Saturday, January 01, 2011

24 Hour Party People

Yesterday was the most productive day in the annals of industrious tourism. We woke up at 6 am (the jet lag is wreaking havoc) and promptly went to the ends of the city to look for a bus station. This was also a pretext to use our beloved skytrain which gives you a glimpse of Bangkok in comfort and speed. Found the bus station and inquired about buses to the Cambodian border. It was all very confusing. Went to ask if the big weekend market at Chattuchak would be open January 1st. Bangkok is a civilized place where the fact that there is yet another new year is not surprising enough to make Thai people suspend their regular activities. Just for that, it will always have a special place in my heart. Then we went to a super fancy mall that had the best, fanciest, good looking food court I've ever seen. Reason for the mall visit was to soak in ancient Thai consumer culture and use immaculate toilets.

Then we hit Bangkok's amazing Chinatown, which is old and musty and fascinating.

Cat on a hot tin roof.
We stumbled into a beautiful temple with a beautiful Buddha. There are many of these.

We walked around Chinatown's alleyways for hours and then took a tuk tuk to avoid me murdering the Magnificent Arepa on the grounds of hunger and exhaustion. Best idea ever.

Hero driver saves tourist from murder.
We had bad Chinese food at an overpriced restaurant, because they would not serve us at a restaurant that looked amazing and was in the guidebook, where no one spoke English.
Then we went to the river to visit the amazing temples of Wat Arun and Wat Pho. But first we jumped out at the wrong pier and truly stumbled into an incredible temple. Yesterday a lot of people were in the temples making offerings for a prosperous and lucky new year.

After that, we went back on the boat and then the Skytrain for a Thai massage at a very fancy place near our hotel and the fanciness cost us 15 bucks for one hour of amazing pummeling and tenderizing and stretching (and I asked for the soft massage). Thai massage stretches you as if you were made of chewing gum. I am made of reinforced concrete, but it felt really good. After that, we fell asleep like logs and almost missed New Year's Eve. Confession: I actually could not care less about this arbitrary holiday. But we took a cab with the sweetest gentleman cabdriver, who asked if he could practice his English and gave us an explanation of everything we passed along the way. He was adorable but we almost greeted the new year in the cab.

We hit the crowds of Thai youth and tourists at the backpackers' street, where everybody was on full enforced cheer, but the atmosphere was truly nice and laid back. We celebrated the New Year a full 12 hours before you did yonder in America, and sat down at a bar where a fantastic duo of Thai country rockers regaled us with pretty decent covers of American and British pop and country classics (big Johnny Cash fans). These guys rocked.

At this joint we witnessed the potential debauchery of a group of middle aged Germans that I was sure was going to end in tears. Three middle aged women, quite weathered by a life of hard partying in cheap places, drunk out of their gourds. A feisty broad whom I nicknamed Gordis (she was generously apportioned), looked like trouble, which is why she was being passionately pursued by the German version of k.d lang,  and a guy who looked like the Viking Leif Ericson, except fat and drunk. There were two other Germans that looked like Teutonic Hell's Angels. Leif Ericson was massaging Gordis' ample left bosom in full public view as k.d. was trying to woo her as well. Lady number three was the wisest of them all, as she sat drinking and smoking and keeping her cards very close to the vest, but at one point she figured the Panzer division of the Hell's Angels didn't look like potential, and she started hitting on k.d, who only had eyes for Gordis. We left before it got ugly. 
We tried to find a cab back to our area around 2 am, since we were meeting our friend Joe, and at first we refused a cab that wouldn't turn on the meter, as a matter of principle. Pretty soon we realized the error of our ways, as there were 3 million people also looking for cabs. In true NY style we flagged down a non working driver, who refused the meter and charged us twice the price and we felt we were the smartest people in Bangkok, and who needs principle.  This driver got us to the other side of town in record time.
We waited for Joe outside a disco that was charging a $30 cover for a glass of champagne and unlimited techno mayhem, and where an army of mostly gorgeous Thai women in miniskirts was escorting a bunch of Westerners. It was here where one of those women, not a gorgeous one, but a very drunk one, bit me in the arm. Just like that. She sank her chompers into my bicep. When I inquired as to the reason why, she claimed it was her birthday; that is, she saw me, and she thought: "cake". I was tempted to start a Mexican-Thai catfight to the death, but I thought better of it. When these kind of situations happen in exotically corrupt countries, Midnight Express comes to mind, with me in the role of Brad Davis.
We had a good conversation with an Australian guy who had been in the army in Iraq and who was untrained in the lingo of political correctness. Then we went to a street bar around the corner, met Joe and hung out there until 6 am when it was decided we should all go get a massage (separately).  This was at a decidedly non fancy place, with Thai pop blaring in the background, and maybe even the kind of place that might go for a happy ending if the customer so desires (did not), but it was an oil massage and it was great. We emerged from the massage at 7:00 am, a full 25 hours after our day started, famished, sleepy and having had a great last day of the year and a pretty good start with the first. 
May we all have a great 2011!

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