Tori and I returned to Bangkok where she was originally scheduled to fly home. Since Tori was just having so much fun, she decided to lengthen her trip and explore the South islands and beaches of Thailand. But I wasn’t about to let her go without a fight! We had to do Bangkok properly! See the things there are to see!
Which isn’t much. Bangkok is a city that seems to have a lot of allure in the collective imagination of the world – some kind of exotic jewel of the orient. It’s a gigantic city of over 10 million people that is impossible to get around, wholly unattractive, and glaringly cultureless. It’s most salient quality is the amount of shopping malls and 7-11s you pass as you are forced to take a taxi anywhere because of the size. None of the buildings have beautiful architecture, we had a difficult time finding good food, and it is the 2nd most traffic congested city in the world.
That being said, we did some lovely things in Bangkok. Actually, we started with a lovely thing outside of Bangkok. About 2 hours outside of the city lies the Damnoen Saduak floating market. The area is built on a series of canals and all of the buildings in the area are built on stilts to accommodate for the rainy season. The typical way of exploring the market and the region is by boat, so Tori and I hopped in a motor boat and were whisked around the tiny passages, looking in through the back of several Thai homes and passing a few tiny senior citizens, slowly paddling their way through the area. The tight network of canals reminded me of an intercoastal community. At the end of it all, you come to a large market, and vendors boat around from place to place, trying to sell you food and trinkets. We ate some delicious coconut pancakes, and then ran away from the boa constrictors on display.
That afternoon, we decided to explore The Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun. Since we didn’t do a guided tour, I don’t know too much about its history, but nor really does Wikipedia, so just look at some of the dazzling pictures. The temple is just these giant pyramids pointing skywards, with some dizzying effects. The detail on the temple was surely not to be beat, with crushed porcelain and mirrors creating mosaics on the outside of the temple.
On our 2nd morning, we visited two of Bangkok’s most important locales – Wat Pho and the Grand Palace. These two buildings are next door neighbors and right in the center of all of the tourist action, making them easy to visit. The Grand Palace is a large complex of buildings. Built in 18th century, it is still being used today to host several banquets and official events held by Thailand’s beloved King. As you walk through the compound, never really allowed to enter any of the buildings, it is astounding how absolutely beautiful everything is. A camera can capture one ornate building, but each building is somehow more stunning and bejeweled than the next. AND THEY ARE ALL RIGHT ON TOP OF EACH OTHER.
The main attraction of the Grand Palace is the Emerald Buddha. The story goes that as some workers were transporting what they though was a relatively unimpressive buddha statue wrapped in plaster, they dropped it. The plaster cracked and they saw the emerald underneath. Now it is revered as one of the holiest buddha images in Thailand! Fortunately, it’s on display to the public at the Grand Palace. UNfortunately, it is the Mona Lisa of Thailand (I think I’m starting a list of these). The little bugger is just a foot and a half wide and two feet tall. That would be fine if he were accessible. But instead he sits at the top of a 20-foot pedestal of gold set back from the crowd by about 15 feet, i.e. impossible to see.
Our last major attraction of Bangkok was Wat Pho. This the temple of the reclining buddha. For the first time, it is not my camera that can not capture the beauty of it, but no one really can! The buddha gold buddha, lying casually on his side, is a whopping 50 feet tall and 140 feet long. When the temple was being constructed, they actually built it around the buddha. Since it is enormous and in such a tiny building, it is physically impossible to get a good picture of it, let alone even see it all yourself, but you can try and look at my pictures.
Each night in Bangkok, we tried to take in something cultural. The first full night, we went to the Siam Niramit Cultural Show. We weren’t allowed to take pictures and I don’t think you missed too much. They heavily advertise the fact that they have the tallest stage in the world, but that’s a pointless superlative. The show had lots of dancing, beautiful costumes, and did kind of sort of tell the story of Thailand’s creation. That being said, it wasn’t my cup of tea.
The next night we went to a Muay Thai Boxing Match. Compared to the match in Cambodia just a couple of weeks earlier, the fighting was more intense, but the crowds were less wild. There were 9 matches, going from least experienced to most. The first fighters honestly look like they are 13 as their mothers and sisters cheer them on from the corners. The most fun part was watching the families cheer. Some of the fights got bloody, but every single match was really predictable – the odds on favorite ended up winning by a landslide.
Sorry for the long post. I didn’t have a lot to say about any one thing and none of it really seemed interesting enough on its own. Enjoy the pictures!