Mike and I are big on traditions and we aren’t going to let them fall to the wayside just because we’re away from home. Case in point, the Howard “Day/Month/Year” party. Ever since March 3, 2003 (03/03/03), we’ve been throwing a party to celebrate when the dates match up (why?…well, why not!) and 12/12/12 was the last one on the calendar, so something big had to be done! We sent out the annual invitation but this year the destination changed from our backyard in Hoboken to the far-flung Thailand. Six fearless friends (TJ, Carolyn, Scott, Ryan, Chelsea, and Ashley) RSVPed yes to fly across the world to join us for 12 days of celebrating tradition, good friends, and grabbing life by the horns.
We’ll have to warn you that the next few HoneyTrek blog posts are going to err on the side of slight debaucherous…but #1) It’s party #2) It’s Thailand. Thailand, and especially Bangkok, is known for its reckless love for good times. That said, we we still soaked up the country’s centuries of history and its capital’s cultural offerings. Here is a view from the top of the city’s spectacular Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn (not the inside of a bar).
Rivers and canals cut through the streets of Bangkok, functioning as lively secondary highways. A good portion of the city’s neighborhoods are only accessible by boat so TJ, Carolyn (our first two buddies to arrive to the 12/12/12 festivities), Mike, and I set out to explore these floating neighborhoods. See the slideshow for more scenes from this fascinating backwater tour of Bangkok.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy so Bangkok’s Grand Palace is not a relic but a fully functioning space for King Rama IX’s royal ceremonies. We took a tour of the 18th-century complex of temples, halls, courtyards, and residences and were amazed by the opulent Thai style.
Across the street from the Grand Palace is Bangkok’s biggest and oldest temple, Wat Pho. It’s most famous for being the birth-place traditional Thai massage and having this massive reclining Buddha. At 50-ft high x 141-ft long, this handcrafted work of art is impressive on so many levels–especially its mother-of-pearl toe prints!
Muay Thai kickboxing is the country’s national sport and something the boys were dying to see. This martial art is a slightly more humane version of ultimate fighting but flying fists, elbows, knees, and feet are still fair game. The fighters were tiny but tough as nails (traditional training uses bamboo and banana trees as kicking poles and punching bags, if that tells you anything about the pain these athletes can take.)
Now this where it starts to get a little crazy. Bangkok is full of scams with a common one being the tuk-tuk driver that offers “free” rides if you visit a tailor shop (this seems strange, but the tailor/sponsor gives the tuk-tuk driver a gas coupon for every person he brings to the shop). We were offered tailor visits about ten times before a combination of curiosity and annoyance broke us down. We told the driver, “Okay, we’ll go see your tailor for five minutes but we are NOT buying any suits.” We’re not sure how this happened but between an endless supply of free beer, Gangnam Style dance sessions, reams of beautiful fabrics, and a hysterical little kid practicing his Muay Thai with us, we were wooed into buying 4 suits, 3 custom-shirts, 2 dresses, and a kimono. In the moment we semi-knew we were being ripped off, but we were having too much fun to care.
Continuing our night of poor but comical decisions, we went to the notorious party street, Khao San Road. This area is packed with bars, clubs, and street food…most famously fried bugs. Yes, bugs. Most of us opted for the Pad Thai but Mike went for the grand platter of scorpions, bamboo bugs, crickets, beetles, and miscellaneous creepy crawlies. See for yourself and let us know if you think Mike was crazy or just expanding his culinary repertoire.
With our stomachs and livers barely intact, we woke up the next morning for a walkabout around the city, popping into local temples, shops, and food stalls…joined by our fourth 12/12/12-er Ashley Garver. When my dear friend and college roommate Ashley was considering joining us in Thailand, she decided to first take care of a few details first—like quit her job, rent her apartment, and buy an open-ended plane ticket! The invite became the push she needed to start her own journey around the world and now eight months later and Ashley is still traveling. Go Ash!! Check her out on ISeeAshley.com
The crew was coming together nicely and the fun and shenanigans were fully underway…All we needed was Mike’s brother Ryan and his longtime-girlfriend Chelsea. Stay tuned for the real 12/12/12 celebration in the tropical isle of Ko Samui.