I like to imagine my first few moments in a new country to be picture-perfect or, at the very least, picture worthy. Quite rarely do I achieve this.
Luke and I limped up the jet bridge in Taiwan like absolute zombies. Throughout the customs line, calves and feet were kicked about randomly as circulation slowly returned to our one thousand fellow passengers. The customs agent took once glance at my sixteen-year-old passport-photo-self and a slightly longer stare at my present state of electrocuted hair and smudged glasses before waving me past the podium. With her look of judgment, I entered my third continent of the summer.
Eleven hours later, we were on the streets of Bangkok, in the August heat made all the more sweltering by the dozens of food carts lining Khao San Road. Foreigners from every corner of the Earth flock to this spot – music pours out from all directions, stalls sell brightly-colored wares and every hundred yards, you're offered a scorpion on a stick. Much to my surprise, I loved that atmosphere.
Early the next morning, we left Khao San behind us and set out on foot. I was fanning myself with my cellphone by the time we reached the first intersection, which produced a laugh from the Thai gentleman beside us.
"Where are you going?" (The first of many conversations to begin that way this trip.)
After a brief discussion with this man on his way to work, I was left with a tourist guide handwritten on a small scrap of paper. Taking his advice, we waited for a Tuk Tuk flying the Thai flag – supposedly the trustworthy (read: cheaper) ones of the bunch. Within a minute, one came barreling down the road and screeching to a halt beside us on the sidewalk. The driver read the hybrid English and Thai on the paper and turned.
"I show you best of Bangkok. 20 Baht."
Sure enough, for the overwhelming price of sixty cents this man drove us to three different Buddhas, waiting for us in the parking lot of each as we walked to the Standing Buddha, the Lucky Buddha, and one other gold statue whose adjective escapes me. With stomachs rumbling, I suggested a final stop to our tour, and the driver almost looked hurt. Unbelievable.
With ten extra Baht (warranting a bow, apparently) we sent our Tuk Tuk away and proceeded on foot. For four months l leading up to the trip, we had been prompted to get Luke a suit while in Bangkok (you heard me). Something about the Thai fabric, Thai tailors and Thai prices appeals to visitors from across the world, and our experience was no different. When the door was opened to the Thai Factory, we were hit by a wave of A/C, offered coffees ("With American cream?") and led to a lounge. The next two hours were an absolute blast – the tailor and the salesman were humorous with suspiciously phenomenal English, but Luke and I were not alone. With us were a Scottish man returning for his third suit and his son's first, as well as a Brit who brought the whole family along. (Photos to come.)
Lunch consisted of noodle bowls from a literal hole in the wall, while the afternoon was spent in large part trying to find our way out of Bangkok's Chinatown. That evening, somewhere between souvenir shopping and restaurant hunting, we stumbled upon large fish tanks in a store front. These were not just any fish, however. These were Turkish carp – used as a spa treatment to remove dead skin cells from the feet.
A moment's pause, an exchanged glance and a slight shrug were all it took for us to slip off our shoes and dunk right in.
Effective? Probably not at all. But future generations will hear how grandma almost lost a foot to a Turkish infection in Thailand one day, and isn't that worth it?
By the end of day two, I had eaten four servings of Pad Thai, two coconuts full of ice cream and multiple Thai iced teas (but no scorpions). In addition to our run-in with the fish, we'd also had two separate massages – the second to recover from the first. My sixty-year old Thai masseuse had been quite fond of the pressure points and the full use of her limited body weight.
And that is the start to my final adventure of the summer. The tale-end of our trip is reserved for two more days in the city – if Bangkok wants us back.