got up early today. (lately that means i slept from 6am to 10 or 11am EST).
had grilled mango and pickled pig intestines for breakfast, washed that down with a triple espresso (ahhhh it wasn't nescafe!)
started feeling ill almost immediately. ducked into a a 711 and managed to bribe my way into the bathroom. the floor was crawling, the shadows didn't look right, and i was feeling light headed. drugged??? poisoned??? puked, then the ground stopped moving. washed my face and left.
began to hustle.. wanted to make it to all the temples in the city in just one day. too easy. decided not to take cabs or transit or ask for any directions. picked up ear plugs for my crash-kit: inflatable pillow, eye-shade, caffeine, melatonin.
( you can only get ear-plugs from a hardware store, and you'll definitely need to mime jack-hammering. unlike most miming, this particular job will make you feel awesome rather than foolish, so have a good time. after this they will always try to sell you a jack-hammer to go with your ear-plugs, don't be fooled. and yes, i've done this several times before :)
got to the bangkok river, it started to rain, and it was like a small version of the end of the world except that everyone is still in pretty good spirits about it. it's been flooding here, and even though most of town is still dry they are all moving sandbags and watching the sky. by the river it is NOT dry and that is how it came to pass that i saw some kids poling along on a door with a baseball bat. they floated by waving while i stared. i walked under a tarp a into a narrow alley filled with hawkers where the water was almost waist deep. the hawkers are moving their stuff up higher and higher, and amazingly still open for business. i grab a warm coke as it floats by pay too much for it.. i hope it gets easier for them. i wander around in the maze for a little while longer, then go out to the pier. the water is too high, so what is probably a normal flat walkway to the dock is inclined at 45 degrees. most people have on sandals, i'm barefoot. we climb up and wait for the ferry to the other side.
when i get there it is really pouring down. big fat drops of rain, coming in sideways. i'm thinking about my electronics and scolding myself for still not just trusting my dry bags after all this time. i start walking towards where i think the temples are in such a way that i can stay under a freeway, and i notice how all this space is still being used. muay thai dojos, tennis courts, and cages for soccer matches. freeway is curving away from my direction of travel now, so i try to wait out the rain and start watching a futbol game. in no time they are chirping a happy bird language at me in a way that i eventually understand to mean that i should play too! this makes me happy and i score 3 goals for the glory of america (you're welcome =). when the match is over, they want to help so i break my rule and get directions saying 'wat arun', the shortened version of what the locals call 'the temple of the dawn' and pointing my finger straight up in the air and kind of twirling it around.. usually people can understand this as a fairly universal symbol for 'which way?'.
i get to the wat eventually and the rain has slacked a little. the temple of the dawn is very old, a stark contrast with some of the bright-white wats elsewhere, this thing has character. until you get up close you can't see how much detail is in it. repeating motifs of fantastic stuff that mixes hindu and buddhist belief, chinese influences, elephants with three heads, avatars and squatty protector demon dogs, men riding on giant fish, flowers, old sages that sit on clouds, a hundred other gods and demons and history and myth that i don't know how to read. in a way that's frustrating at first, but the world is big and anyway zen strives for beginners mind ('shoshin') eg a lack of preconceptions.
i'm walking around and taking a few pictures since my camera was thankfully dry after all. then i hear 'AEEeeiii!' and turn in time to see a guy who was pressure washing a minor temple falling off from where he must have slipped. i run over, thinking for sure the guy is dead. that was more than 20 feet of uncontrolled fall, but he's landed behind the pagoda and i can't see how. get there and he's already surrounded by people. his ankle is obviously broken but it doesn't look like he's even concussed.. whew. people are running off to get the guys with radios, and i'm just standing waiting to see if they need help carrying him somewhere or if a stretcher is coming. eventually he hops over to a road and gets in an ambulance. i decide to come back to this temple tomorrow when hopefully it is sunny.
i go to another wat and pass monks and meditation classes, enter into some kind of fairly orderly canteen that is definitely NOT a hawkers stall. i order an unidentifiable fruit, more mango, and a spinach-omelet thing with thai chili, which i eat with a single pointy stick. i leave the canteen and walk under an arch into a marbled meeting area where itlooks as if a wedding has just taken place. monks eye me while i take off my shoes, i'm trying to be very careful to not point my feet at them or at any religious icons since it is considered disrespectful. i enter the main area to gaze on a solid gold buddha, maybe 35 feet tall, surrounded by flowers and the smell of joss sticks and incense burning. it is a calm place, inside it makes me feel very quiet and i like that. i leave from a different place than where i came in, this street is busier. i almost get clipped by a moped and my nose is assaulted by the smell of diesel and fried chicken that hang in the air which is still heavy from the rain.
two other temples are nearby but one is being renovated and the other is being closed down.. between the soccer game and my other stops, and in fact due to my 'no-plan' kind of plan, i didn't bother to check their opening hours. i'm evaluating which i ought to make an effort to try to get to tomorrow and thinking about the dojo i saw, wondering if it's too late to find tickets to a muay thai match for tomorrow. i snap a few pictures from outside the gate, and split. i break the rules and get a moped taxi back, since i want to see the river from the bridge instead of the boat. moped taxi's are the fastest way to get most places and there is no other word for the experience except 'harrowing', it is amazing. my driver ducks and weaves between the tightly-wedged cars on the way back to china town, dodging buses, tuk-tuks, pedestrians, and in one case a bunch of escaped chickens. he'll cut off anyone, he runs red-lights, weaves between side-view mirrors, and accelerates nonchalantly towards the bumpers of all parked vehicles, only to cut off someone else and enter back into the main traffic lane just in time to avoid certain disaster. he always goes to the front of the line and he is certainly not above driving on the sidewalk. he fears nothing, and since you can only assume he DOES in fact value his own existence you likewise decide to fear nothing and it is in this way that you eventually arrive where you wanted to be, most likely without any damage to life or limb.
yawn, time for more espresso.. gotta be at work in half an hour. this time i'll feel more strange than usual when i greet everyone with the customary 'good morning' we all use regardless of our timezones.. it's already been a busy day =D