Saturday, January 05, 2008

postcard from j: a dose of the spiritual

Breakfast - here we come!

We were scheduled to leave from the hotel at 8:30 am. A note received yesterday said we should be ready by 8. Waking up early in the morning on a holiday can be such a task. Managed to drag ourselves to the AM Cafe on the ground floor of our hotel to have breakfast.

Well, it should be renamed "breakFEAST". Bread, eggs (any way you want: scrambled, double fried, sunny-side-up, boiled), muffins, sausages, beef pastrami (YUMMY!), chicken-somethings, croissants, waffles, French toast, juice/tea/coffee, fruits... and even vegetarian Indian fare like aloo gobi ;)

A round flattish bread called 'naan bread' was amazing to have after filling it up with pastrami and ham. We even tried to sneak out a few muffins so we could eat later (considering we barely had time to have a leisurely breakfast). A nasty-looking stewardess saw us and said we couldn't do that - yes, it was embarrassing but then, with a breakfast fit for royalty and with prices for good meals being quite high in Bangkok, who wouldn't want to take advantage of a full meal that we are paying for?

Anyway, we had to rush because our guide Rook came looking for us. The coach was empty - the other tourists were still having breakfast. So, it was only the three of us with a coach to ourselves.

Temple Time
First, we headed to the Temple of the Golden Buddha (TGB). En route, we crossed China Town with its red-gold lanterns and brocade clothes prominently making an impression. At the TGB, there were scores of tourists from all over the world. We took off our shoes to enter the main section of the temple. A seated Buddha bathed in pure gold was before us.

The mandatory pictures done with and a quick look-see, we moved on. Nothing really caught my fancy except...

I was intrigued by a couple of things: one, a horoscope machine and two, bells hanging from the eaves of the temple with leaf-like metal shapes hanging from them. And they even had something scrawled on them.

I asked Rook about them but his reply didn't make any sense. (Anyone who knows me well can tell you how I love bells and have started to build a small collection of them)















Next, it was the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (TRB). An amazing sight was about to unfold. A gold-plated Buddha lay in serenity - so huge that it's impossible to get a picture in one frame. Plus, pillars guarded this supreme being. The soles of his feet were studded with mother-of-pearl designs.
After clicking lots of pictures and walking towards the other hallway of the temple, I saw a long row of bowls on stands. People were dropping coins in them, one in each bowl. Curious (but with no one to explain to me its significance), I picked up a bowl of coins for 20 baht and started to drop coins in the bowls.

As I came out looking for the two ladies, I was excitedly told that I just missed meeting filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor. They had even managed to pose with him for a pic. Well, I did catch a glimpse of him as he entered the temple. Figured he was there as his new movie 'Bombay to Bangkok' was about to hit the silver screen.

Since we were planning to visit the Weekend Market at Chatuchak, Rook offered to transfer us to another coach that was headed that way. But not before the customary visit to the Gems Gallery - lovely jewels really but what a bore!

Chatuchak or Jatujak?
Whatever it may be called, it's the world's largest outdoor market (so I hear). Most of the stalls had pretty much the same stuff - bags, shoes, clothes, Thailand souvenirs, etc.

What really interested me was this stall selling classic posters of yesteryear musicians: Elvis Presley, the Beatles and even of stars like Marilyn Monroe (I don't know why but I am a big fan of stuff with Marilyn images on them). Plus, the owner even sold matchboxes with pop art-like designs on them of Monroe, Che Guevara... Picked a couple of these boxes. And a black-n-white Elvis poster. But wait, I also found these incredible posters of caricatures of EPL players with their respective teams (Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool) - since I work with a sports content company, I thought they would be really nice for the office. For 25 baht apiece, they were a steal.On the whole, Chatuchak didn't really catch our collective fancies as much as we expected. So after walking through the maze of stalls and feeling a little humid, we decided to head to MBK.

MBK again!
This time, the shopping was more focussed. I picked up a whole lot of souvenirs - found a cute ceramic bell with 'Thailand' written on it, plus elephant keychains, a simple pair of chopsticks and the like. As usual, we got tired with all the walking. Went up to the food avenue and were so confused with the system there. You had to buy a credit card sorta thing with a pre-determined value and then pay for the food by having the card swiped at the stall. Now, the whole thing had cuisine from all over the world but nothing looked appetising. We settled for a stall that rustled up a meal of sausages, potato wedges and baked beans. Disappointing!

Found GeoG again for bags. Got myself black formal shoes (yay!) finally. We headed back to Sukhumvit 11 and decided to pamper our feet with a foot massage.

Happy Feet!
The place was called Foot Joy.The masseuse (is that what you call one even it's for feet?) asked me to relax and she immediately got to work. Soaking feet in warm water and a loving scrub later, the actual massage began. Joy to my feet indeed! An hour later, I was ready for sweet dreams. But not so soon... we got a complimentary quick massage for neck, shoulders, head and hands.

After that, we wandered just around the corner to check out the roadside stalls before returning to our hotel. A nice, hot bath later, I was ready to crash. A deep sleep ensued - one that I haven't had in a long, long time. Foot massages are important for happy feet.

Tomorrow is a free day. The plan is to check out local markets, sample local Thai (edible and safe) food and get on to the BTS (Sky Train). Plus, someone had recommended Pat Phong night market. Wonder what's so great about that place!

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