Friday, November 14, 2008

A royal funeral, silk suits, good eats & a curse

Today began a six-day royal cremation ceremony for the king's elder sister, so our plans to visit temples and the palace were derailed since they are closed until Monday. Although the princess died in January, the royal urn took several months to make and will house her bones. Her ashes will be kept separately. Very sad that the country is in mourning since it loves its royal family dearly.

We started off our morning with an awesome breakfast of pancakes, hash browns, sushi, dim sum, curried noodles and cheeses...can't beat that mix of Western and Eastern dishes. Then we explored the fashion district near our hotel. It's amazing how westernized Bangkok is...English is enormously prevalent. However, we learned quickly that people love it when you try to speak Thai because it gives them an opportunity to practice their English, which was much, much better than the few Thai phrases I've been able to cobble together.

We chatted with a pharma science professor and then a manager of a nail salon (you know we got manipedis on the cheap!), who were very helpful and kind with sightseeing suggestions. The manager told us he's getting married soon and wants to take his family (60 people!!!) to London for their honeymoon. He urged us to go to a tailor and have suits custom made, and went so far as to wave down a tuk tuk (a pimped out golf cart with A LOT more speed), negotiate a fare for us and send us on our way.

Mary and I hadn't discussed having suits made, but we figured what the hell and obliged. I picked out a pretty blue silk and a skirted suit design. We'll see how it turns out. We need to go in Monday for a fitting and they should be ready on Tuesday. Fairly reasonable, so if I hate it, oh well.

We ended up hiring our tuk tuk driver for a good part of the morning, and he would take us to a shop and the
n wait outside for us to return. He took us for typical American tourists and dropped us off at a few shops that ushered us into secret passageways to view "genuine" luxury purses. Funny, but no thanks. With a generous tip, our driver rental amounted to about $6. The exchange rate is crazy.

Riding in the tuk
tuk was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time because of the awesome breeze and heart-attack feeling whenever our driver zoomed head-on into traffic, which was often. I have never seen traffic like Bangkok's. It's like Rome and NYC x 10. Oh, and the pollution can be extreme on the roads. Many people, especially motorcyclists, wear masks.

After a morning of exploring, we headed back to our hotel and grabbed a late lunch at Cabbages & Condoms, a
quirky restaurant that promotes safe sex and helps fund Thailand's Population and Community Development Association. The idea is that if condoms were as prevalent in Thailand as cabbage, the country would a safer place. Male diners can score a free vasectomy next door at the clinic after their meal. Uh, no thanks.

Hysterically, all kinds of life-size figures are concocted out of condoms and birth control pills, even Santa Claus. All the light fixtures are
made from condom designs, and they're actually pretty! The food was good too. I had a yummy tofu Phad Thai. And, unlike what I've heard, we rarely saw prostitutes...just a few on the walk home late tonight (where I also was cursed by a vendor for refusing to buy his cheapo elephant shirt...even though he didn't have my size and I said "no thank you" in Thai! It really bothered me.)

We power napped at our hotel (super convenient to the Sky Train...I love it even more today) and then wandered nearby. The streets we walked hours before were completely different...bodies were packed like sardines on the sidewalk and smells from food cooking in sidewalk stalls both delighted and disgusted me...not so crazy about fish-head soup.

The we wandered toward Old World Bangkok toward the west and went to dinner at Breeze in The Dome at State Tower, which was on the rooftop and offered spectacula
r views. I ordered us Shanghai dumplings, spinach tofu (not so good) and awesome beef hor-fun (okay, I admit I wanted to order it partly because the name made me giggle). The beef dish featured thick noodles and wok-braised wagyu. And, the chef gave us candied cashews to nosh before our meal and five dipping sauces with crunchy, clear veggie sticks (no idea what they were).

Bangkok reminds me of a cross between NYC because of its dense population and abundant sky scrapers and Vegas since it lights up at night with turbo neon everywhere. Such an interesting place. Tomorrow we're headed to the weekend market...15,000 stalls!!!...and maybe the beach.

Sawatdee ka!


  1. Now You Know Why I Love Asia

    Hello you two! Great to see pics of you enjoying some time in Asia - I have not been to Thailand but have experienced various cities and backroads of China and several trips to Japan. I love it!

    I hope your custome suits turn out great - I have four jackets from my last trip to Shanghai that I love - four for the price of one!

    Enjoy, stay safe and keep blogging!


  2. God bless affordable mani/pedis

    I have shown many of my colleagues here your blog. They are both jealous and curious about your trip to Asia because when most Lowe's merchants visit the involves factory sweeps and affordable raw materials. The idea of custom suits and condom restaurants is quite foreign. HA! I hope you're loving every minute of it! Be safe!

  3. Thanks guys!

    Your comments cracked me up!