Monday, February 3, 2014

Bangkok: Day 2 - Wander walking and a massage

I felt a lot better when I woke up to the beautiful sunshine on Wednesday morning, after the previous day's tiring travel and ATM problems.  I decided to tackle that issue right away.  I wasn't sure how I'd call my bank, but I logged into my account online and was reminded that there is an online chat function.

I chatted with someone and they said that they see my travel alert, strange that it didn't work.  Then she said she could temporarily "lower my security" so I could try again at another ATM -- was 20 minutes enough time for me?  Yes, it was!  So I logged off the hostel computer, ran upstairs and threw on some clothes (I was still in my PJs), then walked back towards the SkyRail stop until I saw an ATM.  I put in my card, tried to withdraw money, and... it worked!

Thankfully that was just a minor, minor road bump I could easily walk over.  There would only be one more bump that would cross my path later in the week.

Wander Walking

So awake, dressed, and with Thai baht (their currency) in hand, I headed out to do some wander walking.  The only negative I have about my hostel (which I loved) is that they did not have any maps to take.  There was just one map lying around that someone had left behind, but it was to remain at the hostel so all guests could reference it.  I glanced at the map before leaving, choosing a general direction I would aim for, with no specific destination.

I was the only tourist/foreigner I saw on my three-hour walk that morning, which was lovely.  I happened upon a big outdoor market, selling both things and edibles.  One woman was sitting behind buckets filled with water and various creatures; the buckets of snakes and turtles were the two I have etched in my memory.

I had a feeling it was still morning, but after a while walking around in the heat I got quite hungry.  I was a little nervous to make my first food purchase since I didn't know how I was going to ask for what I wanted, let alone know what food they were even selling in the first place.  So I took my time slowly walking down this food street I'd found, eyeing up the counters of these outdoor restaurants, where they did all the cooking.  (When I say outdoor, I mean outdoor.  A few plastic tables on cement. The "restaurants" are all lined up, one after the other -- there aren't walls or buildings to separate each one.)  

I had just passed the last place when I heard one of the three workers say "hello".  My head turned and I said "hello" back as I took another step, then stopped, turned around, and went up to the counter.  "Pad thai?" I asked.  "Yes," he said, and then pointed to one of three types of noodles. "Ok," I said.  And then I sat down at a table, the token guest for the next half hour.  I checked my phone for the time. 10:45!  How am I this hungry this early?  Oh well.

A minute later I had this delicious bowl in front of me, which I was very happy to receive, even though it clearly was not pad thai.  I pulled out a book I'd borrowed from the hostel, In Defense of Food, and read while I slowly ate.

It was during this lunch that I saw my first Bangkok rat.  It ran right across the cement floor where I was eating and into a gutter inside the restaurant.  I laughed; this was great.

When I had finished and was ready to head off again, I asked how much the meal cost.  Forty baht, he said (which is about $1.22 USD, by the way)!  Oh Thailand, we are going to be friends.

I walked until about noon, then returned to the hostel to rest and get out of the sun for a bit.  I went up to the patio and read some more, then eventually dozed off into a very welcomed nap.  When I got up later that afternoon (almost evening, actually), I decided to get a massage.  I was on vacation after all, and I'd seen a sign around the corner for a 300 baht hour-long neck and shoulders massage.  ($9.15 USD!)

Thai Massage

My neck and shoulders are usually tight, and I figured by choosing that massage I wouldn't have to warn anyone about my fused spine, because hey, neck and shoulders does not mean lower back, right?  Hah.  I had recently read a few horror stories of people getting massages in various Asian countries and being forced to take all of their clothes off even if they didn't want to, and having hands touch them where they'd rather not be touched -- so I was prepared for a cultural adventure!

My masseuse led me to a back room and handed me pants and a shirt to change into.  Phew!  I was relieved and instantly put at ease. While I was alone in the room I snapped a picture of the bed. Then I waited for the lady to come back.  She opened the door and said some stuff to me in Thai. Uhh say what?  She said some more things, then made a nevermind gesture with her hand as I heard footsteps coming down the hall.  She had called for the man who spoke some English, so he came down and told me to put my clothes in the bin and follow the lady into another room.

Whoops!  I'd assumed the massage would take place in the room where I changed.  So we head back towards the front and into a dark room with calm music in the background.  There were two "beds" separated by a curtain, and it was audibly clear that someone was on the other side getting a massage at the same time, but that didn't bother me at all.

This massage was rough!  I was not relaxed (I probably was tightening these muscles the tightest they've been in a long while).  At the start I was lying on my stomach and she would often dig her elbows into my shoulders.  Like really dig.  Many times it was hard to breathe because I was being pushed on so hard.  And it didn't feel good, it hurt!  I think I have a high pain tolerance, but after at least ten or fifteen minutes of this I was wondering how on earth I could endure a whole hour, maybe I'd have to ask her to stop.  Not everything was painful, she went back and forth, but it was the really hard digging into nothing that I was not enjoying.

And then she had me get up to change position, thank goodness.  She sat down cross-legged and put a big pillow over her lap, then I lied down so she had easy access to my shoulders/neck.  She worked those for a while, maybe twenty minutes to a half an hour, then did a little bit of my head, back to the neck, and then the shoulders.

The final position she had me in was me sitting cross legged and she was on her knees behind me.  At one point she was sitting behind me, her feet pushing on my back while she held onto my hands and pulled my arms back behind me.  She moved my arms a lot during this final stretch, placing them in different positions, pulling on them while she massaged the shoulder and upper arm.  And I have to say, although overall the pressure could have been reduced, I did like the movement of the Thai massage.

When my hour was up I walked out of there feeling like I had just been beat up.  As the night went on I could feel my muscles getting stiffer and stiffer (but maybe it would feel good in a few days?)

At the hostel that night I watched Inglorious Basterds on the projector with a German girl, after grabbing some dinner from the local "food street".  I slept well that night!
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