Back from our whir of newly engaged bliss in Koh Mook, we threw ourselves into celebrations in Bangkok.
From the open air rooftop deck of one of the tallest buildings in the city, we ordered love inspired cocktails and toasted to our life ahead and to always living as though we were on top of the world. The brilliant setting sun joined us directly across the sky, glistening off the buildings and dancing among the clouds.
After watching the sun light up the sky, we took a boat to Calypso Cabaret and watched showgirls (and boys) light up the stage. They put on a fabulous performance, and if we didn’t know beforehand that the starletts were actually men dressed in drag, we may have never known. The costumes were fit for Broadway and the classic showtunes, modern hits, and traditional songs were all executed with pop and pizazz. The red velvet theatre curtains and table lamps added to the allure of the night. In addition to the show being thoroughly entertaining, I was proud to see the performers accepted so heartily, both at the show and as every day people on the streets.
The real zaniness of the city came alive for us in the stalls of the Chatuchack Weekend Market. The largest weekend market in all of the world, Chatuchak inundated over 35 acres with baubles of all kinds and each curio had its own section. Trendy clothing shops ruled one domain, while artists selling original paintings commanded another. Food and drink stalls permeated every block, with some being much more entertaining than others. The vendor of one coconut stand violently chopped flying coconuts and turned them into drinking vessels for thirsty onlookers, all while yelping like a banshee. Another man perfected the art of gravity-enhanced pouring techniques, twirling and swirling along with your coffee while it flung mid-air and landed smoothly into its container.
At one point we were stuck in a maze of exotic animals for sale and saw sugar gliders, marmoset monkeys, flying squirrels, turtles, rabbits, snakes, fish, and puppies. It was quite sad seeing the conditions they lived under and we escaped as soon as we found a way out.
The Siam Square district had block after block of high-end malls to rival the extravagance of Las Vegas. Art installations from fashion moguls like Vogue lined the glitzy hallways and swishy modern relaxation zones graced each nook and cranny. One of the largest aquariums in Asia was housed on the basement floor of one mall, karaoke and bowling occupied the top floor of another, and each mall had its own set of 3D movie theatres decked out with lay-z-boy chairs and optional foot massages. Interactive displays competed for shoppers attention amongst the Guccis and Cartiers. We stopped in one corridor where a tablet was displayed for people to create their own drawing which was then broadcast across a huge balloon in the mall. We scripted, “We got engaged!”, stood in front of the balloon for a picture, and everyone began cheering and congratulating us.
After running full speed through Bangkok, we settled into a slower paced Saigon. We arrived just in time for Tet Lunar New Year, and the usual fast-paced city life of Saigon was replaced by customary preparations to properly welcome the new year. The city was made yellow by all of the blooming hoa mai trees for sale in the streets and journeying home atop motorcycles.
Houses and streets were thoroughly cleaned to enter the new year with a fresh start. Paper was burned as an offering to ancestors past. Special cookies and candied fruits were bought for the new year, and we were fortunate enough to be asked to join in the candy fest with our hotel owner. It was a real treat. From our room in the center of all the celebrations we could hear the drumming of dragon parades and ran out to the streets to catch each performance.
We also walked through the national floral displays that spanned four city blocks and were filled with flower arrangements depicting scenes from across the nation. Rice paddies, shoreline scenes, highland depictions, native animals, and more were all standing tall to represent their country in an abundance of flowers.
The year of the snake looked to be another grand one. With everyone around us looking forward to the blessings of a new lunar year, we recounted our highest highlights and lowest lowlights of four and half months in Asia, and prepared for the new year on a new continent.