Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bangkok:Don't ask what's in the menu

Bangkok: Don’t ask what’s in the menu.

The year 1986 was an important one. My husband Rup handed me a packet which was a surprise birth day gift for me. It contained two air tickets, one in my name and another, my son Jibesh’s name. Two Air India tickets to Bangkok and from there we had to take flight to other countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Hongkong. Jibesh just finished his high school from St Paul’s School, a boarding school in Darjeeling. He was waiting for his admission at one of the colleges. So we were quite excited to join the tour group starting from Kolkata. About seventeen of us were there in the group. We became very close to one brother and sister in the tour. They were also from same place and belonged to an affluent business community.
The Air India flight took us to Bangkok within two hours. When we reached the Bangkok airport and got our luggage it was already 5 PM. The bus waited for us outside the terminal and we got in while our suitcases were pushed into the luggage compartment. At last the excitement of travelling and the thrill of seeing new places were coming true. The crowded Bangkok city was no different from Kalkota or any other city of India. The bus was going at a snail’s speed because of the heavy traffic. Finally we reached our hotel, a four star hotel. We waited for our keys to our rooms.
After we got in the rooms and freshened up we had our dinner at one of the restaurants in the hotel.
Our guide announced. “ Please everyone be here and I have an announcement for tomorrow. “ We all gathered ourselves near him in the lounge and stood in a circle.
“There is some change in our tour for tomorrow. We will be going for the city tour and then to cultural show, and so please everyone be here by eight a.m. tomorrow morning. The bus will be here in front of the hotel.”
Few of the members murmured something and others stopped to talk to the guide. But we turned toward out room and the brother and sister followed us as their room was next to ours.
Next morning, when we came down two couples already were in the lounge. Our guide entered the lounge after he had his cup of tea and breakfast. Then all the members of the tour party assembled as expected.
Someone saw the tour bus coming and we all got up to get inside the bus. The local guide was Thai national and he spoke in English well. He explained about the city’s important landmarks. We were taken to the ancient temples some of which still lingers in my memory.
The Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of Emerald Buddha was a primary and most important temple in Thailand. The architectural design with its subtle and intricate structure was unique and led me to feel spiritual experience. It was a perfect place for meditation and prayer.
Another temple was Wat Chai Monkoi built in 1357 by king UThong was the impressively large statue of reclining Buddha. This was also the most impressive site which I remember till now vividly.
We were taken then to Phramongkhon Bophit where the largest bronze Buddha was there.
After several temples tour, we finally reached the place where the cultural shows were to be performed. That was the most memorable experience. The Thai girls in their colorful dresses performed dances along with the most rhythmic, soothing, subtle music. I had the privilege of taking picture with two of the Thai dancers.
Then we were back to our hotel and rested a while before we came down to have our dinner.
Next day we headed to Pattaya beach, a very popular spot for visitors because of its scenic beauty, night clubs and seafood delicacies. This murky sea of Pattaya is a popular site for water sports. After we had visited some of the temples there we arrived at the site where the exotic sea food was served in buffet style. My stomach growled with hunger. We all stood in line waiting for our turn to pick up our share of food.Everything looked so tempting. I love every kind of sea food. I picked up each item and they tasted excellent. I could not decide which was best. One dish was exceptionally delicious and I took a second serving. The gentleman sitting next to me was also enjoying the food.
“Everything is so good” he said.
“Oh, yes, everything is so tasty, and I like the best in the second row next to the pomfret.” I responded.
“Oh, that is octopus, I like the shrimps best”. He said.
And now I could imagine what I was eating. I was enjoying octopus all along. Once I knew it was Octopus, I had such an uneasy feeling as if octopus were swimming in my stomach with their tentacles spread out for their prey. I could not eat anything else that day.

After Bangkok, our tour included Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong. We enjoyed our tour and returned after 7days. But the thrill of Bangkok will always be associated with the memory of Octopus crawling inside my stomach.