Friday, December 12, 2008

Asia Adventure - Post 5 (Bangkok)

I had high hopes for our second day in Bangkok. I mean the first day we already were involved in a straight-from-the-book tourist trap jewel scam…what more could happen right.
We grabbed breakfast out on the street and it was so delicious. They had people with hot dog carts selling Pad Thai noodles, pineapple wedges (the freshest and most juicy ones I’ve ever had), coconut pudding cakes, and rice cakes with caramel (mmmmnnnn). We distinctly avoided any meat because the streets were strangely devoid of any rats, cats, and dogs. Hmmm.

Our first stop was the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. Perched a block outside the entrance was a horde of tuk-tuk drivers and other scam artists shouting at us “you go to Palace, it is closed today, big sale today!”. Um, we can see the gates and they are open…people are going in and my tour book lists the hours/days. Nice try jackass. The Grand Palace was home to the Royal family before they built a modern complex. The temple Wat Phra Kaew was the royal personal place of worship and held the Emerald Buddha (which is actually jasper) which was found enclosed in some monastery wall when the country (Siam) was under attack. The whole complex has a 20 foot tall stone wall surrounding it. Since it was holy ground, we had to observe respectful dress which included covering our shoulders and no bare legs (even for men). They loaned out sarongs and jackets which probably were not the most sanitary things since it was a million degrees outside and we immediately sweated through our clothes.

The place was big and awesome. The attention to detail was insane. Pictures can better describe the scene.
The Grand Palace

Taunting dragon (or dog) sculptures

Palace Guard

Wat Phra Kaew

We stopped by a local open air market for a quick bite and were assaulted by some of the worst smells ever. They had a lot of fish and dried fish on display that probably were fished out of the nearby Mae Nam Chao Phraya river (brown, polluted and full of garbage…yummy). We were surprised and found some absolutely delicious snacks of honey banana chips and mini pancakes (oh God they were good!). Did I mention the food cost between 20 and 70 cents?

The next temple was Wat Pho, home of the giant reclining Buddha. This is the largest reclining Buddha in all of Thailand and stretches 150 feet long.
Reclining Buddha

Wat Pho

There were a lot of Buddhist monks walking around the temples. Dana got excited every time she spotted one like it was a game of ‘slug bug’. Soon we all started pointing out the monks.
Me: look monks…kid monks!
Evan & Gabby in unison: mini-monks!

We crossed the river on what passed for a ferry boat but was really a lawnmower tied to a raft. The next stop was Wat Arun which is modeled in the Khmer style (think rounded stepped tops instead of straight points). For those of you who watch ‘The Amazing Race’ the magnificent Angkor Wat temples in Siem Reap Cambodia are also built in this style. Anyway the mosaic tile on this temple is actually broken pieces of china dishes that were used as ballast for the sea voyages. I guess one person’s trash is another’s treasure. The same is true for Boston…a lot of the New England harbor towns have red brick buildings because the English ships would use the bricks as ballast for their ships. I know, wealth of completely useless information…now if only I could get on Jeopardy.
Wat Arun

View of Bangkok Old District


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