nothing but water and peanuts and chips and aaarrrrgggghhhhhhh!!! Where in the name of all that’s holy was my notebook?! I was immediately in panic mode. I looked all around. It wasn’t anywhere! Christ! I used it back at the Internet cafe!! I dug into that pocket for change at 7-11!! Did I leave it at one of those places??? I hastily told the workers at the tourist shop that I’d left something very important back on Rambuttree, and they said I had enough time to go back and get it.
Now, I’m not in what one might consider “good” shape, but I tell you, I bolted out of that place and sprinted the half mile or so all the way to the Internet cafe on Rambuttree. I went back to the computer I was at – no one was there, but neither was my notebook. Anywhere. I asked the people working there if they’d seen a little black notebook. Their English poor, one of them casually walked over to a stack of magazines, picked one up, and handed it to me. As if I’d sprinted half a mile to their humble cafe because I so yearned to read last May’s Golf World. I tried to clarify, and after a couple minutes, I think they had the general idea of what I meant, but one of two things was clear: either they had definitely not seen my black notebook or anything like it, or they were tremendously skilled in the art of team lying. Being Thai, I wouldn’t put it past them, but I had no time and no choice but to believe them.
After the jump: Discover if I find the money, see a fantastic gallery of Bangkok during the day, and figure out what all of this has to do with Arrested Development and Charlie Brown
From there, I sprinted back through Rambuttree, to the 7-11 on Khao San. The girl who had checked me out earlier wasn’t at the register, so I asked the guy if he’d seen the notebook. Of course, he didn’t really understand either, and he pointed to a wall of books and pamphlets directly behind me. At this point, I was about ready to rip off my foot and beat myself and everyone within 20 feet of me with it. I was in such panic, in such disbelief that I could lose my money again, and that I was about to board a bus and travel south for 12 hours and meet my friend with a grand total of 80 baht ($2.50) in my pocket. My nerves were shot; my brain switched back and forth from rationality to panic and rage, like a strobe light of insanity. Finally, someone at the 7-11 counter spoke enough English to tell me that no one had seen it. Who was I to argue?
I most definitely did the sad Charlie Brown walk back to the tourist shop. I walked back in and went through my 7-11 bag and even through my pack one last time. Nothing. It had happened. I don’t know how, but it happened. My money was gone. I very well may have left my notebook next to that computer in the Internet cafe. I may have left it at 7-11. Neither of those seem entirely plausible, but given the situation, I guess anything is. I also could have been pickpocketed. I know that sounds ridiculous, as it would seem that I’d notice a notebook being taken out of my front pants pocket. But I have friends who say just such a thing has happened to them. But who knows… Given the options, I’d probably swallow my pride and say I more than likely left it by that computer. Whatever the reason, my money was gone. It wasn’t just that, though. It was how stupid and irresponsible and guilty I felt. First, that I hadn’t taken the proper precautions to make sure I’d have a working ATM card in Thailand; then, having to have my mother wire me money; and then, having that money stolen. How was I about to turn 30? I felt 14, only without the ability to run an 8-minute mile and slightly better acne.
So I picked up my bag and headed outside, to be led to the bus. I had to get on the bus now. That was the only thing I could afford to do, since I’d already paid for it. I had 80 baht left to ride the bus down to Krabi, and once there, I would have to tell Joe of these disastrous events and hope that he had enough money and was Christ-like enough to lend me some for the remainder of the trip. If not, it was back to worrying about human slavery, drug trafficking, and prostitution, and what color dress would bring out my eyes…
It was dark outside now. A man led me to where the bus would soon pick everyone up. I followed him, doing the sad Charlie Brown walk the whole way.
And now, please enjoy a gallery of pictures taken when my heart was fuller and my pockets heavier. Bangkok, Day 2!