Posts Tagged With: market

ONE NIGHT, IN BANGKOK

DAY 1

My eyes cracked open.

This doesn’t feel like a bed, I thought getting out of the chair I was sleeping in. And this doesn’t look like a bedroom, the wheels in my head turning ever so slowly as I looked around the car park.

The attendant walked over, smiled and presented me with a bottle of water.

“Kharp-un-Krap,” I grinned. “And thanks for letting me sleep in your chair.” I assumed it was his.

I also assumed it must only be seven or eight in the morning as I looked at the time on my phone. It slapped me back with a reading of 13:00.

One.

PM.

I scratched my head. My backpack was by my feet and it had everything in it with a new addition – a book wrapped in plastic titled, ‘Gypsy Boy’ by Mike Walsh. And all my internal organs where still internal.

I don’t remember buying a book.

I don’t remember how I came to be in this car park.

I don’t remember how I ended up sleeping in a chair.

I don’t remember what happened last night after I parted ways with Maya and Daniel, good friends honeymooning in Bangkok. I do remember drinking local beer called Chang (6.4% although it has been tested at 12% on occasion). And I remember continuing the night with an American, Blayne, and his partner, Josie. But that’s it.

Now I’m in a car park in Bangkok, don’t know where.

And it’s one PM.

I smiled and grinned, thanked the car park attendant once again and hit the streets. As I walked along, enjoying the tipsy feeling that a night of drinking gives me (I don’t suffer from hangovers. I just wake up tipsy) I watched two tuk-tuk drivers playing checkers.

I continued walking and was stopped by a local who took the initiative to play tour guide and explained that, “Today is special Buddha holiday. All yellow tuk-tuk 20 Bhat. They take you to Standing Buddha and Golden Mountain Temple. You go, Mister. You enjoy special price on special day.”

“OK,” I grinned and hopped into the first yellow tuk-tuk I saw.

The driver grinned back and took me to the first stop, the Standing Buddha. As we rode along the streets in the three-wheeled motor I noticed on the ceiling the pictures of Thai girls covered in soap bubbles giving massages to one another.

“You like, Mister?” the driver grinned. “I take you to girl?”

“I like girls but I don’t pay for it,” I smiled back. “Just take me to the Standing Buddha. Then Khoa San Road.”

“No problem,” he revved off.

We arrived at the temple and my driver waited for me outside. I strolled around, noticing the small corners of worship within the temple. Some people were praying, others just wondered about. I came round to face the Standing Buddha, standing at 45 meters.

P1050614It made me wonder how, for a religion that preaches no need for materialism and wealth, everything was made from gold. And they had charity boxes for money donations everywhere (which I know every religion has. Maybe if they didn’t spend so much on pimping their places of worship, they wouldn’t have to ask for monetary donations).

The temple was a large area with statues of various characters and sizes, the majority being of Buddha. Satisfying my spiritual need, I returned to my tuk-tuk driver who had purchased peanuts and offered some to me.

“Thanks,” I grinned. “Khoa San Road?”

“Golden Mountain,” he said.

“Right, then Khoa San Road.”

He expertly shot us into traffic. “You want girl, Mister? Very sexy.”

“No, really, I’m fine but again, thanks for offering,” I leaned back and watched as we passed a large round-about with three tall arches in the middle.

Golden Mountain is named for the temple at the top of the hill. Walking in, I was greeted by the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac in the form of colourful statues. I walked along the road, stopping to look at the golden statues, sipping on the free water offered.

The 20 Bhat entry fee had me continue around the hill rather than go up it. Sure, it’s less than a dollar but I wasn’t paying to go into a place of worship. Not really my thing.

I headed back to my tuk-tuk.

“OK, Khoa San Road?” I asked as I hopped in, munching on some peanuts.

“One more stop,” he said. “Jewelry store. Special day, special prices. You no pay tax.”

“I don’t do jewelry,” I began but realised quickly I was in a discussion that I could never explain or win.

