Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Thai Storms, Pos and Markets

Peaceful Villas

The rains have rained with fireworks and thunder and it seems to follow my adventures.

After and early morning rise, the Villas motor boat, mind you, (it has only a slight canopy to shield the 5 or 6  passengers from the sun) was to take us on a three hours journey to another city known for ancient temples, just for a few hours.

Clouds Appearing
As we started off, all was well. Morning traffic of empty barges, river taxis and even cleaning sweepers kept things busy. In the distance there was some grayish clouds. No one worried. Sun was shining. I was laid back on the cushioned seat doing my needlepoint bear, my guide Jim was in the open seat next to the driver. The motor groaned as it hit the ever present hyacinth roots making tiny islands of floating masses.  The water begin to get exceedingly rough. We ignored it. Then as fast as one could drink a glass of lemon grass tea (that’s pretty fast when served with crushed ice) the wind got impertinent and the clouds dark as licorice and I suggested maybe we need to turn around. 
Our wet refuge - a temple

Then rain started. There was no protection. I was wearing all white. What a poor choice. But it was to combat the hot sun. The driver slowed down - both men were on their cell phones getting instructions - and I said again, Think we need to turn around. Suddenly a temple appeared,a rather unattended, disordered one under repair, and there was a healthy looking dock. We disembarked and ran up a few stairs to a sheltered area, we thought, to sit it out. (We never got close to the temple itself.) Then lightening and thunder and torrents of rain joined us and the rain reached in and surrounded us with its wetness. No hiding from it. The boat driver brought up two bright green umbrellas for us to use as a shield from the strong wet winds. And I stood there, soaking, for a whole hour wishing it would stop. The air got much cooler. Jim and the driver were on their cells to arrange a rescue.

Putting gold on a Buddha
 The car driver who was to pick us up in the other city - he was already there waiting - was coming back for us. The rain was so intense that the roads were flooding, nothing was draining, morning traffic was stuck. And we waited and I twirled the umbrella, it on my back and my back to the wind - as if that helped. Finally after about an hour and a half the driver arrived. We waded through standing water and got in - glad that was over. We canceled the day’s excursion and returned to the Villas. This storm was so violent it was written up in the daily newspaper the next day.
Dropping 108 coins
OK. Now what? Well Jim and I decided - when the sun came out about noon - to make our annual visit to Wat Po. This is the very ornate temple complex about two blocks from the Villas where Thai massage started. More importantly, here lies the largest (the truth) reclining Buddha in the world. I don’t know why I’m drawn to this version of the Buddha. I’ve been told this Buddha is a Tuesday child (like me) and that the reclining pose with the elbow bent and the arm holding up the head is representative of a dying Buddha. Hmm. But it is awe-inspiring because of its size, the entire body, head, feet, hair enriched in gold (no painted white skin or red lips as in Burma), and the complicated messages on the soles of the two feet. Also, you can purchase 108 coins because on the back side along the wall of the temple where the figure resides, there are 108 metal bowls - sort of large versions of what the monks used to collect food - and the idea is to drop one coin in each bowl as you pray. Well, I was short-coined the first time or because there were so many Japanese tourist that day, I was watching them and lost count. So I bought another little metal bowl of coins (this one was twice as heavy) and did it again. Back to my shoes. Back to the Villas.
Thai Boxing Souvenirs

Feisty meat lady at market
In the heat of the afternoon, and it was Sunday, after much insistence by our friend Atom who runs the Villas, we went across town to the “Weekend Market.” I’ve never seen anything like it or so big. Everything from Thai Boxing shorts in gaudy colors, to tie-dyed wardrobes, to Hill tribe wear, to antiques, to old, used books, to more t-shirts than one could imagine, and layers and layers of fabrics, of placemats, masses of shoes, really everything anyone would ever need - and with a flair. Booth after Booth. On the street side there were piles of amethyst, lapis lazuli, brown crystals, pale green rocks, blocks of turquoise, which you could get for so much a half kilo. You walk and walk up and down aisles and roads, it goes for miles. And a starting or stopping point is the Weekend market in a well lit, white tiled warehouse, clean and shiny, displaying the most beautifully presented vegetables, fruits, meats, sweets, drinks like iced cold guava juice or lemon grass iced tea, or fresh squeezed orange juice - all of which you down in a second thirsty from the heat. But after all the “fun” and feet worn out, we got back into the car waiting for us - and it took literally 1 hour 15 minutes to get out of the parking lot. You have to pay to get out. And there are thousands shopping at this market every weekend. 

Chinatown Dinner
As if I hadn’t marketed out already, Atom wanted to take us to China Town to eat in one of the street size cafes. I didn’t know what this meant. I was anxious to stop in  one of the “souvenir” shops completely decorated in Chinese red and gold with all sorts of funky items and red lanterns. Well, they had closed down. Instead the streets were stuffed with every kind of person anxious to sit at the metal tables on a small plastic red stool. The waiters were all young folk in the same colored T-shirt - red shirts on one corner, green shirts on another. Atom liked Green shirts. So you get a number and wait. And wait. When you finally get your table, a large menu with pictures guides you to the goodies. Meanwhile giant tour buses, every colored taxi cab (that can refuse to take you if they don’t like your destination - what a pain) and trucks and police cars and whatever else can jam a street. People just wind end and out. It was way too much congestion for me. But I sat and watched. The food was mostly fish and veggies (watch out for the tiny green peppers or the curved like a finger nail red ones.) Service was fast. Prawns that haven’t been defrocked. Fried whole fish looking you in the eye. But the shocker was that  people eat Sharks Fin. Not only do they eat this rare delicacy because it does good to one’s innards and mind, but a piece about the size of a round stake costs $350. That’s how rare it is. I declined.  There was something unnerving about shark fin as soup or fried. We took a shocking pink taxi back to the Villas. A 7 a.m. flight to Chiang Rai had to be caught the next morning.
Fried Shark Skin at a price


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Audrey,
Wow! Sounds like your boat ride this morning was a harrowing experience for you--maybe even scary.
Thank goodness you were rescued before anything really bad happened. Hopefully, you aren't tempting fate too often. So glad you are coming home in a few days.
In today's blog you wrote about seeing the reclining Buddha in Bangkok. Now, you have confirmed what we were told in 1985. It is the largest reclining Buddha in the world.
The Grizz are playing game two against the Thunder in Oklahoma City. They absolutely need to win this one! It will be difficult to come back from a two game deficit with the Thunder.
We miss you.
Lots of love,
Geraldean and Judge