Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thailand (Bangkok): Day 3

I really don't have much to say today. Well, it's my birthday... and ironically the day I scheduled the least amount of stuff to do. In fact... just one thing. In the evening. I didn't feel like going out and about, so I would just stay at the guest house all day until I needed to go to the show in the evening.

I woke up, still with some sniffles, about 6:30. I eventually make my way down for breakfast. I get some pancakes (which were dry and had no butter, syrup, etc.) and a small omelet (which was kinda salty). But on the plus side, I got a nice big cup of hot chocolate and freshly squeezed watermelon juice. Have you ever had freshly squeezed watermelon juice? It's amazing.

Then I went back to my room and did not much. And from basically that time until like 1 PM, there was a constant barrage of little German (or maybe French) kids who would not... shut... up. There were about 5 playing in the lounge area for hours with a never-ending supply of energy. And they weren't just screaming and playing, but when I eventually went down later for lunch, they were doing these death-defying acts of stupidity that the parents were doing nothing to quell. Like every 10 seconds was something new, irritating, stupid, and very loud.

Anyway... when I checked in the other day, I got a couple coupons--2 for free lunches and 2 for free drinks. So I used one of each for my lunch. I had a kind of chicken "sandwich" thing. Basically it was roasted chicken on thick toast covered with this mango cream sauce. And then actual mango and tomato slices strewn about. So as I'm waiting for my food to arrive, I hear a particular tune play in the background. Seconds later, the staff comes out with a cupcake with lit candle and sings me happy birthday! It was a bit embarrassing for everyone involved, apparently, but it was still really nice. And a couple of the German (and/or French) parents nearby also told me happy birthday afterwards.

So then it was just a waiting game. I had to be at a completely different hotel by 5 PM to get picked up for the Siam Niramit show, which had me a bit nervous. The original email said the hotel was like a 5-minute walk from my current place, which was just not true whatsoever. Pepsi told me yesterday my best bet was to get a taxi and have it take me. But then I had the issue of not having the address written in Thai, but I found a Thai map on the hotel's website and put it in my phone to show the driver. I didn't want to tell him the wrong name, since apparently this hotel has like 4-5 different names it goes by, depending. I also got a Thai Address paper for my current place to show a taxi for when I had to come back that night (luckily the guest house has these at the ready, since it's such a tricky place to find).

And then, come 4:30, it was time to head off. I walk down the street a ways until I can finally flag down a taxi. I showed him the map, and then he reveals he speaks a tiny bit of English and just asks for the hotel name. But he figures it out from the map before I can tell him anyway. It's a super short drive, but he does ask me a few things. The conversation went somewhat like the following:

Him: "Where from?"
Me: "USA"
Him: "Ah, America. What city?"
Me: *knows what he means* "Texas."
Him: "Ah, Tek-shahs. Tek-shahs. Kah-BOI. Tek-shahs Kah-BOI."
Me: *pause* "Yeah, cowboys."
Him: "Kah-BOI and CAH-see-no?"
Me: "Casino?"
Him: "Yes. CAH-see-no."
Me: "Uh... no, not really. No casino."
Him: "Oh."

And then we reached the destination, and I got out of the cab. I waited in the lobby of the hotel for a good 20 minutes before the guy showed up. And what followed should have been a 20-minute ride at most... that took an hour. I've mentioned it before, but it's worth noting again: Bangkok traffic is HORRIBLE. It's one of those places where you wait for 10 minutes only to drive forward for about 5 seconds and then stop for another 10 minutes. Even if you turn onto a different road, you just find yourself in a completely new traffic jam. There was even a point where the line was so long that the traffic light went from red to green and back to red, a 10-15 second wait, and then we moved.