We pulled up outside a store. The door was held open by an official looking person who greeted me with a smile and waved me in.

“Hello, Mister,” she smiled. “Today special Buddha day. No tax today. Duty free prices only.”

“Yeah, I heard,” I smiled and looked into the glass stands. I walked around, figuring I may as well enjoy the air conditioning before returning to my means of transport.

“OK, Jeebs,” I sat back into the tuk-tuk. “Khoa San Road, please.”

“Wait, Mister. One more store,” he zipped us off.

Like I had a choice.

We rode around for about 20 minutes before stopping outside of a tailor shop. All tailor shops in Bangkok are run by Indian immigrants.

“Hello, sir, are you after a suit today?” the tailor looked at me with suspicion.

I don’t blame him. My beard was bushy, my hair curly and I was wearing shorts, a T-shirt and sandals. And I had woken up in a car park not two hours prior.

“No, I don’t wear suits,” I answered casually. “My tuk-tuk brought me here. I dunno why but here I am.”

“OK, sir, thank you for coming,” and he held the door open for me.

Jeebs seemed upset that I had returned so soon. “You go slow, Mister. Me get government coupon. Petrol.”

“You want me to spend at least 5 minutes in the shop so you get a petrol coupon from the government, right?” I verified with him.

He nodded, grinning at my finally understanding.

“Well, I’d like to go to Khoa San Road but that hasn’t played out too well, has it?” is what I should have said. I don’t know how, “Alright, next time,” came out but off we went.

To a tourist centre.

I walked in. A guy invited me to sit at his desk, hungry for the commission he thought I might be bringing him.

“So, what am I looking at here?” I asked in confusion.

“Package tours.”

I hate package tours. Too pass the 5-minute threshold that Jeebs needed for his government coupon, I asked, “I’m waiting for my friend to arrive next week. What’s good to do?”

“Come back with your friend,” he said, handing me his card. “Then we talk. Goodbye.”

“Can I look at the photos on the wall?” I asked.

“Come back with your friend, Mister. It’s better then.”

Ignoring the hint, I looked around at the photos on the wall, ooh-ing and ah-ing at each one before finally exiting the place.

“OK, Jeebs,” I said. “Khoa San Road, please.”

“One more stop,” he said and pulled into traffic. “You go slow, I get coupon. I take you Khoa San Road.”

“Fine,” I was fed up with him. And hoping it wouldn’t be another –

Tailor shop.

I sighed. How do I stick around for at least 5 minutes in a place where I stick out like an Evangelist at a science convention? A Indian opened the door before I had even hopped out of the tuk-tuk.

“Hello, sir. Are you after a suit?” he smiled with suspicious eyes.

I smiled back as I stepped into the air conditioned shop. I looked around at the rolls of material lining the wall. “Actually,” I began, “I’m a writer doing an article about how suits are tailor made here in Bangkok.” I turned to him with a $3 smile. “Would you be able to help me in my research?”

“So you don’t want a suit?” His suspicious smile turned into a gruff pan-face.

“No, not today,” I ignored his look. “As I said, I’m writing a piece on how suits are tailor-made and I need to research for my article. It’s free advertising for your shop really,” I raised my $3 smile to a $5 one.

He blinked twice before he said, “Don’t waste my time, Mister. If you don’t want a suit then please, leave my shop.”

“But it’ll be free advertising,” I played dumb.

“I didn’t ask for any advertising now get out,” he lead me to the door, holding it open.

I smiled 30 cents worth. “Thanks for your time.” I jumped to the tuk-tuk. “Was that enough?” I asked.

Jeebs grinned and nodded.

“Great, now please take me to Khoa San Road.”

Khoa San Road reminded me of Kuta, Bali. Full of bars, some advertising how they don’t check ID and have very strong cocktails, everyone was hustling for money.

“Sunglasses, Mister?”

“Thanks but I’m wearing a pair.”

“Souvenir, Mister?”

