In the wee hours of the 11th of October, in a grassy field in Gurgaon, amidst the grasshoppers and the crickets and the bats, the Gods bore witness to our union, conferring on us the title of Man and Wife. We were married, finally, after all the preparations and the fights and the screaming sessions where we pulled out our hairs and the logistical nightmares that led up to the big day. Our hearts full and our wallets empty, we were pronounced married for all eternity by the saffron-clad priest, and an indelible pact was made in the light of his night-fire fueled by generous amounts of pure ghee, dry fruits and other assorted combustible materials. As the darkness fled and the first rays of sunlight peeked through the heavy grey clouds that sprayed us with a welcome rain, Mansi and I realized that we were dead.
I don’t mean dead dead. We were just so exhausted that we slept like a pair of logs back in our room. Unfortunately for us, this ordeal in Gurgaon was not the end of it. A week later, on a bright and sunny Wednesday in Bangalore, we had another ritual as part of the marriage. And about 300 people turned up to give us their blessings. By the time the day ended, our faces ached with the effort of the fake smiles, our legs ached from all the standing around and the walking and our heads hurt from all the socializing. That’s why, when we boarded our flight to Bangkok that night, we just passed out and snored loud enough to wake the dead, all the way to Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
Our first impression of Bangkok, as we stepped out of the terminal and were waiting for our car to pick us up, was “Meh.”
We weren’t impressed by the bleak, concrete architecture of the airport terminal and we had spent too much time in Mumbai to be taken unawares by the hot and humid weather. But as we made our way to our hotel in the cab, we quickly changed our minds. Beautiful roads, obedient traffic and breath-taking landscapes greeted us all the way to the city proper and when we entered the city, the sights and sounds of the food stalls on the street were simply delectable. Shopping carts everywhere, loaded with clothes, electronic goods, questionable meat and duck eggs were all around us. And our hotel was nestled in a small gully just off a street filled with food carts. Mansi never saw any of this as she had passed out again in the cab, the minute we left the airport. She woke up in time to see our hotel approaching, looked around the food stalls and said, “I’m hungry but too sleepy to eat.”
We spent our first seven hours in Bangkok sleeping off a month’s exhaustion. It was a fitful sleep punctuated by a loud thunderstorm and torrential rains that lashed our windows with pent-up fury. When we woke up late in the evening, the rain had passed, the sun was out and the humidity hung in the air like a warm blanket. We walked out of the hotel, and had barely walked ten feet when our growling tummies made us halt at a stall selling seafood noodle soup. Given that it was our first taste of authentic Thai food, we ordered just one and decided to share it. The steaming bowl of clear soup with fried noodles and sparkly white seafood made us weep with joy. And each gulp of the soup was a little sip of heaven. Octopus and fish, prawns and squids, we ate them all and thus began the first half of our honeymoon – a memorable three-day binge eating spectacle.
Between walking around the bustling Prathu Nam market, eating fresh fruits, boiled squid and fried rice, we shopped till we dropped, with Mansi doubling her wardrobe in those three days. I realized the disadvantage of being big and tall – no one seemed to have clothes my size. I settled for a couple of shorts and a tee-shirt that I would have to grow into. Or shrink into, once I lose weight.
On the second day in Bangkok, we went to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market as part of an organized day-tour. Being driven through rural Thailand was a fantastic experience, a surreal memory that won’t die any time soon. There were moments of real peace – the silence and the quiet penetrating into our souls. It was magical. The floating markets themselves were a chaotic mix of tourists, overpriced souvenirs and very tasty food. Though we opted out of the 150 Bh boat ride through the market, we walked on the pier and window-shopped for curiosities that seemed too good to be true. Our first taste of dragonfruit is worth a mention and so is Mansi’s first dreamcatcher.
On our way to the Kanchanaburi Tiger Temple from Damnoen Saduak, after a brief halt for coffee at the Elephant Village’s Monkey Café, we stopped for lunch on the River Kwai. This was perhaps the best buffet meal I’ve ever had in my life. Maybe because I was so hungry, maybe it was the tranquility of eating on a river barge, but the food was just so good! I loaded my plate for fried rice and noodles and three different kinds of Thai curry more times than I remember. It made it difficult for me to walk when we reached the Bridge on the River Kwai, where and about which, the movie was shot. For someone who knew bits and pieces of the history (having watched the movie a really long time ago), it was an I-was-there moment. After almost being run over by the toy train that plies of these tracks over the bridge, we waddled our way on full stomachs to the car, headed to the Kanchanaburi Tiger Temple.
Being led to a docile tiger, being made to pose next to it for the obligatory photograph and being made to repeat the process with ten tigers seems like a bit much now, but when we were doing it, the whole evening seemed so much magical. Tigers are really really big. I looked tiny next to these giant cats, which should give people a sense of scale. They are huge! And to actually stroke their rough fur, while getting the moment captured by one of the hundred volunteers was quite an experience. I’m very grateful for having done that.
On our last day in Bangkok, we (read as: Mansi) shopped a lot in the morning and afternoon, and in the evening, made the 30-minute walk from Prathu Nam to Phatpong to see the night market. We knew it was Bangkok’s red light district, but we weren’t ready to see sex toys being sold on the road side and we definitely weren’t ready for nude women beckoning us from the doorways of their strip clubs to experience a “pussy show”. We gave in to sales pressure and entered a strip joint to see three naked women with horsehair nipple protectors standing around steel poles, waiting for customers. We didn’t wait around for the show and quite literally, ran out. A quiet drink with good music and a tuk-tuk ride back to our hotel late at night wrapped up a fantastic trip.
We headed on to Phuket the next day for the second half of our honeymoon and Mansi will write about our adventures there. We will definitely go back to Bangkok as part of our SE Asia backpacking tour – but if not, then we definitely go back just for the roadside sausages.
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