Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bangkok June 2011

15 June 2011

Most airports are bland and look like any other airport. Not Bangkok.

Bangkok was just a transfer point on our way to Hoi An and Luang Prabang. But I figured we might never get the chance to see it again so what the hell! We spent one night there going and two nights returning and it was time well spent.

We stayed at the Conrad Bangkok and it was fine!

They even gave you a silk elephant!

The view from the hotel room could have been any city but down in the streets, it was a different world.

Right below our window. Contrast between new duplex on right and squalid buildings around it.

One of many street shrines.

Okay I couldn't resist one more poke at dong. Well, not a real poke. (If this is baffling you, see my blog on Vietnam.)

Blood type cuisine????

The first night, we took a public ferry on the Chao Phraya River. Taxi cab drivers in Bangkok are notorious for telling you your hotel or place you want to visit is closed and then taking you to a hotel or shop where they get a commission. We had our concierge arrange a taxi. Following directions, we made sure he was using his meter and we had the doorman tell him we wanted the public ferry dock. He dropped us off at the end of a short street. It sure didn't look like a public ferry but when we asked him, he assured us it was. We paid him and he was quickly off. Well, of course it wasn't the public ferry. It was one of the "longtail boat" places: tourist boats. The woman selling tickets got quite ticked at us when we insisted we were going on the public ferry and then sent us in the wrong direction. Fortunately, the shop people on the street were much kinder and set us on the right path.

We toured the National Museum which had beautiful stuff but unfortunately you couldn't take photos in any of the interiors. You can check it out on google images.

Homer Simpson, is that you?

My absolute favorite place was Wat Phra Kaeo. Built in 1782, the temple is a huge complex just packed with one mindblowing building after another. Forgive my cultural insensitivity but honestly ... I kept thinking Disney! The day we were there was not the best for taking photos and we had only an hour before closing. If we ever go to Asia again, I will try to route us through Bangkok and allow a full day just to take photo after photo in this magical place.

The Grand Palace is in the same place but it can't begin to compete with the Wat. But then, few things can.

I had read about Jim Thompson and the Jim Thompson House Museum somewhere a few years ago and so dragged Greg along to see it. Jim Thompson was an American who fell in love with Thailand and ended up reviving the dying silk industry there. He moved three traditional Thai houses onto his property and transformed them into one house.  He collected Thai art which is showcased in his house/museum.  Jim Thompson disappeared mysteriously 22 years after moving to Bangkok which of course piqued my interest!  The house and garden did not disappoint.

Antique Chinese print block which Jim Thompson workers used.

Oh no! Not again!

Our final destination was the Chatuchak Weekend Market. It's Bangkok's biggest market with over 1500 stalls. I couldn't believe that Greg actually agreed to go to yet another market but I think at that point the poor man could see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a bewildering maze, even with the free map, but we managed to see some of the highlights, including the pet area.

The Sky Train is cheap, fast and convenient ... but oh so crowded! On the way back, my spouse, who lets little old ladies elbow him aside at our Saturday market, torpedoed his body onto the already packed train and, when I told him there was no room for me (there really wasn't), he grabbed my arm and hauled me in.  Sardines had more room!

View of part of the market from the Sky Train.

Shoes, anyone?

We want some, too. Fortunately, these dogs are being sold for pets!

Poor woman - this is not a mask. I looked up elephantitis and I think that is what this is but it's unusual for it to be in the face. The prognosis is very poor and she probably has no access to good medical care.

Asia was hot and humid and, in some ways, in your face. We saw people who were living in poverty but who persevered with a gentle acceptance and friendly smile. Family values there were so evidently not just a slogan on a bumper sticker or three second sound bite in a politcal campaign. And, although we said it was interesting and we were glad we went but we wouldn't go to Asia again, I'm already thinking of the quiet flow of life in Luang Prabang and the amazing things in Bangkok we saw too briefly or not at all.  So who knows? After all, there's Angor Wat in Cambodia and the Great Wall in China and ...

Au revoir, Asia, but perhaps not adieu.