“I’m good, thanks.”

“Hat, Mister?”

“And hide my curls?”

“Scorpion, Mister?”

“I’m vegetarian but thanks.” (I’m not).

“Massage, Mister? Happy ending?”

“My endings are always happy.”

“Ping pong show, Mister?”

“No, thanks. How about tennis?”

“Suit, Mister?”

“Do I look like the kinda guy that wears suits?” I sighed.

Maybe I should have stayed with my tuk-tuk driver.

DAY 6

The Donwai Riverside Market is in the Nakhon Pathom province, just outside of the borders of Bangkok. My host, Nina, and I arrived just after noon to the shaded market pace. Every stall had fans running and although it seemed that all the 15 million people that make up the population of Bangkok were there that day, it was a comfortable temperature.

The majority of the stalls were selling food. Traditional Asian, Thai food. And they all had samples for tasting.

“Nothing I like better than free food,” I grinned as we were greeted by shopkeepers that were just happy if you had a taste. No pressure to buy anything.

I was warned, just as I was about to slam my head in a crossbeam, to be careful of the low hanging crossbeams. Some were padded with foam, from previous knock-outs. I smiled a ‘thank you’ as I sampled cakes, every farm animal that ever existed, chilli pastes that will provide a ‘fire-in-the-hole’ morning tomorrow, seafood, dry fish, salted eggs, black jelly, honey, pomegranate wine (5%) and pineapple wine (11% and which Nina bought two bottles of) and some clear liquor (40%) that had my knees shake a little. I even sampled a chilli paste made with a leaf insect.

The insect was cut into sections – head, body and tail. I avoided the body parts and tried the paste, which had a rim-burning action to it. But the shop keeper was not going to let this ‘falang’ go without some amusement at my expense.

“He wants you to try the insect,” Nina said.

I stared at the bug. The shopkeeper had chosen to present me with the middle section. There it sat on the spoon just waiting to be taken in by some foreigner stupid enough to fall for this trick.

I looked at the shopkeeper who was smiling. I looked at Nina who was worried. “Fuck it,” I said taking the spoon. “You only live once.” I chewed on the body and whatever was made of its insides was now on my tongue. And it wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t good enough for seconds but it wasn’t so bad.

But the chilli, with its ass-on-fire effect had me coughing and the shopkeeper in tears of laughter. “Ollay,” I said through clinched teeth, meaning ‘delicious’ in Thai. I stumbled off to find a stall with something sweet to sample, leaving the shopkeepers laughing.

We passed by a small Buddha temple where Nina stopped for a quick blessing.

“Let me show you something,” she said as I followed her in removing my sandals and sitting on the tiled floor, ankles behind me. “Take this,” she handed me a red cylinder box that had small, numbered pick-up-sticks in it. “You have to shake it until only one stick falls out. Then you see which number you got and get your fortune from the wall.” She pointed to the wall of printed notes with Thai, Chinese and English printed on each one.

I shook the box and eventually a stick fell out. “15,” I read out the number.

Nina grabbed the paper, tore off a leaf and handed it to me to read out. “You’ll succeeded in anything you do, especially commercial. If you’re expecting a baby, you surely will have a son. If you’re seeking a spouse, you’ll meet the right one. You’ll find the lost treasure you’re looking for as well as great fortune. For you who are sick will get well and healthy. As for other things and debtors, all is good. Whoever casts this number will live a happy life every night and day.”

I stared at Nina. “Pretty good fortune,” she said.

“Pretty good?” I blinked. “This is exactly what I’m seeking (more or less). Wow.” For once, a horoscopic prediction that actually gave me hope.

P1050660From the market we headed off to the National Buddhist Centre in Phutthamonthon. It was a vast area surrounded by a moat of water with perfectly maintained gardens, bonsai trees, hedges shaped like elephants, reindeer and other shapes. And of course, a giant statue of Buddha.

Nina bought two lily flowers and we sat on the step. She showed me how to fold the petals back until uncovering the flower within.

