Sometimes you find yourself holed up
Yesterday we had a wonderful bike ride, whirring around the city with a local Thai named Tap. We found him through a local bike tour company called Follow Me.
It was all very exhilarating - cycling down backalleys and over uneven, craggy cement and by little food stalls and street vendors that only the locals know about (see, you can only find them outside people's backdoors.)
It reminded me of the one time I visited the Amalfi coast in Italy and tried to walk my way from the tippy top of Ravelo all the way back to the town of Amalfi. Just as it was nearing dinner time my then-boyfriend and I found ourselves snaking down these tiny, tiny little backstreets stuffed with houses barely higher than ourselves. We noticed we were looking in on everyone's backdoor, which happened to open in on everyone's kitchen. All we could smell was ragu wafting in from each kitchen. We'd look through the windows and see little Italian grandmothers perched on footstools stirring large pots of the stuff. The tomatoes and garlic and meat all trailed out the backdoor and under our noses. And damn were we hungry. But we knew we were experiencing something special, so we kept their secrets to ourselves and tiptoed on, grinning at anyone who passed.
Now, this may not have been dinnertime or a backalley filled with little old Italian grandmothers - or their Thai counterparts - but it was the food of everyday life, plain and simple. We did our part to sniff and observe and grin at everyone we passed. And fancy that - Thais like to smile back.
In addition to these quiet alcoves of Bangkok, we cycled directly through some of the biggest markets in the city. We passed by garlands of flowers and offerings for the 600 or so Buddhist temples here. We cycled by all sorts of toys and knick knacks which we can only assume are made by the countless factories found all over the area. And we lingered by the smelly dried seafoods and crackers and pickles before we took a ferry over the river.
Along our way Tap showed us Thai and Chinese Buddhist temples and Portuguese Christian churches. My exhilaration turned to a blurry haze as he spoke in his funny, nasal English about princes and kings and rivers and things. And boy was it hot, hot, hot.
Tap had hand signals to help us avoid any potential catastrophes we met in these little backalleys - sometimes no bigger than the bike. In addition to the standard left, right and straight gestures, he patted his head so we'd know to avoid metal bars and hanging plants and awnings. He patted the air with his hand to indicate we needed to slow down to avoid a wall or oncoming motor- or other cyclists. And whenever he wanted us to hug the curb, he'd swat the back of his bike in the appropriate direction to let us know to stay close to the left (yep, they drive on the left here). When he wasn't using his hands for signals he'd hold his camera behind him to snap photos of us, 60 of which we received in a huge email shortly after the trip had finished.
We never once saw Bangkok's sweaty, seedy underbelly but instead, on our return, we cycled by a more immediate threat - the flooding. As many shop owners and city dwellers as can manage are setting up sandbags and sometimes even cement bricks to combat the waters. Yet on our bike ride it was always just around us but never more than a passing puddle felt under our wheels. We returned to the Follow Me office and, after we'd dipped our feet in the fish therapy pool, we said our goodbyes and went back to the hotel for a shower and change.
So, after whizzing by all those awnings and braving all the crazy Bangkok traffic, what did I do but slip on a bath towel in the hotel room and turn my foot on its side. Maybe I needed some hand signals?! There was a pretty wicked crack, followed by some tearful and fearful talk of ankle breaks and never running again. Matt carried me down the stairs and we headed to the local emergency room at BNH hospital.
To spare any suspense, it turns out to be just a lateral ankle sprain. We've spent the last 24 hours holed up in the hotel room, practicing dorsi and plantar flexion exercises and little toe circles to spell the ABCs. This is followed by elevation, icing and bad movies.
So here we are - in a country where the floods have nowhere to go but down toward the capital, and hundreds of thousands have found themselves out of jobs and homes - and I twisted my ankle on a hotel bath towel. For the sufferer, accidents never seem predictable, yet for the doctors they're probably so common it pains them to hear about them. It's funny given all the traveling and inherent risk-taking we're doing, the only place I've hurt myself so far has been in a hotel room.
As I type this, my foot is achy but there's not much pain. We're planning our next steps - heading south in a few days. We're hoping for few surprises - for both Thais and us.