A well-needed lie in was had this morning on our wonderfully comfortable bed. This was followed by a leisurely breakfast and midday swim in our rooftop pool. It probably sounds boring, but after a week of being rushed off our feet, it has been so lovely to have some time to recuperate.
And how better to de-stress than to take a little stroll in the park?
Or so I thought. This is Bangkok, after all, and crossing roads has proven to be a heavily anxiety-inducing experience, even for Tarryne, and she’s been to Bolivia. The craziest drivers I’d ever seen are Cretans, and – no. They’re still the biggest nutters. But Thais would probably come a close second.
All this happened before we reached the park gates, which are dominated by a big statue of Rama 6th. Inside, there was a gigantic lake with swan boats on it, much like the park in our hometown. There were lots of white people jogging around the lake. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. A little lizard sat on the bridge. It was quite sweet, or so it seemed, until a six foot lizard crossed the road directly ahead of us. “WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT?!” I screamed, then stood motionless as I watched it slither into the water. Turns out, it’s something called a monitor lizard, and they’re relatively common here.
After only seeing one, I mistakenly assumed we were safe. Nope. We sat by the lake in the shade to take a break from the sun, and another one stealthily swam up to the bank beside us. I don’t think they move very fast, and they’re basically harmless. But they are absolutely massive, so it was a very interesting first encounter. I tried to get a picture but it didn’t really come up very well – Google them if you want to see one in all its reptilian glory.
I needed a little normality after coming face to face with Godzilla, so at my mother’s suggestion, we took a look around Terminal 21, a big shopping mall. Why is it worth writing about? Well, imagine Las Vegas on steroids, and you have Terminal 21. Each floor corresponds to a city, and you can find somewhat appropriate shops and restaurants on that floor. Cities include Tokyo, Paris, London, Rome, Istanbul, and San Francisco. Each floor is also lavishly decorated to the theme, and you can spend ages winding in and out of the artificial lanes and small shops.
As we entered, we came to the Rome level, which featured pseudo-Latin script and a delightfully naff statue of something based on classical Rome. For some reason we found the Levi’s store at this level, which is still unfortunately far out of my price range. I had thought this trip would mean I go into one of their shops and actually buy something, but alas, no. Still too poor.
I think the designers must have actually visited these cities and done some research, not only because the Rome and Paris levels were pretty well simulated, but because the London level also had some quirks. English history on postcards, Carnaby street, Saville Row etc. were all there to greet me. I am tempted to say it captured the feeling of London quite well, which you can’t get from Google images. The same can be said of the San Francisco floors, which were (literally next-level) spectacular. They had even gone to the effort to build a scale model of the Golden Gate bridge, AND put little cars on it. I thought it was a fantastic way to put the cherry on top of the proverbial cake.
This evening, we went to my new favourite chain restaurant, Saravanaa Bhavan. The branch 20 minutes away from us is the only one in Thailand, so we made the most of it. It was next to yet another Sri Mariamman temple, meaning we have now seen one in all three countries we are visiting. Seeing Thai people practising Hinduism was fascinating, as you usually only associate it with South Asian folk.
On our walk home, I noticed something about the changing demographic of the city. There are much more white people here than I thought there would be, for example. Not just lager lout Australians, but also permanent residents, even if they are mostly solo men.
I’ve also noticed that here, much more so than in Malaysia, European beauty standards are revered as goals. It is probably a remnant of Western influence in the region, and it is very disheartening to see skin-whitening creams and things like that in Boots. Not only this, but major clothes and makeup brands do not use Thai models, only white or occasionally Japanese/Chinese ones. This must impact the self-esteem of local women here greatly, because as well as having the same issue with Photoshop that we have in the West, they have it doubled up by the fact that they themselves are not represented by the brands which seek to sell to them.
Tomorrow, we are getting a boat up the river to visit the main tourist sites, like the Grand Palace and Wat Arun. Perhaps we will see a different side to the city.