One night in Bangkok; pain relief Thai style

Bangkok - Our view of the city

Bangkok - Our view of the city

It might be the noise and smells on the streets. It might be the signs written in an unfamiliar script. A part of it is almost certainly the change in heat and humidity. Whatever it is, there is something exhilarating about arriving in a new city, in a new country, at the start of another trip.

We got to our hotel in Bangkok just after dark after a painfully slow taxi ride. Slow because of the rush hour traffic; painful down to the driver’s choice of music, which included YMCA and a bizarre rendition of Stevie Wonder which I swear was recorded underwater.

A quick shower later and we emerged onto the streets of the neighbourhood and took a walk to grab our dinner. The traffic is relentlessly noisy, and the smells of food were tempting us from almost every corner of the street. We soon settled on a busy food court just off the street. Every Thai dish I’d heard of in England was available, and many more besides. The prices were of course very reasonable. The clientèle were an intriguing bunch, and we could have watched our fellow diners come and go all evening. A few Thai families, while the remainder were mainly couples, the overwhelming majority of whom were white or Indian middle-aged men with young Thai girls. When our waitress served us, I thought to myself “is that a guy?” while Sam was surprised I even had any doubt. A full Bangkok welcome!

A great people-watching spot

A great people-watching spot

After a satisfying meal we spent an hour or so wandering through the narrow alleys and past the stalls on the main street, before a combination of jet lag and sore feet finally persuaded us to indulge in one of the many offers of a foot massage. We sat side by side while two ladies got to work on our feet. What bliss! After half an hour of intense pampering they moved on to treat our backs and arms. Most of it was very relaxing, although there were also a few suppressed curses as an elbow was wedged into my back or my arm twisted through angles it had not previously known.

Communication with our masseuses was difficult (one spoke very little English, the other none at all) so I focussed on getting them to teach us some Thai words (got to be doing something while being pummeled!) We did learn that they work 12 hour shifts, and that the place remains open 24/7, although we had been the first customers that evening. Not surprising, given the intensity of the competition. They get paid 100 baht ($3) for each massage, but nothing if there are no customers.

Today is the king’s birthday. We know this as every Thai person we have spoken with has told us this with some pride. There are banners everywhere, yellow flags and pictures of the king in little street-side shrines. But business goes on, and Bangkok was slowly coming to life as we left it this morning to fly north to Chiang Rai. The first day feeling of euphoria has now been replaced with that quiet satisfaction of being on the road again.

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3 Responses to “One night in Bangkok; pain relief Thai style”

  1. I have been to Thailand many times – it is probably my favorite place in the world. I believe the love for the King is universal and genuine – the dissension that happens is all about the Prime Minister and political parties, which the King manages to distance himself from. Some words that you’ll find useful:

    Sawadee-ka (Sawadee-krap for a man) means hello, welcome and is said with hands pressed palm-to-palm in front of the chest and with a slight bow

    Kap-kuhn-ka (Kap-kuhn-krap for a man) Thank you

    Nam is the word for water; Hong nam the word for bathroom; nam plaah is fish sauce (I’m addicted to the stuff)

    I SO envy you – have a wonderful time.

    December 8, 2009 at 5:23 pm
    • Thanks Barbara, those words come in very handy! I can see why you love the country so much. This part of the world truly is a joy to explore.

      December 12, 2009 at 11:41 am
  2. Oh, reading your blog is hard, the restless soul in me wakes up and I just want to go to Thailand again, despite the fact that I came back in the beginning of November…
    Are you going up north? Outside Chaing Mai there is a wonderful Elephant park where they take care of abused elephants, and where you can help feeding and bathing the animals, it was an almost religious experience – see here:

    December 16, 2009 at 4:56 pm