Sawasdeekrup (Thai greeting)

Trip Start Sep 11, 2005
Trip End Dec 13, 2005

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Sunday, November 27, 2005

I'll be honest. I made that all too easy mistake, I had expectations. I kept reading about the great shopping in Thailand, dreaming of finding wonderful Christmas presents for everyone. I had possibly even banked on Bangkok, thinking it would be my answer to the souvenir dilemma. Of course I was set up, and I have been proven a failure. Against everything I have read, I found no great shopping in Bangkok. In fact I couldn't find one thing to spend my bhat on. I guess I just have crazy tastes.

We kept wandering the streets of Thailand in search of the good shopping area. Everywhere we turned we were greeted with unpleasant smells, loud cars blowing horrid exhaust, and people everywhere. The streets were packed with people selling anything they could find. Old shoes, toys, crazy animals, you name it, you could find it for sale on the streets of Bangkok. As we were walking I told Charlie that it reminded me of a really large garage sale. Thankfully no one was pushing their merchandise on us, and I really appreciated that.

We did find an oasis from the craziness in our hotel. The Chinatown Hotel was full of helpful people who understood the meaning of the word service. I felt like royalty there and was treated like one. Since the hotel rooms were so inexpensive we splurged and got one of the luxury rooms. (All for less than $60.) We were supposed to save money here, but decided to go with Uncle Dale's motto and go first class all the way. I was a little nervous to stay anywhere too cheap. I saw the largest cockroaches I have ever seen in my life roaming the streets of Bangkok.

So we felt very cozy in our room called the China Room. I was able to take a bath. It sounds silly that I am sharing this, but I haven't seen a bath tub in months. We had a little sitting area in our room, with a fridge, stuff to make coffee and tea. We had robes and slippers and were very thankful for our room. I ventured out and got a Thai massage. It was a fun experience. I wished my mom was there to share it with me. I am sure we would have been laughing a lot. The masseuse asked me, "Is a Thai massage like an American massage?" I smiled and said, "No, it is very different." I don't regret the experience though. An hour long massage for less than $10 is hard to pass up.

We did take some time to see a few of the sights. After we wandered around a lot, realizing the maps and the streets don't match at all, we decided to go the taxi route. We quickly realized that like the street signs, the taxi drivers don't speak much English. So we wandered around in taxis instead. Thankfully the fares were dirt cheap and 4 taxi rides cost us less than ten dollars. We quickly learned to pick up an information card at the front desk that explained to the taxi driver how to get us back to our hotel.

One of the major sights we visited was the Grand Palace. It was a grouping of amazing buildings all intricately decorated in bold colors. Gold, blue, and metallic, all were arranged together to bring your attention to the various buildings. Along with the masses, we wandered around admiring the architecture which fit our images of Thailand and the orient. We then saw the temple housing the image of the Emerald Buddha. Many people were there meditating. We didn't stay long, but wandered through analyzing this other way of life.

We went to as many of the places we could find that were known for excellent shopping. The antique area was way over our price range. The shopping mall had all the same stuff as home, with the same ridiculous prices. The markets had a lot of stuff, but nothing I could match with a person back home. And I never managed to find any Thai handicrafts that I longed to take home with me. I found more of them in Singapore, and wished I had made the purchase when I was there. Now we only have Hong Kong and Tokyo left to try and find presents. I am getting worried because they are some of the most expensive places on our trip.

I will say that our time in Bangkok made us think. It made us think about the quality of life which we have grown accustom to. I began to feel like a rich yuppie who longed for a high class life. I looked at the many people living on the streets asking God what could be done about this situation. Sometimes I felt like the Priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan. I walked by going about my business not stopping to lend a helping hand. I wonder what help I could have given. I am sure there is something more we could have done. My prayers do not seem enough, but I will keep praying. The image of the men, women, and children sleeping on the streets is something that will stay engrained in my mind. They call out to me, reminding me of God's direction when He says, "To much that has been given, much is expected." They call to me asking me if I am doing enough with my life. I don't yet know how to answer.
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