Sunday, August 21, 2011

Gaurav's birthday

Day 69: Learning patience, being Buddha

Today is Gaurav’s birthday, and we rented a car and driver to take us to the renowned Floating Market and to Ayuthaya, the site of various temple ruins. Both destinations are quite far and also in opposite directions, so we started off early on our day.

The day started off relatively well, with us getting along with our driver and heading over to the Floating Market. When we arrived, boat companies tried to sell us a boat ride for exorbitant prices, but since we had done our research, we knew how much it was supposed to cost so we moved on to the main part of the market. When we arrived, we started haggling for a reasonably priced boat. This is when things went sour. For some reason, our driver took great offence to our haggling, but we would only find out how bad it was when we got back.

We walked around and found a boat for a much more reasonable price, so we got on and started floating through the floating market. All around us were floating shops selling knick knacks and souvenirs for tourists. It all felt very commercial, and the original traditional beauty of the market with boats selling fruits and veggies and food felt lost to tourism. We were lucky to have arrived before the hoards of tourists, because we missed the intense traffic jam and all the craziness, and were able to have a quiet ride down the market.

When we arrived back at our car, our driver was no longer on speaking terms with us, but we didn’t realize why or how bad it was. He backed out the car, and we hopped in and started on our way to Ayuthaya, a two-hour drive away.

About two hours into the drive, with our driver driving ridiculously and dangerously fast, we figured out he was completely lost, though he wasn’t divulging this information to us (seeing as how he wasn’t speaking with us). When he finally stopped to ask for directions, he told us it would be another hour, and he in no uncertain terms tried to blame us for his getting lost.

We finally arrived in Ayuthaya after about four hours, and headed to our first temple ruins. In the extreme heat of the sun, we walked around the ruins, and then went to a temple to see a beautiful and huge seated Buddha. Then our driver begrudgingly took us to the next location, where we walked through a second set of ruins. When we came back, he told us he would only be taking us to one more stop (even though we were paying him for the entire day), so we went to a third temple, which was quite beautiful, with a large reclining Buddha in one location, and the walls outside the temple lined with hundreds of seated robed Buddhas.

We hadn’t eaten breakfast or lunch, so after our long day in the sun, we were templed out. We headed back to town in a dangerously fast ride, with the driver weaving in and out of traffic (and not the kind of organized traffic of North America, but rather the crazy chaotic traffic of Southeast Asia) and passing every other vehicle along the way. He clearly wanted to get rid of us as quickly as possible, and we were eager to leave him as well – thankful to still be alive after his crazy driving. He also tried to say we owed him more money, but we made it clear we did not.

When we arrived back in Bangkok, we paid him, and thankfully and very angrily left his company. Especially after visiting so many temples and being around Buddha so much (not to mention the slew of Buddha statues the driver had in his own car dashboard), we were hoping that the essence of His teachings would permeate our day, but unfortunately this was not the case, and what could have been a great day (and Gaurav’s birthday) was somewhat tainted by the driver’s intense and unwarranted anger.

We went back to the hotel and let off some steam before heading out again to the restaurant (the same one as last night) to see the show. When we arrived, we found out they cancelled the show again! Needless to say, we were angry, especially the way our day had been going.

So we left the restaurant and went to walk around the night market close by, which also took us through the red light district – an interesting place, indeed! We went back to the area around our hotel, grabbed a quick bite to eat, walked around, and then all of us got a final massage in Bangkok before heading to bed.

The whole day was definitely a test of our patience and we tried to learn to be “Buddha” – unphased and peaceful about it all – though at some points, it was much harder than at others. Well, we tried. 

In any case, happy birthday, Gaurav! I (Gaurav) had a great birthday celebrating half a world away surrounded by ancient temples under the bright sun with my beautiful wife! 

Traffic jam at the Floating Market

Buddha head engulfed by roots

 Buddha galore

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