For our final full day in Bangkok I had the superb breakfast buffet and a gentle hour with the International Herald Tribune while Danny got a massage from a Thai ingénue as powerful as she was attractive who managed to break his rule about only squat older Honduran women being able to be forceful enough about their deep tissue treatments. The concierge gave us directions by light rail (my favorite!) to the “Apichat…erm…”* exhibit at the Jim Thompson house and expressed his enthusiasm that non-Thai people would care about…uh….that particular director. The video installation is called “Primitive” and is about a small town in northern Thailand where they build a UFO and have visions of past lives and go skateboarding. Anyway by that point I had tricked Danny into being right next to the museum part of the house/museum so we went on a tour of the house of an American who had an incredible collection of Burmese Buddhas and singlehandedly revitalized the local silk export industry in the last century. We went souvenir shopping very efficiently in the MBK mall and bought some pretty cool teak wall carvings, silk handkerchiefs, and postcards that came wrapped in advertising pages from a Vogue magazine. There are strict logging rules about teak so apparently all hardwood building materials need to have proof of sourcing, but our hangings were small enough not to need documentation.
*Apichatpong Weerasethakul was too many letters, and anyway, he is Danny’s hero and friend on keragarga, not mine…my brain is full, I’m sorry 😦
We had ringside seats to a Muay Thai match, zomg it was tense! Just to our left was the instrumental section, half a dozen guys with reedy honking ducks that played faster and higher as the excitement of each fight ebbed and flowed. Muay Thai is more ceremonial than I had given it credit for and seems consensual enough that I will grant it “sport” status and not just call it violence. The very first fight ended sooner than everyone had predicted with a stone cold KO of one sixteen year old by another, but the ref caught the head of the falling one and the victor didn’t parade around in his flower garlands until the loser had been wheeled off in a chair. I suppose that counts as sportsmanship? Women are sort of not relevant to the MMA universe except where expressly prohibited, but even in open-minded Thailand all the Chang girls have to be genetically and not just aspirationally female.
I like Thailand a lot! I need to buy travel sunscreeen, a gel bike seat if I ever plan to cycle anywhere again ever, and an unlocked phone. Also I need a new hat and to get my camera repaired. Pray for hassle-free flights home and I will see you flipside.
Welcome to Bangkok, city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world (etc etc)… It is the second most expensive city I have ever been to in Southeast Asia* and a punch in the face if you try and absorb it all at once. The first afternoon we got there we had sushi at the luxury department store at Central Chidlom in Lumphini, but were so exhausted and overwhelmed at the discrepancy between street roosters and Vera Wang that we retreated back to the Meridien Plaza Athénée and watched Tron: Legacy and ate dinner from the minibar. We woke up refreshed for the best breakfast buffet I have ever had in my life: real honeycomb, goat cheese smoothies, parma ham, those hemispherical rice pancakes they have at Thai Temple on Sundays.
*yep, still hate Singapore!
We had a pushy taxi driver to the boat dock where we went sightseeing for an hour or so on the flooded Chao Phraya, past Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn; looks kind of like Angkor Wat) and the Royal Residence and up some of the residential fishing canals. Disembarking at the Grand Palace there were immediate pictorial signs pointing you to where you should borrow long pants (men) and shoulder-covering shawls (women) for a respectful entry, but we didn’t need to because we are Culturally Aware. The Grand Palace is *very* grand, with gilded murals and jeweled spires and snakeskin tiled roofs. Rama IX is king now so it must have been Rama Integer-Less-Than-Nine who wanted his own “miniature” Angkor Wat right next to the scroll repository, where miniature means something like 30:1 scale but still nowhere near “small”. Outside the palace grounds where we lingered to watch the light change, Danny bought his sister a CITES violation ivory pendant, but balked due to cash flow at the encapsulated cobra penis. We took a tuk tuk home through Chinatown and arrived home by careening the wrong way up the Meridien driveway, cracking up.
I can’t recommend our dinner enough: NAMH restaurant in the Hotel Metropolitan. The tone for the night was ignited with the very first cocktail, a “tom-yum-tini”, vodka with tomato water and lemongrass and a rinse of mushroom extract. We had world-class grilled mussels, a crab cup-cake designed by someone who didn’t know or didn’t care what the expectations for a cupcake are, and for the third time today, those rice pancake hemispheres Danny has a machine for making that he saw on TV and never used. Also Thai chablis (you didn’t expect that, did you!) to go with the curries!