Less than a month ago, I returned from Thailand- happy, relaxed, and totally inspired. Our trip together was so fun and educational, and I immediately started booking the next tour dates! The next trip is November 15-26, 2023- including Thanksgiving! And I'm making sure it will be easy to bring family along if you choose. Click here to learn more about next year's trip!
Now on to the travel journal:
I check into our hotel in a quiet area of Bangkok. It's early afternoon, and I take a moment to relax in the courtyard with a notebook and a coffee. As in so many places in Bangkok, the taxi had taken me from a major street, down a narrow alleyway, and stopped at a somewhat hidden entrance to this oasis of a hotel. My bag was brought up to my room while I wandered through the 70's vintage vibe of the entryway to the courtyard, which opened into a set of cafe tables and a raised platform with futons where people rested while eating or chatting. The entire place was full of plants, flowers, and the scent of baking from their commercial grade kitchen (which produced amazing croissants every morning).
I met the resident cat as well. In Thailand, cats are everywhere. Many family-owned hotels and boutique residences have cats around. They are all over the temples and streets, and people take care of them as neighborhood cats in addition to having their own. If you have a cat allergy, it will be important to know ahead of time to plan for this!
The first two guests arrived and I greeted them in the courtyard. We chatted and I brought them food from the cafe to help them restore their equilibrium after the long trip. After reviving our spirits, we took a rest in our individual rooms, agreeing to meet back in the courtyard to plan for dinner.
To stave off jet lag, and to get into the spirit of Bangkok, we walked down our small alleyway and found our way to a temple, Wat Bowon, which was closed but beautiful as the sun set. Sunset in Bangkok is around 6pm, so dinner often happens in the dark. We walked to a classic Khao Tom restaurant and ate a very typical Thai dinner, with fluffy rice, stir fried morning glory with garlic, duck soup, fried pork, and some other side dishes. It was all fresh and delicious.
Since we had energy left over, we took a short walk to Khao San Road, the famous tourist district that was known for its cheap backpacker accommodations in the 90s. Now it has grown into a more trendy area for Thai people to visit as well, and we just walked through to see the sights. After procuring some clothing, browsing a bookstore for interesting finds, and declining the roasted insects on display (although crickets are delicious in my opinion), we took a Tuk Tuk ride back to the hotel and crashed for the night! The photo is appropriately blurry as it was kind of a bumpy ride!
That evening, the third guest arrived, and I was in text communication with her, coordinating the airport taxi pickup from the hotel, for a later arrival than expected. She arrived at the hotel without incident and immediately got to rest.
This morning I woke up bright and early, and I procured some Jook / Kanom Jin from a cart in the alleyway outside our hotel, which was a pathway that people walked to work at the nearby primary school. Jook is the classic Thai breakfast food, which people will eat year round every morning as a healthful start to the day. It consists of rice porridge cooked in a broth (usually pork based, but some vegetarian versions exist), with thin sliced fresh ginger and scallions, an optional soft-boiled egg, and other condiments such as chili flakes, fish sauce, vinegar, or sugar. The condiments reflect the four key balancing elements of Thai food- spicy, salty, sour, and sweet.
By 9am the sun is already very bright, so we tried to get going as early as the jet lag allowed.
Temples require one to wear clothing that is modest and covers shoulders and knees. Masks, water, and cash in small denominations for temple donations are all important items to bring.
Parasols or hats can also be helpful, as there are many reflective surfaces that intensify the sun, although the grounds of Wat Pho also serve as herbal teaching gardens that provide shade and cooling vegetation along with an educational experience. The statues seen in these herb and stone features also show "Thai Yoga" poses, known in Thai as Reusi Dat Ton, a health-promoting physical movement practice. Because Wat Pho was a repository for scientific knowledge since its construction in the 17th century, including that of Thai Traditional Medicine, it is honored as a sacred temple as well as an important landmark of Thai history that remains highly relevant today.
Wat Pho (also known as Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm), is one of the oldest and largest temples in Bangkok. It was first built before Bangkok was the capitol city of Thailand, as far back as 1688 AD. It was reconstructed at the end of the 18th century and completed in 1801 by King Rama I. Wat Pho is considered to be the first public university for religion, science, and literature. Since 1955 it has hosted a school for Thai Traditional Medicine and Massage, one of the first accredited by the Thai Ministry of Education, becoming the center of Thai massage education in Bangkok. This is where I practiced Reusi Dat Ton every morning before learning Thai Massage at the Wat Pho Chetawon School of TTM, back in 2012.
As we wander the grounds, we enjoy the poses of the statues. The QR codes in front of the statues and herbs led to corresponding webpages that provided the name of the pose or herb, health conditions it is used for, and common health benefits.
"jep jep" means stop; "mai" means no; "bao bao" means softer; "nak nak" means stronger; "dee" means good; "dee mak" means very good; "khup khun [kha/female speaker] or [khrup/male speaker]" means thank you.
As we wake up from our massage, we slowly make our way to the Reclining Buddha, which is 15m high and 46m long. This pose represents the end of the cycle of reincarnation and entry into Nirvana.
We have all come from cooler climates with much less sun, so before we get to the medical pavilion we decide to head to the cool relief of a lunch meeting spot nearby. We are going to meet our translator, Jenny Ho, and visit River City, an antique mall and art gallery nearby.
We say farewell to Wat Pho, order a taxi via Grab, a trusted taxi app, and make our way to the pier to catch a riverboat to River City.