Posted by: aitzko | December 20, 2009

I treat myself to a fancy night, and explore ancient ruins. And twist my ankle.

After I managed to fit everything into my suitcase (barely) yesterday evening, I went out for a traditional Thai massage.  This was QUITE an experience.  I went to one of the places recommended in my Lonely Planet (which I saw at least 20 more of today).  Let me just say that Thai massage is not what we Westerners are used to.  It was cool, and I’m really glad I had the experience, but unless you are okay with a Thai woman using all (and I mean ALL) of her body weight to drive her elbow into your back, then maybe it isn’t for you.  Parts of it felt relaxing, and other parts were downright painful – I was sore today!  Nevertheless, a cool experience.  The lady actually “tsk tsk”ed when she felt the knots in my back, and worked even harder to get them out.  I’m not sure that was a good thing.

Anyway, it was still pretty cool.  When I was finished I went back to my hotel and changed for the evening, then headed out again to the Sirocco Sky Bar.  This is basically a bar on top of a skyscraper.  It was AWESOME!!!  It was kind of fancy, but then again, in Bangkok a fancy drink out is pretty much on par with a fancy drink anywhere in the States, and this was on top of a SKYSCRAPER.  There were these big couches – I think I got a few good pictures.  After my fancy drink, I decided to go the whole nine yards and treat myself to a fancy dinner.  I went to Le Normandie at the Oriental Hotel.  I’m not sure I can describe how crazy beautiful it was.  It turns out you’re supposed to have a reservation, but since I was just a party of one, they called up for me and made an exception.  Yes!  When I got up there, they sat me down, and gave me a special little stool just for my purse.  My giant travelling purse.  When I made a comment that it’s not a very nice purse, the ever-courteous maitre d said, “Well, it looks very useful.”  HA!

Anyway, at a place this nice, I was going for dinner and a glass of wine, and that’s it.  However, I think people generally order appetizers and make a whole evening of it.  My waiter warned me that it would be a while before my meal came out, and I was totally fine with that – beautiful views of the city – but while I was waiting, he brought me over a cute, teensy cup of soup (“compliments of the chef”) and an appetizer – a scallop with vegetable ratatouille and truffle sauce.

!!!!!!

How cool is that?  Totally complimentary.  I’m not sure if that’s something they do for everybody or what, but I’ll pretend that I was special and they just thought I was nice and clearly inexperienced in the ways of fancy restaurants.  When he brought over the scallop (SO DELICIOUS and I don’t even like seafood), I was all surprised and thanked my waiter, and he just put on this slightly smug smile and said, “Welcome to La Normandie.”  Ha!  Anyway, this was all delicious, and when they brought out my main course (lamb chops) I was pretty much floored.  They didn’t even mind when I asked if I could take pictures. (Shut up, food is exciting.)  All in all, it was an amazing night in Bangkok, and I felt sooooo fancy.

Also, when I get home, I will not be able to go out for approximately five years, so everyone come hang out at my house. 😛

I took an early flight to Sukhothai this morning.  On the plane, I sat next to a lovely American family from Seattle, currently living in Beijing.  As it turns out, their adorable 7 year old daughter is adopted, and they were excited when I told them that I was as well.  We made some nice conversation on the plane.  When I got here, I headed to my guesthouse, which is SO cute.  Unfortunately, I managed to trip on a small ledge and twist my ankle.  Not too bad, I was fine for the rest of the day, but now that I’m in for the evening, it’s pretty sore.  Leave it to me – traveling through the Balinese jungle is fine, but it’s the step in the hotel that gets me.  Anyway, despite the ankle, I had a great day at the Sukhothai Historical Park.

The Sukhothai Kingdom was at its height in the mid 13th to late 14th centuries.  This is generally considered a “golden age” of Thailand – the art and architecture is classic.  The kingdom gave its name to this city, which was one of the first capitals of Thailand.  It had an immense influence on the art, language, literature, and religion of the country, much of which is still evident today.  The city had been reclaimed by jungle until the modern era, and in the 50s and 60s it was rediscovered and renovated.  I toured the park today.

This place is utterly gorgeous – the ruins are in this lush green setting, with mountains rising in the distance.  The archaeological remains are exquisite and fairly well preserved, especially considering the climate.  What didn’t survive, or was badly damaged, has been restored with exacting attention to detail and historical context.  The park is huge, so the best way to get around is by bicycle.  Sukhothai is still not on the greater radar of Southeast Asian sightseeing, and because of the size of the park, you don’t even come across too many of the visitors who are there.  Compared to everywhere else I’ve been lately, this was a pleasure, and I explored the ancient city in relative peace and quiet.  I took half a million pictures, but I don’t think they’ll do the park justice.  It was an awesome day, and I got to go at my own leisurely pace.  In contrast to most historical sites in Europe and North America, security is really minimal – at home, you’re not allowed to come near, let alone touch most older buildings and monuments.  Here, nothing is roped off, and there are even plenty of signs of contemporary devotional practices – flowers left, incense burning, offerings recently made.  The few sites that have signs requesting that you keep off are the Buddha images, and even then, no one is watching to make sure you behave – you could climb all over these things if you wanted to.  There was one building I did climb into.  Slightly off the beaten path, it’s a huge stone structure that was once a temple, I think.  The stone is so weathered , but you can tell that it used to be ornate and beautiful.  Now there are plants growing out of every nook and cranny.  A set of steep steps led up to a room inside, and I had to check it out.  As it turns out, people actually do climb up there – there was a whole array of little Buddha images and offerings up there – but it was absolutely gorgeous in the late afternoon sun.  I’m so glad I climbed up there.

Anyway, I’m thrilled that I came to Sukhothai.  Tomorrow morning I’m off to Chiang Mai on a five hour bus ride – keep your fingers crossed for me!

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