Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bang-COCK!


If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you've probably already got a good idea of the fact that I am not a luxury traveler.  I have a hierarchy of traveling needs when booking hotels:
1. Safety
2. Cost
3. Cleanliness
4. Convenience
Here's the thing - why would I spend a hundred dollars on a posh hotel when I could stay five nights in a basic guesthouse for the same price?  It doesn't add up.  And people who talk about "pampering" themselves make me cringe.  I hate that word - I'm not a big baby.  I prefer the term indulge.

Well, my hierarchy of traveling needs led me to choose to indulge on this, my day in Bangkok en route to Chiang Mai.  I've done Khao San Road - in a former, non-blogging life with my friend Curly Sue - and while it's a fun place, I chose to go all out with a night in the Swissotel.  It's possible that it was because the idea of staying here appealed to the blood of Swiss ancestors flowing through my veins...but it's more likely due to the fact that the Chao Mae Tuptim shrine is in their parking lot.
Either way, I was delighted with my choice to indulge when I got in from the airport last night at 11:30 (thank you, delayed flight).  The room was impeccable, the bed was softer than my own, the towels were fluffy, and the internet was fast.  After a shower and a nightcap of coke (which I did NOT drink out of the can like a barbarian for the first time in forever, and it actually tasted fine), I got to sleep.  This morning I decided to splash out on their breakfast buffet.  It was not included in the price of my room, but what the hell did I care?  I am on va.  Ca.  Tion.  I am choosing to indulge.
After breakfast I wandered through the lush green grounds on the way back to the shrine.  It's a little hard to find but here's a good video on YouTube that shows you how to get there from the lobby of the hotel.  It's quite small compared to some of the other shrines I've been to - I'd make a joke about how this is Asia, but then, the other two were in Korea and Japan...
The little house is meant to hold the spirit of Chao Mae Tuptim, which may or may not have something to do with a large ficus tree in the shrine.  The details on the sign were vague, and had only the barest allusion to the huge wooden penises strewn about.
I was particularly intrigued by the lingams sitting between the tiny, doll-like shrine attendants.  I know enough about Hindu symbolism to recognize Shiva's schlong.  I've always connected Thailand with Buddhism, which has its roots in Hinduism, admittedly, but apparently there are still a fair number of believers in Thailand, mostly in the cities.  I thought about bringing an offering, but couldn't convince myself to hit InsaDONG (where I've seen phalli for sale before) yesterday, and only thought of the candle I brought back from the Kanamara Matsuri when I was on the flight here from Korea.
The Chao Mae Tuptim shrine may not be the biggest penis shrine I've been to, but we all know it's not the size that matters, but how you use it, right?  In this case, I used it for a good excuse to stay at a posh hotel.  I'm going to need to go check out in a minute, but I have the rest of the day to laze by their pool, which is beautiful and with all the trees has plenty of shade for us vampiric ginger types.  Indulge?  Indeed.

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