Day Two – Bangkok

Today Tony got us a cab and then sent us out on our own. I won’t deny it – I was nervous and felt completely unprepared. Richard was cool as a cucumber today which helped immensely. We were headed to the Grand Palace and our taxi driver dropped us off a couple of miles from the actual palace. So, we wandered around a bit to try and get our bearings, found a map posted along the street, and got ourselves headed in the right direction. We knew we were getting close as the number of tourists increased exponentially.

The Grand Palace is definitely GRAND!! It was established in 1782 and consists of the royal residence, throne halls, a number of government offices and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It covers an area of 218,000 sq meters and is surrounded by four walls, 1900 meters in length. The craftsmanship is like nothing that we have ever seen before. Many of the buildings are decorated with gilt and colour glass mosaics.  There are towers and steeples, temples and statues, a library and a mural consisting of 178 sections depicting the story of the Ramakien. It was absolutely magnificent!! I don’t imagine that the pictures will begin to do it justice but Richard will post a few.

After that, we walked down the block to Wat Pho, the temple of the reclining Buddha. This is another complex of many magnificent buildings with one of them holding the reclining Buddha. It is absolutely huge!!! Again, pictures can only begin to show you how amazing it was.

We wandered about there for a half hour or so and then decided to try our luck with a taxi. We started with something easy and had the driver take us back to MBK mall. He actually dropped us right at the door for less than the amount that Tony had said that it would be. Wow, it’s not quite so bad as I first imagined. We went back up to the 6th floor and had lunch – Richard was a little more adventurous and tried some seafood. I went with a chicken and rice stir fry – really stepping out of my comfort zone – ha, ha. We wandered about the mall, looked at some clothing, decided to buy nothing and headed for the Skytrain. After going to the wrong platform the first time, we figured it out, got on the right train, made the right transfer, caught the right mini bus and got back to Tony’s. Whew!!

We had a beer and then headed out to try some street food from around the corner. I tried a pork kebob and Richard had some cut up pork and a kebob. We tried to get some cooked vegetables but they couldn’t understand us and we couldn’t understand them. So, no vegetables tonight but we’ll try again tomorrow. BTW, the pork was delicious!!

The reclining Buddha is 150 feet long. I had no idea he would be that big.

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Day One – Bangkok, Thailand

After an eight hour delay at the Nairobi, Kenya airport, we arrived in Bangkok at 8:30 PM on Halloween night. The time difference from here to Manitoba is exactly 12 hours behind (well, I guess until Sunday) so you guys were all just getting into your second cup of coffee for the day.  We zipped through customs quite seamlessly and found our host Tony waiting for us on the other side of the gate. He caught us a cab and we got our first glimpse of Bangkok, a city of approximately 9 million. All we could see was lights, more lights, traffic and more traffic and lots of people!! Tony is an expat Australian that chooses to live in a Thai neighborhood about a half hour from the airport. We spent a little time visiting with Tony and getting the rundown on the place but after two days without much sleep, it was time for bed.

Much refreshed in the morning, we went for a short little walk to the corner store to get some money and a little bit of breakfast. There are a number of food carts just around the corner from the house, so we were able to pick up some fruit to go with our coffee for breakfast. After this little refreshment, Tony took us out into the big world of the city. He showed us where to catch a truck/bus which is just as it sounds – a pickup truck, with a cover over the box and some seats in it (the box). We rode this to the skytrain. Then he showed us how to navigate the skytrain and the rest of the public transit system and off we went.  Our first stop was at Suan Pakkad Palace Museum – a little oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city. This museum is a collection of four houses that were originally owned and lived in by Prince Chumbhot Paribatra of Nagor Svarga and his consort,  M.R. Pantrip Paribatra. They opened their home to the public in 1952 rationalizing that the rare and unique artifacts within constitute a heritage of mankind and should be made accessible for any persons who wish to see them. They have since added another four traditional Thai houses to the original structures. Indeed, these houses or rooms all show a distinct period in history, be it music, weapons, pottery, storytelling or ordinary household items. It was a good beginning as it gave some insight into Thai culture and history.

From there we went to the MBK mall. This is a 7 story structure with stores/kiosks on Levels One to Six and a movie theatre, bowling alley, arcade/games room, coffee shops, and high end restaurants on the 7th floor. Floor 1 is most expensive, Floor 6 the cheapest – all items up for barter. Floor 4 is strictly electronics where Richard bought a new used phone to replace the one lifted in Cape Town. So, he is back up and running. We stopped for lunch on Floor 6. How amazing!! We each bought a card for 100 bahts (about $4). You then take this card to any one of the hundreds of food vendors on the floor and order what you like. They scan your card and once you are done, you return your card to the cashier and she gives you back whatever money is left on the card. What a great system as the vendors are not handling any money and can just concentrate on getting you the best food ever. I started out pretty timid and got a chicken noodle stir fry. Richard didn’t do much experimenting either and he just had some pork and rice. The food was delicious and for the three of us, we spent a total of $9. Amazing!!

After lunch and phone buying, we went to Jim Thompson’s House and Museum. He was an American that was stationed in Thailand during WW2. He loved it so much that he moved here permanently when the war was over. He was an architect and a designer and took an interest in the silk weaving cottage industry. He opened up a silk factory and Thai silk became recognized worldwide. He also combined six teak buildings together to form his traditional Thai house. He was an avid collector of art and he decided to open his unique house and art collection to the public with proceeds donated to Thai charities and projects directed at preserving Thai culture. On vacation in Malaysia in 1967, he disappeared without a trace. To this day there are no clues as to what ever happened to him. We found the house and art very interesting. He was obviously an eccentric man but is completely loved by the Thai people.

We took a very slow cab back to Tony’s and spent a quiet evening at home researching other new and interesting things to see in Bangkok and Thailand. What will tomorrow bring? CW…

I was not as conservative with the food as Col indicated. I didn’t have pork, but rice and seafood which included shrimp, octopus and squid. Of course being me I had to add more hot peppers, sauces and spices as we all know Thai food is not that hot on its own. Needless to say after my meal I was perspiring quite profusely, but it was great. The food here is amazing and the aromas coming from the street vendors make your mouth water. Did I mention the Beer? It is awesome and even cheaper than it was in Africa.

Below a woman is boiling silkworm cocoons and making silk thread by hand.