Being a Woman
Thailand is a place of immense beauty; tall spires reaching to the sky, serene Buddhas with their mysterious smiles, crystal clear waters in the most alluring shades of blue, tuk-tuks which catch your eye with their striking colours, in fact the list is endless. I had read a lot about all this, eagerly awaited all these sights and none of it was disappointing. We also had a lot of amazing experiences, from parasailing in Pattaya, seeing the massive reclining Buddha in Bangkok, hobnobbing with celebs in Madame Tussauds, gazing wide eyed at the 5 ton gold Buddha statue, going all gooey over the little penguins in Siam ocean world, drooling over the marvellous collection of gems in the Gem Institute and shopping like crazy in Pratunam . But, when I think of Thailand, there’s one picture which overshadows all these and that is the humble ferry which is a part of the Khlong Saen Saep boat service. Sounds quite innocuous and dreamy, right ? We too had the same impression which led us to an experience which I rank high on my list of ‘ not to be repeated at any cost’ experiences !
We were a happy group of 6 with hubby, me, kids, my sis-in-law and bro-in-law. On our penultimate day in Bangkok we decided to break away from our tour group and strike out by ourselves, all bitten by the adventure bug. It was a day we had kept aside for shopping and we were advised to go to the Pratunam market which by the way is a treasure trove of clothes, accessories and quite a lot of stuff. There was a pier close to our hotel which apparently could be used to hitch a boat ride to Pratunam in the shortest possible time and naturally time is of the essence when on a shopping expedition. Six enthusiastic travellers set out after breakfast looking forward to a leisurely boat ride. The water was the first giveaway, it was black and smelled, but undeterred, we waited for the boat. We had another lady waiting with us and suddenly she jumped up and so did we, all raring to go. I saw the boat and thought we had come to the wrong place, it was jam packed and travelling quite fast.
In the blink of an eye, it had stopped and our companion gracefully hopped inside like a seasoned ballerina. It must have been the expectancy on the faces of the passengers in the boat which made us tumble inside and I still don’t know how we did that. I only remember tossing my lil one inside and jumping headlong into the boat. Once the boat started we exchanged victorious looks and started enjoying another lesser known( at least to me ) side of Thailand. The boat service is used by aroung 60,000 people a day and we were right in the middle of rush hour. I was thunderstruck by the dimunitive conductor, a lady who traipsed the length of the speeding boat on an outside plank which I’m sure wouldn’t fit my foot. She was issuing tickets, blowing on her whistle to inform the driver of stops and running effortlessly on the ledge around the boat while doing all this ! In spite of the fact that we were hanging on for dear life and I was resembling a kangaroo with my lil one hanging onto my waist, we enjoyed the ride. The boat was going along a canal which traversed along behind many buildings . There was a cool breeze, amazing graffiti adorning many walls, glimpses of beautiful old houses, sneak peeks into the ebb and flow of life of ordinary people and before we knew it we had reached Pratunam which was the last stop and so we could disembark at our own pace. Phew ! I was glad to be on terra firma and silently sent up a thanks to the gods .
I love street shopping and Pratunam market has a wonderful collection of shops and we had a lovely time even though it was very hot. Hubby and BiL were worn out and refused to budge from the MacDonalds we discovered at lunch time. So we ladies set off with renewed vigour and replenished wallets into Indra market which is one of the malls in Pratunam which houses shops with the most beautiful clothes and bags. By evening we too were exhausted and decided to get back. Laden with shopping bags I just wanted to get inside a taxi and relax. Imagine my horror when I realised that due to the massive traffic jams in Bangkok we were again going on the ferry ! This time Pratunam pier was overflowing with people and not only were we tired but each of us had numerous bags hanging off us. With the help of an extremely helpful Pakistani gentleman we identified the boat we had to get on. I was quite terrified thinking of jumping into the boat with all the bags and getting my lil one in. Our boat came close, people swarmed in and I jumped ; the only hitch was that the lil one was still on the pier and she hadn’t left my hand ! Seeing my desperation our saviour quickly tossed her inside. Thankfully he was also travelling in the same boat with his wife and assured us that he would tell us where we had to get off. All of us had managed to land in the boat intact and I must say my teen handled herself well since all my attention was on the lil one. Within minutes the boat was packed and off it went into the night. I was hyperventilating thinking of getting off the contraption,
All these dire thoughts were running through my mind when suddenly my SiL quietly remarks, ” The water’s very deep “. Hubby didn’t help matters by adding,” If you fall in it’s better not to come out “. There are some moments in life when laughter’s the only way you can deal with stress. All of us burst out laughing at the absurdity of the situation and I felt slightly better. At last we neared our stop and all of us geared up for the landing. As soon as the boat stopped at our pier we threw all thoughts of dignity to the winds and swung into action. My teen jumped out, I threw out the shopping bags and clambered out on all fours and our friend swung out the lil one into my hands . I dumped her on the ground and pulled out SiL who got stuck in midflight due to the constriction of her jeans, but sheer desperation propelled her out. Hubby managed to land ashore and My BiL was the last one out. Our relieved laughter could be heard for miles around I’m sure. I have never been happier to see a departing boat as I was that day. Six weary travellers trudged back to the hotel and one weary traveller (me !) resolved never to venture into a boat in Bangkok again …..