Ah that was a good massage yesterday evening. Practically a physical meditation. And yes there was confusion at the start.
“What’s the difference between the 200 bhat ($6) traditional Thai massage and the 400 bhat ($12) oil massage?” Steve wondered.
Innocent lad that I am, I told him “The Thai massage is acupressure, whereas the oil massage is a Swedish massage. Though I wonder why it costs twice as much?”
A nice businessman opened the door and gave us a quick tour. In the front were local Thai/Chinese in lounge chairs getting mostly foot massages, there in the back were individual rooms for the oil massages and a large curtained area for the individual Thai massages. Steve still couldn’t decide if he wanted the Thai or the oil massage, and asked me in front of the manager what I recommended. I explained to him again the difference, only to have the manager complete my explanation with “And the oil massage includes a happy ending.”
Of course Steve is thinking, ‘Shouldn’t all massages end happily?’, but that phrase rang a bell for me (thanks to a colleague’s story of his visit to Thailand). I told Steve we would get the traditional Thai massage.
Which ended well, if not happily.
This morning I rose early with the intent to walk the city, for in walking a city I lay down my scent and capture the scent of all the others who daily walk those streets, living their daily lives as mothers and fathers, schoolkids and dropouts, clerks and loaders and managers and tuk-tuk drivers and truck drivers and yes, even monks in their wraparound orange robes. I mention monks because I noticed, as I walked block after block, from Chinatown to old town, the special food settings, like offerings, in store fronts, and in the miniature temples set up next to some of the businesses.
Too I noticed, as I crossed the busy streets, dodging motorbikes and taxis, tripping on the occasional broken brick in the sidewalk, I noticed people burning bright orange gift boxes and orange imitation money-like certificates.
I found out later the food settings were for the monks, who would parade by the storefronts in time, hauling off the fruit and hard boiled chicken and quail eggs and hot dogs and roasted duck offerings, the flowers and the whiskey and the beer, as today was a Buddhist full moon holiday.
Yes that was a fine walk in the humid morning air, past more multi-block markets of shoe stalls and stores, and little girl ribbon stores and stalls , and necklace bead stores and rebuilt auto engine warehouses. I passed a block of bored lottery ticket sales men, women and children with their foldup tables unfolded and covered with tickets. I passed push carts where old women and teenagers sold sliced cantaloupe (crunchy texture I found, yet sweet) and mangoes and fresh squeezed passion-fruit and beet-red pomegranate juice (nectar of the gods) for 20 bhat, 40 bhat, barely a dollar. I passed people eating at small metal tables their breakfast of rice with chicken, bought from a sidewalk stand.
Finally I came upon the amulet market next to the main Wat Phra Kaeo temple complex, several blocks of tables, stalls and stores selling tiny stone Buddhas, tiny stone Buddhas in tiny glass covered box temples, and Buddha pendants. I notice a couple buyers examining the tiny stone Buddhas with magnifying glasses, and wonder if they are looking for tiny authentic antiques. And in the middle of all the displays I found a man selling Hematite stones (they look like nests of dinosaur eggs). I looked closer for other stone sellers, and found a woman selling peacock pyrite and dark tourmaline crystals. I bought from her one small peacock pyrite and a tourmaline crystal for $8.
After 2 and a half hours of hiking the city, I made my way down to the closest pier. A salesperson at a table selling tours tried to stop me from entering – telling me all tickets were sold by them. I ignored her and made my way to the end of the hall to an information desk. The man there sent me to a floating platform to wait for the next public ferry, telling me they would collect my fare onboard.
Bobbing on the platform, I watched as a dozen different Chinese tour groups came and went in over-sized long boats. The boats angled and maneuvered in the chop and running tide of the river, as other boats came and went. The public passenger ferry pulled up just when I was about ready to give up my wait. The boat swung over, dropped off a few passengers and allowed me to jump on before launching away with the current.
On board I realized this was a floating metro, and snapped pictures of the temples along the river’s edge. As we made our way to the Chinatown stop, a girl in a kind of girl scout outfit comes through the crowd with a chipped blue cylinder, shaking it. I give her a 20 bhat ($.65) bill and she hands me my 5 bhat change and a tiny fragile printed receipt like a petal from a flower. The boat stops at a couple public piers before reaching the one I want, the one closest to Chinatown. I jump off the boat and watch as it hauls itself like a surfaced whale away from the wharf, into the river traffic.
Steve awaited me back at the hotel – we took a tuk-tuk to the MBK mall again for lunch and people-watching. For this evening, we are planning to get a 2 hour massage. Traditional Thai probably…