 

 

P1050665“This helps us meditate because we focus and concentrate on this action,” she explained.

When we were done, we handed the flowers to the people going up to place them under the giant Buddha.

The whole place was under water two years ago when the huge floods almost turned Bangkok into a beach.

“They had to cut down a lot of the trees here because the water killed them,” Nina explained.

Looking back at the huge Buddha statue I asked her, “Why is it that all Buddha statues are so huge?”

P1050653“So that every one who prayers can see it, no matter how far they are from the statue,” she put it rather simply.

That evening Nina cooked up some Tom Yum soup with a serving of rice, left over pork and chicken curry and some calamari that her mother had brought over. After dinner we watched Shaun of the Dead while sipping on pineapple wine. Then I jammed on the guitar thinking of my good fortune and the amazing people I’ve met on the way, excited for tomorrow’s adventures – hitch-hiking south to Koh Samui for my time at the Vikasa yoga retreat.

My fortune was right. I am happy every night and day.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Asia, Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

MONKEYS, CAVES and WATERFALLS. OH MY!

“Who the hell farewells at 7 AM?” I asked, yawning. “And on a Sunday?”

The farewell ceremony involved a speech from Indonesia’s Tourism Minister and more cultural dancing including the bamboo stick dance.

P1030465Eight girls dressed in traditional yellow costumes put together four bamboo sticks, laying them horizontally on the ground, criss-crossing each other. Four girls held four sticks by the ends and proceeded to copy a weaving in-and-out action while the other four girls danced around, jumping in and out of the openings before they closed, potentially breaking their ankles if caught. It’s to show their agility and dexterity to the men in their tribe.

After the ceremony we headed out for our tour of Kupang including Oneusi Waterfalls, the Crystal Cave and feeding monkeys. Our guide, Lukie, an English teacher and our driver, Jimmy (no English) crammed all seven of us in a 4-seater Toyota.

Everything is smaller in Indonesia; the horses, cows, goats, the lanes in the road and the people themselves, averaging a height of 5 feet. Oddly enough, the chickens were larger.

We arrived at the parking area of the waterfall after a half-hour drive out of Kupang, waving and calling out ‘Hello’ to the people on the street. We paid the keeper the $5 cover charge (it covered the entire group) and went in.

It was interesting to see that, although the park had rubbish bins, they seemed to be acting more like garden statues as they were empty and the rubbish, littered all around in small piles. It seems the locals have no awareness or education regarding littering and the harm it does to the environment.

The water itself was clear, cascading over rocks into shallow rock pools. Only Omar, Bazza and I hit the water,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

swimming under the waterfalls. A local man who was already there whipped out his phone and photo-shot us for the next hour.

As we trekked through the jungle-like scenario, we passed a huge Orb spider hanging in the middle of its web and a hand-sized cicada with long antennas and funky wrap-around eyes perched on a rock. The area was surrounded by banyan trees and other jungle plants and vines.

And rubbish.

The toilets were a little different from what us westerners might be accustomed to. Containing nothing but a squat hole with a water-filled basin, once you’ve finished your business, you use a ladle to ladle water from the basin to flush down whatever you’ve dropped (which is why using your left hand for anything else is regarded an insult).

We continued on to the Crystal Cave, stopping in a village to buy a bunch of bananas (10 in the bunch) for 70 cents.

70 cents!

The ants that came with it were free. And Omar got eight bread rolls for a dollar.

Just outside of the village Jimmy pulled over to the side of the road. There was no signage anywhere as Lukie announced that we had arrived.

We hopped out and trekked five minutes off the road over sharp, rocky rocks.

And rubbish.

“So Lukie,” I turned to him, being the inquisitive type, “why do they call it the Crystal Caves?”

“Because when the sun comes in, the rocks look like crystals,” he said.

Makes sense.

We reached the opening of the cave and clambered down over sharper rocks and bouldering boulders. There was no dedicated path or track. Make your own way kinda thing. We entered the dark abyss. Littered with large boulders (and sadly, rubbish).

