Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sites, Smells of Bangkok; Streak Continues

I go down to the waterfront to take a tourist boat around Bangkok. I wasn't sure where to get off, so I asked an attractive Asian women if this boat went to Wat Pho. Her breasts are perfect. She is wearing a lot of make up. She answers me in a deep masculine voice. "Yes, it does." Ahh, my first encounter with a girlie boy, also know as a Katoey.

The water was muddy and the river had all kinds of exotic craft. My favorite was the Bangkok take on the romantic Venetian gondola boat ride.
- Instead of a dashing gondola paddler in swanky clothes, you get a beer drinking guy wearing flip flops.
- Instead of being propelled by a silent swishing paddle, the Bangkok gondola (called a long boat) is powered by a V-6 engine with no cover on it -- you can see the pistons and cams, and smell the gas. Perfect for setting the right romantic mood.

The docks along the water look like something out of a Charlie Chan movie. Dark warrens, stocked with boxes and produce and all kinds of dried stuff you'd typically feed to a cat. The place smelled like rotting fish. This would be a great spot for the opening scene of a drug movie.

I got off the boat and visited a temple called Wat Pho. The highlight was the giant reclining Budha. To see him, you had to take off your shoes and put them in a giant rack. Westerners' shoes went in one rack. Thais' shoes went in a separate rack next to a security guard. Hmmm. The Budha, who is resting on his side, was about the size of a blue whale. He had a blissful smirk like he had just enjoyed some pleasures of the flesh or a nice bowl of hashish.

I came out of exhibit and there was a white guy complaining that his shoes had been stolen. (His shoes were blue Crocs). The security guard told him to look again. He looked again. No shoes. The guard told him to look again. He looked again. No shoes. I left and came back. The guy found his shoes -- in another part of the rack. The guard told him to wait 10 minutes to make sure they were his shoes and not those of someone who just went in. They were his shoes. Either someone took them by accident and brought them back, or someone stole them and heard all the commotion and returned them, or someone moved them.

A Randystravels investigation on shoe thefts at this exhibit revealed the following:
- 20 percent of incidents involve Westerners' shoes
- 80 percent involve Thais' shoes
- the kleptos are generally Cambodians and Laotians.
Source: Thai tour guide who was watching this whole thing with me. (I actually don't believe a word of what he said.)

Tip of the day: to avoid shoe theft, carry your shoes in your daypack instead of leaving them on the ground where the Cambodians can get them.

How Monks keep fit: The temple grounds is home to Budhist monks and a school. There was a full length outdoor basketball court in the middle of the grounds.

Next it was time to inspect the public bathroom: This required a new level of bravery. The facility included:
- dirty squat toilet (hole in the ground)
- no flush
- no toilet paper
- faucet, cup, and trough of dirty water
- I'm guessing you pour water into hole when you're done with your business.
- unfortunately, the hole was overflowing; nothing was going down.
- I was in and out of facility in 30 seconds.

I went back down to the dock to catch my boat. Getting on the boat, I saw an attractive white woman. I went to spot next to her and started talking to her. Conversation was going well.
- She was about my age (check)
- she wore minimal make up, unpretentious hairdo. (check)
- she was a massage therapist (alternative career, check)
- she had moved to Maui from Colorado and did a lot of outdoor stuff (athletic, check)
- she was traveling on her own for 5 weeks and staying in cheap hotels. (apparently available and on a budget, check)

We talked for a while and there was just one last hurdle to get over and I would ask her out.
"So, do you have a job to go back to when you get back?" I asked.
"Yeah, job, husband, dog."

Facts about Bangkok:
- They drive on left side, like British and South Africans.
- Weather when I was there: 80s, muggy, sooty. Take a shower, get out, you're already covered in sweat and grime.
- the place hops 24-hours a day.
- I felt totally safe walking around at 2:00 am (there were women walking alone at that hour without a care -- women other than the prostitutes.
- There are helpful, uniformed police all over the place, particularly the subway. (these guys look like they mean business, unlike South African "security guards" who man the streets and look barely old enough to shave.