Monday, May 13, 2013

Hot, Hot, Hot.

There is much to say about the past two weeks Nod and I have been in Thailand, but since I'm writing to you from Bangkok, first things first: we are melting in the heat. We are withering. If there is one enduring memory I will take from this city, it is that of the utter relief I felt whenever we found a scrap of shade or caught a whiff of breeze in the stagnant city air. Nod and I had only planned to spend 24 hours in Bangkok, eager to press beyond the big city sites for places more remote and organic in their charms. But a trip to Thailand isn't complete without a trip to such an important and iconic city, so we planned a day we hoped would include the Thai royal palace, glittering Buddhist temples, large weekend markets, and as much pad thai noodles as we could physically hold in our bellies.

Now, every day we've spent in Thailand has been warm, to be sure. The southern islands were hot and muggy, but with the ocean all around, we just floated around like hippos with our noses above water and stayed comfortably cooled as we swam. In the northern city of Chiang Mai, breezes are fresher, and afternoon rainstorms broke the worst of the afternoon sun. And, ok, full disclosure: we've booked places with air conditioning almost everywhere we've been. Backpackers, judge us all you like, but we've done our time in the heat without a/c in Egypt and Ethiopia, and at the ripe age of 28, we're feeling like we're a bit done with sleepless, hot nights.

Bangkok is challenging us on all fronts: humid, stuffy air without oceans for relief, bright afternoon sun without any cooling rain storms-- and a hostel with no air conditioning. A hostel so hot, in fact, that the deodorant I left inside the room all day completely melted. Bangkok is not messing around.

I'm smiling in this photo, but inside, I was slowly losing the will to live.

A much more accurate picture of how I spent the day: sweating, uncomfortable, and in visible pain.

Our plans for Bangkok wilted along with our bodies. We made it to the royal palace and its Buddhist temple at high noon, and decorum required us to cover our shoulders and our legs. Nod hadn't seen the memo before hand, so he had to borrow these sweet pajama pants that they have on loan for all such immodest tourists. The sweat began to run in rivers down our body almost immediately. The buildings on the palace ground are stunning-- the ground is all white marble, the buildings are covered with blue or green tiles, and everything sparkles with gold. These dazzling colors captivated our attention away from the heat during the snatches of time we could duck into shade, but the marble ground acted like a magnifying glass for the sun, burning the bottom of our bare feet and blinding us from the light. We stayed as long as we could possibly manage, until we went running for a tuk tuk and a bottle of water, stripping off our extra clothing as we went.

So much beauty, so much gold to magnify the sun...

From then on, we decided to make a game of it. Thailand, as you may know, is home to many lovely things: mango sticky rice, tropical islands, hospitable people, a rich history, elephants, monkeys that will steal your water bottle when you're not looking. But there's one treasure that we weren't expecting: 7-11 convenience stores. And these aren't knock offs, but the real, honest-to-goodness chain with slurpees and chili cheese dogs and all the rest. Now, the Walter family loves slurpees more than I can possibly describe. Slurpees were a part of every significant moment of my childhood. We had slurpees when we brought home a good report card, to celebrate birthdays, little league games, to bribe us to play tennis or clean our rooms, to commemorate family vacations or to reward good behavior. And in Thailand, 7-11s are as popular as Starbucks--a glowing orange and green sign dots every single corner in Bangkok. So to beat the heat this afternoon, we played the game: "How long can you last before ducking into 7-11 for air conditioning and water?" (We're working on a catchier name; this is just the working title).

So we hopped from 7-11 to 7-11 through Bangkok's china town, we did it all along the banks of the river, through parks and gardens, in the backpacker neighborhood of Khao San, between our trips to the roadside food stands, until we finally returned to our hostel past sundown in hopes that the temperature inside had cooled.

Sweet, sweet relief

In short, Bangkok revealed us to be big temperature babies on our last day here. Thailand 1, Wazis 0.

But apart from all our sissiness today, Thailand has been glorious. Some of our favorite days here were spent in the chill town of Chiang Mai, riding bicycles from temple to temple, sampling delicious (and fiery) northern Thai dishes, and meeting up with some friends of the family. We took a cooking class there, too, so here's hoping we can re-create some of the deliciousness we had.

Cooking Class = even more Pad Thai in my belly. Win.

Tomorrow we'll cross the border into Cambodia to take in the glories of the Angkor Wat temples and learn more about Pol Pot and the killing fields. (Nerd alert: I've been reading a history book on Cambodia this past week to give myself a crash course on their history and of the genocide, so I'll write up more as I get to see and learn more about it there. And if anyone can recommend a good book on the Vietnam war, I'd love suggestions!)

Until then-!


  1. Hi Alissa! I follow Lily Stockman's Blog "BigBANG studio." She recently took a trip to Vietnam and wrote this post.
    In it she recommends, "The Quiet American" and "A Rumor of War."

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