Long story short (too late), we pick up another couple people and then eventually make it to the Siam Niramit show building. We get our tickets and everything, and I go up to the third floor for my buffet dinner. It was decent. But the show doesn't start until 8 PM, and it's like 6:30 by this point. So I wander around the gift shop areas for a while before I decide to check out the pavilion area. It's here I realize there's an entire pre-show entertainment area. There were elephant rides (which nobody did, but I did touch the elephants) and another area with performers--magic, dance, and martial arts. The martial arts one was the best. It was a 3-on-1 battle... and 3 guys versus 1 girl, and the girl beats them all. It was pretty awesome--and they used real steel blades. There were sparks and everything.

But soon it was time to go into the theatre. So what, exactly, is the Siam Niramit show? To quote wikipedia, the Siam Niramit "has state-of-the-art cultural performances which have achieved international standards. It uses special techniques integrated with drama to depict the history of each region of Thailand including depictions about hells, the forest of Himmaphan, heavens and lands beyond imagination from Thai literature. There is also a spectacular performance of Thailand’s arts and cultural heritage. The show is staged by more than 150 performers in a luxurious theatre with a capacity of more than 2,000 seats."

In short... it's a technical marvel and stunning to watch. Even if I couldn't follow what was happening in any of the given short stories, you were always in awe of everything going in to these performances. It's almost impossible to explain. There's a part where, within seconds and without seeing how, a solid section of the stage that people had been walking on suddenly becomes a full river... one deep enough that a guy can jump into it and go under, and for boats to maneuver through. And that's just one of the first technical marvels that happens in the show. There's just always so much going on in every corner of the theatre... sometimes not even on the stage. There's animals--elephants, goats, roosters. There are aerial performances. There are full-on storms with rain, thunder, and lightning. There's a totally believable underwater sequence. The set changes are fast, and the sets themselves are amazing. Even if the actual story and performances weren't fully engaging, the sheer scope of every minute in this 80-minute piece is breathtaking to watch.

Sadly, no pictures or anything were allowed, so I can't show anything. Though of course I was sitting next to the only two people in the theatre stupid enough to keep pulling out their phones to text and check Facebook or whatever. Once the show ended, I headed out to find the van and driver who would take me back to not-my-hotel. After he dropped a few other people off first, we finally came to me. And he didn't even bother taking me back to the hotel spot. He just dropped me off at the corner of Khao San Road where the hotel is, somewhere. I realized I didn't have small enough bills for a taxi. I had one 20-baht bill and the rest was no smaller than 500 baht. So I needed to break it. I went into a 7-11 and got a bottle of water for 10 baht. Basically, it's the equivalent of paying 15 bucks for something that's .25 cents. It's lame, but I had to do it.

Then I needed to find me a taxi. I hop into one and give him the address card I got from my guest house that has the address written in both English and Thai. And, because my luck is that amazing, I managed to find the one taxi driver in all of Bangkok would can't even read Thai. He struggles to figure it out and barely even makes out the hotel name. He tries to get me to read him the street name. I try to read the English, but it's too complicated to say and he doesn't understand. So he kinda gives up and drives. I tell him to turn the meter on, which he does. And starts it at like 65 baht, which is ridiculous since the last one started it at 35 baht, which is the norm. But whatever. He takes me to not the right area before taking my address paper again and asking a Tuk Tuk driver to help him. That driver barely even glances at the paper before giving my driver perfect directions. He U-Turns and takes me back the other direction and eventually finds the little alley road that leads to my guest house. Of course he passes up the side-alley, and I have to tell him to stop. He does, but then everyone who had been following behind us gets mad at him and yells at him. So I just give him 100 baht, which he keeps without giving me change (he even looked at it like he'd never seen 100 baht before). But I didn't care. It's like 3 bucks, which is standard starting fare in Korea.

I get to the door of my guest house... which happens to be locked. I try getting it open, but it won't. It takes me a minute, but I eventually see a security box with a button to press to be buzzed in, basically. So I do, and I get let in. And that was the end of my night. And, in fact, that was it for my final day in Bangkok. In the morning, I head off with Pepsi for Kanchanaburi to see other big sites nearby. So stay tuned for that!


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