As we trekked further down into the darkness, I noticed something blue lighting up the cavern.

“What is that?” we asked Lukie.

“Water pool,” he said proudly.

“No,” said Baz, “I don’t believe it.”

It was so clear you couldn’t tell where the rocks ended and the water began. You could see massive boulders through the turquoise crystal-coloured water, the colour reflecting off the dark ceiling of the cave.

© Omar Hernandez

© Omar Hernandez, 2013

“This is amazing!” Baz called out, his voice booming around the cavern.

Lukie didn’t wait for us. He was stripped to his briefs before we had even made it to the waterline and jumped off the rocks into the water. Baz jumped in after him and I followed suit.

Within minutes, everyone was in the pool, splashing about in the perfect temperatures of the water. There was enough light streaming in from the opening, 40 feet above us, to keep it almost romantic.

 

The pool was deep but I could see the bottom, about 5-7 meters below so I dived down, avoiding the dark, black caverns that probably lead to some more underwater caverns (and might be housing some cave monster). We jumped off a huge boulder which everyone cannon-balled while I swan-dived.

The thing about swan diving off a high platform is not to let your legs go over your head. You’ll avoid the feeling of your lower back about to snap and your vertebras fusing together which I learned the hard and painful way. When Olivia jumped off it seemed like she was thrown over and face-planted the water which had us all in stitches which in turn, almost drowned us.

Orla landed with a resounding splash right in the middle of us, just short of landing on the opposing cavern wall like Spiderman.

“You told me to jump as far forward as I could,” she said as I tried to tread water and laugh at the same time.

We had the cave to ourselves, spending almost two hours in the pool, splashing around, laughing like school kids.

From there, we headed to the outskirts of Kupang and ate at a restaurant, shouting Lukie and Jimmy. It was a Nasi Padang, buffet-styled cooking originating from West Sumatra. I packed my plate to the brim with three different styles of chicken, a spicy fish, declined the heart of cow, piled on the steamed rice, onion and potato cake and a fluffy spring onion omelette.

From lunch we went to feed the makak monkeys. They look like little baboons (minus the red, inflamed arse), someIMG_3382 sporting mohawks. We bought some peanuts and fed them. They were wary but soon enough they warmed up to us.

Enough to try and steal my water bottle straight from my pocket. The flash of the monkey’s canines had me resolving that it wouldn’t have been a good idea to get into a fist-paw with them. Especially when seeing the open wounds some of the other monkeys carried.

But I still got the bottle.

From monkeying about we headed over to the market. Being the only tourists there we gathered our own entourage of followers, mainly kids that we hi-fived. As we walked around, we came upon a basket full of small red chillies which Baz challenged me to eat.

The shopkeeper watched wide-eyed as I took a bite.

“It’s not too spicy,” I said to Bazza’s camera. I took another bite, finishing off the chilli. “It’s alright.” I waited a few more seconds. “Hang on,” I felt something warm climbing up my throat, getting hotter as it got higher. When it hit my mouth I thought my tongue was about to self-combust. “Oh good God,” I choked , sputtering about.

IMG_3401The shopkeeper shook my hand telling me I had very large testicles.

“Terima Kasih,” I thanked him in his native tongue. The market was very colourful and shaded but without any refrigeration we thought better of buying the raw chicken carcasses being used as a landing pad by the flies.

From the market we headed back to the landing area, thanking Lukie and Jimmy for an awesome day. We presented Jimmy with a ‘Sail Indonesia’ polo shirt.

 

We returned to the boat where Alison cooked us her famous vegetarian curry with fresh tofu from the market. We discussed further plans for the trip ahead and agreed on stopping at two more local anchorages on the West Timor Island. From there we will head north to Alor, where the Baz and Simon Road Show is to begin once we jump ship.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Asia, Conservation, Indonesia, Sailing, The Timor Sea | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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