Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Travel Broadens the What, Now?

The best thing about living in Europe, no contest, has been the travel we've managed to do. While I was in the Navy, I was on an airbase in Washington state, and was only on a ship once...for two weeks...floating off the coast of California. Since we've been here, though, we've really managed to get around a bit. The strange part of it is that we have yet to go anywhere in Europe apart from our home country of Sweden! Of course, this isn't all that strange when you consider the travelling we've done has been almost entirely due to my wife's work. With the exception of our stop in Bangkok.
Sounded fine, but first the wife had to go to another thing in London!We were going to Australia for a conference my psychologist wife was attending. It was in Melbourne, which meant that in addition to the overwhelming other-side-of-the-globe flight, we had an extra couple hours across Australia to fly before we stopped. So, it was agreed amongst the group from her center that we should really stop off in Bangkok for a few days on the way. Through some deft travel arrangements by my clever and proficient lady, we worked out a way to meet on her way back from the London thing (we couldn't afford to send me to Britain AND Thailand AND Oz, after all, since it's all on her bill) and travel from there to Bangkok.
Unfortunately, the good woman was feeling poorly by the time we met up, and got progressively worse. The notorious odours and clamor of Bangkok did nothing for her well-being, and when we'd reached our hotel lobby she was perched on the edge of nausea. She tried valiantly to hold in her spew until we reached the room, but it wasn't going to happen. She did manage to reach a garbage can in the lobby, however. With little display, she discreetly threw up at the front desk and I gently ushered her up to our spacious room overlooking the street.

This would be pretty much all we saw of Bangkok for most of the time we were there, as she ended up pretty much unable to get out of bed. We kept a trashcan beside the bed for her regular spewage, and I tried not to be too worried as I sat and watched over her. Toward the end of the few days we had, she tried to get out and at least enjoy some authentic Thai food (if you don't know my wife, she's all about the food), but these trips invariably ended back in the room with her buried in the blankets. At least it was a nice enough room.
On our next to last day, she felt well enough to go for a walk, so we went to the nearby Wat Phra Kaeo, a Buddhist temple that was pretty much the reason we got a room in this part of town. On our way there, we were introduced to the line we'd heard about: 'Oh, the temple is closed today. Buddhist holiday. I take you to another temple near here. Very nice. Then fireworks later.' This comes from any random guy on the street, who then leads you (at best) to some jewelry kiosk or something that is WAY out of your way. We actually ran into a couple of these guys, but we're not idiots and we'd been forewarned by online toursists about this exact ploy. Unfortunately, our distrust of the locals (which led to Bangkok being dubbed by us The City of LIARS) wouldn't serve us as well as we'd hoped later. This time, though, not believing what this fella said did alright by us, and we found our way round the temple complex to the main entrance. We were made to don some flimsy long pants to cover our bare legs (we'd been warned about this, too, but...I guess we chose to ignore it), and went on our way into the temple.

It was pretty amazing to see and be in, really. We'd read about it and knew what to expect, but to see the buildings 'in person' and be able to view the HUGE Ramakien mural that wraps round the entire complex was certainly worth the doing. We managed to get all the way through it and the attached royal museum before the wife started to nosedive and wanted to go back to the room. It was just as well because it was sweltering out there!
We went back to the room, and she had a lie-down, but then we went back out later to try to make it to a dinner with our co-travellers. Unfortunately, they all went before us, and the restaurant was a bit away, so we had to try to make our own way. We would have to take the water-taxi to get to the place, and on our way, someone told us the ferries were done for the day. We, of course, didn't believe them...but found out they were telling the truth after all! So, we missed the boat and the dinner, and ended up back at the one restaurant we experienced while in Bangkok. It was right in the square/center of Old Town (where we were staying), and the night before we'd seen an elephant on the street!

The food there was pretty great, and the atmosphere couldn't be beat as far as I was concerned. It was like an upper class restaurant for the locals, so there were very few tourists/non-Thais there, and there was live entertainment in the form of a band and rotating singers (who we couldn't tell were pros or just pulled from the clientele). However, the little lady was still feeling poorly, so we made it back to the room before long.
The final day of our stay, we all went to the nearby street-market to pick up the finest in pirated software, tunes, and clothing! Our bartering tips came in pretty useful (ask for half what they're asking, and work from there) and we got all the things we came for. The best thing about the last day, though, was that the wife was finally feeling better! Just in time to go to Australia.
I know it's probably unfair to use this largely botched trip as any estimation of our experience of the country, but I can't help feeling a little vindicated by it nonetheless. I've always held to two universal truths about people: they're idiots and they're the same everywhere. Our brief time in Thailand only reinforced these ideas. I have nothing against the Thai, or the country, or anything there, and in fact it was comforting to find that the people there (for better or worse) were pretty much what you'd expect anywhere. But what I'm finding generally true as we're getting around to more of the world (so far Bangkok, Turkey and Australia, with her going to London as well...and of course our usual trips to Puerto Rico) is that my view of the world isn't getting greater, but smaller. The more I see, and the more people I meet, and the more new things I experience, the less I think of the world and humanity on the whole. So, why travel? Got me, but we're having a good time...and I'm getting to lick alot of old stuff!

But perhaps that's a story for another time...


Blogger lunas_eve said...

What's also amazing is the rats are all the same too all over the world! Huh. We must share quite a bit of co-evolution with those nasty creatures - making us just as nasty. That's my rant ala my man! I want Thai food now, by the way.

12:10 PM  
Blogger aliceboy said...

No Thai for you! I can't believe I forgot to mention the huge rats running blithely across the wide sidewalk! Ah well, it couldn't go on forever...

1:54 PM  
Blogger lunas_eve said...

It's National Blog something something Month. So, you can do a rats blog.

5:57 PM  
Blogger aliceboy said...

Yeah, that'll happen...

6:00 PM  
Blogger SaraS-P said...

People are the same, but the architecture differs.

12:13 AM  

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