Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by mumunmumun on 8 November 2015 • Abroad
Bangkok for a lot of Indonesians, including myself after my last yet brief 3-hour visit a few years ago, is the heaven for shopping and ‘same-same but different’ good food. High quality items are less expensive and the food is our cup of tea, being a good punch of tastes to the taste buds. However, there are other sides of Bangkok that were pretty exciting too. Since I’m a good girl, I’m drawn to bad-ass things, and because I have a curious friend like Vira that likes to hunt for the strange. Hence, with transportation support from Air Asia Indonesia, we went around chasing a few other interesting things to do that showed more of bad ass Bangkok.
A perk that we received from the TBEX Asia were complimentary tickets to the Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives performance, held at Asiatique. With a promise of a real match, we thought this would be something fun to see.
The show did try to portray Muay Thai from time to time, but the story for me was hardly important. What needed more attention was the fact that it was a 2-hour show with topless men beating each other up. The smell of testosterone filled the air as the men, and one woman, displayed real contact fighting.
“I’ve seen the real matches before, but I can see the moves more clearly here,” Vira whispers in between dramatic background music. We could see how they do that ‘jump on your opponent’s thigh and shoulder to then crack their head with your elbow’ move or that simple ‘kick and push’ move. In addition, the package of stunts and stage setting were also a good support to the whole performance.
To top things off, after the performance, the stage was transformed into a ring with two real matches lined up for the night. I could understand how Vira was entertained with the performance, as the real matches were more lacking of the fancy fighting moves.
Carpe diem! Given two long tubular plastic balloons, Vira and I shouted like crazy fans supporting each fighter just for the heck of it. Were we the loudest? Maybe. Did we know the fighters? Hell no! But who cares? Why pass on a chance to scream as if you were betting 2 million dollars on the game? Me? Never!
As we got to know the PR of the show, he let us present the one of the winners with a chain of flowers. I let Vira do the royal duty, being the muay thai enthusiast she is. It felt close to being bad-ass.
Another bad-ass side of Bangkok is located just outside of the city. Not far from Nakhom Chai Si is the Wat Bang Phra, the temple known for its ‘sank yat’ or blessed tattoos. We did a little reading on Boat magazine and Travelfish, and seems like it’s the place where Angelina Jolie made her famous ‘tiger scratch’ tattoo. But what of this place is bad ass, compared to any other tattoo parlour in Thailand?
Tattoos are placed by monks, tapped using steel rods and, seemed to be, missing anaesthesia or sterilisers of any kind. Seems like the needles were dipped in a container, which is said to have alcohol inside, but we can’t confirm. With simple offerings of a stem of orchid flowers, incense and a pack of local cigarettes, the monks will create a drawing containing Thailand writings. Each tattoo was said to be blessed with a prayer. Like all religions, there’s a line to getting blessed. Most of the people that were waiting didn’t come for their first tattoos, some had already filled their backs and needed more. The tattoo looked interesting after a while, being a subtle blue on the tanned skin.
We couldn’t take any photos. Strict rules now. So, during our visit, we sat amongst the spectators and just watched. Well, Vira sketched. The monks were different to those I’ve seen before. Many of them were covered with tattoos and most of them with orange attired with ink stains. It is said that the ink is organic, made partially with snake’s venom. Rawr! Or should I say..hisssss…!
It was an interesting process. Friends or family of the ‘client’ will hold them down, not that they seemed like they needed it, while the monk does his work. During the process, this particular monk kept smoking. Tattooed all over and smoking was hardly the picture I had in mind about a monk, but there he was. By the way, as he inhaled his cigarette, I assumed that smoke had to do with the spiritual process, like in many cultures including Indonesia. He kept puffing during the ‘sank yat’ process but I failed to see him take one during his break. ‘Yantras’ or these blessed tattoos are completed after about 10 minutes and the customer is good to go. No plastic covering the tattoo, no medicine to take home. They just stand up and leave.
There were two monks blessing tattoos on believers, but I’ve read that the prominent is Luang Pi Nunn. He was held his practice inside the building, while we witness the one outside. This man was talkative, had laughs when making the tattoo. Preference, I guess.
I’ve yet to read any reports of infections from the ‘sank yat’.
If that wasn’t enough crazy for you, at the main (modern) building lies a mummy (yes, mummy and not the motherly kind) of Luang Phor Phern, founding father of these tattoos. No elaboration about him as I was stunned enough to see him still in his remaining flesh and bones.
Another interesting read is this one here; experience from someone that had the tattoo.
How to get there:
Take a mini bus to Nakhom Pathom but ask to be dropped at Nakhom Chai Si (65 Baht). We were blessed to find a taxi that was willing to take us to and from Wat Bang Phra from Nakhom Chai Si, and pay by the meter (250 Baht).
Tattoo offering are available at a stand outside the tattoo area. A set cost about 75 Baht.
And then there’s Bangkok street food.
Nah! Just kidding. Bangkok food taste bad ass good!
This trip, we traveled to from Jakarta to Bangkok with Air Asia Indonesia. Apparently flying to Bangkok can be quite convenient as I could choose afternoon flight (latest is 4.45 p.m.) and pop in the office to work a little bit. Heading back, I could take the latest flight at 8.55 p.m. still have a whole dam roaming Bangkok. We could also use an ASEAN Pass, with a minimum 2 weeks notice before flight day. Plenty of time for the bad ass Bangkok experience. Thank you, Air Asia Indonesia!
So that’s our tough street recommendations of Bangkok. It might be alternative activites aside to the usual temple hopping and mall shopping that are usually on the itinerary. So, what have you got to add? *sniff*