After a colorful night out in Sukhumvit 4 and very little rest today ended up being a pretty good day. Started the day out with a bag of some sort of meat/rice spicy combination and a Gatorade to alleviate the effects of one too many Singhas last night. After breakfast, Ben decided he needed to cut off his thick mop of hair – he wanted a “3 guard cut, but when the barber-ess accidentally 1-gaurded him, he was forced to go military on the whole scalp – in the end I think it will work well for him – less hair, less hassle. After doing some research in the nice open air lobby of the CheQinn Hostel while Ben was getting a haircut, Ben suggested we get a massage. I said “why not?”, and we had to walk no further than 30 seconds before getting to one of the many many massage places on Sukhumvit 4. After making inevitable eye contact with the Thai massage ladies at one of the shops and engaging them in conversation, we decided on a one hour Thai Oil massage.
In Bangkok, all it takes is one second of eye contact with any potential vendor of anything for them to be on you – I think I’ve said “no” about 60 times in the two days we’ve been here but you have to admire their perseverance. Everyone in Bangkok has a hustle and they know how to work it well. Particularly with naive Americans like Ben and I – being white sort of puts a blinking target on you. Many are scams but most are just honest folk dedicated to get your business and make a sale because there are usually 500 vendors on the same street selling the exact same thing.
For our massage, we opted away from the classic Thai Massage because it is typically a bit more aggressive of a massage. I do not find an painful hour long massage to be a pleasurable experience, regardless of how good it is for my muscles. The massages were great – they have you strip down to your birthday suit and start out by lying on your stomach. They then apply oil and go to town. Aside from the nakedness, the massage was very PG and very relaxing – they get you everywhere: back, shoulders, hammies, calves, toes, fingers, ankles, etc. It was dark, quiet, and great. My masseuse was named Korn, 46 years old and born in Thailand. At the end of the massage while she was talking with Ben and I, she told Ben (“very handsome man!”) that she was going to give him her 15 year old daughter (marriage, of course). Ben, being very good natured, agreed. We may go back tomorrow for another massage they were so great!
After the massages, we walked through a couple nearby markets selling ripoff everything. We ended up each buying a pair of shades (I got Ray Bans for $5, the say Ray Bans, but they are clearly not real Ray Bans) and Ben got some Oakleys (totally sweet). We also swooped in a Boots to pick up some Doxycycline, malaria meds for the upcoming months in the endemic parts SE Asia. Doxy is great – of course anti-malarial, but also great general antibiotic.
After our high-end brand and drug purchases, we walked down the street to the Erawan Shrine. As expected, there were lots of people coming to have their prayers answered, and a troupe of dancers dancing nearby. People would light an incense candle, place in the outer perimeter of the shrine, and then bend to their knees to pray on each of the four sides of the shrine (to each of the 4 heads of Phra Phrom). There was also a bucket of holy water that people would first pour on their left hand, then dip their right hand in the water and touch their head – probably not the most sanitary thing but didn’t seem to bother the folks doing it. For lunch, we got at least 4 different types of meat on a stick – I think our total lunch bill was about $2.
After lunch we walked down to the Vietnam Embassy to pick up our Visas we had applied for yesterday. After getting those, we walked down to Thai Red Cross to get some vaccinations. Unfortunately on our walk, Ben dropped his iPhone in Lumpini Park and the screen shattered. Phone still works, but still a bummer. At Thai Red Cross, we each got Typhoid and Japanese encephalitis shots and I got yellow fever b/c I will be traveling in South America in early 2013. Our total for the shots came to 2500 Baht or about $80. Sweet deal – probably would have cost over $500 in the U.S.
My general laziness has finally paid dividends – my failure to get a Vietnamese Visa and vaccinations prior to departure probably saved me hundreds of dollars b/c every thing is so much cheaper over here.
I just realized how long this post is, not something to get used to – just had some inspiration to write while Ben is napping.