Despite the impending end to our travels -or perhaps because of it, we returned to Bangkok determined to take the city by storm! And so we made a bee line for the Oriental Hotel and settled into afternoon tea amongst the poshest surroundings Southeast Asia has to offer! There really is something about the Oriental Hotel that few other hotels in the world have, and we haven't even stayed there, its just a feeling you get when you walk in the door.
After tea we went to meet up with some friends of friends. Michael and Wirut are good friends of our English friend Debbie. They were gracious enough to take us exploring through the various night markets including the infamous Patpong and the more genteel Suan Lum. There Ann was able to purchase the Thai tea set that she has been longing for since the last time she was in Thailand. (We have it wrapped in sheets of bubble wrap and are praying for its safe arrival home.) After the big purchase we all needed a drink. Ann to celebrate her purchase and the rest of us to forget about it. The Night Bazaar has a huge beer garden serving all sorts of draughts on one side and Thai food stalls on the otherside. There was also live music. Several beers later and well into the night we bade Michael and Wirut goodbye and thanked them for showing us around, and especially helping Ann secure a good deal. Its always nice to spend time with the locals, especially when you can easily count them as friends.
The next day we really did take the city by storm. We went on a half day bicycle tour of Bangkok. The tour took us through some parts of Bangkok that we would have otherwised missed -glove and belt making factories, local markets, and resident housing. We also ferried the bikes across the river and rode through some villages on the other side. The villages were surrounded by a huge wetlands and there was a two foot wide raised concrete sidewalk connecting everything. Two feet is plenty enough room to ride a bike, but we were both still nervous about the plunge on either side sending us into the muddy waters. Fortunately, no one took that plunge -but I'm sure it has happened on other trips. We sweltered through the heat of the day, and by the end of the bike tour, it was all we could do to grab some street food on the way home and stumble back to our hotel.
There at the hotel Ann really did take a stumble -and a very painful one. After a good shower and a little nap we decided to step into the Internet cafe in our hotel. For some stupid reason totally unrelated to religion, there was a "no shoes" rule at this cafe. Ann stepped into the cafe and onto a towel that was lying in the floor that quickly took her flying into a pile of junk on the floor. The smash made quite a noise but not quite as much as Ann's cries. This was one of those accidents that if it had happened in America the hotel would have worried of a lawsuit. But as it was, they were not worried in the least, nor helpful at all. Thankfully there was a German doctor there who took control of the situation and ascertained that while there was swelling and a hematoma, there were no broken bones. Packed in ice and dosed up on pain meds, we finally made it to bed.
The next day was our scheduled departure from Bangkok, and since our flight didn't leave until the early evening we had planned on spending the day strolling the streets, shopping, and having a fine meal to end our trip. We were just about to step out of the hotel when Mother Nature spoiled our plans. Booms of thunder gave a few moments notice before the deluge. Here it was, the peak of the dry season, and the rain was coming down harder than ever. We haven't really seen a lot of rain over these weeks, but what rain has come has arrived at very auspicious times. Bangkok is accoustomed to this sort of downpour during the wet season, but it seemed to take everyone by surprise now. There was more than a foot of water in the street and unless you were prepared to go wading, there was nowhere to go. We were trapped in the hotel lobby for a few hours until it was over.
By that time, strolling the streets and shopping were no longer viable options, so we packed it in and headed to the airport a little early. Good thing too because our flight departure had been moved forward by an hour so we were really only right on time with no time for duty free.
While some might see these occurences of the past 24 hours as maybe a sign that its time to come home, we see it as a sign that we should have gone on to Myanmar and avoided this inevitable departure. Its been a whirlwind couple of days but we'll be back in Boston to recoup in no time at all.